Top 10 Under 40: Ashley Friesen
By Colleen Cross
It’s hard not to feel good about the future of the ground water industry after talking with 10 young people who work hard and love what they do.
Ground Water Canada put out a call to readers to tell us about outstanding young professionals who exhibit outstanding leadership, skill and dedication to the industry. Readers came through with an impressive sampling of the industry’s best – including Ashley Friesen. Read on to learn more about this young well technician!
LEARNING EVERY DAY
Ashley Friesen, Friesen Drillers Ltd., Steinbach, Man.
Ashley Friesen, 23, was on a job in Swan River, Man., about two hours south of The Pas, when I caught up with her during a 24-hour pump test.
Friesen, a well technician for her family’s company, services wells. “There is no typical day because on any given day you could end up doing any task.” In addition to pump testing, she carries out well rehabilitation, well abandonment, pump installation, water sampling, grout work and myriad tasks relating to keeping wells healthy. “There’s a lot of on-call work in this job,” she says. “It’s definitely interesting.”
When Friesen started in an entry-level job as a driller’s helper six years ago, she did not see herself continuing in the industry. “I didn’t plan to stay in it,” she says.
She tried her hand at service work, and since 2015 she’s focused on her work as a well technician, assisting several drilling crews.
One perk of her job is getting a chance to see some of the country. “I like the travelling I get to do,” she says. “I’ve been to Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.”
She also enjoys learning about what other tradespeople do and picking up new skills.
For example, she now has experience using a cable tool and a down-the-hole camera. The camera is housed in a former ambulance custom fitted to protect the delicate, expensive equipment, she explains enthusiastically. “The vehicle is wired up and a person can sit in the back and control the camera.”
The camera is beneficial to clients to see if screens are plugged or fractures are open enough or whether they need rehabilitation using a cable tool, she says. “It helps you see if there’s any point in fixing the well.”
She says the worst days are when she is in the shop all day, doing jobs that need doing such as stocking the truck or doing oil changes. “Those days can drag.”
As a woman, Friesen comes up against a couple of challenges. Although treated equally by all staff, she occasionally has to convince a skeptical customer she can do the job, she says. Also, the physical nature of the work can be difficult. “I sometimes struggle with lifting heavy things,” she says. “It’s definitely challenging.”
She tries her best to help create awareness of the industry by talking with well owners and educating the general public. “People don’t know anything about water wells,” she says. “They don’t understand where their water comes from. There needs to be a Hollywood movie about water well drilling.”
She recounts pulling out 200 feet of pipe from a well, to the surprise of the well owner, who had no idea how deep a well could go. “When people see drillers at work, they sometimes ask if they’ve struck oil. Sometimes I’m not sure if they’re serious or not,” she says.
When not troubleshooting wells, Friesen loves to get out and hike. Manitoba’s Hunt Lake is a favourite spot. She recently camped in Ontario and loved it: “What’s not to love? It’s lakes, and trees, and rocks.”
Near the end of our chat, Friesen reflects that a water well is like a car. “You wouldn’t buy a car, then not take care of it,” she says. “You have to give it a little TLC.”
Read about others who made our Top 10 Under 40 list of top young industry professionals.