Adalet Yurtcu Rope Access Technician, Work at Heights Instructor, and first woman in Turkey to repair wind turbine blades
Adalet Yurtcu has been working in the wind turbine industry for four years. She is a Rope Access Technician and Work at Height Instructor. Adalet is based in Turkey.
You studied Economics and Industrial Relations at University? What attracted you to these subjects?
Before I started university, I was already working in the field of Human Resources. The reason I started university was to be able to progress further. After graduating, I started a journey that led to the position of Human Resources Manager.
You worked in HR. What skills did you take from this role for your future?
I have learned to get to know and observe people more closely. Thanks to my job, my social and people skills have become much better. Now, there are almost no people I cannot communicate with well after only a short time. I have also learned to solve problems quickly and smoothly and to manage people easily.
You then studied Occupational Health and Safety. Why did you choose this?
I had reached a point in Human Resources where I couldn’t progress, and there was no possibility of further advancement. I like to constantly improve myself and progress. So, I thought of moving to the newly established field of Occupational Health and Safety (in Turkey), started university again and studied that subject.
Path to Rope Access Technician
Was there a particular person who inspired you to consider working as a Rope Access Technician?
Since Human Resources is an extremely busy and tiring department, I went mountaineering in my spare time to relax and recharge myself. One of my trainers told me that he sometimes went to rope access jobs and I stepped into this sector. Thanks to him, I have come to places I could not even dream of before today.
Working at heights
Can you describe the first time you worked at height?
My first time at height was when I parachuted out of an aeroplane. It had been a dream of mine since childhood. I don’t remember the first five seconds of the first jump, probably due to extreme excitement and fear. Then I realized that I had never had such an exciting and pleasurable experience. After that, I became interested in all kinds of sports which give an adrenaline rush.
How quickly did you become confident?
I have always been confident about being high up and have never had a problem in that regard.
“I have always loved being high up and I will always love being high up.”
When I am high up, I experience unlimited freedom there.
What advice would you give someone in their first three months of working at heights?
Our work can never be neglected or ignored as the slightest carelessness can lead to death. For this reason, someone new to the field should never work without people who are more experienced than them and who know and do their job well. Technicians should always check everything at least twice and make sure to secure at least two points.
What has been your most challenging job?
One day when I was landing on a wind turbine with a rope, there was suddenly a very strong wind and my teammate, and I were blown into the air. My teammate was less experienced than me and he overreacted. I tried to calm him down and didn’t show my fear but really, it was the first time I remember being so scared.
Rope access technician
What exactly is the role of a rope access technician?
It is to do all kinds of work that are impossible to reach by normal means. We do the work as long as the tasks can safely be reached using rope. This could be:
cleaning windows in a building,
laying pipes on a bridge,
performing electrical operations
or repairing blades on wind turbines.
We work in many different fields.
How important is physical fitness at work for you?
In our field, both mental and physical fitness are very important. People who are overweight, do not do sport or exercise, have physical limitations, or are afraid of heights are not suitable for this job.
When we work, we are with partners. Being a partner is very important because our partner is the one who will save us in case of a possible danger. Their inadequacies or inexperience can jeopardise the other person’s life.
You have worked on the longest suspension bridge in the world? What did the work involve?
For about 4 months, I had the opportunity to work on the Çanakkale Bridge, known as the longest suspension bridge in the world. It gives me a sense of pride to have worked on such an important bridge and to have been the only female technician working in the rope access groups on the bridge.
How large was the crew working on the bridge?
With the team I was in, we laid the ventilation pipe on the main rope. Our team was 20 people on average, but the number of people working on the bridge was very high.
Why did you decide to start working on wind turbines?
I love being outside with nature. When I am not working, I work as a nature guide and take people hiking.
I moved industries and started working on wind turbines with Rass Wind. Wind Turbines do not harm nature, so I am happy to work with them.
