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Meet Tom

Get to know me

Full name

Tom De Ridder

Job title




Business unit

Sarens BE Projects

At Sarens since


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Introducing Tom: an enthusiastic team player who we can describe as reliable, driven, and curious. Coming from a career in the printing industry, he sought a new challenge and seized the opportunity to start as a Rigger at Sarens BE Projects (Depot Berendrecht). He followed several training courses, gained extensive on-the-job experience, and is now fully up and running! No job is too extraordinary for Tom, especially since he worked as a snake catcher in the past in Phoenix. He has a passion for cars, enjoys running when he’s injury-free, and cherishes moments with his family, particularly with his young daughter. He believes that anything is possible as long as you fully commit and give it your all! Sounds like a 100% Sarens match… #Nothing too heavy, Nothing too high.

How did you end up at Sarens?

Through word of mouth. Joris, a childhood friend of mine who works at Sarens, mentioned that he had to do an intervention to install a bike bridge in Zaventem. He suggested: “If you want to see something interesting, you should ride along with me.” I did, and that’s when I became intrigued by the world of heavy lifting operations. From then on, I began to wonder if there might be a role for me at Sarens despite having no relevant experience or degree related to the heavy industry. I applied, and quickly one thing led to another… I started as a Rigger at Sarens Belgium.

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What did you do before Sarens?

I was working in a printing company, but had been looking for something else for a while. However, I felt held back by my degree and experience, which were tailored to the printing industry. By the time I turned 30, I had almost given up hope of doing anything beyond the world of graphics. Fortunately, Sarens offered me a chance to start as a Rigger, despite lacking a relevant diploma or experience. They recognised my determination, eagerness to learn, and interest in the industry and gave me a chance to prove myself. When you receive one training course after another from a new employer, opportunities are presented to you on a silver platter. I was resolute not to disappoint anyone and to make it work!

What did your training trajectory look like?

I didn't had any experience in the heavy lifting industry, so becoming a Rigger (instead of a Crane Operator for example) seemed like a good starting point. Sarens provided me with a series of training courses, covering a wide range of topics that I had to absorb in a relatively short amount of time. I completed several courses through the Sarens Training Centre, including IS-006, rotary telehandler, and aerial work platform. Additionally, I had the opportunity to undertake external courses such as VCA-VOL (a safety course), as well as training for aerial work platforms and rotary telehandler at Comokra.

The rigging training was quite challenging, involving an intensive week of learning various topics. The training sessions typically consisted of a combination of theoretical courses and practical exercises. While I found the practical training sessions more intuitive, I recognized the importance of theoretical knowledge in understanding the principles behind rigging practices. Initially, the training trajectory felt overwhelming, but with determination, I was able to succeed. Looking back, the nerves weren’t necessary, but lacking any prior experience of knowledge, it was initially a bit intimidating.

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And afterwards, how did it proceed?

After obtaining all the necessary certificates, I spent some time at different locations, including onsite with our client BASF, where I gained practical experience. Initially assigned to smaller projects, I gradually built up my skills and confidence by starting with simpler tasks. At first, it felt overwhelming, but I learned a lot by shadowing senior colleagues and gaining hands-on experience. I wasn't initially paired with a specific crane operator, which allowed me to gather input from various colleagues, receiving different tips and tricks from around 30 to 40 different people. As time passed, the tasks became more complex, and the projects and cranes grew in size. Receiving feedback from experienced colleagues, that you've grown really boosts your confidence! If it's good, you'll hear about it; if it's bad, you'll hear about it too!

What is important to consider when starting out as a crane operator?

The job of a Crane Operator may not be suited for everyone. Physically, it’s not overly demanding, but you must be willing to get your hands dirty, especially when maintaining the crane or other equipment. When you’re greasing the crane, expect to see some dirt.

Additionally, a good logical insight is important. Flexibility is also key, because you’ll encounter various challenges and situations on the job. Being proactive and attentive is crucial; you need to stay on top of everything at all times, for safety and quality reasons. Ultimately, what matters most is passion. You’ve got to adore your crane! (Laughs)

"Logical insight, flexible, proactive and willing to get your hands dirty."

What does a typical day look like for you?

Long (laughs). A typical day doesn’t really exist… Even though it’s the same every day, each day brings its own unique challenges. It’s always different! One day you’re running around like crazy, the next day you’re waiting for a piece to be delivered. Every day you encounter some problem that needs to be tackled. Whether it's an 8-hour or a 13-hour day, I find it enjoyable!

What do you like/dislike the most about the job?

I enjoy the variety, the challenge, the colleagues, the learning opportunities… and also the salary. In my previous job, I also worked many hours, but they were not paid. Now, every hour is compensated. It feels rewarding to be paid for the hard work I put in.

Dislike, that’s a tough question to answer. The job requires flexibility, as schedules for the next day are often provided in the evening. This demands understanding and support of your loved ones. My wife works shifts, making coordination challenging. Balancing work demands with family time is indeed a challenge, there are weeks where I don't get to spend as much time with my daughter as I'd like. It's just part of the job. I value hard work and want to inspire my daughter: if you want to achieve something, you need to work hard for it!

"I enjoy the variety, the challenge, the colleagues, the learning opportunities, and the salary."

Which remarkable moment at Sarens will you never forget?

The heavy lifting industry is a world where you have to prove yourself before you are truly accepted. They want to see what you're made of before investing further. Once you pass this phase, the atmosphere is great! We occasionally go out for a drink, have dinner together, or enjoy a BBQ at the depot. Of course, you have to be willing to build those relationships yourself.

Professionally, I’ll never forget certain complex jobs that were particularly exciting, such as the first time I had to place a bridge part. If it’s a bigger or more complex job, it tends to be more memorable.

What’s your favourite quote?

The quote "Reality is fake, dreams are for real" resonates with me. It may sound cheesy, but it captures the idea that with full commitment, anything is achievable. In 2014, I took a bold step, leaving everything behind in Belgium to start fresh in Phoenix. From distributing flyers to cleaning toilets, I persevered until I found my niche as a snake catcher – an experience that has contributed to making me who I am today. It underscores the notion that seizing opportunities and being in the right place at the right time can lead to limitless possibilities.

"Reality is fake, dreams are for real"

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Who are the people who fit well in Sarens, according to you?

People with common sense and a bit of logic. If you’re someone with “Monday sickness” or “Friday late shift sickness”, you won’t get far. However, with the right attitude, there’s a lot that’s possible within Sarens!

You should consider joining Sarens as a Rigger when…

you want to get to know the crane world up close! Personally, I believe that being a Rigger is the best way to start because you get to see everything up close. Sometimes, you can take a step back and observe what’s happening. Being a Rigger is a logical entry point. If you start as a Rigger, I believe you can become a skilled Crane Operator with all the knowledge you’ve gained.

What are your plans for the future professionally?

I don't necessarily want to be a full-time Crane Operator soon, but a combination of Crane Operator and Rigger in the future sounds appealing to me! If I start getting older, rigging might become a bit more difficult, so it's good to have an alternative... (Laughs)


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