A Critical Technician Trait in Decline

Our technician, Sam, sauntered into my office this afternoon like techs often do on a slow spring afternoon before the summer hits.

It's been a long day for me, lots of training prep, a bunch of little fires, and errands to stomp out, and I still didn't get my article for the day written. I look up at Sam and say, “You can write my article today.” He smirks and says:

Sure thing, my article will be on perseverance.

Now, let's pause quickly and take a peek inside our business (Kalos Services). There is a lot of sarcasm around here, A LOT!

We know one another well because many of us are related one way or another. Many of us have been friends or acquaintances long before we ever worked together. I knew Sam when I was a punk kid, and he was just a baby riding around the country with his parents and many siblings in a converted school bus turned into a hippy/evangelical Christian family house on wheels.

Fast forward a few decades, his sister married my brother.

Fast forward almost another decade, and Sam is one of our techs—and a darn good one.

Sam is like my brother Nathan and my brothers-in-law Bert and Dan (who also work here) in that they don't shy away from making fun of me (or one another) to my face or behind my back. When Sam said that today's article should be on perseverance, I thought he was ribbing me. It turns out he was serious.

He scooted his chair in a bit closer and gave me some sincere examples of times newer techs (and even more experienced techs) gave up too quickly rather than seeing a problem through.

Sam isn't the sort of tech to read more than he absolutely needs to. He's not a tech or science nerd like me, but he does get the job done, and he learns what he needs when he needs to learn it more often than not. We talked a bit more about old-fashioned grit and how it seems to be in decline.

He walked out of my office, and I got to thinking. He's right, perseverance is an important trait that's in decline among techs, and it's worth taking a few minutes to think about it.

Technology as a Crutch 

Techs who never look anything up or read drive me crazy; I've been pretty outspoken about that. But I've noticed a recent trend towards techs using their phone to “search” for quick answers in groups, on forums, and using text to other techs rather than RESEARCHING from quality sources like manufacturer data and quality articles from reputable trade magazines.

It was Dan Holohan who first introduced me to this idea of search vs. research, and I think it's spot on. For complicated problems, you often need to dig a little deeper and read a bit more completely to get to the root of the problem you are facing rather than getting a quick answer.

Common Cases

Sam brought up cases where a blower wheel, fan blade, or pulley gets “stuck,” and a tech reaches for a puller or a grinder way too quickly. Now don't get me wrong, some jobs require a puller, but some sand cloth and penetrating lubricant, along with some “working” of the blade, wheel, or pulley, can do the job better and just as fast with a bit of patience and perseverance.

Finding a low-voltage short circuit is another case for perseverance. So many techs just start swapping conductors rather than systematically working through the circuits one at a time until you find the cause.

Proper electronic leak detection takes time and patience to go through every part of the system before proclaiming that the leak is “in the evap,” or even worse, that you “can't find it.” Most good, modern leak detectors have sensitivity down to 0.15 oz per year. When that system is dropping a few pounds per month, you can—and you will—find the leak if you exhibit some perseverance.

Lifting heavy things without hurting yourself requires a lot of preparation, thought, and perseverance in many cases. Jeremy Smith did an entire series on lifting safely, and in some cases, doing things that appear impossible to a tech with a bit less gumption.

Do you have it? 

Do you give up after a while? Do you call other people multiple times in a day because you keep getting “stuck?” Do you roll a lot of calls to tomorrow so that someone else can have a look? Have a lot of leaks you “just can't find” or electrical problems you just can't seem to solve? Do you feel overwhelmed when things start going wrong?

Chances are, you need to more research and less search. Dig a bit deeper, look for some grit, gumption, sticktoitiveness, chutzpah, guts, nerve, snap, spark, and good old get-er-done with a dash of “by golly, I can whip this thing!”

There is no manual for this, no quick tip I can give for keeping a stiff upper lip; you just need to do it, and you will be glad you did.

Sam and I believe in you.

—Bryan

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