17Mar

Ikea Furniture, Mike Rowe and Roots: A Full Technician Ride-Along Experience

One of the many things Zoom Drain prides itself on is that every new team member attends a ride-along after getting hired and beginning their career with the company. Potential apprentices will ride-along as a preliminary orientation but once an employee is onboarded, they get to see first hand how we do things. It doesn’t matter if you typically sit behind a desk or not, or even what department you’re in, learning the technical specifics of the day-to-day operations of our expert technicians offers a greater understanding of the service we provide our customers.

Our ride-along isn’t just one quick job but, instead, a full day experience – a multiple-stop practice that includes witnessing face-to-face customer interaction, problem solving and the various capabilities of Zoom Drain’s equipment and our service technician’s knowledge handling that equipment. It doesn’t matter if it’s residential or commercial, you follow along for the next drain and sewer problem that needs to be solved. And sometimes you don’t just watch, you help out like an apprentice, carrying supplies and asking questions – it can even get a little dirty!

I recently got the opportunity to discover what a day in the life of a Zoom Drain technician was like. For one day, I ditched my dress shoes for work boots, rolled up my sleeves and traded in the seat at my desk for a passenger seat in one of our custom-built Isuzu trucks. With a fully stocked – and sparkling clean – truck, I hit the road, to learn what it takes to be a technician.

Was I a little nervous – you bet. At 35-years-old, my professional career has sent me on an interesting journey, one where I spent significant time behind a desk or the wheel of an automobile. But I’m what I like to call “mechanically inept.” I don’t work well with tools, and even building Ikea furniture gives me a headache, so a day in the trades felt intimidating but, even though I looked like the new guy, I was immediately welcomed by Ben Kleiss, one of our Field Supervisors, who asked me questions to learn more about my background. In no time, we reached our first stop, which proved to be important even though we didn’t inspect a single pipe. 

All of the intimidation and nervousness I felt lifted quickly, interacting with the customer and inspecting their drain situation with Kleiss, who carefully explained every step of the process.

A local highrise was having issues with paper towels getting flushed and backing up their drains. It wasn’t the first time it happened and their drain frustration was clearly evident. Considering it continued to occur, we recommended a preventative maintenance plan to assure they wouldn’t be left with another mess on their hands. We sent over the information since the customer needed approval from supervisors and promised we’d be back immediately, upon agreement. They seemed eager and were pleased that it was no cost to them for us to assess the problem.

It was the perfect introduction for me to better understand the importance of the inspection.

From there it was off to a local business, where a backed up toilet was causing a headache. Something we all take for granted nearly every day but it was hindering operations. We carefully explained the process we’d need to take to find the issue and how we could defeat it. 

A camera snake quickly presented the problem to us – a clog caused by a low flow toilet that was getting more than significant use, much more than it would in a residential location. It called for our best solution – the water jet. Guiding it upwards of 25 feet, to the discovered clog, we sent a heavily-pressured stream of water, moving the hose to ensure it was breaking it all up. After pressuring other areas of the pipe, the camera went back down to be certain it was gone.

It was fascinating to see my first upclose drain clearing in progress. Each step was calculated and Kleiss had a gameplan of how he would attack it and what was the cause. There was no denying he’d done this a little more once or twice in his career and he had the experience.

Like so many of Zoom Drain’s technicians, Kleiss started as an apprentice – looking for a change from retail management. Now, at 33-years-old, he’s been with the company for almost seven years, moving up in the rankings while helping teach his skills to the next generation. He sees each drain as a challenge and has a passion for making sure every job is done correctly.

Me, on the other hand, I helped out where I could but also asked questions and learned a lot!

It was on the next stop that I began to feel like Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs. If you’re not familiar, the premise of Rowe’s television show is to send him on a job for a day to see what all goes into it, if he could handle the tasks and to spotlight careers that might not be considered glamorous. 

This stop was in another high rise apartment building, with local businesses on the ground floor, and it took plenty of examining before any work was done. With a maintenance manager monitoring our assessment and agreeing to the work, we found that the best approach was to cut open a segment of the wall and cut a portion of the vertical pipe behind it. From there, we stuck a camera down to better understand what was causing the backup and where the source of the problem was located. Turns out, there was a hole several feet down the pipe, so while we were able to jet it with water and get it clean – removing almost 60 years worth of grime, grease and whatever else was sitting in there – wastewater would still be able to exit through the hole.

