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March 20, 2024 | 24 Mins Read

Equity is Everyone’s Responsibility with Daniel Trabel

March 20, 2024 | 24 Mins Read

Equity is Everyone’s Responsibility with Daniel Trabel


Episode 257

In this episode of the Future of Field Service podcast, host Sarah Nicastro is joined by Daniel Trabel, Director of Field Service EMEA at Thermo Fisher Scientific, to share the success his organization has had in bringing more women into field service roles and why he feels those who ignore the need to take action to improve diversity will fail.

Daniel is a committed and visionary leader in service with a proven track record in the clinical diagnostics, life science, medical device, and biotechnology sectors. Before joining Thermo Fisher Scientific, he served as a Service Manager at Germany South for Waters Corporation, a Service Engineer at Cochlear, and held multiple roles at Bio-Rad Laboratories.

If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to subscribe, rate, and review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

Daniel: At the end, I think they will fail because they can't unleash the power of people and they can't unleash the power of this diversity, which is necessary to be successful. And we are dealing in a situation where when we talk about STEM, there's only a handful of people who can cover open positions and everybody is keen to get someone from somewhere. But if there is no someone, then there is no somewhere. And that's why I think we need to open up the talent pool. And if you don't do that and you are not thinking of changing your plans and your strategy in the long run, I think those companies will fail. 

Sarah: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast, where we deliver both information and inspiration on how to differentiate your business through service and lead through change. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro, and I'm here to guide you through conversations around the trends that matter most, from business transformation and customer-centric innovation to the service evolution and attributes of effective leadership. Join us on this journey as we welcome industry leaders, visionaries, and experts to share their personal stories of change, challenges, triumphs, and transformation. Let's dive in. Today, we are going to be talking about why equity and inclusion are everyone's responsibility. This is a conversation as part of the focus content we're doing in March to discuss the International Women's Day theme of inspiring inclusion and talk about some of those related topics. So I'm thrilled to welcome to the podcast today, Daniel Trabel, who is the Director of Field Service for EMEA at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Daniel, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Daniel: Hello, and thanks for being here.

Sarah: Yes, thank you for being here. So before we get into our conversation for today, which I'm very excited about, tell everyone a bit about yourselves, your role, and Thermo Fisher.

Daniel: Yeah, maybe I'll start with the company because probably the majority of the listeners don't know what the Thermo Fisher is. We call it a hidden champion. It's a huge organization with more than 120,000 people worldwide. We are in the scientific research, analysis, and diagnostics market where we operate in different various segments like in the life science, clinical diagnostics, and the analytical instruments and healthcare business. We have a mission, and that mission is to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. And that's a strong commitment, I would say. And I'm representing here the Instrument and Enterprise Services Organization, which is the service organization for our chromatography and mass spec instruments. Those instruments were used for water analyzers, for drug testing, for drug filtration, and also for any other diseases like rare diseases, like cancer resurgence. So it's an important area. I'm super proud of, let's say, supporting our customers in their business. A bit about myself. I am now 20 years in field service, so it's already a long time. I'm based in Germany, so excuse my bad accent, but that's okay. I'm the father of two four-year-old twins. It's two girls, and I'm super proud of the two. And that is also one of the reasons why we are speaking here and why it's important for me to bring more women into field service.

Sarah: Yeah, I love that. Yeah, it's sometimes when these issues become personal, it takes on a different lens. So I appreciate that. Now, we're going to talk today about some of the methods that you have had success with at Thermo Fisher, increasing gender diversity among field technicians. But before we do that, what I'd like to talk a little bit about to sort of frame this discussion and expand on what you just mentioned is the theme of International Women's Day this year is Inspiring Inclusion. But they talk even on the website about how everyone plays a role in that, right? And so we're focused at Future of Field Service this month on discussing the themes that are related to the International Women's Day focus. We're amplifying and sharing women's voices of leaders in service. But I think it's important to recognize that everyone, men, all different types of leaders, all different types of roles within the organization across the board can play a part, have to play a part in this issue. So men need to listen, engage, be allies, et. cetera. So what are your thoughts on that? And how do you perceive your role in this idea of gender equity and inclusion?

