The Experience Behind ChiComm
I recently asked Rich what he thought was ChiComm’s greatest strength. He answered, “It has to be the combination of younger and older generations benefiting from each other. A lot of the old guys have RF and component expertise while the new guys are experienced with networking and computers, so we all learn from each other. The younger guys come in very eager to learn from us and when the team gets to hear the old way of doing something vs. hearing a newer different perspective, everyone’s helping each other find the best solution.” Rich hits his 29 years of working with Chicago Comm this November. By this measure that qualifies him as one of the “older guys” around the shop. He started back when cellular had just launched commercially.
ChiComm was extremely busy in '83 due to cellular’s entrance in the market and there were tons of installers who were most familiar with cellular. Rich had the advantage of having experience with putting in two way radios in vehicles for trucking firms and other businesses. A couple years passed before Rich moved from installations to being a field technician. Typical work in the field included responding to service calls (i.e. “something's not working, not receiving, not transmitting, not powering up”) and working on the agencies’ two way radios and equipment. Eventually he started getting into deeper component level work with radios when he worked in the shop. To find out why something doesn't work is more challenging because it forces you to look into issues with the integrated circuit board. His goal was always to ultimately become a radio technician.
Going back to the early years of his career(1977-1983) Rich worked for a competitor as a courier until he started repairing control heads, microphones, speakers, and from there started doing installs and putting squad cars together (like pictured in photo). Later he started doing radio repair on the bench and field technician work, again responding to service calls in the field. So when he landed the job at ChiComm he had more than enough experience for a strong start.
When computer and data systems started coming out in the late 80's he went on to help police/fire departments place this new equipment in the cars. The very first ‘Computers’ in cars only sent data back and forth, helping dispatch, and making it easier to type in the plate in the car instead of calling into dispatch to run the plate. Keep in mind before these devices an officer would have to call in every license plate. Because these data systems saved officers time, they became the new standard. Police were able to start typing messages to each other without using radios. It was still much later before laptops like today were put in the cars.
Rich alternated his time back and forth between working on portables, installs and working with these data systems. At that time no departments had IT guys, so he would be setting up the computers for them. Rich still works on data systems today along with programming digital radios (MOTOTRBOs). And when new people are hired, he is one of the technicians training them and getting them started. When a customer orders radios through our sales department, Rich has a part in making that purchase come to life. He helps make sure whatever options the customer wants are correctly put into the system. Rich spends time with customers teaching them about how to set up their digital portables and answering their questions. If they ask him something new, he finds out the answer. He most enjoys the challenges, like when someone here will give him a scenario and he has to problem solve to find the solution.
According to Rich the best part about ChiComm(which we hear a lot) is: “The people. It’s more of a family, plus the way the owners treat us, (Cindy and Kurt)... they look out for us. Also how I mentioned the sharing of knowledge amongst our team. If you don't have a strong team, there would be some friction and the customer would see that.”
When he's not at ChiComm, Rich volunteers for the Huntly Police Department. He helps by directing traffic during parades and special events. If he hadn’t gone into a career as a radio technician he would have been a cop. But at least this way he’s kind of getting the best of both worlds! The other pictures shown are views of a memorable trip Rich took to the top of the (formerly known) Sears Tower.
This article was written by Jill McNamara, Internet Marketing Coordinator at Chicago Communications. Jill has written all of the Meet Our Techs & Employee Spotlight articles for ChiComm's blog and continues to seek opportunities for similar articles from current employees & customers. If you'd like to submit a suggestion, Contact Us!