Jade Hunter Kettner is a pioneer. As a female entrepreneur, she entered the typically male-dominated field of professional non-destructive testing inspection services. Earning her stripes in the industry, one at a time, Kettner has built one of the rising premier companies in the sphere.
The company works in the business-to-business inspection service realm with a focus on the oil and gas industry adding a strategic pivot into working with the United States government as a SBA Certified WOSB, Women Owned Small Business. Jade’s efforts resulted in her being named to the National Small Business Association (NSBA) Leadership Council in 2021.
Although HawkEye was only recently formed in 2016, it has ridden a steady upward momentous wave of success over the last five years. Jade’s has expansive plans for HawkEye’s future and the horizon looks bright for the talented business owner.
Jade, can you start out by telling us about HawkEye NDT and the services offered?
HawkEye NDT Services provides professional non-destructive testing inspection resources. We provide a business-to-business support service. Our clients are generally established businesses operating within very specific fields that require our inspection skills to maintain operational readiness and their various quality assurance programs which often is required by their private insurance policies coupled with federal government oversight compliance standards and requirements. Generally, we do not deal with the public or retail environment.
The best way to explain HawkEye NDT is to give you an example of what we do; In the oil extraction services, there are specific tools that are akin to very long metal straws connecting into each other, think of them as long tubes that can connect into each other at both ends to create a longer tubing tunnel.
In oil and gas extraction, the federal government mandates an operator can only deploy this one piece of equipment once before it needs to be inspected by a licensed NDT inspector Simply, it means that the one time it goes down hole, upon retrieval and is returned to the surface the unit must be inspected with documentation filed with all appropriate parties. Our inspectors then come into play and utilize various Non-Destructive Testing. NDT, methods like liquid penetrant or magnetic particle Inspection technologies.
Our inspectors can apply a wide array of NDT techniques. Our Inspectors are all members in good standing with our governing body The American Society for Nondestructive Testing, ASNT which is a member-based, non-profit professional society that provides NDT-related reference materials, technical conferences and our industries certifications
Each client assigns individual metrics specifying each section/tool that they require for inspection. Our inspectors verify with the client’s unique industry standards of operating practice, SOP, to verify we are examining the equipment by the designers’ specification. We do have engineers in our team that review schematics and consult the manufactures inspection protocols on every project.
For an example in the oil industry, where these tubular tools I described earlier, where these pieces connect, we verify via NDT techniques, where the threads of the ferrous metal inserts and threads together; that those specific connection points have the Integrity required by the manufacturers specifications. We seek out any deterioration and any incursion to the structural integrity of the equipment.
Our inspectors then promptly record our findings which includes photographs, technical measurements, and other details are compiled and documented according to each customer’s requirements. We have a responsibility to the governing federal authorities to maintain records of what we found on examination and must have that data ready upon immediate request from the Federal Government agent.
Now, when we find deficits or our inspectors are authorized to “strike” that tool, which means we found damaged pieces of equipment, we’re concerned, we’re not comfortable certifying that for reuse, because there’s too much risk from the incursion. Then we notify the client of our findings which are logged for federal oversight and it is up to that company to decide how they wish to handle that piece of equipment. Our clients usually opt to follow our determinations.
Mind you, in oil and gas extraction one of these tools can be valued at $75,000 to $150,000 per piece. Our clients then pull that piece of equipment out of rotation and follow their company’s guidelines for remedy.
We are proud to say that we have recently been asked to work on the aircraft that have fought many of the western fires that have ravaged the past couple of summers in the west coast and our own Rocky Mountain National Park. We can work in ski resorts om the lifts, we can do the shovel heads on the big snow plows, really any piece of equipment that is made ferromagnetic metal and/or with a ferromagnetic weld that is used repeatedly. Any industry that uses materials that need the integrity of their ferromagnetic equipment tested for integrity and safety, we can inspect.
HawkEye NDT Services provides a safety-quality assurance metric that is federally required in many industries and we are happy to provide that service throughout North America.
What types of companies do Hawk Eye NDT Services work with?
HawkEye NDT Services is a business-to-business professional service. We have been strongest in oil and gas and we have been branching into serving the firefighting planes of the western U.S., we are entering into ski resorts and most excited about entering government contracting as a SBA Verified WOSB vendor.
According to Kettner, becoming an entrepreneur was in her blood. It is just something that was inside of her. As a female entrepreneur, Kettner sees the importance of bringing gender diversity into the field.
HawkEye NDT Services is a female-owned business. Firstly, how important is it for you to be an entrepreneur as a woman and is being a role model as a female business owner important to you?
I don’t know if being a woman really factored into being an entrepreneur. I was born female thus becoming a woman was my biological trajectory and being an entrepreneur has been as much my destiny as being a woman; I guess I was born both woman and entrepreneur: It is what I have always known. It is who I am.