Daniel: Yeah, so I think it's a change over the years. So especially in service, there was a male environment and it was easy for male to network because everybody speaks the same language, the same thoughts. But it's also, I would say it's difficult because with that, you can't develop further and because it's like when you're in the same family without any input from a site, fresh ideas, great thoughts. Again, about myself, I think one of the reasons why I'm so, let's say, pushing for this year is because I don't want to have my two little girls only thinking they're in gorgeous, they're pretty and they are, let's say, good looking, but they are strong and intelligent and also self-confident. And that's something I'm trying to tell them every day. And we need to ensure that women don't feel that they are, let's say, the weak people and they can't do the same male do. So that's why I think we need to change a bit our thoughts about that. And it's not only the women's network. We also need to my overarching, let's say, in leadership positions to push that. Otherwise, it's difficult to drive that behavior change.

Sarah: Absolutely. And I think it's a good point that it's the idea of gender equity is something that it's not fair to expect for us to achieve that if it's women trying to take that on, right? It's a shared responsibility. I know one of the ways beyond what we're going to talk about today in your talent recruitment and hiring processes, but I know another role that you play is you sponsor the Women's Employee Resource Group in Germany, correct?

Daniel: Correct, yeah. We have a network of BRGs. We call it Business Research Groups, resource groups, where we also have a network between all those local groups. And I'm sponsoring the one which is located to the entity we have in Germany. Yeah, we have all over the globe as we have many entities and many divisions, networking groups where they start to network. This one is a pretty young one, I would say. It's about one year-old now, while we have others, they already do a lot of activities like external speakers, like sharing training and sharing ideas and articles and so on. But it's important that it's not just something for women. As I said, it's also important that we open this up for all the males, the men in the organization as well, to ensure that it's not a soup which you can't put your ingredient in because of your gender. 

Sarah: Yeah. And you mentioned earlier that one of the risks of not working toward gender equity in field services is that you have a group of people who get stuck in similar thinking. The same thing could be true of a women's employee resource group that is only women because they can go and share challenges and commiserate and network. But we need people there that don't think that same way to understand better and to understand the issues, understand the challenges and think creatively about what we can do to take that back into the business and make changes. So I think you're absolutely right that it has to be inclusive of all and it has to be viewed as an issue that is important for everyone to think about and to be creative with, etc. And so that's a good segue to what we're going to talk about, which is really getting creative then within the business about, okay, so we know this is a challenge and what can we do differently? What can we do to solve it? So we have an issue here where in service across the world, there's a talent gap. So companies are already struggling to bring in talent of any sort. And then you marry that with the desire for more gender equality. And that led you to make some changes in your organization that have had some positive results. So to start, can you just give an overview of that journey?

