Field Service Technician Profile
Title: Field Technical Services Consultant
With Neundorfer Since: 2011 (40+ years in air pollution control industry)
Hometown: Central New Jersey (approximately 40 miles from New York City)
Residence: Central New Jersey
Home Life: Significant other, grown children, grandchildren, cats and a mini dachshund
Best Thing That Happened to Me: My children and grandchildren
Worst Thing That Happened to Me: Military in 1968
Hobbies: Classic car restoration, cooking, salt water fishing
Bill working at GE plant
in Louisville, Kentucky. 1984
Bill working at Foster Wheeler's waste-to-energy plant in New Jersey. 1995.
Bill Miller looks a bit like a middle-aged hippie (because of his short ponytail), but he has the analytical work philosophy of a German engineer.
"Be truthful, be honest, and have a good work ethic," is how Bill describes his credo for helping customers. "For sure, never lie. That's been my approach, and it works. I find that customers respond to people who are honest and not politically motivated."
Considering Bill's upbringing, it's not hard to see where he learned that approach. He grew up in New Jersey during the 1950s, raised by Eastern European immigrant parents. His father, a diesel mechanic, came to the U.S. in 1939. His mother was an interpreter during World War Two (she spoke Czech, Russian, German, French and Italian) who came to America from Czechoslovakia in 1938.
"My father was very stern," Bill recalls. "He demanded that my brother and I get an education. I went to a private grammar school and public high school. I had to go to college. During my formative years, he tried to impart what they did in Europe--trained young men and women for their lives. Over there, in eighth grade you get a battery of tests and then are put on a track for tradesperson, engineer, or other career."
High school was relatively easy for Bill--at least math and science. His only negative experience was banging up his knee playing football. By his Junior year, he'd completed all requirements except English and Gym. Because the option wasn't available back then to take college courses during the Senior year, he opted for Distributed Education; this allowed him to work in retail during part of the school day. He used the money he earned to buy his first car: a 1955, black, two-door Chevrolet.
Today, Bill still enjoys classic cars. In 1991, he bought a 1977 Trans Am for his youngest daughter, and a few years later bought it off her for $2,700. Since then he's put about $18,000 into it, mostly during winter months when he needs something to tinker with on the off-season for salt water fishing. (See sidebar story about how Bill first got hooked on salt water fishing as a child.)
After high school, Bill applied his work ethic to college, completing a civil engineering program at Rutgers, through the Army ROTC. Between his Junior and Senior years in 1966, recruiters from Research Cottrell interviewed him for one of two open civil engineering co-op positions, and he was hired on for the summer. He spent only about three days in the office before being sent out to the field on his first job at Ravenswood Big Aliss Unit 40 in Queens, New York.
On May 9, 1967, Bill graduated from Rutgers and immediately began his four-year ROTC commitment in the Army as a Second Lieutenant. He went first to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, where he completed a 20-week program during second shift to be trained as an electrical engineer, using communications technology available at the time. From there, he was sent to Fort Bragg and then to Fort Hood before being shipped over to Vietnam.
Bill is closed-lipped about most of his experience in Vietnam, preferring not to dredge up the memories.
"Vietnam sucked," he says, summing it up.
"I was in Germany from March 1969 until I got out of the Army in May 1971," Bill explains. "I worked for a two-star General at a Congressional correspondence section of Seventh Army Support Command--because I kept writing my Congressman about the idiocy of having mission control somewhere Stateside telling people what to do in Vietnam. I saw all of Europe. It was cool."
After getting out of the Army in 1971, Bill spent a little time on the West Coast growing his hair long and enjoying his freedom. Then, he hired on at Research Cottrell and stayed with them until 1986. Bill's decision to leave and start his own business was founded on the principles he holds most dear.
Over the course of his career so far, Bill has traveled to just about every place you can think of, maintaining and troubleshooting every make and model of electrostatic precipitator known to man. The list of places he hasn't set foot in are pretty small: the Arctic, the Antarctic, Iceland, most of the Middle Eastern countries. And Oklahoma.
Looking back over his extensive experience in the industry, Bill said there have been two really significant changes during his career. The first: widespread conversion from weighted wires to rigid discharge electrodes. The second: introduction of switch-mode power supply high frequency T/R sets, thanks to advancements in microprocessor controls and electronics.
"High frequency T/Rs are smaller and, if set up right, can significantly increase performance," Bill notes.
Today, when he's not out in the field working on precipitators, Bill spends his time tinkering with the Trans Am, cooking, or salt water fishing for tuna, sharks, marlin and other "swim free" species offshore of New Jersey. The biggest thing he ever caught? A 460-pound female mako shark.
Bill is a bit more than just a cooking hobbyist; he has a collection of about 5,000 recipes and plans to write a cookbook when he retires. The recipes come from all types of cuisines, although Italian flare, Mexican and German are his favorites. Anything he tastes and enjoys, he sets out to emulate.
"My signature dish is linguini and clam sauce," Bill says. "I make it better than any restaurant. Period. Got it nailed. The secret is in the way you prepare the clams, and what you do with the leftover boil to make the sauce, which has to be a white sauce. You also need a good source of fresh clams."
Bill's forays into cooking and fishing reveal another cornerstone of his character--a virtue he recommends everyone should focus on honing.
"If we have a little patience, we'll better manage our time and we'll be happier," he muses. "We're in too much of a rush these days."
In Your Own Words...
"I grew up in New Jersey and when I was five my father took me salt water fishing for the first time. We went out into the bay on a little boat, with my mom kicking and screaming because my brother fell overboard when Pop took him fishing the first time. We had life jackets, but we didn't use them. We had a rope. Pop tied it around my waist; if I went overboard, he'd pull me up."
Most Memorable Safety Near-Miss
"In 1972, I was on site South of Detroit, helping commission a precipitator under air-load conditions. We couldn't get the inlet field to power up; it kept tripping off under-voltage. We locked everything out and went inside to look for problems, but didn't see anything. The senior service engineer said we needed to go inside again. So he unlocked the door and I went inside on the inlet nozzle with the perforated plate between me and the field. He bypassed the key interlock system and turned the precipitator on. I found out where the problem was. But I saw the glow of corona--a greenish, bluish glow. My hair stood up on end on my arms. I got out the access door and he was laughing at me. 'You found it, didn't you?' he said. To say the least there was an ugly altercation between he and I that day. Today, there are safety procedures that prevent that sort of thing from happening. And, there are better ways to test problems."