After carefully explaining the issue, complete with photos from our camera snake, we then shared the next steps to fixing the hole. The drain was clearing properly but it was unclear where exactly the wastewater was draining, likely somewhere under the facility. We marked where the hole was and just how deep the pipe was, to save steps when we come back out to fix the situation, following the various approvals the facility owners need to move forward.

It was time to clean everything up, get into the truck and receive our next stop from dispatch. At this point, I noticed I had some grease and a little water on me. I felt like I had been initiated and my teacher explained to me that it was inevitable I’d get dirty. It just meant we were doing it right, because there’s times where you just have to get a little dirty to reach the proper solution.

A 20-minute journey found us at our last stop of the day, a nearby residential home that had recently had its front yard dug up, for reasons we didn’t know. After a brief conversation with the homeowner, the home had just received a new drain pipe leading to the township sewer line. A massive tree was removed and the excessive roots caused significant damage to the pipe. What we learned was that the replaced pipe wasn’t fully replaced all the way to the street, only partially, leaving several feet of the old line, which still had a chunk of roots in it.

What the customer thought was originally fixed was still resulting in a significant toilet backup. 

With the customer watching, we got to work. First, we used the camera snake to show him the issue, which was that the replaced pipe didn’t reach the township sewer and an old, five-foot section was blocked. We explained the best method would be water jetting with a special nozzle. The nozzle spins, blasting it with water as it grabs hold of the roots. After a bubbling cauldron at the pipe’s entry point and the smell of what seemed like burning roots and week-old spaghetti, we pulled out what felt like a trophy fish. It was a combination of roots, a little toilet paper and grease – a tangible thing showing the customer exactly what was the problem.

The customer snapped a couple of photos of the prized clog and we stuck the camera snake back down to assure him that everything was cleared and he’d no longer have toilet backups. The look on his face when we pulled out the clog was pure joy and he must’ve said “thank you” seven times. The sense of relief, knowing the problem was solved, was extremely rewarding.

After following up with dispatch to see what our next destination would be, back to the warehouse we went, a little tired, a little dirty but feeling a sense of accomplishment – feeling like we’d been through the day’s events together. On the way back, I reflected on the day. What I gained today was more than just firsthand knowledge of what Zoom Drain does but also an appreciation for each of our technicians and the important service they provide every day.

While tomorrow I would be heading back to my desk and my dress shoes, Kleiss would be preparing to do it all over again, cleaning the truck, interacting with customers – all of it. 

10Feb

Coffee Shop Lessons

I’ve had about a thousand jobs. I’ve handed out cheese samples in the mall. I’ve hawked frozen pizzas in the supermarket. I’ve taught skiing and windsurfing. I’ve been a grape-picker, a maid and a lifeguard. And, before I got into the drain industry, I spent a lot of time working in restaurants.

Perhaps the job that had the biggest impact on me was waitressing at Foxy John’s, a coffee shop in San Diego. The owner of Foxy John’s was a woman named Jackie. This was back in 1980 and I was 21-years-old. My pay was $2.01 per hour plus tips.

On day one, Jackie told me, “Your employment is dependent on three things. First, you must tell the truth. Lie, cheat or steal and you are gone. Second, do things our way. We’ve got a system here and it works. You are welcome to make suggestions, as you earn your stripes. Third, you must wear the uniform.”

Of course, the uniform was awful. It consisted of yards of thick polyester, the color of poop, and horrible, bright white, nurse’s shoes. Ugh. On my first day, I showed up wearing the dreaded uniform, and promptly tested the limits.  

I cornered another waitress, Alyssa, while she was filling saltshakers.

“So, what’s Jackie really like? She talks a big game, but would she fire you if you didn’t wear these awful shoes?” 

Alyssa said, “The place is always packed and the money is so good. The work is easy and fun. Why risk it over the shoes? What’s the point?”

Suddenly, I felt petty. What was the point? Alyssa said kindly, “The shoes bug everyone at first. Jackie has weird taste. Still, I think you’re going to like it here.”

