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Going from the field to the office

RayWohlfarth
RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
Greetings All,
My new book is going to be on transitioning from the field as an installer or service tech and into the office. I know it was a huge change for me. I would love your thoughts on what you encountered when you left the tools behind for a desk. My biggest challenge was going to the same place every day. I was a service tech and used to going to a different location every day. That cubicle seemed like a jail cell for me in the beginning. I appreciate your thoughts
Ray
Ray Wohlfarth
Boiler Lessons
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Comments

  • Squirrel21
    Squirrel21 Member Posts: 1
    I work at a small company with 13 employees total so everyone works closely together. I have gone from being a tech to a tech/salesman with some service manager duties. The biggest change I found was the perspective of the other techs that I was on the other side of the fence now. They no longer saw me as a equal. The old saying: When I do right nobody remembers but when I do wrong nobody forgets strongly comes into play. As in the beginning it takes time to earn trust from your co-workers that you can do your job form a technical stand point. I had to earn their trust again. This was not something I did not foresee or expected
  • Steve Minnich
    Steve Minnich Member Posts: 2,642
    Ray, I’m almost two years into my transition from the trenches to a desk. Like anything, there are pros and cons to it. My body loves the fact that I’m no longer abusing it. The physical problems are still there but they’re manageable now without having to eat Advil all day long. I still find all kinds of ways to work with tools much like Hot Rod does. I may not be the mad scientist that he is but I have goals so I’ll get there. 

    Another thing, I live and love to learn and in my office I’m surrounded by resources that I dig into a little more each day. If I could still be in the field, I would be. I think you’ll like it. 
    Author - Hard Knocks: My Life Inside Boiler Rooms
    PHC News Columnist
    Minnich Hydronic Consulting & Design, LLC
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/minnich-hydronic-consulting-and-design
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 2,727
    I've been shop bound in the past, when things got slow. The biggest thing for me (aside from a sore rear!) is that I loose a lot stamina. The last time, after 4-6 weeks riding a desk, they sent me out to a 6 story new build office building with no working elevator. I thought I was going to die! That's been my biggest concern, & the reason I demured the last time they brought up office work. I'm afraid that if I switch I'll never be able to work again.
    GroundUphvacfreak2
  • Jellis
    Jellis Member Posts: 224
    I miss the mornings the most,
    As a tech I was on the road before the morning traffic, the sun was rising and often fog was rising from the fields and ponds I would drive past. I live in "Vacationland" so many times I would find myself at a lakefront property for the first job of the day, overlooking one of Maine's many beautiful lakes and ponds.
    Now I drive to the office during the busiest time of the morning, my commute no longer takes me down back gravel roads but instead right down main street.
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
    @Squirrel21 I went thru that too. They made me feel like a traitor for leaving the field.
    @Steve Minnich I do miss being in the field Not the 90 degree 90% humidity or the 10 degree weather
    @ratio I hear that My muscles atrophied except my rear end LOL Of course you have to hide it from the workers
    @Jellis That traffic drove me crazy It amazes me how an hour makes all the difference in the world. I used to go in early just to avoid traffic
    Thank you all so much
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,129
    I tend to hop back and forth. I was on site for a decade then in the office for 8 months, back in the field for a few years then back in the office for a year and a half. Field for another couple years and office for 4 months. Currently back in the field for 3 months now but am being pushed back into the office shortly from the looks of things. Both have their ups and downs, but I find the muscle atrophy and ambition level to be the biggest issue with office work. I have absolutely zero drive to get up in the morning and start my day when I know the destination is a jail cell. Adversely, I'm in quite a bit of pain 20 hours a day when in the field, and the inevitable dealings with other trades taking my tools among other less than favorable encounters are not much fun either. I like a nice mix of field 2-3 days a week and office the other 2-3 days as a happy medium, but it seldom works out that way. If my body continues to fall apart, I'll be office-ridden sooner than later but hopefully I can get my mind square knowing I don't have a choice anymore.
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
    @GroundUp There is also the feeling of accomplishment in the field when you repair or install something. Good luck with the pains. Each morning I find a new one
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 2,727
    edited August 2020
    GroundUp said:

    …office-ridden…

    HA! That describes it just about nose on!
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,522
    In my 46 years in the business I was in and out between the field and the office with the first 4 of the 5 companies I worked for.

    A few thing I learned is the office is much more stressful (at least for me) even though I liked it and every day is a 12 hour day. I liked running jobs, designing and estimating and was pretty much self taught. (i guess we all are)

    As I got older I liked the office less and less, maybe because the 2d to the last company I worked for had a lot of bullshit and put me through the mill.

    problem is working in the office if I ate 1 meal a day I would gain weight!!!

