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Eldon Gonda – AED Technician of the Year Winner

January 17, 2023
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For the third time, one of SMS Equipment’s own is awarded top technician for Canada.

Twenty-five years of extreme cold, intense summer heat, trouble, aches and pains, snow, rain, bears, cougars, wolves, and a raven that took his parts bag, working in remote areas is always challenging.

“It’s been tough, but rewarding,” says Eldon Gonda, Heavy Equipment Technician. “This career has been more than worth it.”

That honest outlook comes after a moment of reflection for Eldon, who was recently announced as Associated Equipment Distributors’ (AED) Technician of the Year for Canada. It’s the third time that a SMS Equipment employee has won the honour.

When Eldon heard he was nominated, he responded with, “For the branch?”

His nominator: “No, for Canada!”

“I was stunned,” remembers Eldon. “Considering how many techs there are— so many good people — to be nominated and actually win was overwhelming.” With his signature chuckle, Eldon adds the offer to do autographs still stands.

Back to the beginning

Born in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Eldon developed both his humour and work ethic at a young age. After his family closed a chapter on farming, they relocated to Edmonton, where 16-year-old Eldon started working on the railroad every summer. The work was physical and trying, but had him coming back for more. At 18, he transitioned to full-time as an equipment operator.

After getting his Class 1 and was also low bedding equipment, but Eldon was looking for something more challenging and started his apprenticeship as a Heavy Equipment Technician (HET). “This is when I truly discovered my passion for mechanics,” he says.

As a journeyman HET, Eldon spent ten years building his skills at General Motors and achieving multiple certificates before making the move to SMS Equipment where he has spent the last 25 years — following his true passion for off-road equipment.

Pick your passion

Pick your passion

Eldon singles out what he has liked the most over the 25 years: working in the field.

“You get to be a problem solver,” he explains. “You’re out there, away from everything and on your own. You have no choice but to figure it out!”

It’s a high-pressure scenario, but Eldon simplifies it in a way only he can: “Customers call, the machine is down, everyone is waiting to get it repaired, and there you have it — another satisfied customer. It’s a tangible process with an outcome that makes a big difference for a lot of people.”

Out in the field, Eldon is also constantly reminded of the capabilities — the magic — of machines. “I get to see them work day -in and day-out,” he says. “All these years later and it’s still amazing to see how much material they can move.”

It's about the people

Though he’s still enamoured with machines, Eldon credits the people he’s met over his career as most valuable. “All in all, it’s the customers,” he says. “I'm passionate about establishing strong relationships. They rely on me. It’s been years of building that trust, and I find that so satisfying.”

Out in the field, Eldon is also constantly reminded of the capabilities — the magic — of machines. “I get to see them work day -in and day-out,” he says. “All these years later and it’s still amazing to see how much material they can move.”

Pinpointing the right path

Eldon is constantly reminded he’s doing what he’s meant to do — and his thirst for knowledge isn’t waning either. “If you can’t learn something new every day, something’s not right,” he says. “Even as old as I am, I want to learn. Especially with the new lines of equipment and the advancement of engine and operating systems — every day is a chance to get better.”

That attitude might be why Eldon is integral to SMS Equipment training. During a work trip to Alaska, he trained technicians on two PC1250 assemblies, in less-than-ideal conditions. “The hotel we stayed at and diner we had to eat at was nothing to write home about,” he says with a laugh, “but the experience itself is something I’ll always remember. The guys were so appreciative and took everything in, and of course, plans changed and one of the techs I was working with called when I had already flown home, so I assisted him over the phone on a PC2000 build.”

All in a day’s work when challenge is what you crave!

Lift others first

Lift others first

When asked to sum up his career, Eldon is confident: “There to help,” he says. “Since the start, I always want to lend a hand, get the machines up and running, and above all work with a great team to help people accomplish what they want to.”

This drive to help spills out of Eldon’s career and into all aspects of his life. Alongside his wife, he dedicates many hours to animal rescues, especially SCARS (Second Chance Animal Rescue Society). He also has close ties to the Terry Fox Foundation, after losing his nephew to osteosarcoma cancer. Eldon himself was diagnosed with stage 3 prostate cancer and thanks to ground-breaking treatment, is now 10 years cancer free and a large supporter of the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, Alberta. He’s inspired to keep helping the people and causes that can make a difference. “Cancer has touched my family too many times, including losing my mother and more recently, my mother-in-law, to this terrible disease,” he says. “It’s the least we can do.”

Eldon’s can-do attitude seems to be genetic when you look at the successes of his five children. In fact, one of his daughters works for SMS Equipment Inc. too. “She’s the Regional Sales Coordinator Manager for Western Canada,” says Eldon with pride.

As this new generation charges forward, Eldon shows no signs of stopping — continuing to help employees and customers in all the ways he can.

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