071. Hero – Jonathan Fuller, Automation & Power Product Manager

Chris 00:50

All right. Welcome to this episode of EECO Asks Why. This is one of the fun episodes that I enjoy doing the most, it’s a hero episode. And today we have with us are our automation and power product manager from South Carolina, Mr. Jonathan Fuller, he’s been at EECO a little over a year.

And really looking forward to this conversation to learn a little bit more about Jonathan, to share that with our listeners. So Jonathan welcome hope you’re having a great day. Can you just get us started by telling us a little bit about the journey, to your role that you’re in now?

Jonathan: 01:41 

Yeah. Thank you. Thanks for having me guys. And, so, you I started in college as a electrical engineer and, when I graduated, I graduated in December of 2010 and, The job market was not great for engineers back then. I actually found a job working in a call center, for a company, working in supporting on a technical support for some UPS devices and that’s kinda how I got my foot in the door.

So a year later I was able to moved back home to South Carolina from Rhode Island where I was working, for a year and able to come back home and work in a manufacturing plant as a application engineer, designing switch gear. I worked my way through that for a couple of years and ended up being a lead, a team lead application engineer.

 I just kinda got tired of some of the politics and things like that involved at the plant. So I transitioned, to an inside sales role and doing some quotes and things he’s like that. And reading one lines and specs and helping customers. So I did that for several years and, I tried to get some promotions into outside sales and things just didn’t work in my favor.

I actually found EECO, through a job posting website and I read all about it and got pretty excited. And so I applied and within, I think, about an hour and a half of me applying HR was on the phone with me; interviewing me right then and there, asking me who I am and what I do and why I applied. I kind of went through the interview process with EECO and the rest is history, as they say.

I’ve been with EECO for a little over a year now and I love it. It’s a great company to work for and I really enjoy my current role, you know, Automation and Power Product Manager in South Carolina. I feel like it’s a good mix of engineering and sales and so I’m out in front of customers pretty much every day. And getting to help them with some of their problems and applications that they might have and so I get to help them and teach them some things and I learned some things and, kind of go from there. So it’s a great fit and I enjoy it.

Chris: 03:42 

Very cool. Very cool. Good shout out to our VP of HR, Ms. Julia Hills., there man on the, the callback response sound like you, you must have really triggered something. She wanted to talk to you pretty quick.

Jonathan: 03:54

 Yeah. I was surprised by that.

Chris: 03:56 

So let’s go, hold on. Before we go too far, you mentioned college now. I know you’re you go ahead. This is your opportunity. So what’s your Alma mater?

Jonathan: 04:07 

I’m a Carolina Gamecock for life. So I went to university of South Carolina here in Columbia, South Carolina,

Chris: 04:14 

Because I know when you cross that line and South Carolina that really is the line that’s the real Carolina, right?



Yeah. so we are the real Carolina, if you, do you talk about USC or Carolina? And you’re from, you know, in South Carolina, things like that, people know who you’re talking about. If you step outside of South Carolina and you mentioned USC, people think about that stupid school over in California. And you mentioned the real Carolina or Carolina and outside of South Carolina that people think about that, that yucky blue color up in North Carolina.

Chris: 04:46 

All right now, easy. We’ve got a lot of Tar Heel fans that are probably listening. You know, I’m in a neutral zone cause I went to a Old Dominion, so I don’t have a dog in this flight, but, it’s fun. It’s fun to hear the dogs bark at each other. So anyway, thank you for that, Jonathan. It’s really cool to hear some of your story on how you got to where you were. You know, you’re in industry a lot, man. you, you’re in front of customers, you’re talking with end users and engineers.

What do you see as some of the greatest challenges that industry is going to have over the next, three, five years?

Jonathan: 05:23 

Yeah. I mean some of the challenges and I experienced a lot of this when I worked at the plant, it’s just the as they say the changing of the guard. I mean, you’ve got a lot of people that are getting a little bit older and getting ready to retire and just the wealth of knowledge that they have. They have so much knowledge and then you’ve got young guys like me, or fresh out of college that are coming in and they’re expected to pick up that slack and start exactly where these other people left off. And there’s just no way for them to know the amount of knowledge that these other people that are getting ready to retire have.

Some of the biggest issues that, we’re gonna face in industry coming up. It’s just the lack of knowledge and I think that’s a great place for, people like us at EECO to step in and help, cause we’ve been doing this for a while and so we can help this new generation with some of that knowledge gap that might be out there.