    I started at the gym 10 years ago to combat that.

    The last company I worked for I just wanted to work in the field and that's all I did. Less stress. Finished up at 66.

    I never kept track of my field time versus my office time....wish I had maybe 60% field and 40% office
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
    @EBEBRATT-Ed It is more stressful in the office. In the field you take that stress out on a pipe but office work extends the life of the knees and back
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 14,552
    All the above!
    Your hands get soft when not working the tools every day, so gloves become more important when doing home projects with tools and torches :)

    I enjoy meeting more folks as a traveling trainer, although that has slowed down recently. You get to share more with the industry as a trainer, and learn more from contractors in all the various areas of the country, and world I travel in.

    I miss not being able to touch, install and work on the latest boilers, pumps, controls, etc.

    I miss the onsite humor, sense of accomplishment and camaraderie. I've lost touch with the local, other trades, the wholesale counter folks, etc.

    I miss dealing with the weather, the logistics of getting to remote job sites throughout the seasons. Even miss the snowplowing my way to work on these hot August days.

    It has been an eyeopener seeing how the manufacturing and distribution side of the industry works. Getting a 100% perfect product to every customers location 100% of the time is a challenge. I certainly don't envy boiler manufacturers in that regard, knowing many outside vendors are also responsible for the product.
    So product recalls have a bit more of a realization to me now.
    My company produces 400 million parts and components each year, so that is an ongoing challenge.

    I cannot say I prefer one job over the other, they are both fun and interesting, just a different window to look out of. I think the move to an office type position is often also age driven.

    Started a yoga routine during these Covid times, that takes away a lot of the aches from sitting and tickling the ivories, or hunt and pecking at a keyboard, all day long.

    Here are some of my hotel visits from the last 12 years.

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    GroundUp
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
    @hot_rod Thanks for that. I agree about the gloves. Solder hurts a lot more now than it did before
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • TJK500
    TJK500 Member Posts: 14
    I have been in the plumbing and heating trade for 32 years with the first 28 as an installer and service tech. I recently moved from outside sales to inside heating sales and design. I struggle with the long boring commute and sitting in the same spot day after day. I have recently been offered a partnership in business where I could spend 1 to 2 days inside and the rest of the time out in the field. I'm leaning very heavily to going back and training some people to help.
    PS I really don't like answering the phone
    THANKS
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,522
    The office is not for everyone that's for sure. I liked the office, the engineering and sizing, running jobs and estimating but I did find it more stressful

    One thing I noticed is the field workers generally had no respect for the office side of the business. When something went afoul it was always the office's fault and vise versa.

    Having done both sides of the business I told many of the field workers to go in the office and try it...............didn't get many takers
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,624
    The first thing I did when I went from field to office was put on 10 lbs.
    The next thing was that I was forced to start looking at things like submittal sheets, spec sheets, MSDS sheets, and I realized I was learning more about the tools and materials I've been using than when I was holding them in my hands every day.
    Working in the office reveals a different perspective of all the usual elements of a familiar business. Profitability, scheduling, material costs, staffing, conflicts of all kinds, etc.
    Working in the field isn't easy by any stretch, but on the days when I'm forced to, and yes that still happens, it feels like a day off. It really does.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber
    in New York
    in New Jersey
    for Consulting Work
    or take his class.
    CanuckerratioSteve MinnichDan Foley
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
    @TJK500 You made me smile about answering phone calls I hate when the telemarketers spoof local numbers
    @EBEBRATT-Ed I hear that. The guys in the trades treated me like a traitor when I left and the office people didn't trust me for a while
    @JohnNY I agree. I like going out in the field once in a while. My biggest issue with that is I tend to tell them how I would do it. That does not go over well LOL
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,522
    @JohnNY
    agree 100% except for me it was 20lbs. I use dto force myself to grt up at 4:30 to go to the gym before i hit the office. That worked until we got busy at work.
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 3,471
    20lbs for me too! I've been out of the field for more than two years now. The first year was a VERY difficult adjustment for me. I'm a very physical person and also creative, so I really missed turning the wrenches, working the Turbo-Torch and the trouble-shooting that the field requires. Compounding that, was my very limited modern computer and office skills. Going from being at the top of your game and extremely confident, I had to learn all new skills. I felt like a real dummy! Having come late to the game as far as starting a pension and retirement savings plan, I chose the office because I need to go in to late innings and my body was starting to break. Football, rugby, Cast Iron pipe and steam boilers had taken their toll. Although it is easy now physically, I chose the harder road of learning new things but it has begun to pay off. Initially it is a bit uncomfortable being the boss of your former co-workers. I found as long as you remember where you came from and are fair, everything falls in to place. I made sure I read Dale Carnegie's classic, "How to win friends and influence people" for good measure. As I learn spreadsheets, purchase orders, and advanced management, I am growing once again as a person at age 52. By the Will of God, I can do this in to my seventies. That which does not kill us, makes us stronger! I'm glad I made the move.
    Mad Dog-in-the-office
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
    @Mad Dog_2 I wish I could shake the young guys and say Take care of your body You will regret it later in life
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,996
    I went the outside sales route. i do miss the basements and the pleasure that came with being out there taking care of people.. my body however likes me much better now..and talk about white hands...hurt my eyes.. LOL
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
    @lchmb No callouses on your hands either
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    lchmb
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,624