However, I do see the uniqueness of a woman breaking into a field that is predominantly male, male orientated, worked and serviced. I don’t know if I truly had any thought of being “a woman” at the time that I was creating HawkEye. As I was focusing on creating an outstanding opportunity and that was my focal point, not being a woman.
Yet, now I can see the significance and importance of being a woman and establishing my company the way I did- I do acknowledge in hindsight what a feat I accomplished.
I don’t know if I’m a role model. I don’t know how I feel about the concept of being a role model because I’m human and I am flawed. I am more than willing to be a cheerleader for other women entrepreneurs providing and sharing any information that I have applied and harnessed with efficacy to help myself and my business succeed. I am enthusiastic to help others, especially younger women entering the business world to be a support as they learn how to stand on their own two business feet.
What are some of the challenges you have as a woman owning a company such as HawkEye NDT Services?
Because I started in oil and gas, that by itself paints the picture that it was not welcoming and there aren’t many women in that industry. Especially in the field where my clients are- out with the equipment alongside oil rigs and at the client locations. The women I encounter in the oil and gas industry are very few and far between and usually limited to office pools, doing paperwork type of roles not exactly near my crews or managing the field work, or the rigs’ production operations.
Of course, in the big companies there are women on boards and making the higher level decisions but again they do not translate out into the field with the equipment. This gender disparity has made ME doing sales and representing my company very difficult.
As a woman I’m not taken seriously. Actually, I don’t have a problem with that. I understand where the fellows are coming from… because of who is doing the work. Men are. Imagine watching a woman walk up to the rig site or Tool shop, over to the flight mechanic, they all know I haven’t been on the rig for 15 years; I haven’t leaned every tool in a 5k foot shop with a 10 million dollar inventory, and I don’t even have my private pilot’s license! I haven’t earned all my stripes is how the men feel about women on site and I accept their point of view. I have more stripes to earn. The great part is the fellows are usually ready and willing to teach me. I have found personally that the men are supportive and welcoming. If I am brave enough to be there and asking to learn, and they are brave enough to engage me back… we both win. However, because I am not an inspector, I lean on my team to perform the actual inspections.
This is where my team has to step up for me as they have already earned their stripes. They have been in the field, on the rigs, derricks, in the planes, from Texas to ND, MT, WY, WA, LA, NM, and home sweet Colorado. Our Inspectors have the experience and they step up and forward demonstrating that HawkEye is the best inspection service to rely on and the fact that a woman owns it doesn’t factor into that conversation. Talk is cheap in oil & gas. What counts is the work we do; It is about having integrity. Getting the job(s) finished where and when the client needs their inspections completed all while doing an excellent job. It is all about integrity.
Most of the fellows in the field or at the shops, actually respect that I’m a woman, who had the bold attitude to enter this very dirty world. The work is physical very dirty and generally not what a woman like me, what I physically look like would be drawn to by most people’s ideas of femininity in the workplace. Usually, the guys are generally polite. They will tease me as hard as they would tease my male inspectors and I expect that from them, because I come in with the understanding of having to earn my stripes too. They usually are willing to allow me the space to be present and participate. They have been appropriate and usually we have a good laugh. Or three.
I think because I’m older, I’m not as much of a threat if I was in my 20s or 30s. I can only imagine how difficult it is for women entering this industry at those younger ages. The social difficulties that would be presented would be much tougher to navigate than I have known.
The clients know I have to earn my stripes in some ways too and I’m doing that. Yet it all comes down to as long as we at HawkEye deliver great inspection work- I think that’s what really matters. It comes down to generally if HawkEyes NDT Inspection services are what they are seeking and if we are priced appropriately; it is a go. Let’s make it happen!
It doesn’t have that much pretense to it: Integrity goes a long way.
As an entrepreneur, Kettner was recently honored by the National Small Business Association. It was a big honor for Kettner and showcased her excellence as a business owner.
In August 2021, you were named to the National Small Business Association (NSBA) Leadership Council. Tell us about this honor. How significant is it as an entrepreneur?
I am very honored and touched I was selected to be nominated for the Leadership Council of the National Small Business Association. I have believed for decades to effect change; we must take action and not just have continued conversation or printed words= we must become the change we seek. I am humbled and excited to contribute to the betterment of the American Small Business and am thankful for the framework that the NSBA has established being a truly independent voice for American Small Business. We will continue to advance and protect the backbone of America, for example did you know small business accounts for 64% of all new jobs each year?
From my point of view this is an extremely complimentary invitation to partake of the NSBA and I accept the position as an honor that I was nominated within my field for creating a business that embodied the positive characteristics of the ‘American Small Business Entrepreneur’. I am very humbled to be selected and hope I can be a positive addition to the NSBA’s Leadership Council.
HawkEye NDT Services has been in business since 2016. What were some of the challenges you faced when opening the business and getting it to the stage it is currently?
I would have to say the hardest challenges since we’ve been in business has been dealing with the COVID pandemic and how harmed business have been globally. Everything about being a small business has been impacted. Our path forward as a planet is somewhat unknown and somewhat unclear. We are truly in a new functional reality with everything in our existence uprooted and changing in real time.
