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March 8, 2023 | 30 Mins Read

What Got Us to Where We Are in Service Won’t Get Us to Where We Want to Go

March 8, 2023 | 30 Mins Read

What Got Us to Where We Are in Service Won’t Get Us to Where We Want to Go


On IWD, Sarah welcomes Kristen Nowak, President of Field Service at Unlimited Service Group, to talk about her journey, learnings, and why it’s time for us to get creative as an industry. 

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we're going to be talking about the reality that what got us to where we are in service is not what will get us to where we want to go. I'm excited to be joined today by Kristen Nowak, who is the President of Field Service at Unlimited Service Group. Kristen, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Kristen Nowak: Hi Sarah, thanks for having me.

Sarah Nicastro: Thanks for being here. Kristen and I met at the Field Service Connect event in Austin last fall, and we were both participated in some different conversations where I could sort of tell, we would hit it off and reached out after to see if we could connect and of course ask Kristen to come on the podcast and share some of her insights and opinions and experiences with you all. So Kristen, before we get into the talking points that we have today, tell everyone a little bit about you, your role, the company, et cetera.

Kristen Nowak: Sure. So like you said, I'm the president of Unlimited Service Group, which means that I look after our 30 unique brands of service companies that have 119 locations across North America with just over 1300 technicians committed to servicing commercial kitchen equipment for our manufacturer partners and customers in the market that we serve. I'm also very blessed and lucky wife to Ed and mom of four, CJ, Megan, Jerry, and Katie. So that's just to say that at any point of the day I'm probably worrying about one of those technicians and definitely worrying about one of those, at least one of those four kids. So if you should just use this time to take a nap. Because that's a lot and I'm sure you understand that Sarah too.

Sarah Nicastro: I do, I do. Yes. A mom's work is never done, that's for sure. Whether you're at work work or anything else you're doing, there's always someone on your mind, that's for sure.

Kristen Nowak: And service never sleeps, so all the time.

Sarah Nicastro: For sure. Yes. So let's talk a little bit about your journey into field service. Okay. So we talked about that you started in public accounting, so completely different. And I've talked on this podcast before about how when I started writing about field service, I had no idea what field service was. I mean, I didn't know that it was a group of industries. I thought, wow, this is going to be so boring. I didn't know that there was actually so much going on. And part of what we're going to talk about later on in how do we get people into this space? Part of it is I always say there's a branding problem. People don't think or don't necessarily know what field services the first time you hear that. And so I'm sure when you were in public accounting, you weren't sitting back thinking I would really love a career in field service, but here you are. So tell us a little bit about what that journey was like and how you progressed from where you started to where you are today.

Kristen Nowak: So I was recruited out of public accounting into the private sector and just like you, and maybe even worse, I started working in field service and I still had no idea what field service was. So I was recruited into a director of finance role. So it's just a little bit different than what I was doing when I was in public accounting, but right when I entered the business, I started seeing the kind of busy, chaotic, messy world of field service and coming from a very structured world and I just fell in love with it. And I was really fortunate to have great leaders, inspirational leaders who gave me opportunities to learn more. In fact, every time a project came up, they said, hey, here's an idea we have for the business.

I raised my hand and back then we were just one service company located in Chicago. So to look back over that 13 year span, the time that I've been in the industry, I raised my hand a lot and it was like I said, really fortunate to have leaders and mentors that gave me opportunities. I quickly moved into an operational role within six months of being in the company. So moved out of finance and became director of operations, and I finally started learning what the heck field service was.

Sarah Nicastro: By immersion. Right. Okay. So you went from finance to operations and then what was the progression from there?

Kristen Nowak: So like I said, we were just one service company at that time and I was still learning so much. I mean, I would venture to say I'm still learning so much, but I started riding along with technicians and kind of learning what their world looks like. I started leading our organization just in that company in Chicago, and at that time our parent organization was starting to look to acquire and I thought that sounded really cool. And so I raised my hand and said, hey, can I be a part of that first acquisition that happened to be out in the Boston area? And they said, yeah, sure, you can come along. And from there on, we kept doing acquisitions a couple every year, and I was fortunate enough to be a part of them, but every spot along the way, learning about the technicians in that market, the customers in that market, learning what the team in the office did to make service work, I just kept sitting with different roles and taking on more and more as I learned more and more about business.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So 13 years ago when you joined the company, it was one business in Chicago and you said today it's how many?

