In honor of Women’s History Month, we caught up with some of our female customers to learn what working in the field service industry has been like for them over the years.
Mirian Herold-Young is the Business Process Manager for Arbon Equipment Corporation, the sales and service arm of Rite-Hite. Rite-Hite is a global leader in the manufacture, sale, and service of loading dock equipment, industrial doors, safety barriers, HVLS fans, and more. She has been with the company for 15 years and has been dedicated to the sales and service side of Arbon for the last 4 years, helping incorporate ServiceMax into the suite of tools supporting the business.
Mandy is a Project Manager at Nolan Power Group. Nolan Power Group provides custom stored power solutions for energy leaders in the offshore, telecom, energy-services, utilities, oil & gas, data center, and manufacturing industries. Mandy has a long history of experience in the electrical and electronic manufacturing industry, which may have been influenced by her father’s long-time career as a lineman.
Cathy Klein is a Global Transformation Lead with Sensormatic Solutions, part of Johnson Controls. Sensormatic delivers solutions that enhance the customer experience, such as loss prevention, traffic insights and analytics, and inventory intelligence. She has worked in field service management for many years in various parts of JCI.
Q: How did you get into the field service industry?
Mirian: I kind of fell into it. I had worked my way from customer service to IT as a business analyst and realized I missed working directly with the sales and service side of the business and seeing a direct impact on customers. When a position opened up, I jumped at the chance and then had the amazing opportunity to upgrade our service processes which involved implementing ServiceMax. It quickly became a passion.
Mandy: I am the proud daughter of a field service technician who has been working as a lineman since he was 18 years old (so now nearly 50 years). Watching him throughout the years taught me the principals of hard work and dedication to a field. It also exposed me to the reality of the lack of support some field techs get from the companies they work for, especially as it related to communication and ease of knowing certain important facts related to their jobs in a timely fashion. Since I have always been a driven problem solver it made me want to find a way to help those in the field have a better work experience.
Cathy: It was completely by chance. I started a new job, and it happened to be working with a group that supported that company’s field organization. One thing led to another and I have worked in or with Field Service for the last 20 years in many different roles of increased responsibility.
Q: What do you love most about working in field service?
Mirian: There is nowhere else in the business you get to see such a direct impact on the customer. Additionally, it takes so many different skillsets to keep the business running and successful. It’s complex and it wouldn’t run without great teamwork! It’s that teamwork that I love the absolute most.
Cathy: The people and their drive to fix things and make the customer happy. I also enjoy the wide variety of opportunities within Field Service. There is so much to do and so many possibilities. As technology advances, the skillset and opportunity expand leading to the need for change.
Mandy: I love knowing that I am supporting endeavors that make our field service techs’ jobs more efficient and streamlined. By providing the techs with more visibility to their job assignments and supporting documentation, they can go into their customer’s location feeling confident in what they are delivering. It sets them apart as the subject matter expert in their field and helps their customer view them as a true knowledge base. It also prevents frustration for the tech when they do not have to call into the office to find out past job history or ask for customer contact info. We are making strides in closing those gaps which help us all be successful.
Q: What are the biggest challenges of being a woman in the field service industry?
Mirian: It’s a male-dominated industry at the executive level. People, without realizing it, promote people that they identify with. It’s a natural human behavior. This can lead to a lack of diversity, not just in gender, but also in thought and experience. Breaking through that barrier and showing management that you are capable despite being different from them is one of the biggest challenges.
Cathy: Fighting gender stereotypes. When I started working in Field Service, most of the females had one type of role and most of the men had another. It was a challenge to “cross that line” into different roles or be thought of as someone that could understand the technical aspects of our systems and processes. Or to be thought of as someone that enjoys hands-on work. In terms of the field service industry, we are facing the challenge of finding a diverse pool of candidates when it’s time to hire. There are not a lot of women looking for roles in Field Service.
