Last week on the TDS Business Blog I spent a day in the life of a Field Service Technician (FST) from Appleton, Wis. Appleton is about 20-25 minutes south of Green Bay, Wis. in the northeastern portion of the state. It has a population just under 75,000 making it one of the most populated cities in the badger state. FST Cheyenne Vanhoof and I traveled to Green Bay where he installed 10 managedIP Hosted phones (managedIP Hosted is TDS’ business VoIP service) for an area cleaning company.
A little more than 12 miles to the south and east of Appleton you’ll find Sherwood, Wis. Sherwood has a population just north of 2,700 and it’s considered one of TDS’ rural markets. It’s also where I met up with FST Mike Wettstein.
Wettstein spends a large part of his day outside. To help deal with the elements Wettstein, who’s been an FST for about 15 years, doesn’t turn on the air conditioning in his truck. He says getting in and out of an air conditioned vehicle just makes it harder to deal with the heat. But on this day (I think Mike knew I was kind of wimpy) he makes an exception and turns the AC on.
Mike and I head to a customer’s home to figure out why there’s static on their home telephone line. Along the way Mike stops and shows me an outdoor plant the team is responsible for taking care of.
Mike says he spends a lot of time maintaining the outside plant. FST’s in our more rural markets are responsible for every outside plant from the Central Office (CO) to the customer. Two of his biggest concerns are “mice and ice!” Many of the outdoor pedestals (or peds) are placed on stakes. When the ground thaws in the spring that pushes those stakes up and creates just enough space between the ground and the smaller outdoor peds for mice! Mike says, “What they’ll do is build nests. Once they’re established they’ll sit in there and chew on all the wires.”
But mice aren’t Mike’s only problem. He also has to deal with hornets, skunks, woodchucks and Mother Nature. In the winter he has to remove snow from outdoor facilities so he can service them. If it floods in the spring then he has to put on his hip waiters.
We arrive at the customer’s home. Mike starts by checking to make sure everything outside the home is working. It is, so we head to the front door because the problem is likely inside the home.
After we make contact with the homeowner Mike starts asking questions about the problem such as: When did it start? How many phones do you have connected? And do you have any phone jacks that are not being used? After a few minutes he determines the problem is in the basement. The source of the issue is an old phone jack. Mike disconnects the unused jack and the static vanishes. Problem solved. Total we spent 30-to-45 minutes at the customer’s home.
FST’s separated by only a few miles have very different jobs. But there are some similarities, the most notable being the challenges each face. The FST we followed last week in Appleton says his greatest challenge is keeping up with the latest technology. I posed the same question to Wettstein and got the same answer. Both men say they’re trying to keep up with the technology but it changes quickly and there are only so many hours in a day.
A special thank you to Mike Wettstein and Cheyenne Vanhoof for allowing us to follow them and see what a day in their life is like.