10 Years with McKay Drilling – Meet Geoff Donatti, a valued member of the Maintenance Team.

Geoff Donatti has reached a milestone at McKay Drilling, 10 years working as a Service Technician in our Wangara Workshop. Congratulations Geoff, thank you for your commitment and hard work over the years. We look forward to many more years working with you.

Geoff has become a well known fixture in our Wangara Workshop as a ‘top bloke’ and all round ‘great guy’. You can always guarantee Geoff will be sporting his happy go lucky smile no matter what the day entails or even when Brad McKay has changed Geoff’s name to ‘Frank’ on his shirt uniform order.

To commemorate his 10 Year Anniversary here at McKay’s we asked Geoff the following questions;

Tell us about yourself, where were you born and grew up?

I started my Heavy Duty Apprenticeship in 1986 before most McKay employees were even born. I was born in Osborne Park and never strayed far from the suburb, Mum and Dad still live in the same house in Innaloo. Dad had a market garden in Stirling so my childhood was very lucky with advantage of both city and a farm like upbringing. Learning to drive a tractor at 10 years old and a ute at 11years old. I live in Gwelup not more than 6k radius from these suburbs.

What were you doing before working in drilling maintenance?

During my apprenticeship at Generals I worked on farmers trucks staying on for a year before moving onto truck smash repairs at Parins, fully stripping and rebuilding trucks. After that I had a great job at Corvette Engineering restoring American muscle cars.

Year 2000 I travelled Europe, then came back to Australia and returned to working at Parins. By 2003, I signed up to a labour hire agency and took a position at City of Wanneroo & Joondalup. A great job apart from many surprises with garbage trucks. While working there I met a guy whose Dad had a labour hire business. His name was Scott, cannot remember his surname, he had left City of Wanneroo to work for AirDrill. Two weeks later, he asked me if I would like to work for AirDrill (now known as Schramm). I said ‘yes’ and started working there in late 2004. My start in the drilling industry. The workshop was run by two guys, Marcus Best and Lee Ritchie. Two of the best work colleagues I have ever had. AirDrill remained a great place to work until Marcus left followed by Lee. I still had good working relationships with many people at AirDrill, Terry Sanfeed, Andrew Gilbert and Tim to name a few but the workshop was never the same to me after Marcus and Lee left. I left Airdrill then went to a resource dewatering hire equipment firm.

When did you start with McKay’s and how did you get the job?

Not really looking for another job but saw an advert in the paper in 2010 when jobs were advertised that way. The job was for a Drill Fitter at McKay Drilling and it said ‘Call Marcus Best’. I thought ‘I know who that is’ but left it at that, taking note of McKay’s phone number. One year later, I made a call to McKay’s and Marcus said to come in, that was 2011.

What was it like working for McKay’s back when you started? Who did you learn from and what valuable lessons did you learn in the early days?

McKay’s was and remains a great place to work. In 2011, my first job was putting hydraulics on Trevor’s old actross and we had to get Rig 11 with its support vehicles out. Brad McKay was working on the floor, both he and Marcus wore shorts – Don’t keep that as a mental picture for too long.

It took a while to get work gear in those days, it took three months for me to get three shirts and a pair of boots. We weren’t allocated pants. In those days I remember getting my shirts after three months’ probation thinking ‘it was a good place and I fitted in’, only thing is Brad would cut out the buttons of every shirt I had with a pocket knife he used to carry while I was wearing the shirts. I fixed the shirts up with cable ties and three months later got my three new replacement shirts and kept a distance from Brad on Friday afternoons.

Brad McKay has always been a book of knowledge. He would always say calmly ‘I would do that this way’ and walk off. I would do it my own way to soon realise that Brad was always bloody right. I soon learnt that he wasn’t only a highly skilled practical joker but there wasn’t much in the drilling industry that Brad or Marcus didn’t know about. More than likely, one of the many puzzle pieces that makes McKay’s the success it is.

What’s kept you around for so long?

What has kept me at McKay’s is easy to answer, past and present employees. With the rare exception of a few characters I can’t think of anyone in the workshop, office or site I don’t get along with. Credit to the people who hire employees. Mark McKay would always go out of his way to say hello, talk about the job and would usually end the conversation talking about cars. Job security even through hard times, the axe didn’t fall, other options were found until work picked up.

What changes have you seen in the company and industry over your 10 year career in drilling maintenance?

Changes in the past ten years at McKay’s would mainly be the company has expanded from 11 Rigs when I started to 20 Rigs now. OHS play a much larger part of McKay’s and the industry – working for larger companies, Rio Tinto and BHP. The industry is much more competitive now. When I started in 2011 drilling meter rates were very high, I recall a job where the meter rate was ridiculously high and the consensus was we wouldn’t get the job but the client said ‘yes’. I must admit in 2011 – 2013, Mark would park his truck in the workshop and dance to his office as McKay’s and the drilling industry in general seemed to be lucrative. Good times seem to be back but I don’t know if it can ever be as good as the old days.

What advice would you like to pass on to people starting a career in drilling maintenance?

I only wish I discovered the drilling industry earlier in my career. The opportunities that exist in this industry didn’t exist when I left school. The opportunity to FIFO Offside and work your way up to pulling leavers, the rewards available I only wish were around in the mid 80’s. The advice I would pass on would be to continue to learn. All the people I mentioned above with wealth of knowledge continued to learn to know what they know today. I think it’s also important to enjoy what you are doing to retain the information.

What would you like to see happen in the next 5 years in McKay Drilling?

I can only see McKay’s continuing to grow and succeed in the years to come.

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