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Opinion: ‘Oh, the places you’ll go’ — with a dirty job

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I am a big fan of the show “Dirty Jobs.” As the owner of a drain-cleaning franchise, I know the trades offer tremendous opportunities for the men and women who do the work that others don’t want to or can’t do.

So, I was intrigued when I was approached by a young man named Gil during a recent seminar. He said, “Plumbing has taken me around the world, and helped me create a life I never imagined.”

Wow. Of course, after the show, I called Gil to find out more about him and what got him interested in plumbing.

Gil said, “My mom and dad were from Puerto Rico. We lived in a Spanish-speaking community, and I didn’t speak English until I started school. It was a tough part of town and my career prospects weren’t great. My dad suggested that I get into plumbing because I could get a solid, high-paying job.

“That’s where I met Kevin Kelly, the vo-tech teacher. Mr. Kelly was very strict – ‘old school’ in his approach. He was also kind and fair. He saw that I had mechanical talent and gave me a lot of encouragement. He believed in me, and at age 14, I decided to become a plumber.

“My friends gave me a lot of grief. There was this stigma about plumbing. I carried that around like a chip on my shoulder. Only it was much bigger than that. It fueled my decision to not only become a great plumber, but also to use plumbing to create an incredible life. I made a commitment to take my career, and the trade, to the highest level.

“I got married, to the love of my life, Nikki. I embraced learning and becoming a skilled tradesman. Life was good.

“Then another experience impacted me in a powerful way. In 2005, I went on a mission trip with my church to Thailand. We helped deliver medicine to people in areas that were hard to get to. The people we met, they had little access to potable water, and no sewer system. I thought, ‘I can help a lot of people with the skills I have.’”

Gil started Googling for opportunities. He searched “plumbing in Australia” and found an ad for a company called Raytheon, which was doing a plumbing project in Antarctica. You know how it goes … you start searching for Australia and end up in Antarctica!

The ad made the job sound really hard, in nearly impossible working conditions, and only the brightest and toughest plumbers would be considered. Of course, Gil was interested, and with Nikki’s enthusiastic support, he applied.

Gil was one of only seven plumbers from hundreds of applicants who made the cut and reported for work at the McMurdo Station on the south tip of Ross Island. After the five-month project, Gil had the travel adventure bug.

He searched the internet for more adventures. He found Hydromissions is a Christian organization that provides access to safe drinking water around the world. With this group, Gil has traveled to all seven continents and delivered potable water to thousands of people in dozens of countries.

“I always love a challenge. I want to go to the moon. Nikki likes it when I say I make pipe dreams come true. She is right there with me. We have a son, Jaden, who is 10 years old, and loves baseball. I just got back from Botswana. I tell Jaden, ‘There is this whole world that I am seeing all because of my ability to run and fix pipes.’”

How nice to meet Gil and hear his story. Here’s to dirty job adventures.

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant offering profit-building tips, trending business blogs and online workshops at Her books include “Where Did the Money Go?” and “The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan.” She can be reached at


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