Daniel: Yeah, so exactly that was our starting point. We had a problem to fill roles. We had a couple of open roles. It was only a few people applied or people which are not at all qualified for those positions. And it's a big cost for a company like us. I have an organization of 500 people. And if you have an attrition of 5%, imagine how many jobs we have always open in this. It's a cost, while on the other hand, it's a missing revenue. So there is a desperate need of having those roles filled as soon as possible. So we started the conversation, the discussion around the reasons of why we seal this male environment. Because we thought as a leadership team together that we need to have more women in the organization. And we need to attract more women to make sure that we create also a bigger pool of talents for those open roles. So we did that together with HR, together with TA, with engineers, and also with the managers. And really explored the reasons behind and how we can attract female. And so one of the barriers we identified was the entry expectations to those jobs. So typically what we were looking for is engineers with a long experience in the field, electronic skills, and let's say all the pallet you want to see. Ideally only 20 years old. So all this stuff everybody wants to have. But that's not applied for most of the females. So that's why we thought of how we can change that and how we can ensure that we can open up some kind of entry role to our organization. And also fit that into the business needs. And we said, okay, one of the systems which could work is so-called PIQ engineers. So we call it for preventive maintenance installation qualification. Because we are in a qualified environment for most of our instruments. And with that, you cut off all the expectations of repairing skills. So you can really, let's say, focus on the first level support things, on maintenance and get new hires more easier into the roles. And with that, also the benefits of having hot areas identified with a smaller radius of travel with less overnight stays. And also with more flexibility and a better work-life balance as a result. And what's quite interesting because this also gave us the opportunity to increase the response time SLA. So the improvement of the response time for our CM customers for the existing engineers. Because we were able to reduce the PM for those engineers so they can focus on repair jobs. So that was a benefit which came as a second. And then we looked at our job ads because we thought that the jobs were pretty male buzzwords included. So engineering, manage, technology, executions, all this stuff where you as a male can get that strong. I take that. And that's exactly what I want. So we use an external tool to analyze those job ads and think of how we can change that in a more human attractive way. And we found words like support, mentor, advocacy, recognition, flexibility, and really try to bring that and also reduce the expectation, the entry expectation. Even if we might have high expectation, we just didn't wrote that in the job ad. And what's quite interesting because of the results, we had a lot more applicants also from women. That was good.

Sarah: Okay, yeah. So that was step one. Step one was identifying the need and the opportunity to kind of look at this in a different way. And I think that's important because oftentimes when we talk about the lack of diversity in technicians, we want to change it, but we're not always willing to go to the extent of actually making changes, if that makes sense. It's acknowledged challenge that a lot of companies would like to see change, but they're not necessarily willing to dig in and say, okay, but what do we have to do differently to get a different result? And so I think that awareness and then willingness to take action, to try something different, to break out of the way it's always been done, right, is incredibly important.

Daniel: Yeah, I think you need to identify this as a need and not just say it's because it's woke. So if you want to change, I think you need to go for the change and also need to consider there's always a risk. But you need to take the risk. That's absolutely key.

Sarah: Yeah. And so then this analyzing the job postings, understanding, and I like that you brought in an external tool to do that because, again, a lot of times, even when we have good intention, you can get stuck in your own thinking or whatever the historical process has been. So having this new objective view on, okay, the way these postings are written or the qualifications that we're expecting or the way that we're positioning this, how might we be limiting ourselves on who would potentially apply or who would see themselves as a potential fit for Thermo? So you started there. We talked about the fact that with the introduction of this new role, you were able to then have the opportunity to not have as strict of entry-level requirements that you had before. I think, again, that required you, if I'm understanding you correctly, essentially taking what before was all rolled into one person's duty and sort of splitting that out, right? So again, it's a redefinition internally of, well, this has always been one person's job. Okay, but what if we change that so that this portion is a different role? This portion then can be more effective at this role. So it comes back to that creativity and willingness to think outside of the box. Now, you mentioned this briefly, but I want to go back to. Who all did you involve in this process? Because I think it's important to think about the cross-functionality of that and who was involved in the decision-making, et cetera.

Daniel: Yeah, so again, the decision to change that is not only from the management. And we need to ensure that if we change something which also has an influence to the team, that we include the team in this conversation. Especially those engineers which are already working in the organization. They have some fears that if they only focus on corrective maintenance, that they need to travel longer distances because they don't have the nearby PMs anymore to cover. And that were definitely talking points and risks we saw. At the end, it really turned out it was not the case. And they do basically the same what they did before. It's just a matter of being more flexible to our customer needs and giving the new hires focusing on this local PM and installation activities and give them the chance to work there. We also include a talent acquisition because they have the conversations up front with the talents and HR to understand also from a non-male environment what they think we should think about. So let's say that we as a male leadership, and to be honest in my leadership team at that time, there was only male, only men. And you have a specific way of thinking and you might have, let's say, any different facets, but you don't cover it all by everything and the diversity you might need for such a program. And we got a good feedback also on the fact that, let's say, male might apply for a position if there is only 50% they can match with, while women say, no, I'm not able to do this. And this is only a small portion, so I'm going to apply. So that's also the reason why we lowered the entry expectations advertised in the [inaudible] . 