Kristen Nowak: 30.

Sarah Nicastro: 30 across 119 locations is what you said, right?

Kristen Nowak: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: So immense growth.

Kristen Nowak: So Canada all across the US. Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Which is just really interesting to think about how you've grown along with the business. So I'm sure that's been really fulfilling. And also to your point, given you a lot of opportunity to learn different things. When you think about, I always say when you come across people today that have been with one company for 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, it makes me think that either they're someone who loves complacency, which typically that's not it, right? Because even if they did, that might not be what the company needed, but more so it makes me think that they've had a lot of opportunity to continually learn and grow. So because if you hadn't had that where you are, at some point you probably would've felt you outgrew the opportunity at the company and you would've tried to go find that somewhere else. So it's really cool that you've been on these parallel tracks of the company growing and you being able to grow right alongside it.

Kristen Nowak: Well, I think it's interesting because when I first started, we were a very small company. We had less than 50 people in our organization, and I was the person in charge of trucks. I was the person that onboarded the technicians and other staff members. I was the person that reviewed payroll. I was the person that talked to customers. I was the person that dealt with the employee problems. And as you've proven, you can't do that. You can't be everything to everyone. And so you start bringing in team members that are experts in that area. And I have learned so much one about all the things I did wrong in the beginning, but learned so much about each running those areas of the business.

We have to great HR partners, great IT partners that I should not be setting up people's email accounts and fixing their printers, but we have great marketing partners and I'm still learning so much. So as the business has grown and I've grown along with it, I've just had exposure to people that are experts and just wonderful in the areas that they focus on. That's been a great opportunity for me.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Okay. So here is my next question, which is I can't remember what the overall statistic you always hear is, but you hear that women will only apply to a role if they have, I think it's like 100% of the qualifications and men, it's like 60% or 50% or something. And so we know that there is a real difference there. But what's interesting to me about your story is how you say you kept raising your hand. So I'm sure some of those things that you were raising your hand for, you weren't super experienced in, you wanted to learn about them. So there's two tracks to this.

One is the way, and I think we tend to, as women that have achieved a certain level of success, oftentimes I hear us defer to the one path which is, oh, it was great because I was given so much opportunity or I lucked out, et cetera. And so that is one side. There's sort of situations where you find yourself in the right place at the right time, or there's people within the organization that saw something in you and wanted to say yes when you raised your hand and give you those opportunities. But what I want to talk about that I don't think we talk about enough is what made you raise your hand? What made you have the confidence to do that or the desire to learn?

Kristen Nowak: And it's the best piece of advice I ever received in business. And it was from my boss at the time. And before you become a leader or a manager, you generally are portraying the qualities that are needed. So you're generally doing part of the job before you actually get the job. And so when the position for director of operations came open, my boss at the time said to me, what do you think about it? And I said, I'm not ready. I don't know enough about the industry. I'm going to break the business. My kids are too little. I had a hundred excuses of why I wasn't ready for the role, and it was a male leader. And just the great advice he gave me is he said, yeah, you're not ready for it, but when you're ready for it, somebody else will already have it.

So you can learn on the job, have the confidence to jump in, ask questions, and be continually learning. But don't wait until you're ready because when you're ready, it'll be gone. And that really motivated me. The other thing that motivated me was it actually has the name, he actually has the name, I have a son, one of my sons is special needs. And I knew that I've always known my why, and I knew that I was the one that was going to have to support and care for him long term. And every time I wanted to have kind of a crisis of confidence, I looked at him and was like, nope, I've got to do it for him and I've got to do it for my other kids. And so it was those two things, looking at my family and knowing that I had to protect them into the future.