Every day I bought more of what Jackie was selling. She was a fanatic about numbers. Everything we sold was documented on this huge white board. Total sales, average sales, number of customers. Selling was the game – and there were contests everyday.  What a competitive bunch of women! Once, I bought a brownie myself just to break the tie and win the dessert contest.

In exchange for wearing the uniform and doing things her way, Jackie made good on her promise. I made lots of money and I had a blast. She also taught me about sales. Here are sales tips from the coffee shop:

  • Smile. Show some teeth.
  • You might just be the best part of someone’s day. Talk to them. Give them something good to talk about after you’re gone.
  • Ask questions. Listen more than talk.  
  • Answer questions. Give them what they want.
  • Just offer nice options. No need to push anything.  
  • Support the people who support you. They make your life easier.
  • Take responsibility. At some point, you are going to screw up. Apologize and resolve the problem.

Can we make the connections for the drain world? Sure! Jackie taught me about sales. And discipline. Most importantly, Jackie taught me about leadership. If she could get me to wear that uniform, well, what wouldn’t I do for her?  

Six months later, I graduated and moved away. Now, I appreciate what she taught me.  At the time, I didn’t get how great we were. I assumed lots of businesses operated like Foxy John’s. I thought it was just a typical coffee shop. I didn’t realize how extraordinary it was.  

I try to bring these lessons to work every day at Zoom Drain. I love our team and what we are creating every day. It’s not just drains. It’s extraordinary – what we aspire to do and be, the problems we solve and the opportunity to work with you. Thank you! Xo$ Ellen

31Jan

What Exactly Does The Drain & Sewer Apprentice Training Program At Zoom Drain Entail?

One thing separating Zoom Drain from its competitors is that we provide the education and the tools to evolve into one of our expert technicians. While prior experience is certainly welcome, it’s not required – you can quickly get on the path to a new career without any prior knowledge.

We offer a comprehensive paid training program stemming from decades worth of experience, a wealth of manuals, hands-on education, and a support system that will lead to success. You won’t find that anywhere else! But what exactly should an apprentice expect from our program?

What To Expect The First Day

It all starts with an introduction to fellow apprentices and an orientation. From there, students will undergo an overview of plumbing systems, specifically sewers and drains, though they need to have an understanding of how it all works together. On top of that, they get an overview of the industry – a brief history, a look at how it’s all evolved, and the change in codes and standards. But why is it important to learn drain and sewer technology from well over a century ago?

“Most of the plumbing – the drains – were based on research done at the turn of [the 19th Century],” says John Galligan, Zoom Drain’s Trainer. “At that point, when you flushed a toilet, you probably put seven gallons of water down the line, so you’ve got four-inch cast iron pipes. Today, you’ve got 1.28 gallons going down and if we were building that today, we wouldn’t use four-inch, we wouldn’t use cast iron, so it’s helping you understand how things are going.”

Along with overviews, they’ll get a tour of the facility and a better grasp of the tools of the job.

Moving Along During The First Week

After a visual and hands-on introduction to the basic tools they’ll be using, along with the specific function of each tool and proper identification, apprentices will learn about the cable equipment. The goal of learning these specifics right away will prove immensely beneficial.

“So, when a technician says, ‘Get me the pump pliers, or get me the channel locks, or get me the whatever’ you’re going out to the truck and you have an idea – you know what they’re looking for and you know where to find it,” adds Galligan. “So, when they do that first ride-along, that first week, they’re helpful. They’re not drones, doing nothing – and it just makes it real.”

Ride alongs begin right away, in the first week. Typically, apprentices will spend one day of each week in a truck with an expert technician, gaining more knowledge. It’s imperative these future technicians see the real-world application out in the field, helping other team members and viewing how they do it.

Continuing On The Path To Success

With a significant amount of training under their belt, it’s time to start taking things apart. In small groups, the apprentices will disassemble toilets, sinks, bathtub drains, and more. It gives them the ability to see how exactly everything works and to become familiar with common drains. Seeing and doing are two different things – this can be a great way of building muscle memory. 

