Paul Summerhayes – Field Service Technician at Fisher and Paykel
Paul Summerhayes has been fixing equipment for almost two decades and now works for Fisher & Paykel. He covers many miles in west Wales repairing a range of luxury home appliances.
Have you always been interested in how things work and how to repair them?
I used to take apart my toys as a kid. One sticks in my mind, a Dalek from ‘Dr Who’; I was a bit scared in case it exterminated me.
Did you help with anything practical when you were a child?
I used to help my dad’s friend who repaired cars. Although, I never liked the engine side as it was too greasy. I got into trouble when I wiped my hands down my top!
Has there been a particular person who has been an inspiration or mentor to you?
No one really inspired me; I just had a natural interest in things that had mechanical and electrical workings. Now, I prefer the electrical side of repairs.
Is there a pattern to the week, or is every week different?
I do certain postcodes on certain days, but there is no real pattern.
My day starts at 7am. I print off my day’s jobs and go to my safe store to collect any parts I need for the day.
Although I’m usually on my own, I chat on the phone to my colleagues. We talk about our jobs, football, the weather, what we are up to at the weekend… It just breaks up the day as it can be lonely when driving. Speaking to other technicians helps me get through the day better.
How much of the time are you on the road?
One of the areas I cover is west Wales (Fishguard and the surrounding areas) so my journey can be three hours. So sometimes, I can be driving for six or seven hours.
I regularly cover areas surrounding my home, travel and job time is planned in advanced.
What sort of engineering work do you do?
I mainly carry out electrical work, electronic PCBs, and electric motors.
Can you give an example of a typical day?
My day consists of mainly dishwasher and fridge repairs.
Do you always work alone or sometimes in a pair?
Mainly alone, but sometimes I need to meet other technicians for a two-person call. A two- person call is when there is something too heavy to lift or it is too big a job for one technician.
Last week I was training a new technician from Devon so it was great to have company, and pass on my experience to him.
How much is physical fitness important for what you do?
To be honest, I think my job keeps me fit, as I am constantly on the go in and out of the van. Then I am doing things like lying on the floor and getting into tight spaces behind appliances.
Types of equipment
What type of equipment do you work on?
White goods, so:
What is your favourite piece of equipment to repair?
My favourite has got to be the coffee machine. I love what I call proper coffee, not instant. I love to fix coffee machines and then of course to test them, and so to get my coffee fix.
I’m known as ‘Mr Barista’ at work, as we have a really good bean to cup machine which makes amazing coffee and froths the milk. My colleagues love when we have meetings and I’m in charge of the machine. My favourite drink is a latte.
Which is the most challenging and why?
The most challenging are induction hobs as you have to strip them down and rebuild completely before you can test, and this takes time.
What have you studied?
At the age of 27 I went back to night school while doing a full-time job. I was working in a boring job and wanted more. So, I enrolled in a college 30 miles away and did two nights a week doing electronics and different electrical courses. It took five years but has got me where I am now.
You’ve been working for Fisher & Paykel for nine months. What sort of training did you have at the beginning?
At the beginning I had five weeks of in-house training with a very patient and knowledgeable man – Gordon Vidler. He is my go-to when I’m struggling with an appliance.
How quickly did you learn all the pieces of equipment?
I have worked on white goods for eighteen years, so know the basics. However, learning a new manufacturer is testing, but exciting at the same time.
I see every day as a school day, and I never stop learning and am always taking on new skills and information.
What sort of ongoing training is available?
When a new product comes out, Fisher & Paykel have the whole team in for product training. So, we are up to date and ready if we need to see the new appliance.
Who do you go to within the company for support or advice?
The company are very well equipped when it comes to their staff’s well-being. We have mental health ambassadors in-house and, on the road, so someone is available if you need to talk. In addition, the company have an external company we can go to if we have other issues – financial/ home life etc.
Challenges of the job
What are the challenges of the job?
Every day has different challenges. Things like:
no name on the house
no phone signal
For example, I have been working in Somerset and the floods have closed many roads. I was diverted five times going to a job the other day but kept going and finally got the job done.
Positives of the job
What are the positives of your role?
Making customers happy after fixing their appliances; I get such a kick leaving when they thank me by name.
Why would you recommend working as a Field Service Technician to other people?
Being a field service technician can be a lonely job with hours driving alone, and it wouldn’t suit everyone. However, there is nothing better than being your own boss. On a nice day, stopping at some beautiful and amazing places and taking in the scenery, having an ice cream on the beach. I have done it all.
What sort of people are ideal for this work?
The ideal type of people are those who:
don’t mind their own company;
like to fix equipment even when it looks like it can’t be fixed;
don’t mind talking when they go into customers’ houses.
You already had experience in domestic appliances. Could other types of experience transfer into Fisher & Paykel?
Anyone with electrical and customer service experience. When visiting customers listening to them and interacting is important.
The other type of experience is to never stop learning and being willing to take advice.
What advice would you give to engineers who have to work while someone is chatting to them/asking questions?
I love to chat, but never take my eye off what I’m doing as that’s when you can make mistakes. Sometimes you can deflect a customer by asking for a drink or their receipt if things are getting difficult.
What do you do if a customer asks you to look at a different piece of equipment as well?
Every job has to be booked in for traceability of electrical safety checks and any parts fitted, as we may go back in the future. However I will always give advice, and this may fix it.
How can customers help you – other than by offering you a cup of coffee?
Sometimes it’s not the machine but what the customer is doing that is causing an issue. So if a customer is willing to talk, I listen and ask questions. This sometimes tells me what is wrong with the machine.
How do you feel part of a team when you are working out in the field for most of the time?
Speaking with other technicians is very important and I do this on a daily basis. Then every six weeks my senior meets me for a catch up and treats me to lunch. We discuss if I have any issues, what’s happening within the team and company. This is a part of Fisher & Paykel, I really like; they like to invest in people and feel that communicating with them is important.
How do you balance the lonely side of the job?
To be honest, I really don’t mind my own company. I listen to the radio, play my Spotify play list. In the future, I may use the time to learn another language.
It really helps that my customers seem to be happy to see me and are always up for a chat.
Philip Cox a Field Service Engineer who loves technical mysteries Keeping people safe at home