And that’s what I look forward to doing every day. I enjoy being able to go to customers and talk with them and teach them about some of the stuff that I know and that I do and kind of help them pass that knowledge along.

Chris: 06:31 

Absolutely. That is a key point, man, that knowledge gap is it’s retiring out, and one thing we’ve talked about you and I offline is mentors and importance of a mentor. There’s no time greater than now in industry, in the United States than if you’re out there and you had that experience, it’s a great time to be a mentor to somebody right? And also if you’re inexperienced, try to find that mentor, someone that can guide you and direct you and your career paths. So on that same topic, who has been a great mentor for you and your career and why?

Jonathan: 07:13 

Yeah. I mean, I’ve had a couple of good mentors and I had one in college actually, and it was one of my lab teachers, Mr. David Metts and he taught me electricity, 101 or 102 lab. And it was one of those things that a freshman level lab, and we’re going in there learning about different things with electricity and stuff. And if we had a question, we’d go to Mr. Metts and say, “Hey, Mr. Metts, can you help me with this?” And the thing he would always go back to and, and it stuck with me forever and I still mentioned it all the time. He would say, “What did Google tell you?” And you look at him like, what do you mean? He’s like, “Well, you’ve got a problem. Did you research it? Did you look into it before you just came to me for an answer?” And if you couldn’t tell him, “Yeah, I went and looked and I tried this and this and it didn’t work.” If you couldn’t tell him that he wouldn’t help you, he’d send you back to your lab station and say, “All right, look it up and then come back to me.” That’s always stuck with me and, I don’t just go ask somebody for an answer right away. I like to be able to look into it and do my own research and then if I need help, I’ll do it.

You know, another good mentor I had was when I was an application engineer. He’d been doing it for a while and eventually he ended up, he was a senior engineer. He ended up being my boss later on as I was there, but, Robert Aull, he was a great engineer there and he was able to help teach me some different things about switch gear and how to design it and how to read a one line and things like that. And he sat down and spent time with me and went through some of the ins and outs of being there. And I knew that if I ever had a question that I couldn’t get an answer to, I could go sit down with Robert and he would take the time out and spend some time with me and go over some stuff and, help me fully understand the topic.

Chris: 09:05

 I mean, that’s so great. You mentioned, and I think in both of those, situations, the one thing that stood out to me from hearing your story was how willing they were to take time. And as this country continues to grow and manufacturing becomes more and more important we’re going to have to be able to prioritize, taking that time to help others develop. So great examples that you had there. So let’s talk about the work that you’re in right now and stuff that the projects that you get involved with, what gets you the most excited about in the future?

Jonathan: 09:45 

Yeah. I mean, you with just how rapidly everything’s growing and quickly manufacturers ramping up here in the United States. I love being able to go to a customer and, you know, obviously I enjoy helping any customer with anything I can, but some of the times when the customer has got a new project coming up and they’re like, “Hey, we want to be able to do this. And how do we do it at the blank slate? How do we get from A to B here?” I love being able to sit down with them and talk about their needs and then help them come up with a system, an automation or a power distribution system, or both even to get from A to B and help them figure that out. Then be able to help them implement it once they’ve made that decision and that purchase, kind of go in and help them set it up. That’s a lot of fun to me and that’s what I enjoy doing the most.

Chris: 10:37 

So is that what you get the most fulfillment out of right now? And you work.

Jonathan: 10:41 

Yeah, absolutely. That, and I’ve always been one that enjoy being able to teach and train others. I do a lot of training for not only customers, but even for our own employees at EECO, I do training for them to help them understand and better themselves on certain topics. I really enjoy being able to teach people things, and just being able to see that aha moment or that got it moment. Like when it just clicks inside of their head and they realize that, their face changes or things like that. And they’re like, “Yeah, I get it now.” And so I really enjoy being able to help people get to that realization.

Chris: 11:21 

Absolutely. It sounds like you’ll be a great mentor to people as you grow as well in your career. And that’s great. We need definitely need more of that. So let’s talk about a highlight. You get anything in your career so far that you just slipped back on? You say, “Man, that was really cool.” And it could be recent. It could be way back, anything you’d like to share.

