Climbing to the top!

Maxim van der Mast is a relative newcomer to Atlas Professionals and to his new career as a wind technician.

After studying mechanical engineering for four years in the Netherlands, Maxim completed an internship, where he was working on lighting for airfields and helipads. “I didn’t think the lighting job was challenging enough for the longer-term but it allowed me to save enough money to travel.” Full of wanderlust, Maxim then embarked on a world trip.

He had always wanted to see the world and in October 2016 he set off to Australia, where he was based for 10 months, partly funding his travels by working in a warehouse. South East Asia was next. After a whirlwind tour of Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Japan, Maxim laughs: “I had ran out of money so flew back home. But overall it was a wonderful experience.”

In January this year he got on with the business of finding a job and at that stage he admits, he didn’t really have a preference for a particular industry. The renewables sector was ‘not on his radar’ but that was about to change.

Mechanical engineer

His father, who is providing services for heavy offshore transport, spotted an advertisement from Atlas Professionals looking for mechanical engineers/technicians for wind turbines. “I applied to Atlas in April and a few weeks later I was hired by Enercon! Although I had never considered the industry, I thought it would be cool to work at such heights and on these types of machines. And in summer you’re outside, which is great and you don’t have a boss peering over your shoulder all of the time!”

The onshore wind turbines Maxim works on vary between 60 m to 140 m but Maxim was not particularly perturbed by the thought of climbing such heights. “I guess the first time I climbed up it was a little scary. I spent a day working alongside the crew to see how they worked. But then I climbed for the second time and thought it was pretty easy. Because you are inside the turbine, you don’t really notice the height. And when you are on top there is the most beautiful view!” Maxim is working in the southwest of the Netherlands, covering a large area with around 150 turbines.

But he adds, that the job might not be for everyone. “You have to be relatively fit and have a lot of energy. It is quite a heavy job, climbing up and down means that you do get exhausted by the end of the day. Coupled with this, sometimes you are working in narrow spaces so you have to get used to that.”

Small teams

To check his suitability for the job Maxim underwent several courses in the first weeks including working at heights and safety training. And in the next few months he will also attend additional mechanical maintenance courses.

Each day Maxim teams up with his colleague.  “We work in a small team. I specialise in mechanical maintenance and then I work with an electrical technician. My job is to check and fix the mechanical parts of the direct-drive turbine, the oil pumps, oil itself, all the rotary parts, the engines and to assist the electrical technician.

“We mostly work with one or two buddies. This is important for safety reasons and also so there is a combination of the mechanical and electrical knowledge.” The teams tend to be made up of mostly younger guys, which also makes it fun, he adds.

“I really have been pleasantly surprised by the job and I have very nice colleagues.” Atlas too, has been very supportive, he adds, and the whole application and interview process went very smoothly.

Great prospects

He sees great prospects for the future and many opportunities in the renewables sector. “This is really a job that can take you everywhere, not only different places in my home country but also abroad. Perhaps I get back to Australia! And then there is also offshore wind, which is a whole different aspect of the industry. 

“There are plenty of opportunities and ways to grow within the company. For example, I could also become an electrical technician, a team leader…The business is booming, it is an exciting time!”

Commenting on whether he would recommend the sector to others, Maxim stresses: “For anyone who doesn’t want an everyday, 9 to 5 job, who is self-sufficient and physically fit, I would certainly recommend them to look at possibilities in the wind energy industry.”