By K. Richard Douglas
The life of a field service engineer requires many skill sets. You need the patience and alertness to work on the road, practicing good driving skills and a strategic sense to structure your days in order to optimize your time. You should have soft skills to build relationships with customers. You also need keen technical skills to be able to repair equipment and troubleshoot accurately and precisely.
One field service engineer, who has acquired this skill set, started life in Africa and has experienced life in the eastern U.S.; both north and south.
Garr Jones was born in Liberia, but moved to the U.S. in his early teens. He lived in New Jersey and Pennsylvania before relocating to Georgia after high school. He attended DeVry University in Atlanta. He currently works for Philips Healthcare.
Jones has possessed the mind of an engineer from a young age.
“I was the kind of kid that wanted to know how everything works. I asked many questions growing up; my favorite question was, “Why?” I was talking to my mother about this question and she said that she remembered that I was more interested in how my toys worked than playing with them,” Jones says.
“I attended a technical high school where I majored in electronics. I was also interested in the medical field. Biomedical engineering merges both fields and it is the perfect match for me,” he says.
Jones earned his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering technology from DeVry University
“I was lucky; I had a job as an ultrasound field service engineer a week after I graduated from college. I have not changed positions. I did change companies; leaving GE for Philips. I worked in Atlanta, Georgia for GE for six years. I moved to New York and GE did not have a position in New York; Philips did and they hired me,” Jones says.
“I did my internship at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. During my internship, I worked as if I owned the place. At the end of my internship, the biomedical director was impressed. He did not have a position available, but imaging did. He asked if I was interested; I hesitated, but I applied for the job and I was hired,” Jones says.
Jones’ area of specialty is computer networking. He is CompTIA A+ and Network+ certified.
As is the case with most field service engineers, much time is spent in a vehicle out on the road. Assigned territories can vary in size from a region within a state to a multi-state area. In Jones’ case, it is working a portion of a state.
“My territory is south New Jersey. I live in the middle of my territory,” he says. “My furthest account is an hour and a half away. The majority of my days are spent driving,” Jones adds.
Employing Soft Skills
Sometimes, the toughest challenge in the field service engineer profession is following in the footsteps of someone who has already become very acquainted with a territory and built a relationship with customers. Jones has experienced this first-hand.
“The challenges that I have encountered are taking over an area from an engineer who had serviced that area for two decades. I have done this three times now; when I started with GE, when I moved to New York and when I moved to New Jersey. It’s a challenge because I had to create relationships, learn the new area; people don’t like change and so they hold back until they become comfortable,” Jones says.
“I’ve been in this role for 11 years. I’ve worked in four states; Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Georgia; worked for GE and now Philips,” Jones says.
“As you can imagine, I’ve faced a lot of challenges; indeed, the challenges are what make the job interesting. One specific challenge that comes to mind [occurred after] my first week in the field as an ultrasound service engineer after two months of training,” Jones says. “I got a call from my manager asking me to go to an account that was not my account.”
Jones was asked to take over an existing customer who was serviced by an experienced field service engineer. Jones was nervous stepping into the shoes of an experienced colleague after a short time on the job.
“I called my mentor and told him how I felt; he said, in this job, you will fix your customer more than you will fix machines,” Jones says.
“He meant; having a relationship and rapport with customers are more important than being the most knowledgeable service engineer. I went into that account and built relationships and communicated and followed up and they became one of my best accounts,” he adds.
When not servicing ultrasound equipment, Jones can be found playing tunes for the benefit of others or spending time with family.
“I DJ for free, usually at family gatherings and friends’ parties. Hanging out with my two boys, I play soccer,” Jones says.
He also spends time cooking and learning how to cook.
“I have a wonderful family; fiancé Nyamah Kullie, two boys; Andrei Jones (8 years old) and Garr Jones (1 year old),” Jones says.
Jones says that one of the things he likes about his job is meeting new people. With his soft skills well honed and his interest in his customers, there is no doubt they like him as well.