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VentureSum Newsletters

Mar. 18, 2013 - So, What Does It Take?

One of the things that VentureSum has never had too many of, is Field Operatives, otherwise known as Pole Counters. If you've read “A Day in the Life” (both parts), you know part of the story, at least the part that concerns the environs of the job. Another part concerns the human factor. It seems VentureSum is always looking for qualified people to fill the role of “Pole Counter”. First off, what a stupid term. I mean, that's like being called a “burnt potato chip picker”, or a “fan blade rotation analyzer”, or a “grass clippings weight guesser”. When people ask me what I do for a living, I pause and think for a minute, “How can I explain this so that it doesn't sound like I'm making it up?”. When I launch into my explanation, I can see their eyes start to glaze over, as if I was describing mathematically the gravitational forces acting between Mars and the Sun and that my dog can sometimes hear it. One time, I had my wife ride with me, just to show her what it is that I actually do. She lasted about 45 minutes, and vowed to never do it again. She said “I'd like to keep my sanity thank you very much”. It just points out that being a Pole Counter is not for everyone. I just wish the term didn't make it sound as if we were riding down the road saying, “...1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8...9...10...11...12, twelve, there are 12 utility poles on that street, let's go to the next street” (you old-timers can visualize Sesame Street whenever they were teaching in song how to count to the number 12). Seriously, the job involves much more than that, it's just that we see so many utility poles, that it becomes like “counting” them. Technically, Pole Counting is the gathering of information, be it a very specific thing or mass multiple things, concerning the wires and fibers and misc. items that are attached to utility poles. We must do this accurately, and usually with constant distraction, and enter the info into a computer, or onto a map, or both (that sometimes must be corrected before it can make any sense). And we have to go wherever the utility poles go, and I do mean everywhere.

So, back to our original question. What does it take to do the field portion of this job, or to be a “Pole Counter”? Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut or precise method that can be used to figure this out. So, the next best thing is to look at the people that are successful at doing it, and use them, or the way they think, as a model. At the same time, we can salute some of the individuals that work for the company. It's only appropriate to start with the original Pole Counter, and owner/founder of the company, Joey Johnson. Now, you have to understand that Mr. Johnson is a complex person (and my boss), and that I do not wish to analyze his personality. I don't have that long to live. I only want to point out the traits that made him such a good pole counter in the past. Some of the traits that are noticeable right away are the abilities to visualize and manipulate systems in 3 dimensions from a 2 dimension map/schematic, to be able to focus and maintain concentration on specific thing(s) in the midst of a number of distractions, while at the same time, able to multi-task physically, including the entering of data 100% accurately. Additionally, the ability to blend past experience into the current ongoing pole counting process, to adapt to changing environments and/or project specifications on a day to day basis. And to do all this without making mistakes. Individually, Mr. Johnson is able to “see” things that 99.9999% of the humans on the planet would not notice, or be able to see, even if it was pointed out to them.

All our Pole-Counters have these traits to one degree or another. Our most senior field representative, Joel Calvert, is also very methodical. He may not be the fastest counter (although he is plenty fast), but he is very accurate. He doesn't have to ever go back over his work. He is able to use his experience in the field to great efficiency, and he knows how to cure a cold or flu in one night. Very nice since time is money. Todd Doolittle is able to merge his ability to oversee the entire project, along with the details of his specific part of it, with his pole counting ability. And his knowledge of Chinese culture is irreplaceable. Brian Thompson is like a machine, in that, once pointed in the proper direction, and instructed what must be done, he tends to go like the Energizer Bunny. He just goes, and goes, and goes. Rick Rucker (who is no longer an employee, but can be one again anytime he wants) has shown us all how to travel, eat out all the time and be healthy simultaneously. In addition to being a self-starter and reliable, Rick demonstrates to us how to avoid other peoples germs in public places (because we are always in public places).

Other additions to the field pool also have traits that aid in their pole counting. Sam Marr has to be one of the most unflappable persons I've met. He just adapts and handles himself so professionally when people are screaming at him not to shut off their power (we get mistaken for those people quite a bit). When Sam is told that his next 6 months are going to be spent working in Timbuktu, he just says “well....okay”. Adaptation and flexibility is a big help here. With all the travel we do, we have to be able to negotiate with hotels etc. This ability is demonstrated greatly by Michael Smith. We just call him “the Militant Camel Trader”. Michael is able to stretch company resources to their fullest, getting the most out of them (think blood and turnip). But nobody questions his work ethic or honesty. Last but not least, intelligence plays a part. Cory “Genius” Bowman, displays everyday, the ability to think through any problems encountered in the field. Cory is also the only field guy that can hunt game from a moving vehicle (when the vehicle stays on the road and in one piece). Both Cory and Michael, though, when faced with a problem, aren't too proud to engage the older guys, in order to find a solution to something they haven't seen before, and that goes for everyone mentioned here. And they'll contact as many times as necessary in order to solve a problem. You have to like the perseverance. So, let's recap. In addition to the original abilities that were named with Joey, I added methodical and efficient, able to manage and track, precision and endurance, self-starting and reliability, adaptability and professionalism, work ethic, perseverance and honesty, intelligence and the willingness to ask others for help. I left myself off the list because,....well...., I'm doing the writing. Suffice it to say that I'm called “The Abrasive Yoda” by some of my co-workers. “Yoda” because I'm the oldest field guy and have lots of experience which I pass on to them, and “abrasive” because I don't mind being direct in my communications with people. That's because I do not fear hurting their feelings, just communicating the truth. So the ability that I bring is “able to communicate clearly” (hopefully) and “aging well”. I also do all the training (may the force be with you). With this type of work, tending to the details can make a world of difference, and I try to make sure all the guys have all the details. In any event, all these attributes are a “plus” in being a Pole Counter.

A brain that works with a mechanical or engineering slant, and has some understanding of how computers work, seems to be more able to be a successful Pole Counter than not. But all the other stuff is important too. The individual personality traits are important and add a lot. So after reading all this, you should have a good idea of whether you fit the mold or not. After all, VentureSum is always looking for qualified Pole Counters. Just FYI, I was allowed to be the guest writer for this piece instead of the regular guy who writes these articles.

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