By Joanie Veitch,
Gary Lowe doesn’t skip a beat when asked what he enjoys most about his role as Work Centre Manager in the Marine Machinery Shop at Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Scott.
“The talent,” he says, his pride in the facility and the people who work there clearly evident as he walks the shop floor, exchanging greetings with everyone he passes along the way.
“The skill and creativity of the tradespeople who work here, and their ability to find solutions for difficult situations…it’s incredible,” Lowe says, pausing for a moment on his ‘25-cent tour’ of the FMFCS Machine Shop. “The people here are so creative, if you have a problem you just talk to them and they will work out a solution; they make it happen.”
Working out solutions and fixing things is a large part of what seems to drive and sustain Lowe himself, not just in his work, but in his personal life too, having set up a mechanical shop in his garage at his home in Lower Sackville, and working on home renovation projects in his spare time.
“I like to keep busy,” he laughs. “I’ve always been curious, I guess. As a kid I was always fixing things and trying to figure out how things work.”
Before becoming a manager in the FMFCS mechanical division three years ago, Lowe spent most of his career — first as a tradesperson then as a supervisor — installing, maintaining, testing and repairing equipment and systems fitted on board Royal Canadian Navy ships and submarines, as well as shore-based equipment, at FMFCS and other locations.
He’s still fixing things, but now he works out solutions at a management level: scheduling, dealing with human resources issues and resolving conflicts, always with the goal of smoothing out any glitches that might slow things down or cause problems.
“You can’t let yourself get upset or fly off the handle when things aren’t working out. When you have an issue or a situation that’s causing problems, you just have to work to find a way to solve it, to make sure the work moves ahead as soon as possible,” he says.
For Lowe, and many of the people who work at FMFCS, the pay-off is the sense of pride felt watching a ship or submarine leave for a deployment, he says, “after spending many long days and weekends getting it ready, knowing you were part of the team that enabled that to happen.”
Lowe’s career at FMFCS began in 1986, after completing the Industrial Mechanics (Millwright) program at Nova Scotia Community College in Bridgewater and getting hired on as an apprentice in the Marine Machinery Shop. In 2003 he moved to the Control Systems Shop as a Mechanical Systems Instrumentation Technician, after doing a couple of other short stints — first in the Antenna Shop and then Fire Control.
He was promoted to supervisor in the Marine Machinery Shop in 2008, where he worked for 10 years before becoming Work Centre Manager — initially in an acting capacity, before taking a permanent position in 2019.
Working in different roles throughout FMFCS gave Lowe a much better understanding of the maintenance operation as a whole, he says, giving credit to the supervisors and managers who mentored him as he took on more responsibilities.
As a manager now himself, he tries to do the same. “It helps you see the bigger picture, at a global level, of what we do here. This organization, the whole place acts as one huge team and works so well together. The teamwork here is amazing. We’re working together towards a common goal and we all feel a united sense of pride in that.”