And then hearing this, the best advice ever is don't be there when you're ready. Those two things forced me and it was way out of my comfort zone, raising my hand was not a natural to me. So yeah, it was a lot of internal pushing myself saying, remember those two things and that's what did it.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I was just reading something in the last few days, and I'm not going to be able to think about where I was reading it or anything, but it was talking about this idea of most people that you see doing these things that you may sit back and admire or think, wow, look at that journey. It isn't comfortable for them. They're not doing it because they have some innate absence of fear or some right superhuman confidence. They're pushing through that fear, they're pushing through that discomfort to really put themselves out there. And I think in a lot of ways it's growing a muscle. That first time that you raised your hand you're probably sweating and I mean it was so hard.

But once you do it a couple of times and you see that nothing bad happened, maybe some really cool good things happened and you're learning, and then the next time it's a little bit easier and a little bit easier. And I think sometimes the only way to grow your confidence is through action. I can't just to that person's point, sit around and wait until you feel ready, because that might never happen. So I think that is really good advice. And I also think it's commendable that you took it and you did the hard work of pushing through your own discomfort to be able to take the learning opportunities that you did.

Kristen Nowak: And I remember October 4th, 2010, my first day at this job, I sat in the parking lot 10 minutes before I was supposed to walk in and said, okay, Kristen, you're going to go in, you're going to be different. You're going to talk to people. And it was so far out of what I was used to, and I'm so glad I did because having just that push of that of courage, that 30 seconds of courage really changed my life.

Sarah Nicastro: And I think it's really powerful for you to talk about that today because as Kristen who's the president, there are people that are coming into their careers that wouldn't know you had those feelings if you weren't genuine about it. And so sometimes that's so helpful to someone because they see the current version of you and think, oh, she's probably always been confident or courageous and knowledgeable on X, Y, and Z. But no, you had to give yourself a pep talk in the parking lot, just so many other human beings.

Kristen Nowak: It's the power of vulnerability, I think. When you're willing to be vulnerable and tell people your story, it brings them along with you on it.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. Yeah, I'm a big fan of vulnerability. I think we're all human beings doing our best and trying to contribute. And the more we can share those experiences, I think it helps us and it helps others. So very good. So I want to talk about when we spoke to prepare for this, we talked about the fact that in the beginning, especially in 2010, you were very often the only woman in the room. And so I want to talk about two sides of that. So one is what did you find hardest about that? And then the second is, was there anything you liked about it or any part of that that you felt that gave you an advantage or an opportunity?

Kristen Nowak: So I think what was hardest about it, and it still happens a lot because it's a very male dominated industry that I'm in. And I think what I struggled with a lot and still do some days is feeling like I deserve to be in the room. Whether it is a room with our manufacturers and customers and other leaders in the industry, or if it's a room sitting talking with our technicians and our dispatchers, when we talk about the leaders in the industry sitting in that room, I didn't grow up through the industry, I was an outsider. So feeling like the piece that doesn't belong in there has always been something that I struggled with. And in the same way, sitting and talking to technicians and dispatchers when I've never done that job, I always struggled with that too. And the thing is that struggle is all on me.

Nobody really made me feel that way. That goes back to feeling like I didn't have the skills and the qualities to do that job. So nobody really made me feel that way. I can't say that the men in the room looked at me like what is she doing here? So that was more a confidence thing for me. But if you flip that over and say, okay, what opportunities did that bring to being one of generally the only woman in the room? And I think bringing the perspective, the unique perspective that I have of being a woman in a male dominated industry, being a wife and a mother, being an accountant, all of those different skill sets that I bring into the room offer a different perspective generally from the people that we're already sitting in that room. So I think that just level of thought diversity really made the companies better, brought different ideas to the room, brought that different perspective that I think as we continue to evolve as an industry is really, really important.

