Dan Cattron has spent nearly three decades in field service — most of them with electronic security systems companies. Now a project manager with Tyco Integrated Security, the international fire protection and security provider with more than 3 million customers worldwide, Cattron spent the last five years on a complex project with far-reaching implications for Tyco customers and employees. The project? Replace an internally developed service management system, entrenched at Tyco for 26 years, with a cloud-based platform.
Cattron’s 50-person team oversaw the implementation of ServiceMax and trained nearly 700 employees on the new software since going live in April. Field Service Digital spoke with Cattron about how he directed such a long-term project and why he got into field service in the first place — plus why women’s softball is a natural training ground for field service management.
How’d you get started in field service?
Dan Cattron: It started my sophomore year of high school. I was trying to get a job as a radio announcer in my hometown [Poplar Bluff, Mo]. I persistently showed up, week after week, at one of the local radio stations to talk to the general manager. He finally hired me to clean the building and run errands. After six months, I got the radio timeslot I had wanted.
I enjoyed that for a couple of years, but became fascinated watching the engineer maintain the radio station’s equipment. I was hooked and knew I wanted to work on electronics. Newly married, my wife and I moved to St. Louis with a new baby, where I attended tech school for about 18 months. Three months after graduating I got my first job offer from Sensormatic Electronics, which is now a part of Tyco. I’ve been with them ever since.
How would you characterize your management style?
Humble. I prefer to spend time talking about the people who work for me — and their successes. Very few people want to be told what to do. They want to be participants, they want to contribute and be inspired. Ultimately, management is more about leading than it is about managing. My goal is to figure out what motivates individuals, rely on their strengths and ensure they’re in a position to succeed. If my employees and coworkers are successful, then I’m successful.
Where’d you pick up that style?
A lot of it comes from my experience coaching girls’ competitive softball for many years. I always joke that if you can coach teenage girls, managing or working with employees is easy.
“Coaching, more than anything else in my career, helped me learn how to work with people.” — Dan Cattron
When I went into coaching my goal was to find the best group of girls. Not all of them were All-Stars, but I wanted to find that team that worked together and would be a cohesive unit. I was successful, but it required a lot of time and effort not only working with the girls, but also with the parents. Coaching, more than anything else in my career, helped me learn how to work with people.
You’ve been focused on a single project the past few years. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
This implementation project was for the retail group, and it was probably one of the largest undertakings this team has gone through in a long time. With any organization, especially one the size of Tyco, there will be significant change during a project that can have tremendous effects. That’s especially true when a project lasts for multiple years.
One of the key changes for me was the project’s executive sponsor left eight weeks after we started the project. He was a mentor, a longtime friend and my immediate manager. Having a strong executive sponsor who’s focused on the same end goal is crucial, and losing that could have stifled the project. I had to keep my game face on for the rest of the team, which allowed me to keep them motivated and focused on the end goal. When you can keep a large group highly motivated throughout the life of a project, it’s hard not to be successful.
Thinking back on your career, is there one piece of advice that you wish you would have followed— but didn’t?
It’s one of those situations where I’m glad I didn’t follow the advice, but I also wish I would have followed it. I attended college while I was working full-time for Tyco and finished my bachelor’s degree in 2005. Multiple people told me to stay in school to finish my master’s degree. I stopped because I wanted to spend more time coaching and with my kids.
How would your employees describe your management style?
I actually cheated and asked a few of my coworkers that question. Here are a few of their responses:
From an IT team member:
I credit the project’s success to Dan. The 50-person team respected his character and would do anything to support Dan, which says a lot about his managerial style.
From a customer response center manager:
Dan’s leadership style is one that encouraged open discussion, independent thinking and team motivation. … He maintained focus on the end goal, led the group confidently through many obstacles and kept his composure, ensuring the team stayed on task.
From a field service technician:
As a field service technician on the project, in a sea of regional service directors, regional operations managers, district managers [and others], he made me feel that not only was my opinion valid, but that it was vital to the project’s success. I can’t begin to fathom how much pressure and stress Dan was under, but it never showed.