MRO Technician Spotlight: Derek Ingram, Carolina Handling
Modern Materials Handling's Maintenance Repair and Operations (MRO) team sat down with Derek Ingram, Field Service Leader at Carolina Handling, a Raymond authorized sales and service center to talk about his field of work.
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Carolina Handling, a Raymond authorized sales and service center
Title: Field service team leader
Location: Seven locations in the southeastern United States
Duties: Build, coach and lead technician teams to uphold core values
MHMRO: How did you get into this field, and what do you like about it?
Ingram: I didn’t stumble upon it, it stumbled upon me. When I was very young, I was disassembling my sister’s bike. My dad came home from working 12-hour graveyard shifts and saw I was good at taking things apart. Then when I was 12, I took the transmission out of the riding lawnmower and he said I better put it back together. So I did. Then I started Frankensteining stuff, like putting stereos on remote control cars. For the science fair I disassembled a can opener and made it slowly spin a globe of the Earth.
I spent five years in Afghanistan as contractor, working on things like mobile HVAC systems. I found early in my career that when you choose specialties and niches you have a tendency to make a little more money and be more fulfilled, since you’re not just working on things that are commonplace. When I came back, I looked up this company. It looked like a new challenge—an opportunity to learn new skills. I’ve been here for 17 years.
I get to interact with new people and challenges every day. It makes the technical field very fulfilling. It sounds silly, but when you solve a customer’s problem, you walk out of there a hero. You are providing a service for people they can’t provide themselves. They depend on you, and because of that you will always have good job security. I never fear for my job.
MHMRO: Why should someone consider a career in this industry, and what advice do you have for those who do?
Ingram: I’m a big fan of Mike Rowe and The mikeroweWORKS Foundation, and their emphasis on the skills gap issue. I’ve noticed in the younger workforce that there’s a stigma associated with hands-on, blue collar work. It’s difficult to find quality technicians, people who want to invest in themselves and invest in a skilled trade. They don’t realize the financial opportunity available in being a skilled technician. It’s a very lucrative field.
MHMRO: What skills are important for a successful technician, and how have they changed over the years?
Ingram: The technician trade used to be very self-driven. You used to get your own tools and send yourself to technical courses. The industry now provides a lot more for people, and I work for a great company that does a lot to keep us up to date with technologies to stay ahead of the curve. But you will never learn everything you need to know within the prescribed hours of your workday. You always have to go home, read more and invest in yourself and personally choose to keep up with these things. Nobody wants a job, they want something they can enjoy. I like to read technical articles and publications, and watch tutorial videos on the Internet. Pick up a book on electronics, or electrical diagnostic theory and repair. It will make you a better technician.
MHMRO: Who were your mentors, and how do you go about being one?
Ingram: As a team leader, I’m responsible for teaching young and old technicians how to manage a business, how to manage the customers, the inventories, and how to budget time. But I’ve always said anybody who has been doing something 15 minutes longer than you can teach you. You have to take advantage of that.
I think it starts at home. My father taught me work ethic. I had to mow, clean floors, take out the trash, and he used to say “if you’re going to be trash man, be the best trash man you can be.” My mother taught me to listen and have empathy and realize not everyone is in the same situation as you. They laid the foundation for me to even listen to a mentor in the first place. Use your eyes and ears, and be respectful and listen.
Your real mentors challenge you. If they just agree all the time, you’re not learning. If you’re always ready to learn, then everyone is your mentor because you grab a little piece of wisdom from everybody. The key message is give it a shot. Invest in yourself, and don’t look for the easy way out. Try the harder path because it will be more rewarding in the long run.
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