Few people grow up wanting to be a foodservice technician, but after stumbling on to this career path, many are hooked for life. Such is the case with Joan Albert, who, as a teenager, wanted to be a veterinarian.

joan albertUpon graduating high school, Albert began pursuing a business degree and worked at a McDonald’s. After completing her second year of college, she accepted an offer to manage the restaurant. It was then that a role as a service technician began to show some appeal. “I loved that job, Albert recalls. “Technicians would come in, diagnose and fix a problem in five minutes. I thought I could do that. And I had a knack for it. It was comforting and less stressful to do it myself. At first it was my hobby, and my hobby eventually became my career. I made the transition when McDonald’s offered me a position to help start an in-house service unit. And I was off and running.”

McDonald’s eventually spun off that service division into its own independent company, and Albert would spend 25 years working on equipment in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont. When McDonald’s decided to bring the service unit back in-house, Albert decided it was time for a change. She joined Pine Tree Food Equipment six years ago as the Maine service agent and added a refrigeration division.

FE&S: How has equipment evolved since you started?

JA: Everything was mechanical when I first started. You had to know how the machine worked before you could diagnose the problem. The computer boards in these units today help you diagnose what’s wrong, or at least point you in a better direction.

FE&S: Over the past few years, government pushes to be more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly have significantly impacted refrigeration equipment. How has this played out in the market?

JA: It’s usually better for the customer and the environment. Once people embrace those changes, they will realize it’s not as complicated as they think it is. Electronics, new controllers and changing to more cost-effective refrigerants can all make the units more cost-effective to operate in the long run because they save on electricity, cost of parts and more. So, it’s beneficial to the customer. As servicers, we must adapt, too. I am kind of old school, but once I learned how the electronics worked and the benefits of certain refrigerants, I really got into it. And this is basically how the world is going to change. It benefits the customers and the environment. We need to do better to change with the times to protect our future.

FE&S: What’s the secret to maximizing the service life for a piece of equipment?

JA: If you just treat this equipment like it is your car, it will run a long time. Nothing is ever old unless it’s abused. I’ve worked on equipment that’s 25 years old, and that’s because the customer treated it right, performed regular maintenance and asked good questions.