Sarah Nicastro: And that's where I kind of pushed you in the direction when I asked you about raising your hand to talk about within you, what did that take? But this is where we have to give the company credit as well because one, they were receptive to allowing you to have those learning opportunities and probably seeing that if not the pep talks you had to give yourself, recognizing that not everyone has the drive or the initiative to want to raise their hand and always say can I learn this? Can I do this right? Because there are situations, and I've had conversations with women that have been in similar situations as yours in those early days when they were the only woman in the room and they were treated in a way that reinforced that internal dialogue of I don't deserve to be here. And so this is where it's a combination of both.

It's a combination of pushing out of your comfort zone, but then we have to as organizations recognize that value of the diversity of thought and be open to hearing different opinions, perspectives, experiences. Because if they had been at all closed-minded to that, it would've shut you down and you would've probably ultimately went somewhere else or whatever would've happened, but they were open to it. So it takes that teamwork of being more open to things that are different than the historical norm and then forcing yourself to build that confidence of, no, I deserve a seat at the table just as much as anyone else here.

Kristen Nowak: So I am fully aware that there are so many women that went before me that didn't have the kind of support that I had. I had the support of the men that I walked into the room with from our organization, bringing me along and exposing me to those opportunities. Without that, I don't think as many doors would've opened for me, but because they brought me through the door with them, I was able to learn and grow. And now I sit at a place where I am not afraid to give my opinion, I am much more confident and comfortable to have those discussions and to walk through the door by myself. So that's not the case. I'm very fortunate to be in a company that had that level of support.

Sarah Nicastro: But they're very fortunate as well. And that's the thing is this isn't about, we're going to talk in a minute about diversity and different types of that, but this isn't about them bringing you along for the ride. It's about them understanding the opportunity to grow through involving people that were different than the historical norm. And the other thing is being in that situation, that mutually beneficial situation where you had the opportunity to grow, they had the opportunity to gain new perspective and skills, and you're also now sitting in a position where you can help others walk through that journey. And that is also really powerful thing.

Kristen Nowak: I think there is a piece of this conversation that you have to do that deliberately, you have to deliberately think of I want different perspectives and different ideas in the room and while combining that with the best person for the job as well. And so bringing those two together, always requiring that people are hard workers with high levels of integrity and commitment, but looking outside the box of what does that person actually look like?

Sarah Nicastro: I think we're at a point going back to the title of the podcast, what got us to where we are today is not what will take us to where we want to be. And I think we're at a point where there's this discrepancy in some cases of companies saying, and I'm not even talking about diversity necessarily right now. I'm just talking about overall, right? Saying they're open to change but not really meaning it. So in your situation, if we look back, that could have been you had an opportunity to sit at the table, but when you brought a different perspective, they could have very easily defaulted to, oh yeah, no, that's interesting, but we've always done it this way. So we just want to keep... So there's kind of this disconnect between recognizing we need to change.

But then really what does it mean to commit to getting uncomfortable and looking at just because it's always been done this way doesn't mean that's how we need to keep doing it, et cetera. I think a lot of people have some of those feelings you had of am I cut out to be here? Do I have the same right to having a voice and stuff like that? I know that today when I speak at a conference or give a keynote, I usually have people come up to me after and say, I enjoyed that so much because it felt so authentic. And that's for me, part of my journey that took building confidence and courage because early on I also was often the only woman in the room presenting to a room full of men. And I would let those feelings get the best of me to where I felt like I had to pretend to be something else.

And it took me some time to realize, no, I mean we're all smart in different ways and we all have different areas that are just not our strengths. And if we can just be ourselves, that's what brings something special to the table. And as soon as I started just letting go of what I felt I should be or needed to be or feeling like I needed to pretend to be smarter than I was in a certain area and just started focusing on being me, that's when I feel like I started actually being able to have an impact.

Kristen Nowak: Well, it's distracting and time consuming to try and wonder who you need to be that day to please the masses. That is incredibly time consuming. So when you just decide to be yourself, it just opens so many more possibilities and for you to focus on what's really important and what needs to get done.

