Having an education or background in electronics, biomedical, electro-mechanical, refrigeration, hydraulics or programming can lead to a career where the Field Service Engineer or Technician (FSE) is involved in how the technology is applied. For example, with a education in refrigeration and controls, the FSE may be employed by a manufacturer’s direct field service organization that designs and produces medical and laboratory refrigeration systems. The FSE is responsible for vital human sample storage, temperature control and accurate sample retrieval as the refrigeration system is applied to scientific laboratories and used by scientists and medical providers. FSEs are trained on the hardware and software and how the system is programmed and applications, far more than just refrigeration. When I entered the scientific instrument industry with a Air Force electronics education, never did I image a career of interfacing with PhD and MD level customers and talking about their vital scientific experiments, chemistry, sample preparation and analysis, it was much more than servicing electronic equipment.
Customer Interfacing and Relations
Furthering the point on applied technology, FSEs directly interface with the account and key customers, and represent their company and its brand. FSEs interface with multiple customer account roles and personalities and work as a team to ensure satisfaction, generate product sales leads, discuss repair and replacement options, position and sell service agreements and sometimes diffuse difficult situations. These customer interaction skills are extremely valuable to a company and over the years form the basis of opportunity for the FSE who uses his/her people skills as a primary attribute to their career success. Think of the millions and billions of dollars corporations have in brand equity while also how we as consumers form our brand perception by the humans we interface with to provide services and represent their company. In one of my earlier FSE work objectives, I was tasked with being the company representative for all products and issues at a major account, those customers were our lifeline and I learned all I could about their operations, concerns and opportunities.
Decision Making and Responsibility
In the day to day activities of a FSE, tens of decisions are made each day that impact their customer and the success of their company – its operating cost, revenue, safety, productivity, inventory and of course brand. By nature, field service entails service call management; scheduling decisions, parts orders, repair vs. replace, following procedures, making judgments on job safety and risk level, expenses, parts usage, warranty and contract cost, etc. Yes there is a service management system, dispatch department, service managers, policies and other structures, but often the FSE is making a judgment call on the best way to conduct their job and complete a service transaction. Often as a independent working that is away from the office and at the customer’s site or traveling. I always liked having empowerment and the responsibility to make sound decisions in the best interest of my company and customers rather than having the go ask and have others do so.
Flexibility and Independence
Personally, I really don’t like the 9-5 office world and being at just once place all day long. The travel and customer scheduling preferences allow for flexibility in a FSEs schedule. Sometimes that doesn’t work in their favor with unscheduled emergency call outs, delays, overnight travel and such, but the majority of the time there are options to run errands, go late one day and make a good travel and scheduling decision and have time off later. The independence factor is also key, FSEs enjoy a fair degree of independence and flexibility in their daily schedules so much of field service work being planned preventative maintenance and installation work.
Growth and Advancement
Finally, FSEs have the opportunity to be trained on new and different product lines, learning new technology, obtaining new accounts as well as the many career advancement options. FSEs can become senior FSEs, lead FSE, Technical Specialists, Applications Specialists and trainers in their field territories. There are also the various management pathways; field service managers for a territory or regional level managers for multiple territories and managers or the corporate functions for service technical support, training, marketing, logistics, and systems. Additionally, many FSEs have interest in safety, sales, product marketing or corporate leadership roles.
As mentioned above, the unique set of skills in customer relations and account development coupled with experience in self-managed productivity results are a broad compliment of skills that a FSE develops over the years. These valuable skill-sets are than augmented by additional education and mentoring to enable the FSE to shape his/her career in many directions and have a competitive advantage over other career choices.