Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Employee Interview: Chris Brooks

Today's behind the scenes post is an interview with one of our tech support managers, Chris Brooks...

Interview by: Christina Hodgen

Chris, front and center. Pregnant and holding a Brooks Veriwide camera. c.1989


Chris Brooks is a staple at KEH with her welcoming smile and infectious positive attitude. Who am I kidding? The best thing about working with Chris is the cakes she bakes almost every month for people having birthdays! She graciously took the time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her job.

How long have you worked for KEH? Since February of 1988, 22 years. I was just a baby when I started...

I'm sure many aspects of KEH have changed in that time period. We now use a computer system but what kind of system was used when you first started working here? Believe it or not, we had a computer system when I started! It was completely custom, so any time the system went down there was only one person on the planet who'd be able to fix it, and since legally we couldn't chain him to the building, we went looking for something a little more mainstream.

You have worked in various departments in the company before landing in tech support. What is your favorite part of working in tech support? I really like that tech support gets to see all the equipment that comes in the building. In sales and purchasing you talk about the equipment a lot but in tech support you play with it, and we have had some incredible items come to us.

You are now the manager of the consumer side of tech support. What does a typical day look like for you? It varies. Some days I sit at my desk and do the same thing everyone else does-write up the equipment. Other days I might be helping out with a cycle count which keeps the inventory correct, or I might do some returns-it's always good to know why people are returning items and if there is anything we need further training in. And of course, some days I bring in cakes for a birthday-which means there must also be balloons blown up (thank God for air hoses)!

The digital age of photography has come to be during your career at KEH. How has this changed the company/your job? Back in the day, we didn't know if dust or a small scratch or a cleaning mark would really affect picture quality or not, so we tended to grade based on what we thought might happen, since we just couldn't run a roll of film for every lens. With the advent of digital, we can see exactly how the lens will perform instantly. I thought the digital would completely replace film cameras, but that hasn't happened. It's true that more and more of our sales are coming from digital, but there remains a dedicated group of film enthusiasts and collectors out there. Our warehouse shelves are still full of 35mm, medium format and large format cameras. Something similar happened when the first auto focus cameras came out- yes I was here for that as well! While more equipment switched over to auto focus, sales of manual focus lenses stayed strong.

What is the most notable piece of equipment you have encountered working at KEH? There have been a lot! We once had an original Nikon 1 that was worth so much we kept it locked up. One of the more interesting, although not valuable, was an Army issue camera that came complete with instructions for destroying it so that it wouldn't fall into enemy hands! Most of the technicians have favorite types of equipment to test.

And what is yours? Hasselblad is my favorite. It's still the classiest, even after all these years.

You trained me almost seven years ago and I noticed you training our newest technician last week. What are some of the difficulties and challenges of training someone to work in tech support? Remembering that someone new isn't going to be trained in a week or two. There are about fifty thousand different pieces of equipment (give or take) in our warehouse. Nobody knows everything about each and every piece. Everyone who works as a technician has a background in photography-most have degrees in it, but everyone shoots with only one or two different cameras, so they still have to learn about other brands and their quirks. All in all, it takes about 2 years to fully train someone.

What is the most important thing you have learned working at KEH that you would not have known if you had not worked here? How to look at lens elements! You don't want to shine a flashlight through it because that shows ALL its' warts, but looking through the glass in office building light shows nothing. You have to find a good source that allows you to see any haze or fungus and scratches. I use a magnifying lamp with clean white light-not too harsh or too soft.

What is your favorite music to listen to while working? (ABBA has to be mentioned!!!) I admit that I'm partial to disco-it has a good beat and you can dance to it! It helps me keep a positive attitude-very important when I'm cleaning some moldy equipment!

More old photos of Chris can be found in the post "Brief History + Old Photos"