Mandy: Women are not always viewed as knowledgeable in what happens in the field. For me, it means that the techs do not always trust that the systems we are putting into place are realistic for their needs. I battle with their belief that my goal is to support the back-office staff and only address that group’s needs. It takes some time and inclusive conversations to help the FS staff understand that the root of our goals is their success. Besides, what is a service organization if they don’t have happy, successful field techs?
Q: Do you have any advice on how to overcome these challenges?
Mirian: This is a complex issue and there isn’t an easy answer. The first step to fixing it is acknowledging there is a challenge. I think my company has taken great first steps by promoting people from our administrative staff to management, which is dominated by women. This is definitely helping to bring more of that “diversity of thought” to management and that can only continue to grow! Mentorship can make a big difference as well. For the women who do breakthrough to leadership, if they can help build even more diverse leadership through mentoring, it will have a big impact.
Cathy: Nowadays, promoting gender balance and fighting gender stereotyping in the workplace is something that many organizations in many different industries are working towards. It’s up to each of us to continue to drive education around bias and call it out when we see it. Only when that happens will we be able to fix it. In terms of attracting more women to field service, research shows that many job descriptions in traditionally male-dominated roles are written to appeal to men. While this is not intentional, it needs some review. As leaders, we need to work to ensure job descriptions are gender-neutral. We also need to ensure we are marketing these jobs broadly and in non-traditional ways.
Mandy: Communication and confidence. I have been able to bridge that gap by making sure I am in front of the field techs in one way or another on a regular basis to gain their confidence in me. By approaching them in a confident and conversational way they respond positively. It is also important to listen to learn and not listen to react or respond. I’ve found that most field techs feel that the back-office staff just does not respect or understand the struggle of being in the conditions, doing the work they do all day.
Q: How are you “accepted” by male counterparts?
Mirian: I think there are two ways to answer this question. How can one gain acceptance and how am I accepted. To the first question, there is no easy answer, but I find socializing and not worrying about the fact that I’m a woman when most everyone else is a man helps. Field service is fast-paced and often dominated by strong personalities. A lot of business is done over drinks and socializing so participating in that is helpful. It also helps that I already have a strong personality. Being confident in my abilities means my peers accept that I know what I am doing and therefore accept me. Not being afraid to ask questions and learn from my male counterparts helps too. Additionally, treating my team as internal customers goes a long way in terms of acceptance. That is regardless of gender, of course.
Cathy: They treat me like they treat each other—and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They see that I am capable and that I want to make a difference. Also, I sometimes look at things from a different angle, which is a commodity.
Mandy: After 8 years with the company I work for, I feel that my male counterparts view me as a colleague, not as a woman. We collaborate, we agree, and we disagree which makes us all a team—regardless of our sex or race.
Q: What has helped you succeed at your company?
Mirian: Much of what I said above—being confident in my skills, being eager to learn, and having a strong desire for the company and my peers to succeed helps me succeed. Also, I was lucky to have a few mentors who were fair and truthful and wanted me to succeed. They helped teach me to be more confident and not be afraid to fail.
Cathy: I love to learn new things and solve problems. As I became increasingly competent, I became more visible to leadership. Competence doesn’t do it alone, I took initiative when I could by asking for stretch assignments, finding gaps and filling them, and suggesting improvements. I also found informal mentors who I could call with any scenario and trust for not only advice but to challenge me to figure it out or to think differently. I have served as a mentor to a number of individuals who taught me countless lessons. Always be willing to learn. Lastly, I had sponsors who spoke up on my behalf and helped me find an opportunity. I have reached a point in my career where I can help guide other women for success. We recently launched a global Women’s Network in our Retail business unit, which is such an important community for Sensormatic Solutions.
Mandy: I strive to be inclusive in my projects and involve the technicians in what we are doing to gain their confidence and comfort. I’ve also found that field techs need to be communicated with in different ways than our back-office staff. They don’t have time to read through hundreds of emails or spend hours going through a meeting. For the tech in the field at our organization, time is money in their pocket, so I respect that and work with them in the way that they find most desirable. I try to plan things when they already have office time scheduled and push updates to them during downtimes. I keep an open mind and an open door with a (mostly) positive attitude on a daily basis.