Ashish Prabhudesai is highly experienced in after sales service support for dimensional metrology such as Surface, Contour and Form Measuring Machines, and other sophisticated electromechanical products. He is also an expert in training machine users, field service engineers and distributor technicians. He works for Standard Metrology & Automation Solutions covering several clients and is based in Mumbai in India.
Background and path to field engineering and training
Were you interested in how things worked and science as a child?
Frankly, I was not a very serious or studious child. I was more interested in music and art.
However, I got admission to an engineering diploma college as the company where my dad was working (L&T India) had their own polytechnic college and my parents wished I should study there. Once I had completed my engineering diploma (with great efforts and setbacks), I started working in a small company as a Service Engineer. It was there that I became interested in learning technical stuff (electronics / microprocessors) to troubleshoot machine problems.
You have studied engineering and also marketing and international business. Do you think this combination gives you an advantage when troubleshooting or training?
Yes, my engineering background has helped me in analysing and troubleshooting. As far as marketing and international business is concerned, although I don’t use it directly; it has had an indirect impact on planning and delivering training as it improved my presentation skills.
Has there been a particular person who has inspired you during your career?
There are many people who have inspired me so far, and also helped me in one way or the other during my career growth path.
To name a few, I can mention Mr. Pravin Thube who was my Service Manager in Carl Zeiss India from whom I learned many things. Also Mr. Wilson Thomas who is presently MD of Carl Zeiss India and who still inspires me.
Typical day as a field service consultant
What’s your typical day like?
Mostly I drive down to another state (600 kms away from my home) and stay in hotels. I then attend breakdown calls, machine installations , preventive maintenance and customer training (on machine usage and application).
How much of your time is spent onsite with customers and how much handling other aspects of your role?
At present, most of my work is on site handling the above aspects of field service.
How much travel do you do?
I travel about 15 days in a month. And about 3000 kms of driving per month.
You also train new users. What are the main challenges in your training role?
Some users learn quickly due to their background and natural abilities. However, some users take time to understand things which puts pressure on me due to time constraints.
What are some ‘tools’ you use for times when somebody doesn’t understand you?
Normally, if it’s more than one user to be trained, I focus on the guy who understands better. I then talk to their supervisor at the end of the training about the capabilities of the users and who can operate the machine immediately and who needs to be developed further. This avoids machines getting damaged and avoids breakdowns due to rough usage or lack of understanding.
What are the key skills from your time as a field engineer which you try and pass on?
I always try to pass on the following four things for new service engineers:
Understand what not to do first (to avoid creating more problems);
Clear your doubts about what to do and follow the instructions;
Use proper tools;
Give correct and accurate feedback to the experienced FSEs while taking their help.
Most challenging part of the job when you were a field engineer
What did you find most challenging when you were working – technical side, people/customers or logistics (travel etc)?
The most challenging thing was people, both customers and the people in the company.
What was your most challenging job in the field?
I had to install a sorting machine in Scotland when the temperature was -15 degrees outside. It was physically and mentally very demanding.
Did you ever arrive on site and find that it was much easier than you expected? For example, did you ever need to simply switch on a machine?
Recently, I drove about 400 kms and found out that problem was due to a stretched cable which was sorted in two minutes.
Work life balance
How do you balance the amount of travel you do with having hobbies and leisure time?
But, as I like singing, I practice vocal warm up exercises while driving as I drive alone for long hours and it means no one is disturbed.
I also listen to many interviews on YouTube etc. while driving.
New field engineers
What advice would you give to someone who has just started their first job as a field engineer?
Do your homework well before attending any service call and go prepared. Be confident and assertive as your customer will become relaxed when you look confident.
Apart from a strong technical background, what are the three most important skills to have?
There are three things:
Positive Attitude – that all problems are solvable
Excellent Interpersonal Skills – to handle customers tactfully
Punctuality – as most customers will be delighted to see you at the promised time