Mike Thomas: calibrated leak craftsman

Mike Thomas finishes assembling a calibrated leak and turns it over in his hands, pointing out each feature that makes this particular leak unique: its Teflon permeation element; its custom leak rate; its long-lasting gas reservoir. He speaks with the easy confidence of a craftsman empowered with decades of experience, and it’s clear that he cares deeply about his work.

“My job is to make an excellent product that fully meets our customers’ expectations. That’s how I help further our company’s mission,” said Mike.

For nearly twenty years, Mike has served Vacuum Technology Incorporated (VTI) as a Calibration Technician, working alongside his teammates in VTI’s Calibration Laboratory to build and repair calibrated leaks that are sent to customers all over the world. These leaks help companies catch flaws in their products before those products enter the field, reducing waste and ensuring customers are happy with the goods they receive. Mike juggles a lot of responsibilities to make that happen, from assembling calibrated leaks to probing completed leaks for microscopic defects.

“That diversity is one of the best parts of my job. There’s a lot of problem solving, and I enjoy wrestling with the various challenges that come with making a well-built calibrated leak,” said Mike.

Mike began his VTI career in 1998 as a general hand. He spent three years rotating through different positions within the company, helping out in the woodshop and delivering completed vacuum systems to customers. Getting to work with VTI’s procurement department, Mike says, was particularly helpful for learning more about the business of vacuum science.

“I learned a lot about the ins and outs concerning how VTI prices and purchases things. That knowledge comes in handy in my current role,” he said.

After spending a year assisting VTI’s team of certified Calibration Technicians in the Calibration Laboratory, Mike became a certified Calibration Technician himself. Since then, Mike has had the privilege of working on products that contribute to a wide variety of scientific and industrial missions, from developing improved medical devices to the quest for fusion energy. Some of his work has even helped astronauts live and work onboard the International Space Station.

“We’ve revolutionized several industries, and I’m proud of that. Products I’ve held in my hands are currently spinning around the world in outer space. Not everyone gets to say that,” Mike said.

A family man, Mike enjoys spending his free time cooking and camping at Norris Lake with his grandchildren. Indeed, family is part of the reason Mike derives such satisfaction from his time at VTI.

“VTI is really less like a company and more like a family. It’s nothing to see the president of the company on the shop floor, getting his hands dirty right beside you. It’s been a real good company to work for.”­­