    @JohnNY I agree. I like going out in the field once in a while. My biggest issue with that is I tend to tell them how I would do it. That does not go over well LOL

    I know. Especially the helpers. I watch them putting dope onto nipple threads like they think they're re-painting the Mona Lisa. "Listen! This isn't an art project. It's a thread lubricant. One trip around and you're done! 5-second process at most."

    And they look at me like I'm insane.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber
    in New York
    in New Jersey
    for Consulting Work
    or take his class.
    Canucker
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,624

    @JohnNY
    agree 100% except for me it was 20lbs. I use dto force myself to grt up at 4:30 to go to the gym before i hit the office. That worked until we got busy at work.


    I was being kind to myself. It's 20 lbs. Then age took over to add the next 10.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber
    in New York
    in New Jersey
    for Consulting Work
    or take his class.
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
    @JohnNY You made me laugh aloud with the Mona Lisa comment Thanks
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • Steve Minnich
    Steve Minnich Member Posts: 2,642
    I’m trying to find the balance of working at my desk and getting my mind right. For me, getting my mind right equals working with my hands creating something. I’m doing some near boiler piping in my mini shop now but it could be as simple as organizing things in my shop that keeps me happy. I love doing that. My wife runs and bikes and swims. I make stuff. 
    Author - Hard Knocks: My Life Inside Boiler Rooms
    PHC News Columnist
    Minnich Hydronic Consulting & Design, LLC
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/minnich-hydronic-consulting-and-design
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
    @Steve Minnich Thats a great way of channeling your creative side
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,522
    @JohnNY
    The pipe dope thing made me laugh. I was the electrician wiring some boilers and the old time fitter ready for retirement tells his apprentice to cut the pipe 51 1/2". The kid has the pipe in the vise with his tape measure for like 5 min. trying to mark it in exactly the right spot.

    The old timer looks at me rolls his eyes and bellows "Billy, were not building the space shuttle, cut the dam pipe"
    ratioCanucker
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,624
    @JohnNY The pipe dope thing made me laugh. I was the electrician wiring some boilers and the old time fitter ready for retirement tells his apprentice to cut the pipe 51 1/2". The kid has the pipe in the vise with his tape measure for like 5 min. trying to mark it in exactly the right spot. The old timer looks at me rolls his eyes and bellows "Billy, were not building the space shuttle, cut the dam pipe"
    Hahahahaha.  That’s me on every job. 
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber
    in New York
    in New Jersey
    for Consulting Work
    or take his class.
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 2,727
    All I need on a tape measure is an inch, strong or weak. Although I did see a mason using a folding ruler scaled in 32nds once.
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
    We had an apprentice on a job who was cutting and threading pipe. Each pipe length was wrong. The foreman asked me to go see what is going on. I talked with the apprentice and told him the pipes were the wrong length and he confessed to me. "I am not sure what all the lines mean on the ruler." I took over cutting and threading
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    CLamb
  • unclejohn
    unclejohn Member Posts: 1,700
    I feel like I went from the field to the pasture. I have been a one man shop for the last 20 years or more. So I wore the office hat and the service man hat at the same time all though I was just officing my self. [officing is a word whether the computer knows it or not ] One of the things my dad taught me was to save for retirement. I think it's something that should be brought up at all HVAC seminars. I got out at 62 and I actually plan on going back next April when I will be 66 and 4 months, my age of keep everything I earn. But it will be either sales or supply house. @Mad dog 2 it is never to late to start a retirement fund and since the rules are constantly changing talk to a financial guy. That was a tuff decision for me since I was all ways the one who knew best about my money. Until I found out that I didn't much at all about keeping it safe. I think that was one of my best decisions to turn over the IRA's to guy that did it for a living.
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
    @unclejohn Thats a great point Retirement comes faster than anyone expects
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,522
    @unclejohn
    The good news is you can work as much as you want and keep all your social security money coming in now
  • OldSchoolHVAC
    OldSchoolHVAC Member Posts: 7
    I worked in the service department as a tech for a mechanical contractor for about 13 years. I then moved to working for a wholesaler as inside sales / technical support. This was a big transition for me as I had barely ever used a computer! It took some time, but with the assistance of some great co-workers, I survived the transition and have been doing this now for 15 years, teaching training classes part time for the last 10. Every day is a new adventure!