Sarah: Yeah. No, I think that's important because you can always have more discussions, right? I mean, this is just the first impression with folks, the first outreach to get people to apply. You can always talk further about what the expectations are. But I think the challenge is in an environment where we are struggling so much to get talent, if you are limiting yourself from the very beginning, you're missing a lot of potential, right? And so, if you lower that initial barrier to entry, then in those conversations, maybe you will find someone who doesn't meet every single requirement, but that you just feel has huge potential for your business. And then you as a company have the ability to make those decisions instead of them, you never coming across them, right? So absolutely. All right, so talk a little bit about what the results were here. So with this new segmentation of work and having sort of the repair work and the preventative work separate, you created six new positions and four of those were filled with women, which is really exciting. Talk a little bit about what you found and what the results ended up being. 

Daniel: Yeah, that was quite interesting because at least I was expecting that high percentage of first application. But also second later, we really found great talent and we not just selected the women because we were looking for them. So they really stand out against the other applicants and they had a strong presentation and a strong background, which fits perfectly into the role as expected. Interestingly, also in the beginning, for sure, there was a bit of a bias from one or the other team members. And it took a while to get this digested. Also because the role was not as seen as a normal Field Service Engineer role. It was seen as, let's say, an Field Service Engineer as a second class maybe for one or the other. So it took a while to get on it. Now, interestingly, because they are so strong in PM, in qualification, because they do it every day, some of them already now move to a mentors as role, where they support new IS, which are going for another position, which includes repair activities. So they really are a subject matter expert on the areas where they are working on. While we have also two of them moving now to other positions and really stepped up the ladder and on their career progression. So that's a great result. I was not expecting that in such a short timeframe. So we're talking about three years here. That's what's [inaudible] . And I'm really excited about it.

Sarah: Yeah. There's two things I want to go back to. The first I was thinking actually about the success you had. So you created six new roles with this sort of redefined job posting, redefined entry-level criteria. And what I was thinking about is if you expand this conversation for just a moment beyond gender equity, and we just talk about diversity overall, right? The other thing I'm assuming you have the value of is when you have the entry-level expectation of this qualification, this qualification, this many years of experience, et cetera, you're bringing people from a set of very commonly shared experiences where when you change that to having less strict entry-level criteria, I'm assuming you see more diversity in background. Like, where people are coming from different roles, et cetera. Is that true?

Daniel: That's true. And there's another thing I want to mention, because also the fact that we have more diversity in the team gives us or gave us more soft skill variance means that more, and it's not applicable for any, but for everybody. But I think the, let's say, percentage of women having a more focus on mediation or let's say different way of tackling problems, different way of communication that really influenced the team spirit and how the team bond and work together as a team. And that really brought an asset to my team. But secondly, as you said, background is a point because we are dealing with customers which are running their own applications on our systems. So it's an open platform where you can develop methods and they do it day by day. And the women we attracted, they were former customers. So that means that those new employees were able to speak the same language and they brought in their skills and their experience from their life as a customer. And it made it much more easier for them to understand. What are the customer problems and also to identify we're talking about a technical or maybe an obligational situation and problem. And we're able to identify that upfront before roping up the whole system and exchange, I don't know, 10 parts at the end and realize, okay, it was not any single broken part. So that was my hope.