When I work there, all day long I only see green landscape as far as the eye can see and I listen to the sound of birds. This gives me peace.
Working as a Work at Height Instructor
How much of your time is spent training and how much on admin or other tasks?
I usually prefer to give these training sessions in the winter season, when the rope access season is over. I live in Antalya and since this is a tourist region, there are 5-star hotels everywhere. There are thousands of people in these hotels. I usually train them.
What do you find most challenging when you are training people?
How do you make sure your training is memorable?
Unfortunately, many people are not interested in training, and they only come because they have to. I try to make them listen to the training by talking about topics that will interest them, making the subject enjoyable with examples and demonstrating what they have to do.
It can sometimes be very tiring to talk all day long and explain things to people who do not want to be trained. But still, in every group there is always someone who is interested. When they see that I have given them something, even if it is a small thing, it makes them feel great.
What sort of safety clothing, footwear and harnesses do you need to wear?
We need to wear:
Full body safety belt,
full face mask,
We have a lot we need to wear.
Apart from these, there is also a lot of technical equipment we need to use for rope access.
Are there challenges finding things which fit well and are comfortable? (Are most things designed for men?)
Unfortunately, they are all made for men and when I wear them, they are all too baggy. I find it very difficult to find even the gloves I want and that fit. I am sure that in the coming years, more specialist clothing will be produced for women. Because as women, we are now in all sectors.
Working in heat and cold
How do you personally cope with the heat and the cold?
I prefer not to work in cold weather because it is really hard to sit still on the rope all day. I tried it a couple of times in winter and then I got sick for a very long time, and I realized that it was not for me.
In summer it is really hard to work all day outdoors under the sun. Especially when I wear Tyvek over the harness. When I get off the rope, I have no dry clothes, I’m soaked. So I’m always on the lookout for quick-drying work clothes.
What clothing and footwear advice would you give to other women turbine technicians?
I am the first woman in Turkey to repair blades on Wind Turbines. Last year two women friends of mine entered the sector, so we talk and share our experiences with each other. As for shoes, only a few brands have our size, there are not many options.
Women in Engineering
You are working in a male dominated industry. How do you find this? How do you think it will change over the next ten years?
Four years ago, when I started working on wind turbines, every time I went to a new site, there was an expression of surprise on people’s faces. After a short time, the people at the sites all over Turkey learned about me and they knew me even before I went to them. Especially in this sector, there has always been positive discrimination supporting me and they have all tried very hard to help me. Ten years from now, I am sure that there will be more female technicians in the field and personal spaces will be created for them.
What needs to be done to encourage more women to consider this career?
We need training projects to support women and to encourage them more. Areas where they can work more easily could be increased.
Working as a rope access technician as a woman
What would you say to a woman who is considering working as a Rope Access Technician?
Working as a Rope Access Technician is a job that requires extreme physical performance, so they have to be able to cope with that. As Rope Access Technicians, we are constantly on site in the field. So, we cannot go home for months, especially in the summer months. So, anyone entering this profession needs to like to travel and they need to have an environment where they can stay away from home. My children are 18 and 27, so it’s not a problem for me, but it can be a problem for women with young children. Most importantly, any woman entering this profession needs to like to be at heights.
I believe that women can achieve all these things. I know for sure that we women can be successful in anything we want to do.
New Rope Access Technicians
What sort of personality traits are ideal for this career?
People who start this job should definitely not be afraid of heights. It is a suitable profession for people who:
have practical intelligence,
have developed problem-solving skills,
are extremely careful,
are attentive to their work,
and are focused on continuous improvement and renewal.
What are the key things to do in your first year as a rope access technician?
After the first few months, when the work is well mastered, unfortunately people relax. This is the most dangerous time. The number of people who make mistakes and lose their lives due to such an illusion of overconfidence is higher than for novices. No matter how many years pass, it is always necessary to check everything a few times as on the first day, and to always show extreme caution and always act safely.