Being thrown the keys to a service vehicle and asked, “when can you start?” is a throwback to a simpler time as far as job interviews are concerned.
Wayne Liddell fondly remembers that exchange he had with Andy Fraser (recently retired after 40 years of service) back in 1990. Across the subsequent decades, Wayne has worked across almost all the technical divisions of the company, becoming an invaluable resource for our business, and establishing himself as the go-to guy when it comes to solving customer problems.
A well-defined technical career path
Wayne is from Melbourne originally and the foundations of his career path were laid in his teens at Clayton Technical School. “Back then, once you finished primary school you went to a tech school and you learnt the basics of it all – woodwork, electronics, sheet metal work, fitting and machining, automotive and so on”, he explains. “After three-years at tech you’d make your mind up where you wanted to go, so I aligned myself with the mechanical trades”. After technical school Wayne joined the Royal Australian Navy as a marine technical propulsion apprentice. He spent ten years with the Navy and by the time he left was a Leading Seaman in Marine Technical Propulsion class 3 (LSMTP3). That’s a marine engineering technician for us civilians.
The sliding doors moment
As with many of us, it’s often a small decision that can change the course of our future and this was certainly the case for Wayne. A connection through a family friend led to a change in direction for him and he began working for a small company in the air compressor industry. Wayne worked for the company for a few years, becoming a proficient technician before leaping at a new opportunity with Champion Compressors who were subsequently acquired by Sullair.
An ever-evolving career
Wayne worked as a field technician for his first 5 years at Champion, before moving through various roles from 1995 including service supervisor, service coordinator, and service sales. “These opportunities just came up”, says Wayne. “I’m a person who never misses an opportunity and that’s how I’ve got to where I am now”. After sitting in the role of Victorian Service Manager from 2000 to 2006, Wayne completed a Certificate 4 in Workplace Training and Assessment and applied for the role of Field Technical Training Engineer.
Opportunities out of the Global Financial Crisis
During the global financial crisis, Wayne honed his multi-tasking abilities by running the Victorian service operations while also taking on a quality control function and field technical training. The company adapted, and Wayne remembers it as a challenging time when everyone rallied around to support each other. A culture which persists to this day.
As the economy improved and the company grew, Wayne continued to accept new opportunities in addition to his existing roles. “I was on the commissioning support team for the Queensland Gas Installation, delivering compressor packages to 23 sites over about 18 months”. Wayne had progressed to become one of the most experienced people at the company, and he was sent to trouble-shoot customer issues that couldn’t be fixed locally or over the phone.
A trip to Madagascar
“We supplied a drill compressor to a global drill manufacturing company with operations in Madagascar and back in 2015, there was a regulator problem we’d been trying to resolve with emails and phone calls.” To expedite the solution, the client requested Sullair attend in person. Within 2 hours of getting on site, Wayne was able to solve the issue, arrange for parts and install them once delivered. Completion included thorough testing to make sure the problem was resolved, just an example of what Sullair does to support our customers. “It took about 3 days for the parts to come across from South Africa – during which the mine superintendent took great care of me, even arranging a trip to a local rainforest while I waited for the parts.”
In addition to Madagascar, Wayne has been sent all over the world including Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and New Zealand as well as remote sites across Australia. “The problems I get sent to seem to be very unique. Which has kept my journey with Sullair very interesting.”
The Sullair training advantage
It seems the role of Quality and Training Manager is what Wayne has enjoyed the most. “I like passing on knowledge and I enjoy watching other people grow. Our training is pretty mature, and it keeps evolving.” Sullair provides our technical team with detailed training in compressor operation and air end management, that’s tailored to our customer requirements and their compressors.
Training can be delivered remotely via video conferencing, but the more complex levels need that in-person approach. “We offer training in one day or across multiple days in one or two shifts and I usually ask for access to one of the customers’ machines for some practical hands-on learning.” Our level 3 training needs to be face-to-face, and these sessions with experienced field service technicians are as useful for Wayne as they are for the participants. “Being a facilitator means you have to learn before you teach so I really enjoy the interactions with the field service guys – especially if they’ve been around for a while. Their insights are invaluable, and we update our training in line with their contributions”.
All attendees get a certificate at the end and though the training is customer focussed we also deliver it internally for staff, at a level that is supportive to their role. We do this so we can confidently support our customers throughout all levels of the business.
So, what’s next?
Wayne turned 60 in June 2022, so retirement is certainly on his mind – but he’s not done yet. “My wife and I relocated to Brisbane recently because this is where we want to be when I retire – close to my children and grandchildren. But I love what I do so there’s no reason why I can’t work for another decade or more, provided I’m fit and healthy”. When asked to reflect on his career and its highlights, Wayne becomes emotional and talks immediately of his colleagues. “Sullair is my work family. In everyone’s life you have some good times and some pretty dark times as well. In some of those dark years the Sullair family has supported me very well.”