Sarah: Yeah. I'm just thinking, you mentioned earlier, this topic isn't one where it's, well, we need to care about this because we want to be woke or we're trying to check a box on a certain level of gender diversity. The companies that are really making progress are doing so because they know that diversity of thought is important to a business that is innovative and creative, right? And thinking about how reflecting on your job postings and your hiring criteria, things like that, not only helps you potentially recruit more women, but just helps you bring people into the business with more diverse backgrounds and more diverse thinking really helps you build teams that are more well-rounded, more creative in meeting customer needs and just strengthens the business. And I think. That's a really big point.

Daniel: Yeah, there is a saying, I think Albert Einstein said that ages ago, an evening where everybody has the same meaning is a lost evening. And that happens when you have a team where everybody is with the same background and with the same, let's say, character and everything is the same. So we need to have diversity to have high performing teams.

Sarah: Absolutely. So the other thing I want to go back to, which is just such a, I think, really impressive point is that of those six new positions, you have people that relatively new to the business are already progressing into leadership roles. And I think this is important because we need to think about not just how do we bring more diversity into the business, but how do we support and enable that progression, right? So that's one of the challenges we see is because bringing in frontline workers is an acute need for the business, we can focus all of the efforts there. But ultimately, you want to have diversity reflected in all layers of the business, right? And so the fact that the people you're bringing in are already progressing through, I think, is really impressive.

Daniel: Yeah. And it's also interesting and something I can share is that our German team is now led by a woman. So the more than 100 engineers which were on their own before end, they are now led by a woman. That's a massive change. I already see some benefits. So it's really good to see that.

Sarah: Yeah. And so that leads me to the question then about how has this focus on bringing more women into the business? How has that made you then need to reflect on what is their experience like once they're part of the team? Because I have to think there's some evolution there in what the culture feels like. We have to make sure that if you change the job postings and the hiring criteria to get more women in, that's great. But then you have to make sure they're coming into an environment where they do feel it's inclusive and they don't feel ostracized or uncomfortable or have a negative experience. So is there any work you had to do to sort of carry the focus through to make sure that once they were a part of the team, they were having a positive experience?

 Daniel: Yeah, I think we haven't done any specific, but for sure, when you have a small team where you're the only woman in the team, there might be difficulties, especially when you have, let's say, a lot of engineers are doing service for many years without any influence of a woman in the team. So there's always a stalling phase in team building and the team had to go to those phases. But it's the responsibility of the line managers to take care that every friction identified is turned away and the whole management team stand behind this program. That's why we included them in the very beginning. At the end, I think they feel happy. The whole team appreciates the diversity we have. And we're not talking about diversity, just male and female. We're also talking about people of color and not so many in Europe, but also in North America, my counterpart and any other. And we as a company, we embrace employees for inclusion and diversity. And we have a corporate program where we always share success stories and so on. And in fact, in case of the field service, we work closely with the sales department. We work closely with application support where we have a lot of women in the organization. So there's a lot of touch points. And also the fact that we have these ERGs giving them the chance to connect between each other, even if they're maybe only one in the male and dominated team, and that they give them the sense of belonging.

Sarah: Yeah. I think when I'm reflecting on what you're saying, I think there's three aspects to this. One is you mentioned you had support from top leadership down on this initiative. And I think that's important because you're going to make progress on what you're paying attention to. And when things arise that need to be navigated, it needs to be a shared and aligned objective that everyone understands the importance of. The second thing is, to your point, being willing to address problems as they arise. Don't ignore things that are potential issues. Don't sweep things under the rug that shouldn't be swept under the rug. Be willing to face things head on and be willing to dig into any behavior or thinking that needs to be changed and work with the teams to do that. And then the third is, whether it's through the business resource group, whether it's through these new team members, direct supervisor and above, make sure that they feel connected so that if they are having experiences that aren't comfortable or aren't ideal, they can surface those as well and figure out how to work through it. Make sure that they feel supported, not only in the performative aspects of their role, but in the mission of, we want you to succeed here. And so we want this to be an inclusive environment. We want this to be a positive culture. And if you are experiencing things otherwise, we want to work through that. I think if you can make sure you're focused on all three of those components, you're getting ahead of anything that could potentially be a challenge. And it sounds like obviously, in your scenario, if these people are already progressing through the business and leading teams, you're doing a good job of that, or they wouldn't be growing within Thermo Fisher, right? So that's good. So Daniel, I'm hoping with the success that you've had in this area, what have you learned that you think is replicable in another area of the business or by another company in terms of, if you are committed to this, these things work?

