One interesting part of watching the Olympics is seeing people take advantage of the opportunities presented to them—those moments that define their abilities and highlight their careers.
Often, our lives are also filled with those moments that define us and we each have our own individual highlights of our careers—perhaps involvement in a particular project, contribution to the industry such as a new product line or new design, or something else that not only makes you feel good about your contribution, but sets the bar of excellence higher.
Most Olympic athletes in their early twenties have been honing their skills since the age of four or five, giving them 15-plus years of training and competitions just to reach the Olympics—if they are fortunate enough to get through the selection committee. With 18 years of CQA experience, I was fortunate to be selected to lead the geosynthetics CQA for a very large and prominent project in the southwestern United States. From the moment I agreed, I was inundated with the quality expectations from the owner—it was obvious that only the best would suffice, and anything short of that would be a failure. The owner viewed the geosynthetics system as an asset and ultimately they were entrusting me with being a steward of properly running the CQA portion of the job. Likewise, the geosynthetics installation contractor was entrusted with their portion.
I imagine most Olympic athletes would tell you that no matter how hard you train and how prepared you are, things will come your way that you may not have anticipated or experienced. Such was the case with this project. The size of the project alone nearly doubled the square footage of geosynthetics CQA experience I had at the time. Due to the extreme heat, we spent nearly one-half of the year working at night. While the night shift itself has its own set of challenges just for living that way for such a long time, it possess its own set of challenges for both the installer and CQA trying to assure the quality objective is maintained. Adjusting to new challenges and overcoming them is a key component of success—whether as an individual athlete or within your own profession. Adjust and succeed we did!
During my on-site involvement at the project (approximately two years), the team installed approximately 315 acres of leak free double-containment geomembrane. It took plenty of teamwork, not only from the parties present for the geosynthetics installation, but from the design team, engineering firms, earthwork contractor and earthwork CQA personnel to make the project a success. There were many challenges throughout the project on all sorts of levels—all parties worked together and addressed the issues as they came up. By no means was it easy. All of the years of my training were put to the test, and we encountered things that I (as well as the liner installation contractor) had never seen before.
Another key component of my involvement in the project was training our client’s CQA personnel so they could take over the project. In essence, I was both a coach and mentor, trying to instill a skill-set that we knew from experience would lead to success. (The project was divided up into sub-ponds that were immediately filled with water and every one that did not leak further suggested we were doing something right.) After my departure, my client used the methods and precedents established during my time on-site to perform CQA on the remainder of the project (another 180-plus acres) with the same result—no leaks!
If any of the projects I have worked on in my career were the hallmark of good CQA, this project is it! But all parties deserve credit and all belong on the podium to showcase what can be done when every individual works toward the same goal. Most of us will never achieve medals for our successes in life, but part of the true medal of any person is sharing what they know in helping others succeed. I look forward to hearing lessons you want to share with others, myself included!