What I do know for sure is I am highly adaptive. As the leader of HawkEye I can attest my team is also highly adaptable. We know what we are doing, we know what we provide, and we are poised to continue to perform NDT inspection services with our continued confidence and always… with integrity.
It hasn’t been easy and there is no giving up. We will continue to adapt; we will continue to adjust and we will continue to offer inspection services with the integrity that HawkEye is known for.
Speaking of challenges, how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted and affected the HawkEye?
The COVID pandemic created quite a problem for our business in that the world shut down for the businesses that are our clients. They were not able to perform due to the covid restrictions. Thus, we were not required.
The COVID pandemic created many difficulties, where we had to wait it out and simply be ready to perform once our clients were able to again restart their businesses. It has been a very slow return to business as usual. We are turning the corner and returning to full engagement but again we are bracing ourselves for more slowdowns as this is definitely a novel situation within this novel virus.
Experienced and or forward-thinking businesses prepare themselves to be positioned to endure these cycles. HawkEye is ready to engage clients at the speed they are moving at and we are ready to ramp up exponentially as we pivot to include a new division dedicated to Government Contracting.
Jade, you have a passion for Active-Duty Military/Veterans and their families. Can you explain this passion and your interest in the military?
My devotion to the military and their families is simple. I have been both a wife without children and then a mother to children with their father who volunteered to serve in Iraq as a combat medic. For me, it is simply the model that the military members themselves champion: we do not leave people behind...
Having been a spouse of a service member (who is now a 20-year retired veteran) My time in that life taught me that we do not leave those other spouses and their children behind.
It is up to us to carry them. We were able to find our way through 20 years of service transitioning successfully into the civilian world, and it is now our responsibility to assist.
Being a member of the” loved one at war club”, during wartime, and the extra stress of the combat deployment club onöy has a membership of approximately 4% of the United States’ population. Few understand firsthand how tough and lonely it is. I don’t know if I would do it again if given the opportunity. Because of how difficult the life is and transitioning into civilian life can become, those of us, who have successfully found our way, I believe it almost as a calling, that we must share exactly what and how we found success and share with the other families facing this transition to help them have better odds in their return into civilian living.
I simply couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t help other women, I simply, couldn’t find peace if I did not help other spouses and their children. And because the services are generally similar whether it’s a primary military member or a family member who is in need. When we help a spouse – we help the primary military member and vice versa.
Unfortunately, in our country, we have a long track record of reducing the guarantees we made to the military member and their family upon the time of entry of service. By the time they depart the service they realize that the benefits that they were counting on their signed contract are often removed or have dwindled by congressional edict. Worse, the benefits may not be there at all.
This seems to be more of a social political issue too big for me to solve yet it’s real, it’s tangible and those of us who found our way into a successful civilian life carry this burden quietly where we consistently give back to our military family community. Oh. …And we get involved…and get active, …Hey! Congress! You owe our veterans! And you will honor their service!
I would say an interesting metric to look at is that those who are no longer in active duty and how we give back. One could probably measure the amount we give back to the difficulty of our own experience. In that those of us who had very hard times and went through sad, tough, damaging deployment situations most likely give back at a much larger rate than those with low disruption tours – that you find and maybe, maybe we take on our second biggest military related mission to lighten the load of other military/veteran lives, because of their service, their tours, took bigger and greater damage than our own.
Unfortunately, children of the service members are not supported and acknowledged enough and I don’t yet believe educational systems and pediatricians’ factor in how the specific stress of living with a parent or both parents combat deployment affects the growing brain. I really wish we did more for those who serve and their children.
If we cannot do more, can we at least keep what contract we signed with our American brothers and sisters? We must honor those terms. We must do better in the medical system for veterans and their families. We must address PTSD with efficacy for the entire military family. Yes. I am passionate about this situation.
HawkEye has a bright future. The company is working to expand its reach and provide new services to different groups.
HawkEye NDT Services has been in business since 2016. What does the future hold for the company?
HawkEye NDT Services’ future is very bright. We are positioning ourselves to expand into government contracting. We figure our combined 40 plus years of military experience gives us unique insight into the nexus where business and government come together now being eligible to be a government contractor. We have been certified as a Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) by the SBA which will assist HawkEye in the bidding process.
We are very excited about the possibilities presented in providing NDT services to our own government. Which, we believe is carrying forward our military service into our civilian business. We continue serving our military yet in a way that is more comfortable then active-duty service life. We still feel the need to contribute to the betterment of our society, being a government contractor allows us the best of both the civilian and military worlds in conducting business
Kettner has built a company based on her ethos that continues to go from strength to strength. The small-business owner has weathered the initial storm of COVID-19 and has come out of it with a plan for the future. With government contracts on the way, the company is set for a big future.
For more information on Jade Kettner and HawkEye NDT Services, please visit http://HawkEyendtservices.com
Journalist and author. Contributor