Sarah Nicastro: But to your point, and going back to this parallel track, I have been a part of organizations that did not like for me to be myself or to have opinions that were outside of the accepted consensus. And when you find a place that really values that diversity and thinking and respects different perspectives and opinions and wants to blend that to figure out the best way forward, it makes an immense difference. So that kind of leads us to this next point, which is one of the topics of conversation that we experienced at the Connect event in Austin was around one of the biggest topics of conversation on this podcast, which is how do we bring in new talent to field service and to these roles? So we'll talk a little bit about this, but to start, can you just talk a little bit about how this challenge is impacting your organization specifically?

Kristen Nowak: Yeah, I mean this is something that I talk about every day, tends to keep me up at night. We are so far behind in recruiting and retention of technicians into this industry. It is a really scary thought of to see what 3, 5, 10 years down the road looks like if we don't change our way of thinking about this. To put it into some data in generally, we are eight days out on service if somebody calls now, that's not what happens in reality, we move things around. But if you just do the math problem and say the number of calls we get done in a day versus the number of technicians in our world, this is how long it's going to take us. This is how much of a backlog of work there is. And that's not me just speaking for unlimited service group. I have talked to leaders across our industry that are experiencing the same thing.

So we are never going to have a great customer experience if we can't tighten up those numbers a bit. And the other challenge is that when we are successful at bringing people into the industry, we are really bad at keeping them in the industry. We're not doing a great job of retaining talent. So there is so much we still have to learn and change about what we think technicians. And I'll expand that beyond, and what employees want today because we are not going to be able to serve the customers in the way that they expect and that they need in order to keep their kitchens up and running if we don't at least take a step towards solving this problem. And the ways we did it 13 years ago when I started are not the ways that work today.

Sarah Nicastro: So going back to the title of the podcast and thinking about what got us here versus what will lead us forward, what would you say about how diversity factors into that?

Kristen Nowak: Yeah, so I think there's a practical way of it. There's the practicality of we need to reach more people regardless of race, gender, any thought, we need to reach more people in order to educate them in order for our success to continue. That's just the practical nature of it. But there's also a thought around it that what worked attracted people into the industry, the type of people into the industry then is that type of person doesn't exist as much anymore. So back when schools used to have shop classes and people were attend to move towards that direction, it was much more accepting kind of back when I started and beyond when I was in high school as well. It was moving into the trades was not a default for someone that couldn't get into college or didn't want to go to college.

It was an acceptable, really sought after valued role. And then we went through this phase of, and we're still going through it where college was the only acceptable role, moving into post-secondary school that was college and now it's caused us this problem where we don't have those people that like to fix things anymore that are more inclined and well, they still like to fix things, we haven't taught them anything about that. And so we need to create those people. We need to teach those people that this is a really valuable industry to go into. It's what keeps the world running. We don't have people that can fix stuff. How do all the things around us happen? So we have to teach people again how valuable these roles are. And that is across gender, across race, that regardless of that, we need people to understand how valuable this is.

Sarah Nicastro: And I know you mentioned to me a book you had read recently on generational diversity. And so that's another area, again, I think the companies that are making the most progress are making that progress because they're not looking at diversity as one flavor of it. And they're not looking at it as, okay, well we have to do this either because society tells us we should or just because we need bodies in the door. We need to do this because we can learn so much. Not only because it's what it will take for us to continue to be able to meet customer demand, but also we can be a better business if we value diversity of thought and what that looks like for all of these different types of people.

Kristen Nowak: So it's really interesting, the book that you referenced was a book called The New Diversity. And what it was about is the diversity of generations. So what baby boomers value is not what millennials and Gen Xers and Gen Y, that's not what they value. And so when I got into this business, what the people coming into our industry valued from what their career looked like is totally different than what those coming into the workforce now look for. And we haven't adjusted what we're giving them. We're still basing our benefits, our pay, the structure of our job on what has always worked, and it doesn't speak to a new generation of employees. And so if we are stuck in that way of thinking, if we get somebody in the door, they're not going to stay because we're not valuing what's important to them.

We're not giving the benefits that's important to them. And so bringing a more generationally diverse thought diverse team into the company from a leadership level all the way down is going to have you start realizing what things that the new workforce coming into the industry values. It's so important if you want to start building for us the next generation of technicians that's going to stay 5, 10, 15 years.