Jonathan: 11:43 

Yeah, so back when I was a application engineer doing switch gear, we had a large account that we’d been dealing with for years and years for a automotive manufacturer. And the last time they’d purchased large amounts of gear was in the late nineties to retrofit a lot of their plants. And this was in about 2011, 2012, they’d come back to purchase more gear and get it designed. And the spec hadn’t really changed in those last 15 years. And so I was the application engineer working on it, and as I was working through it, I was going off of their specs as well as their old records and, or the previous drawings. And I realized that there had been an error in, what the application engineer before me had done and some of their protective relay. And so I brought that up to the engineers that work at this automotive manufacturer and they went back and looked at it and were like, “Yeah, you’re right.”

And while it didn’t look good for the company that I worked for at the time, because we had made an error, it was good to be able to bring that in and show them like, “Hey, this is what we did. This is what we need to do, and this is how we’re going to fix it.” So I was able to come up with a plan, not only for the new equipment that I was designing, but also a retrofit plan for all that existing lineups that were in the field. There was about 50 or 60 lineups in the field that had to be retrofitted. So I was able to help them do that and get them the protection level of relay scheme they needed. One of the things that my mentor there at the plant told me at the time was, “Not everybody’s going to remember you for the mistakes that you’ve made, but what they are going to remember you for is how you fixed it.” So that kind of resonated with me that I was able to help fix those errors and get them what they needed.

Chris: 13:42 

And that sounds like that needs to be printed on a poster and put up in the lab somewhere, man. That’s great advice. That’s killer. So let’s talk about goals, man. We just to shift gears a little bit, what’s the personal goal you set how do how do you track to them?

Jonathan: 14:01 

You know so a personal goal is just to learn more and just expand the knowledge that I have and be able to pass that along to people. I mean, that’s one that there’s no real time limit on that one. I guess that’s a long-term lifetime goal to have, but you can track it by just some of the different trainings and the amount of customers that I’ve helped. And been able to show them different things when they get it, there’s just one more person that I’ve been able to help. so yeah, I that’s just, I know that’s a goal that I guess a lot of people would have, but that’s one of mine.

Chris: 14:43 

Okay. Let’s think about the field that you’re in there are a lot of, preconceptions of what engineers are and product managers are and things like that.

What’s a myth that you’d like to debunk right now. You had the stage, you can say, “You know what people think we do this, but this is not true. This is what this is what is accurate.” Is there anything that you’d like to take advantage of this time and talk about here?

Jonathan: 15:11

Yeah, you know, for a lot of people, I’m an electrical engineer by degree from the great University of South Carolina. A lot of people think engineers don’t have fun and they just sit behind a computer with the glasses on and that typical, “They’re a nerd or they just sit there and design robots and do things like that,” but, I mean, I worked with several great engineers at our company and we all like to have fun, we liked to go out and, eat and drink and have fun and hang out with each other. You know, engineers are not just all those nerdy people that sit behind a computer or locked away in a lab. We know how to have fun as well.

Chris: 15:50  

Very good, man. I love it. Love it. So since you went there let’s go ahead and talk a little bit more about you personally, do you have any hobbies?

Jonathan: 16:01 

Yeah, absolutely. Fortunately I have a great wife and, we have our four-year-old son. a lot of my hobbies just include, you know, I like to go and, I’m not real big into fishing or golf and things like that, but I do like to go blow stuff up and shoot stuff, typical southerner. Another one of my big hobbies and passions is actually woodworking. So I enjoy being able to go out into my shop with some wood and build stuff. I’ve got some great outdoor Adirondack chairs that, I don’t think they’re great, but everybody else that comes by and sees them, loves them. And I’ve had a couple of requests on building some for people, but I really enjoy being able to do stuff like that. I’ve built, several different kinds of furniture and stuff like that. And my son’s at the age now where he’s getting more and more into being able to help daddy around the house and do things.

So I look forward to, him being able to be out there in the shop with me and kind of helped me build some different furniture and fun projects.

Chris: 17:09 

Absolutely, man, it sounds like he has some fun things going on, there outside of work, which is very important, man, you gotta have a way kinda, just get away from it all and to recharge your batteries. I seen your chairs by the way. They are awesome. So don’t downplay yourself. You definitely have a skill there.

Yeah. Great stuff, man. Great stuff. So if you just kind shift for your real quick, a piece of advice that you’d like to give someone, that may be considering coming into this industry. What would that piece of advice be?

Jonathan: 17:47

Yeah, absolutely. The electrical industry it’s one of those old, Good ol’ Boys Club thing like that. And when you first start in this industry, you’re not going to know everything. And a lot of times, you go call on some customers or talk to people at plants that have been doing it for a long time. They’re going to want to test your knowledge and they’re going to test you hard when you first get there and just find out, How full of yourself are you, or how much do you really know? And things like that. So just be aware of that and be ready for that. And don’t get razzled by it and it’s okay if you don’t know everything.