“If another option is to give you something to take apart and leave you alone, but you’re really engaged, that’s more productive than even having class,” says Galligan. “I kind of follow where your passion is going. That’s the driver – we chase wherever the passion is.”

Galligan might follow their passion but he does so with an extensive curriculum. There’s a checklist to make sure every student learns exactly the abilities necessary for success, which includes 114 boxes filled with visual aids, little reminders for each step on their journey. Galligan always makes sure to let his students know that if they have questions, to make sure they ask. There are no dumb questions and they won’t get lectured about how they “should know that” but, instead, spotlight the answer to the student and the group, to yield a better understanding.

Once there’s a proper familiarization with bathroom fixtures, it’s time to highlight the commercial services Zoom Drain provides, specifically grease traps for commercial kitchens. It’s also time for a deeper dive into the cable equipment and how exactly to dismantle it and change out the parts, in case there’s an equipment issue on-site, a technician will be able to troubleshoot it.

Once apprentices have learned, seen, and received hands-on practice, it’s time to go out on a call. When they go out on various field trips, in a group, the supervisor isn’t there to help, instead, they just watch to ensure the apprentices discover mistakes and don’t get hurt.

“They do everything,” says Galligan. “My job is basically to keep them safe. Other than that, if they’re in the process of making a mistake that they are going to see themselves, that’s not going to cause damage, I just let them do it – the guys go through the whole process.”

Reaching The Finish Line As An Expert

Towards the end of the class, it’s all about constantly recapping. At this point, the supervisor works on anything he’s noticed the team might be struggling with. It’s basically crossing t’s and dotting the i’s, looking back on what they’ve done and how they can do it better in the future. And highlighting things that ensure the best – and most efficient – customer service possible.

“You pull up to a house, where do you park – it’s a simple thing, “Galligan admits. “But, there are mailboxes the mail carrier has to get to, did you park in front of them? Did you go down the driveway – or should you go down the driveway? Do you go down the driveway after you ask? If you park it in the driveway, are you blocking the garages or is someone coming on here?”

Now, after the apprentices have done some roleplaying with employees acting as customers, the group is ready to ride along every day, for a few weeks, to assist and develop their skills, everything from highly technical tasks to providing exceptional face-to-face customer service.

“If you’re a really quiet person, we’re not going to make you gabby! We’re going to help make that work for you. If you’re struggling with something, we find someone that’s really good at it – and they’ll ride with you. At the end of the day, it’s about training the next level of professionals, not just robots. We’re looking for professionals that really understand the physics of how drain and sewers work and how the equipment works – and how to be efficient at it,” noted Galligan.

29Dec

Six Buzzwords (And Phrases) To Avoid At All Cost When Building Your Résumé

Obtaining your desired career begins well before any interview, any phone conversation or even any employment listing – it all starts with your resume. Your resume is the foundation of your experience, an extensive look into what you’ve accomplished and what skills you’re capable of.

It’s a brief, but crucial, summary of you and your personality, so before you submit your resume to an employer, make sure it’s the best it can be – and helps to get your foot in the door. Making it stand out and get noticed is important, however you want to approach it the right way. Here’s a few tips for polishing your resume, as well as some common buzzwords and phrases you’ll want to avoid (at all cost).

Examine The Look And The Language

Recruiters can look at dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes in a single day. They typically don’t spend much time with each resume, so you want it to stand out immediately – but how do you do that? Much of that comes down to the look of your resume. Don’t send an identical resume from all of those job posting sites, using an aggregator 15 others applying for the same position used. Ditch it and, instead, give it some tweaks and make it your own. A cookie-cut resume is boring and your uniqueness could help you get noticed in a hurry. While you’re at it, avoid attaching multiple photos – if you want to add a photo, just include a small one. This isn’t your Facebook or Instagram account, use words instead of photos to best promote your skills.

“Make sure your resume is organized and easy to read,” says Teresa Mangano, Recruiting and Team Development Professional. “Just make sure it flows well – and make it unique!”

When push comes to shove, your resume is all about wording. It’s imperative that you check for spelling and grammar errors before submitting it. One mistake might slide but multiple mistakes will probably raise a red flag and cause the recruiter to move on to the next potential employee.

