Paul Pumputis was not wired for a career as an electrician in upstate New York. He began wiring houses during the construction season but like so many others would often get laid off when winter rolled around and building ground to a halt. Looking for something more stable, he answered an ad looking for a service technician placed by Duffy’s Equipment Service, then an upstate N.Y. service agent. He joined the company, began training under Patrick Duffy and never looked back.

Over the next 21 years, Pumputis’ role with Duffy’s grew. He ran Duffy’s Rochester branch, earned Certified Master Technician status from the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association and even became a trainer for the association’s EGS Classes that cover electric, gas and steam foodservice equipment. When Duffy’s merged with Appliance Installation & Service and Express Commercial Services earlier this year, Pumputis assumed his current role of western regional manager.

FE&S: Today’s foodservice equipment is more high-tech than ever. How has the role of the service technician evolved with the equipment?

PP: You have to keep up with the changing technology, but it always goes back to the basics. You can’t change physics: We are still heating food. So, a lot of the basics we learned in the past are still in play. We are just using a high-tech way to control it. In some ways, it’s easier because you don’t have to open your tool box to trouble shoot what’s wrong with a piece of equipment. You just need to connect your computer and the equipment will tell you what’s wrong. But when fixing a piece of equipment, it all comes back to the basics of understanding equipment, steam and gas.

FE&S: Your background is with cooking equipment, or the hot side of the industry. And yet you are learning how to service refrigeration equipment. What’s that like?

PP: It’s extremely humbling and I welcome it. You can get too comfortable in any given role. So, it’s nice to get put into a spot where you have to learn something new. It reminds you of where you came from and the work it takes to get there. Plus, when you master it, you will earn the respect of your peers.

FE&S: What’s the most common mistake today’s operators make?

PP: Neglecting simple maintenance. Something as simple as keeping a cooling fan clean and clear can save an operator a lot of money down the road because it keeps the equipment from overheating.

FE&S: Do you have any advice for someone just starting out as a service technician?

PP: Be patient and stick to it. There’s a lot to learn and it can be overwhelming. If you can stick to it, though, you will always have a job. Every service company is always looking for new techs. It’s not an easy job, but if you can stick it out and learn the trade you will do well.