NASSCO just completed its 41th year and continues to set standards for the assessment and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure. As the association experiences remarkable growth, this series profiles those who have made significant contributions, and impacted the continued acceptance and growth of trenchless rehabilitation methods. This is a bi-monthly installment in a series of articles exploring the history of NASSCO through the eyes of industry leaders.
This month, NASSCO honors Marilyn Shepard, who was instrumental in getting the Pipeline Assessment and Certification (PACP) program launched. She is consistently a top trainer for the program and in 2013, was the first person selected as the NASSCO PACP Trainer of the Year.
I was born and raised in Northern California among the magnificent redwoods. My dad was in the timber industry and owned saw mills, while my mother stayed home to raise my two younger brothers and me. My brothers were taken from us much too soon; one passed in a car accident at 18 and the other suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 50. In fact, my entire family is gone now, but I am blessed to have a wonderful husband, amazing children, including my daughter, step-daughter and step-son, and five grandchildren ranging in ages from three to 22. I love gardening and playing the piano, but spending time with my family is what I enjoy most of all.
The very first time I was exposed to CCTV was when I worked as a property manager for a homeowner’s association in Northern California’s Bay area. It was in a pretty rough part of town, and I was convinced one of the tenants was involved in drugs and gang activity. I knew he needed help, so I tried to have a conversation with the young man’s mother, but she was in total denial. I finally went to the police and partnered with their Gang Task Force, which was developed by the Mayor’s Office. They were ready to arrest the tenant suspected of selling drugs, but as the property manager, they needed me to be present.
One morning at 3 a.m. I was summoned to the complex and taken into a big van, where the police had run a CCTV camera into a manhole. Once the drug bust occurred, they expected the suspect would flush drugs and paraphernalia down the toilets. Their strategy was to record the evidence being flushed through the property’s laterals. Sure enough, that’s what happened. The suspect lived in a three-story townhouse, and we watched as the drugs were being flushed as fast and as hard as they could. Since the suspect lived within 1,000 feet of a school, and was selling drugs to children, he was convicted and received a 25-year sentence.
I was captivated by CCTV technology, and that’s where it all began. I was also tired of the proliferation of criminal activity relative to my job, so I went to work for a temporary employment agency. Purely by chance, I was assigned to RS Technical Services Inc., the manufacturer of CCTV cameras and accessories. Rod Sutliff, who described himself as RS Technical’s “COE” or “Company’s Oldest Employee,” took me under his wing and I stayed with the company for 15 years.
Starting out in the accounting department, I moved into the engineering department as Rod’s executive assistant, where I saw first-hand the interface between sales and engineering. It was clear to me, and to Rod, that the company could benefit from some strong marketing support, so I went on to study sales and marketing and later became the company’s marketing communications manager.
Rod was an early adopter who recognized the value of NASSCO’s initiatives to develop standards to bring consistency to underground assessment. He said it would revolutionize the world of trenchless technology. Rod sent me to NASSCO, which was located at the time in Chambersburg, PA, to provide a manufacturing company’s perspective on behalf of RS Technical Services. I was honored to be a part of a PACP workgroup, which included John Jurgens, Jeff Tinlin, Rod Thornhill,
Gerry Muenchmeyer, Lynn Osborn, Greg Anderson and Mike Burkhard. The group also included WRc’s Phil Wildbore and Andy Drinkwater.
We worked closely with WRc and I trained one of the very first beta classes, as well as the very last one, before we launched PACP in January 2002. While I have had wonderful career experiences with other companies since RS Technical services, I have continued training PACP since its launch, and that is where my heart is. In fact, about five years ago, I went out on my own and launched International Training and Rehab Technologies Inc., which allows me to train PACP full-time.
I love teaching, and I especially love learning, so perhaps that is why training PACP is such a perfect fit for me. While at RS Technical Services, I went out on my own to learn marketing, and today I continue to do everything I can to learn more about pipeline inspection maintenance and rehabilitation. I read, ask questions and poke my nose into anything new that will help me become a better trainer in order to benefit the industry and my clients/students.
In my spare time, I do QA/QC reviews of video to ensure municipalities and contractors are using the proper code for the defect/feature and – most importantly – applying it correctly to what they see; because all of the training in the world won’t mean a thing if the student doesn’t leave with the knowledge to consistently apply what he or she learned. The beauty of PACP is that no one is expected to memorize every code, but everyone is expected to refer to the manual continually and apply the information properly.
Standards provided through PACP training result in reliable information from a CCTV or visual inspection, and only through this information can a system owner make a responsible decision regarding how to treat a pipe, and anticipate future failures that can be dealt with before they become disasters. I often use a dentist analogy to explain this. You may go to the dentist because one tooth hurts, but he or she will examine the entire mouth using industry-standard tools, such as X-rays, to make sure there aren’t other issues that can prevent even bigger problems down the road. This evaluation also provides a benchmark to measure future evaluations. The same is true with pipe inspections. If they are conducted and recorded properly, they provide an action plan for the present, while also providing a roadmap for the future. But the only way to accomplish this is through consistent standards that make sense now, later and to different groups of users, evaluators and owners.
I am excited for the future of NASSCO. Since I became involved with the development of PACP, I have been very active in the committees (chairing some and participating on others), setting standards to benefit our industry and, obviously, training. As someone who is always thirsting to know more, take it from me: NASSCO provides the perfect opportunity to get involved, learn, network with peers and advance your career.
I am also extremely encouraged by the number of women entering our industry. When I started out, there were a total of 11 women that I considered peers out of a sea of men. Now, that has changed dramatically, as has the number of young people who are choosing underground infrastructure as a solid career choice. It may not seem like a glamorous industry, but it is one that can make significant social impact, including preventing disease, providing clean drinking water and keeping our environment healthy.