Sarah Nicastro: And I think sometimes what happens here, when we spoke to prep for this, we talked about the fact that even within field service, there's a lot of different types of field service. There are field technicians that they do need to have a college degree or they are working in this type of environment, et cetera. And we talked about how for you, it is very much the traditionally viewed as more blue collar type service work. It can be dirty, it can be grimy, et cetera. And so sometimes I think organizations that fall into that category, and I hope you don't take offense to this, but almost use that as an excuse to not get creative because it's kind of like, it's this self-fulfilling prophecy of, well, this is already a challenge for everyone. And then you have these organizations where they're going to work in an IT environment, and of course they would just pick that and we're doomed.

And it's not to ignore the realities of those challenges, but it also can't detract from the responsibility the organization has to adapt. And I think that what I try and push or say to people is, no matter what your circumstances, there are ways you can evolve and improve. There are ways for you to change and make these roles more appealing for the candidates you have today if you want to. You just can't come at it from a mindset of, well, that would never work.

Kristen Nowak: That never works for us. And it was kind of a light bulb moment sitting in that conference with you, we were all talking about this challenge of bringing new talent into the industry, bringing into service. And I remember sitting there thinking, well, thank goodness it's not just me and everybody's struggling with this. There's comfort in numbers. And then I was like, oh, wow, everybody is struggling with this. We are all competing for the same group of candidates. And I did, I had the thought you just said the limiting thought you just said, wow, I don't have the best story to tell. We are working in chaotic, dangerous situations in sometimes dirty kitchens and at all hours of the day and night on holidays and on weekends.

It doesn't feel like a great story to tell, but it's our responsibility as leaders of the industry, those that are tasked with growing our companies to find the story that's compelling and I know this is a great industry. I know that they're great people in this industry. I have to tell that story instead of saying, hey, you want to come work for me and work on a fryer? It's got to be a better story than that, and that's our responsibility to your point, we can't just sit back and say, this is too hard.

Sarah Nicastro: And this is the intersection back to valuing diversity of thought generational and otherwise because if you're willing to move past that initial uh oh, like we have a hard challenge here, which again is true, but if that's the challenge you have, then if to move past the emotion, figure out how to start solving it. If you really value different perspectives, then it gives you the ability to go out and start engaging with different groups of people that you could potentially bring into this space and just initially do so with the objective of understanding what do they think of it? Maybe you start there, not even what do they want out of it, but what do they think of it and what narratives do you maybe need to work on shifting or telling the story better?

And then what do they want? What's important to them, what would make them stay at a job or not? And that's the insight that if you're open to it can help you start getting creative internally about what you can craft into something that is compelling to the people that you want to bring in. And yes, it's a lot of work. I mean, there's no way around that, but to your point earlier, your success in three to five years depends on doing that work. So it's hard work, but it's important work.

Kristen Nowak: And I think to your point, I think the most important thing that we can do to get past this is to listen. And then the second most important thing that we can do is to act, to go out and do the next right thing that speaks to our team members and starts giving them the things that they value and changing our organization so that it's attractive to future generations and sustainable for future generations.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I always think to me, one category you always hear people really value today is flexibility. So I've heard plenty of service organizations say, well, we can't offer that service is 24 hour a day business, okay, yes, but are we picking this apart in the right way? Yes, it's a 24 hour a day business, but that doesn't mean every employee you have needs... And this is what I mean about people get very set in well, for the last 20, 30 years, we've had a team of people that worked this schedule and they just don't necessarily think, well, what if we did this? What if we did a rotation? What if we did whatever? And that's where I urge people to, you got to get creative. I mean, if the game has changed, you have to change with it. And it's not about continuing to where's Waldo find the people that will fit into the mold we've always had.

Kristen Nowak: Break the mold.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes, exactly. Are there other things that you think about when you think about figuring out the story you need to tell or figuring out how to accommodate what people value today? Are there things that come to mind?

