Rope Tech Story: Irina leaves math for rope access!I met Irina through the wonderful world of social media a few months back and was excited to meet someone with such an INTENSE passion for Rope Access. After having graduated from Columbia University with a PhD in Math (#$@!!!), and achieving a serious career in Financial Consulting, she made the choice to take the road less traveled and became a L1 Irata Rope Access technician instead! And man, she LOVES IT! Not only is her story itself one of rare occurrence, but as a female Rope Access technician, she also represents a very small percentage of the tech population globally. We love this story and we are happy to feature United Kingdom resident, Irina Goia, as our first tech to answer our 12 tech questions. This will be a regular series among our blogs, so stay tuned for other techs with incredible stories like this in the near future! Without further ado, here's Irina!
How did you get your start in Rope Access and why?
After a PhD in Mathematics and nearly 2 years working in Financial Consulting in the corporate world, I left the 'normal' career world and what I knew would be a one way street, in order to create the physical time for evolving and progressing as a climber. So, it was my goal to support myself through financial speculation, on very small capital, consisting of the savings I had managed to acquire during my Financial Consulting job. After almost two and a half years living on the edge financially like no one I know of, I finally admitted that I needed another source of income. I had climbed with folks who were level 3's and they seemed to have made nice lifestyles for themselves, more balanced lifestyles as compared to people in ‘normal’ careers. Getting into Rope Access seemed to be the best fit for my skills, where I was in my life, and most importantly, where in life I wanted to be.
What is the most common question your friends ask you when they want to know ‘what you do’?
"Isn’t [Rope Access] dangerous?”
Considering the training, education and experience I’ve had in Rope Access, of course, I say “no.” Historically and statistically Rope Access is actually safer than driving one's car to an office job.
My parents don’t bother to ask me questions, nor do they want to see any of my MANY pictures on site. They are very firm in what they believe to be true of the workforce, namely, that hardcore intellectual work is superior to labor. That I should be ashamed of myself that 'God gave me brains and [instead of using it] I went to work with my muscles'. I try to explain that Rope Access is not about 'muscles', but IS very intellectual work as well. I consider logic to be heavily involved, as well as exact thinking and ultra-precise execution.
If you had to use one word to describe Rope Access what would it be?
Is there anything characteristic of a ‘rope tech’—I mean, heights are not for everyone!
A healthy relationship to heights is an unspoken prerequisite for going after the Level 1 credential. Those with a climbing, caving or flying background, already have this; however, there are lots of people with a background in a technical trade and no previous exposure to heights who go to train for L1, and they do great. But an appreciation for and lack of fear towards heights is a major characteristic of techs.
What's your favorite part of being on a job site?
My favorite part of being on a job site is the exposure and slight nervousness I experience before the first drop over the edge at on a job site.
Depending on internal and external factors the feeling of tightness goes away very fast or stays with me throughout the job. (But then, I never had jobs longer than 2 weeks!)
Biggest piece of advice for someone thinking about becoming a Rope Tech. And on the flip-side, what is your biggest piece of advice for a seasoned tech Iike yourself?
Look after yourself because you can't fully count on others, bosses or supervisors to do it for you. Demand detailed job descriptions and expectations before you go to a site, eventually ask in forums about the appropriate PPE (Personal protective equipment). Many UK companies, it seems, are looking to cost save by assuming that new techs don't know what the extra PPE is needed for a job. For example, removal of bird excrements requires techs to have very specific protective ware and if you don't wear the proper protective gear, you can put yourself at risk and expose yourself to long term health hazards.
Where do you see the future of Rope Access?
I see plenty of future potential vertical work in the Alternative Energy sector and in the maintenance/inspection of industrial equipment in very cold temperatures. I would like to get the additional tickets and experience the world of wind turbines at some point, on land and at sea.
What is the greatest challenge you have to handle as a Rope Tech?
Your networking and sales skills can be tested at times. Sometimes jobs are short lived, so you constantly have to be looking, networking, self-promoting. Also, INSIST on the payment terms of a job prior to work commencing. I have heard quite a few stories in the UK where a tech had to take legal action against a company for not paying them their owed wages. I had to wait 3 months for payment from a 2 day job once! It is not all roses.
What is the biggest misnomer about our industry that you would like to clear up?
That Rope Access is risky or dangerous—it simply is not. However, it definitely does require a certain type of personality and mind in order to be a good fit.
What is the biggest thing you want to tell the world about rope access?
That it can be a great career path, exciting, with lots of options and never too routine. That it can make you good money if you hustle. That the kind of money you make is comparable to a ‘normal’ career salary and without requiring many years of university study or multiple degrees to grant you even a chance of an interview. In fact, there is no term of comparison - getting started requires only some ~800-1000 Euro and one week of calendar time.
What continues to inspire your life as someone who has given their professional life to rope access?
I am excited about the multitude of possibilities out there, getting additional tickets (NDT, Wind Turbines, Welding) and getting interesting jobs in exotic locations on this planet!
Being on several work sites, you must have had some laughs when taking a break, so, what’s your favorite clean joke?
Several. Well, I have many that are dirty, but this was more appropriate to share.
Me (towards a work mate next to me on the ropes who was waiting for some solution to dry):
Are you counting?
Guy: Yeah, how do you know? Do you have your third eye open? An interesting philosophical conversation ensued (which I don't quite remember).
Thanks again, Irina! Check out more rope tech stories below!