    The one thing I would like to share the most is how thankful it made me for all of the "old guys" that I had the privilege of working with during my younger days. I am very thankful for what they taught me and how hard they made me work. I understand what they went through a little better now when someone calls me with a tech issue and says "meter? naw I left that down in the truck. Can't you just tell me which part to replace?"
    Thank you for the question Ray. It sent me down memory lane for a moment!
  • Heating1401
    Heating1401 Member Posts: 1
    Ray,

    I think this is a great idea for a book and could be helpful for future tech to office roles.
    I have been in the Heating and Air Conditioning industry for 31 years *started at 10yrs old*. I started in the office by accident. I was a tech for 12 years and I LOVED it. When you get good and experienced,  you feel like a super hero when you get heat running or air condition running. I loved meeting new people everyday and having customers trust and request you. One day I had to have surgery on my knee. After the surgery I was olaced on light duty. I was instantly intrigued because like every tech thinks " no one in the office knew anything and they had an easy job sitting at a desk all day". Quickly I learned that I would be trading a back ache for a head ache. I gound that people thought I was "just a tech". I was driven to be sucessful and was promoted into mangement. Having held many high level mangement positions over the past 13 years and I think I had an advantage being a tech and driver. It was easy to relate to the field operations, because I lived it. I would never ask someone to do something that I either haven't done or will do myself. That along with my coworkers knowing I knew what i was talking about and the fact that I was always there for them, actually helped me be successful.  But with all that being said, I was never as happy as I was using my hands.
  • bill_brooks
    bill_brooks Member Posts: 37
    are you the same ray wolfarth who bought ed/dan fickley' business in pittsburgh back in the day? i was one of their long-time customers for 20yrs. or so. i think you and i met at their office a couple of times, or maybe even at my little hospital.
  • Jackmartin
    Jackmartin Member Posts: 172
    I have had the “ honor” of being made the foreman in every shop I worked at after I became a journeyman. I would suppose they thought it was a privilege—- not! I am by nature an extreme introvert who is happy only when I work alone, I mean alone alone. So here I was forced to interact with the techs,customers the owner of the shop, which of course led to ulcers. I was happy when I was doing my own work at nights and on the weekends or when I had a job I could do on my own for the contractors, never in the foreman role. The last job I had was the HVAC Control foreman for The Winnipeg School Division. I was responsible for all 139 schools and I had a staff of 12 techs. I had a constant headache for ten freaking years the reason I stayed was for the pension. Mad Dog mentions the pension problem and I really hear him. In my experience ,supervising people is akin to herding cats, no amount of common sense will deter them from their appointed rounds, to steal a phrase. I am also very against gossip and backstabbing, anyone who tells you men don’t gossip has not worked long. I did that job for 26 years and it is like the old saying ,jogging may not keep you alive longer it just feels like it. The other aspect of being a supervisor is YOU HAVE TO KNOW MORE THAN ANYONE YOU ARE SUPERVISING. I read every book I could find and I have to say thank you to Dan ,I read your books so often I had to get new covers for them. I would suggest if you are a people person ,supervising is for you ,if you have my personality type ,invest in the best retirement plan you can find and stay on the tools and be happy. I retired in January after 46 years in the trade and as far as the work goes I cannot imagine a better way to make a living as long as you are alone with lots of problems to fix and no ones hurt feelings to smooth over, I ain’t Ann Landers so tell someone who cares about your bruised ego, wimp.
    Stay Well and Be Blessed Jack
    Alan (California Radiant) ForbesRich_LCanuckerluketheplumber
  • Canucker
    Canucker Member Posts: 669
    @Jackmartin I agreed with almost all of your post except the requirement to have to know more than anyone else. You have to know a lot but admitting that I didn't know something and offering to get an answer or go troubleshoot with my junior operators has gotten me a lot more effort and respect out of them. If they trust I'm helping them get better or do their job easier, they work harder for me. I just try to be fair beyond that.
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
    Rich_L
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
    @OldSchoolHVAC Thanks for the comments. It is good to be grateful for the teaching moments and the teachers. I respect the techs in the field who are older and still getting up each day to work.
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
    @Heating1401 Thank you so much. There is immediate feedback by being a tech. You are right, nothing feels better than when you get the equipment running or the problem solved, especially if there were others there before. I think some of the best managers are ones who rose through the ranks. I use the same philosophy and never ask a tech to do something I wouldn't.
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
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