A day in the life of an Appleton, Wis. field service technician

Field Service Technicians (FSTs) handle installs, troubleshooting, repairs and maintenance of telecommunications equipment that TDS sells and leases. Some work in rural locations and others, like the one you’re about to meet, work in more metropolitan or urban areas. In some cases they may only be separated by a few miles, but the jobs are worlds apart.

Monday, June 10, 2013 4:00 a.m.

My alarm goes off and pulls me out of my deep sleep. I lazily extend my right hand and shut it off. I pull myself together just enough to stumble into my bathroom and get ready for the day. Little do I know, by comparison, I got to sleep-in.

After a quick breakfast, I grab my camera and GPS and head to my car. I’m off to Appleton, which is just a few miles south of Green Bay, in northeastern Wisconsin.

DSC00389A little more than two hours later I arrive and meet Cheyenne Vanhoof. Vanhoof has been an FST for about six years. On this day Vanhoof has been awake since about 3 a.m. He was called in to troubleshoot a problem. At about 6 a.m. the issue was resolved. But that didn’t leave anytime for Vanhoof to go home and catch some shut eye before my arrival.

We pile into his truck to make the 25-minute trip north to Green Bay and Thario Professional Cleaning Services for a 10 station, managedIP Hosted (TDS’ business VoIP service) install.

Vanhoof tells me what the issue was this morning. He says, “I’m tired but I’ll get through it.” He goes on to tell me that responding to calls after regular business hours happens from time to time but being woken up at 3 a.m. isn’t that common.

We arrive and Vanhoof greets the owner of Thario and a few other employees. We make our way to the back of the business where their communications equipment is stored. Vanhoof goes to work and a few minutes later we’re joined by the company’s IT professional.

The first three Polycom VVX 500Polycom VVX 500 Phones business media phones go in with little to no hassle. For a brief moment it looks like this will be an easy install. That hope is short lived. Error prompts, damaged existing wiring and other issues slow us down. One of the things I learned from this trip is that just like a fingerprint, every install is different. Total, it took a little more than three hours to wrap things up.

Vanhoof goes over his work and checks in with the owner to be sure everything is good on their end. Before we leave he calls the office and lets them know he’s done and will be back soon.

On the way back to Appleton Vanhoof and I talk about everything from hobbies (he really likes cars) to the best and most challenging parts of being an FST. His favorite part is being in the field. Vanhoof says he comes in every day at about 7 a.m. and gets his workload. An hour later he’s out the door. Vanhoof likes it this way because he’s responsible for managing his time. He says, “I like being outside and going to different places. That to me is freedom.”

Vanhoof also says he never feels like there’s a challenge too big to handle. That’s because he knows his team is just a phone call away. “We work as a team. We have enough guys to call up someone and say, ‘Hey I need a hand. I need a second pair of eyes to look at this.’ ”

VanhoofBut there are challenges. Vanhoof says it’s tough keeping up with the ever changing technology. He isn’t alone. Next week on TDS’ Connect Blog we’ll take you to Sherwood, Wis., about 25 minutes southeast of Appleton, to spend a day with FST Mike Wettstein in one of our more rural markets. Vanhoof and Wettstein are only separated by about a few miles, but their worlds couldn’t be more different.

So what did you learn after reading this piece? Have a comment or question about this post? Reach out to us on twitter or Facebook and tell us what you think. You can also reach out to the author Barclay Pollak on twitter.

About Barclay Pollak

Barclay Pollak is an award winning journalist and proud to be a member of the Corporate Communications team at TDS Telecommunications Corp. (TDS®) in Madison, Wis. Barclay joined the team in April of 2013. Before that Barclay worked as an Anchor/ Reporter for the NBC affiliate in Madison. While at NBC-15 Barclay was recognized by several organizations for his contributions to the television news industry. They include the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, the Radio Television Digital News Association (Edward R. Murrow Regional Award) and the Chicago/Midwest National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (2012 Emmy Nominee). When he’s not working Barclay enjoys cheering for all the sports teams in Wisconsin. Barclay’s a University of Wisconsin-Madison alumnus and a huge fan of Badger athletics. Barclay is fascinated by the ever changing world of technology and spends a fair amount of his free time reading about the latest and greatest developments online. When Barclay’s not learning about technology he’s scouring the Internet in search of freeware. Barclay has an 8-year-old daughter and lives with his girlfriend of almost five years on Madison’s southwest side. Follow on G+.

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