I certainly don’t know everything and if a customer asks me a question that I can’t answer, I don’t try give them a crap answer or things like that. I’ll tell them straight up that’s a good question. And I don’t really know the answer to that, but what I will do is I’ll find out and get back to you.

If you don’t know something and people are asking you that question, just be honest with them. being honest with yourself and then get, find that answer out and let your customer know what you find out. Don’t forget about them. Don’t just brush it off and, “Oh, you know, whatever,” actually come back to them and give them that answer because sometimes they could be testing you and they already know the answer and once you tell it to them, they’re going to have some more respect for you. Or it could be something that they honestly don’t know and you come back to them and then you’ve proven to them that you’re a source of knowledge and, you can get them some information that they need. In both regards you can build a good relationship that way.

Chris: 19:22 

No you’re absolutely right. When you were talking, I had so many memories of me, my personal journey, but I specifically remember, you know, graduating from Old Dominion and having a little hesitation to want to go out to the industry and talk to engineers and end users because I was concerned with what if they ask a question that I don’t know the answer to right? And I’ll never forget my mentor, he sat down and he said, “What are you passionate about?” I’m right out of school and I like motorcycles. So he says, “Give me five minutes,” and he had me come into his office and he basically just broke down some basic questions around motorcycles. And you would think just by the questions he asked that he was, a motorcycle genius. so it opened my eyes up.

Now his point was you got to get out from behind your fear and just go, accept you can just go and learn and it’s okay if you don’t know but go get that answer. And that was the push I needed to really just get out there. And you’re right, man. We’re not going to know this stuff. Technology is moving too fast for us to keep up with everything at all times, but being that resource is really important. So I’m really, that answer resonated with me.

So thank you for that. I think I want to ask one question. Okay and this one has caught a few people off guard. If you could step into my shoes, what would you have asked yourself that I didn’t?

Jonathan: 20:59 

So step into your shoes as a manager and ask somebody else that they didn’t, or the interviewer, that’s a good question that definitely catches people off guard. I’ll have to think about that. I guess you would ask kinda.

Chris: 21:06 

That you were hoping maybe that we covered, that we hadn’t?

Jonathan: 21:21

No, I think we’ve, we’ve done a good job of going over, who we are and what we are and why we enjoy doing what we’re doing.

Chris: 21:31 


Jonathan: 21:33 

Can’t really think of any other questions.

Chris: 21:36 

You’re not the first one I stumped with that one. So that’s okay. So let’s wrap it up here with, on EECO Asks Why, we love to understand everybody’s why their purpose. It gets to be deeper and versus just having a job, just going in to check a box, you want to have some passion in life and in as much time as you spend at work, in your career, you want to feel like you’re heading in the right direction.

So understanding that why is super important, and from anything from your career to your marriage and, things like that, kids. So why do you enjoy the career path that you’re on Jonathan?

Jonathan: 21:39 

I do enjoy it a lot. Like I said, I enjoy being able to go out to people and help them understand some new things and I’m learning every day that I do this I learn something about this automation or power world that I didn’t know. So not only am I helping customers learn more, I’m also learning more and bettering myself for it. It’s something I’m passionate about and something I enjoy doing.

And I think, not to kind toot my own horn, but I think I’m good at it. They only say that when you’ve got a job that you love doing, it’s not really a job. I don’t necessarily view this as a job. It’s something that I enjoy doing. I look forward to going out and doing it every day, but it also helps afford me a great work-life balance so that I’m able to spend time with my wife and family and son. I’m not tied to my computer 24-7 or I’m not, always on the go, never at home. I’m very fortunate in that aspect, but the company I work for is a great company and, I’ve got a great manager that’s allowed me to do what I do and keep that work-life balance pretty well.

Chris: 23:33 

Very good man. I really appreciate you walking the listeners through that. It’s very important to understand the why and Jonathan I really enjoyed, you’ve been a contributor for several of our podcasts on some really great topics. I know there are more to come that you’re working on as well. Love having you on and I really appreciate you taking the time and letting our listeners understand a little bit more about you, so really appreciate it. Yeah. Hope you have a great day and thank you for your time.

Jonathan: 24:06 

Thanks, Chris. I really appreciate it. And I’ve enjoyed it as well.

Chris: 24:09 

All right. Go Game Cocks, right?

Jonathan: 24:11