Daniel: Yeah, it's not always that you can adapt one by one. In our case, we have the lucky situation that's because of the application background and the fact that our customers are, let's say, focusing on application. We had some kind of synergy in areas, I can assume, where this is not the case. It might be a bit more difficult. But nevertheless, I think it's important to ensure that you understand that you need to change something. You need to think about how you can lower the criteria and how you can find a solution as an example, and that was also one of our issues in the beginning, due to the fact that they don't have an electronics background, we had an issue with the electrical safety. So we decided to go for an internal program and implemented that certification program with safety officers. So we got rid of that risk and that criteria. And we were now able also for them to that they can sell from their own undercovers and replace a board if necessary and so on. So there is always a solution. And don't think about the problem, think about the solution. Once I tell you, gets an elephant in the room, you will think about the elephant, but not about the solution, how to get the elephant out of the room. So I think it's important to really step aside, step a step back and say, okay, that's my problem. Okay, but how should my solution looks like and how can I get to that point? And it doesn't matter which business you cover. I think it's important that you really map the situation and try things out. And maybe you're disruptive and you take a risk. But when you don't change it, you will fail from the very beginning.

 Sarah: Yeah. And I guess, what would you say to the people who are unwilling to get creative with this issue? Or maybe don't even recognize the importance of it?

 Daniel: At the end, I think they will fail because they can't unleash the power of people and they can't unleash the power of this diversity, which is necessary to be successful. And we are dealing in a situation where when we talk about STEM, there's only a handful of people who can cover open positions and everybody is keen to get someone from somewhere. But if there is no someone, then there is no somewhere. And that's why I think we need to open up the talent pool. And if you don't do that and you are not thinking of changing your plans and your strategy in the long run, I think those companies will fail. That's my clear statement here.

Sarah: Yeah. And I think often the objection is, well, it's more effort, it's more cost, right? But at the end of the day, you can point to these specific things you've done to review job postings, to create new roles because you understand what the barriers to entry are for more diverse candidates. You redefine things to reduce those barriers. You mentioned you have this electrical certification that is necessary, but rather than expecting people to come in with that, you looked for a way to provide that internally. These are all changes that you have proven are possible if you are willing to do the work. And I think you believe that the effort is well worth the outcome.

Daniel: Absolutely is.

Sarah: Yeah. Well, thank you for coming to share. Your little girls are lucky to have a dad who has the perspective you have and is working really hard to make changes that are benefiting diversity in the workforce now and will certainly have an impact once they get there. So I appreciate you caring about this topic personally, but also coming to share specifically what you've been able to do that has had a direct positive impact on the business so that others can hopefully be inspired to make some of those same changes.

Daniel: Thank you for having me here, Sarah. Really appreciate it.

 Sarah: It's a pleasure. All right. You can find more by visiting us at Be sure to stay tuned throughout this month as we continue to talk about topics that are important to inspiring inclusion. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening. Thank you for listening to the Future of Field Service podcast. We hope today's conversation has provided you with a light bulb moment or given you some valuable food for thought. To learn more about any of the topics discussed in this episode, visit us at If you enjoyed this episode, please don't forget to rate us on your favorite podcast platform to help others join the conversation. Also, remember to hit the subscribe button and turn on notifications so you don't miss a future episode. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. To learn more, visit On behalf of everyone at Future of Field Service, thank you for listening.

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