This month’s ELM Elite winner is Eric Paulson from Boise, ID. Eric has been locating out of ELM’s Boise, ID office since 2013 and is now a Trouble Tech with 5 other technicians working under him. Congratulations Eric!
Eric doesn’t have very many damages over his career, but when they have happened, he always views it as a learning experience. He says, “It’s ok to make mistakes but I don’t make the same ones twice.” Of the few damages he has had in his entire career he still remembers the details and the lessons learned. He recalls a specific one that happened on the last ticket of an already difficult Friday. He wasn’t in the right headspace when he began the ticket and when locating the gas main required extensive trouble shooting, he ended up overlooking part of the neighboring service. Looking back on the experience now he says, “I’ve noticed if it’s a day where I’m feeling over it, I need to go sit in my car, stop pushing and just take a breath. Just relax, because if I have to get the job done, I have to get it done. But I need to do it right.” He now finds that taking a few seconds to reset his emotions allows him to finish a ticket with a clearer head and better attitude.
There is another important lesson that Eric learned earlier in his career that he now stresses to his fellow locators. Even though the nature of the job is often working alone on job sites, there are always people available to reach out to if you need help. He says, “I really try to make sure the technicians know that they are not the end of everything. If there is something that you can’t do and it’s going to get you a damage, you need to reach out to me and let me own it.” Eric recalls learning this lesson from his very first damage. He had a ticket covering an exceptionally large area and sections of the gas main were buried deeper than he was used to. Looking back at it now, he realizes it was a difficult ticket for his level of experience at the time and he should have asked for help.
When it comes to safety, Eric takes extra care when driving on to a work site, especially if it is a location he isn’t familiar with. The number one thing he does to be safe in these situations is make sure he is fully paying attention and not distracted by anything. He also drives slowly and with extra caution. A common hazard he has seen is rebar or other material that appears to be laying on the ground but is partially buried with one end sticking out of the ground at an angle. Taking a few seconds to put orange paint on a hazard like this, or tie a flag to it, could save another worker from running into it. Eric says, “When I see stuff like that, I don’t just think about myself, I think about the next guy, cause that will ruin your day.”
Eric has been married for 16 years and has 4 children who are 16, 12, 10, and 6 years of age. Currently the whole family is excited about their season passes for the upcoming snowboard season. They also enjoy driving to the Oregon coast together. Eric credits his wife Katie’s free spiritedness with teaching him how to enjoy life and not take it too seriously, which he believes has also helped improve his work life balance. “When its something sporadic that she just wants to do, I go along with it because she’s teaching me how to have an adventure.”