Kristen Nowak: Well, I think you just hit on it a little bit. When I first started, I could not give away enough overtime for an example, everybody wanted the overtime hours. When I hired somebody new, they were like, well, what's that going to do to my overtime? Everybody filled the on-call schedule right now. I can't get anybody that wants to work, be in an on-call schedule or work overtime. And so it just shows that at one point they valued the saving of money and earning as much as they can, and now they're valuing more time is more their currency. I mean, you still have to have a great pay and all the benefits that go along with that, but you have to be able to listen to, okay, now time is more valued. So to your point, what is the end state? What does service utopia look like for a technician?

And then start working backwards to the small steps that you can take. So in order for me to have, if a flexible schedule is the end state, in order for me to have that and offer that, I've got to have this number of technicians, this volume of technicians, then I've got to develop what those shifts are that we can still meet the customer need, and then I've got to find people that can fit into them. So just do the next right thing to find what could get you there. Because you can't get there overnight. You can't say, tomorrow I'm going to offer flexible schedules, or I'm going to offer zero cost insurance or unlimited PTO, or anything like that. You have to start at what's the next right thing that I can do to start working towards that and bring those team members along with you in that conversation so they know what you're working for working towards for them. That's going to build a lot of value and a lot of loyalty, them seeing the process and the progress that you're making towards making their work environment better.

Sarah Nicastro: No, that makes perfect sense. If you think about how we started this conversation, what got us to where we are today isn't what will get us to where we want to go, are there other areas that you feel leaders need to be really thinking about and reflecting on?

Kristen Nowak: Well, it's a great question, and I think it all comes back to value. It really all comes back to what your team members value. So is it time, is it benefits? Is it pay? Is it work environment, work from home or work from the office? I think the pandemic it was such a challenging time for so many people, but it also taught us so much about our team and that we really can trust them to know what is best and to do the hard work for our organization. So I think what we have to do better as an organization, as an industry, and I would say for everybody, is listening and asking people what would make a successful work environment for you?

What is it that keeps you sticky to a company and staying around? What do you think we need to do to grow? I mean, all of these people have great ideas. We just rarely ask them. So invite others into the room with you and listen. And that's where, back to my early days where I was the payroll person and the HR person and the customer person, you don't need to be that anymore. Invite these people along to have the conversation with you, and you're just going to get better from there. More is better, together is better.

Sarah Nicastro: It's just like we said in the beginning, it's about valuing different perspectives. And to your point, I think if you're really open to listening to those different perspectives, it will guide you toward what the things are that you need to get creative about and work on changing. All right. Kristen, last question is 13 years in field service, and what is the biggest lesson you've learned as a leader in field service?

Kristen Nowak: Oh gosh. That I'm always learning. That I'm always learning, and that you can never have enough good people around you. There's no room for ego, there's no room for arrogance, and you're better together than on your own.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I think that's great. And I think that mentality of not only mentality, but hunger to always be learning. I mean, that's what keeps people relevant over a long period of time. The worst thing you can do is feel like you've got it all figured out, right? If you know don't, and no one ever does, then you just continue that journey of soaking up the different knowledge and experiences.

Kristen Nowak: It's hard because you just like, okay, I know this. I'm just going to get this done. I'm just going to move forward. I'm just going to make this decision. When you don't bring people along with you, the unintended con consequences that you can alienate them. And while we always have to, as leaders, we're in the business of making decisions and setting strategy, and so sometimes you have to be the one that makes that final call, but it's always better when you brought people along with you.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. All right. Well, thank you so much for coming and talking with me. I really appreciate it.

Kristen Nowak: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, Sarah. I enjoyed it.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. You can find more by visiting us at I want to make sure you are aware that we have recently introduced the Future of Field Service Insider. If you subscribe to the Insider, we will make sure that every other week we deliver the latest Future of Field Service content to your inbox, along with some exclusives for our community. We also have announced the dates for the 2023 Future of Field Service Live Tour. We will be in six countries between March and September. So have a look at the schedule and register for the event nearest you. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.