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What Does a Quality Field Tech Look Like?

As you probably know, experience doesn’t guarantee expertise. 


Our field techs have been blacksmiths, camp staff, landscapers, and clinic administrators. But their backgrounds weren’t barriers to success. We’ve seen folks with no engineering experience become experts in data collection. 


Personality and make-up play a bigger role in success than previous surveying experience.


Unfortunately, this means there's no secret sauce to becoming an excellent fielder. We can’t boil it down into 10 easy steps, but we have seen recurring trends that have helped new technicians succeed and provide immense value in just a few weeks. 


Makings of a Rockstar

Fielding requires a different skill set. You’re looking for people who will get up before the crack of dawn, trekking across counties and through cities, attracting stares and questions. 


We asked our staff development and recruitment teams what makes a great field tech, and these are some of the attributes they emphasized: 


  1. They don’t mind the outdoors. It feels obvious, but techs spend the majority of their days outside. If someone doesn’t enjoy being on their feet or hiking for hours, fielding probably isn’t for them. 

  2. They take safety seriously. PPE, two-person teams, and photo documentation are essential for mitigating risk. Fielders also need to take personal responsibility for their own safety and be constantly aware of their surroundings.

  3. They see the bigger picture. A basic understanding of how data will be used and why it’s needed for engineering can go a long way. Providing context keeps teams from blindly following process. 

  4. They're gritty. Rain, wind, heat, snow, bugs, ticks… it’s all part of the job. Some days it means crawling through thorns or bushwhacking through underbrush to get to the pole. Are your fielders determined and dedicated to getting the job done? 

  5. They work well with others. Two-person teams can be together for 8-12 hours a day. Plus, field techs often make first impressions within the community, and positive local impact starts with those interactions. 

  6. They go the extra mile. It might mean snapping extra pictures for better context or going above and beyond to get the data clients need. But the best technicians put in the extra work to collect excellent data. 


We’ve talked before about the importance of finding the right people and getting them in the right seats. These are just some of the qualities to keep in mind for selecting field techs. Culture fit and alignment with core values play a huge role in job satisfaction and growth, too.


Having the right people is step one, but having the right people without the right training doesn’t get you very far. Here are some tactics for growing data collection surveyors: 


  1. Leverage your leaders by pairing new employees with your experienced staff. Inexperienced field techs can ask questions, get feedback, and learn from rockstars what success looks like. 

  2. Expect success and make expectations clear. Setting realistic goals and stretch goals challenges teams without sending them spiraling into burnout. 

  3. Incentivize growth with standard run rates that help reveal opportunities to improve. Timely feedback kickstarts growth, and compensation encourages fielders to reach new goals. 


It’s really hard to know if your teams are on track if you don’t have a picture of what success looks like. Run rates help give an accurate picture of what your team is doing and project future growth for new staff. 


These are the average numbers we expect to see from our fielders: 

Graph showing run rates for fielding teams

In their first month, beginners are expected to collect around 75 poles a day. The average fielder can collect around 120, and rockstars are averaging anywhere from 130-200 poles per day. 


(All of our field techs are incredible. Some of them also have a unique blend of experience, talent, and personality that help them reach rockstar levels of data collection.)


Getting It Right 

Good data collection is fundamental for quality engineering. With public and private funding hitting the market, we’re going to start seeing an increased need for data collection and engineering. 


Rising to new demands and building a solid foundation for success requires a combination of the right people with the right training and the right process. 


Thanks for reading! We’re working on tools that support training, especially when field crews are spread out across the country. We’d love to know how your team defines quality field techs, and how you approach training. Share your thoughts below, or give us a shout at hello@katapultengineering.com!

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