Troubleshooting Is This Industrial Machinery Mechanic's Specialty

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Service engineer Jack Jaeger works on a machine for a customer
Jack Jaeger's job as a service engineer at Helios Gear Products involves learning new things and balancing travel requirements with home responsibilities, two skills he says are essential to being good at this job. (Credit: Courtesy Jack Jaeger)

Jack Jaeger is only 22 and he's already a well-regarded service engineer. His boss praises his ability to "solve technical machine problems on-the-spot." 

In fact, that troubleshooting ability helped Jaeger decide early on what he wanted to do. He sidestepped a four-year degree to focus on trade school and fine-tune his skills.

He's been at Helios Gear Products in South Elgin, Illinois, for more than two and a half years. 

Why did you get into this line of work? 

I worked at Brelie Gear in the shop during high school, and I enjoyed the work I was doing there. I saw service techs come into our shop, and I thought that would be something I’d like to get into. When I graduated high school, I knew I did not want to go for a four-year degree, so I pursued trade school as an industrial maintenance technician at Waukesha County Technical College to continue the work I had genuine interest in.

What does a typical day as an industrial machinery mechanic look like?

Every day at Helios looks a little different. I’m briefed on what needs to be done in the shop, or where I’m being sent on service. Depending on where the customer is, I leave straight from home to the work site, and sometimes I come into the office before leaving for my route. I travel for a significant portion of my job, so as trips to customers come up, I’m on the road as soon as it’s scheduled, based on their service needs.

What do you like most about your job? And least?

I like the rewarding feeling of being able to identify and solve a problem for a customer.

My least favorite part of the job would be leaving a customer without having fully fixed the issue.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

The biggest misconception comes from the term “maintenance technician” — people think we do general maintenance. When I was in school, some friends and coworkers thought I was going to be a building maintenance worker.

What do you wish you knew about the job before you got into it?

Work can ramp up and slow down day-to-day, which requires an adjustment period. Also, the sense of urgency can be daunting in the first few years. On a personal note, the need to manage your personal needs while traveling on the job can be a struggle, especially during a pandemic.

What personality traits or qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

Being available on the customer’s time is really important in this line of work, so having fewer personal responsibilities at home helps me because it means I’m able to leave for a service job at any time. You have to be someone willing to drop what you’re doing to help someone else.

Why would you recommend that someone go into this line of work?

To someone interested in being a service tech, I would tell them: Be open to the new experiences and opportunities the job presents. Being someone who likes travel and likes learning new things would be helpful qualities in this career.

What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you about your work?

I once got an email from a customer about how pleased they were with a job. I also received a request from a customer that I be the one to work on a certain job. Those are things that add to the overall satisfaction of this job field.

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