“Spell Check is your friend – make sure you always use it when creating your resume,” added Mangano.”

You also want it all to sound professional, using words and phrases that elevate your identity, rather than just more basic verbage that makes it sound like someone with a lack of experience. But there’s a fine line with language and buzzwords – a fashionable word or phrase. Sure, it might look and sound great to you but it might make recruiters cringe. Every word counts here and if you’re using stale, overused or generalized language, you might be overlooked.

Synergy or Team Player

What you believe it says: “I work well in a group, performing seamlessly with multiple employees.” 

A former scientific term that has morphed into business jargon, synergy is one of the most overused buzzwords you’ll find on a resume. Synergy has been used to death – and sometimes done so incorrectly – and won’t impress recruiters. Just stick to simple terms when describing your accomplishments or, better yet, give a good example of how you rallied the team to unite.

Rockstar, Ninja, Expert or Guru

What you believe it says: “I am the best at this specific task or subject.”

You might know something extremely well, however it doesn’t mean you can just throw around titles such as “expert’ or “rockstar.” If you’re a true expert, just let your reputation speak for itself and turn your focus to action words to display your knowledge, your years of experience and training and give precise examples that demonstrate your authority on the subject or task.

Hard Worker or Go-Getter

What you believe it says: “I am dedicated to work and will strive to go above and beyond.”

Including “hard worker” really doesn’t add much to what you offer. Of course, you’re a hard worker, that kind of goes without saying – and if you aren’t, you wouldn’t admit it! Provide actual examples of how you go above and beyond, instead of just stating the obvious. Work like “achieve” or “accomplish” both might be more suitable, eye-grabbing words in its substitution.

Outside The Box or Creative

What you believe it says: “I am able to develop new and unique ideas.”

So, you think outside the box – then why did you use one of the most common resume phrases when describing yourself? It kind of undermines this descriptor if you don’t include examples. Just ditch the word all together and, like previous buzzwords, concentrate on examples of how you implemented and developed successful updated strategies in previous endeavors.

Responsible or Detail Oriented

What you believe it says: “This is a specific task I am in charge of.”

Including “responsible” might sound good, but it conveys vagueness, making it unclear what role you might’ve played. Were you the leader, someone who just handled part of the overall task, etc? Get more specific and delve into what you did using words like “directed” or “managed.”

Excellent Communicator

What you believe it says: “I have the ability to successfully speak and listen to people.”

Much like “hard worker,” this one is something you really don’t need to convey, because it kind of goes without saying. If you weren’t a great communicator, you wouldn’t admit it. Instead, just change up the wording, using different buzzwords such as “listen” and “action” to better illustrate how you were able to effectively implement your communication skills. Providing instances when it proved beneficial, such as listening to customer feedback to better implement a system.

30Sep

Victory Never Tasted So Sweeney

Mike Sweeney Takes Zoom Drain Technician of The Year

The Zoom Drain Tech of the Year is determined by reviewing all of the service jobs each tech completed throughout the fiscal year. Total revenue, total average dollars per job and total average opportunity per job are all taken into consideration. While many technicians performed above and beyond this year, these statistics made it clear that Mike Sweeney is our Zoom Drain Tech of the Year. Also honored this year is another Philadelphia branch Technician, Zouheir Machkir, who earned second place – great work to you!

15Sep

DYNASTY!

Zoom Drain New England Establishes Dynasty With 2021 Franchisee of the Year Award

It doesn’t get any better than this!

Not since Tom Brady and the New England Patriots has the northeastern part of the country seen such a dominant performance.  Zoom Drain New England reached a whole new legacy level in 2021, pulling off a three-peat with it’s third Franchisee of the Year win in a row. Congratulations to Owners Sam Marcisso, Jr., Sam Marcisso III and the rest of the championship Team of Zoom Drain New England for this honor!

30Jun

Bold Chances: Meet Marquise James

Finding A Career, Not Just A Job, At Zoom Drain

This was it – rock bottom.

For service technician Marquise James, all of his temp jobs led him to a recycling company, picking through trash. Every day was spent sorting through mountains of putrid, rotting waste. All the while, James couldn’t stop thinking that there had to be something better out there that would help him achieve the lofty goals he had long set for himself.