‘We’re like caged tigers, waiting to get out and see customers again.’ A spotlight on Steve Diven
When Steve joined us as Senior Support Engineer at the end of 2020, he brought with him over 25 years’ experience in the subsea acoustics sector and a hunger to make sure all our customers get nothing less than the best. The pandemic meant his role was restricted to phone or video calls, so, as concerns lessen, he can’t wait to get out and about to offer support face to face.
We caught Steve at the start of another varied week to get his thoughts on what it’s like to work at aae technologies and what he’s looking forward to over the next few months.
How would you describe your role at aae technologies?
My role is Senior Support Engineer, so primarily I look after the customers. I help them with the equipment, to make sure it is working correctly, and they are using it correctly. A customer will call me up with a problem and I’ll talk it through with them and hopefully get it sorted out over the phone. But if there’s a major problem, the equipment comes back and I service and repair it. Generally, it’s about speaking to customers, going out on visits when possible and making customers happy at the end of the day.
Also, when Covid measures allow, I’ll be going out to demonstrate new equipment to the customers face to face and training them in how to use it. So, it’s very varied, very exciting, and I’m just waiting for Covid to let me go out and do the role I’m used to!
What originally sparked your interest in subsea technology?
Straight out of college I did a work placement at another local company, GeoAcoustics, who manufacture similar products to us. I was a customer service manager there, so I’ve been in customer service for around 15-20 years, looking after customers in a very similar way to what we do now.
I came to the industry out of pure luck, really. During my two college courses, we had to do work placements, and their company’s name popped up each time as having an opportunity, so I kept going back as it was quite an interesting role.
I’ve been in the industry now for 26 years, and the roles I’ve had in it are very varied. I’ve travelled all over the world and helped customers everywhere I’ve been, which is very exciting. The equipment that we make is fascinating. It’s just not a ‘normal’ industry! It’s also very close-knit. You see all the same customers over and over again during the course of a year, so it’s a very friendly industry to be in.
What brought you to joining aae?
Unfortunately, the firm I was working for previously started to make cutbacks due to the pandemic. I’d noticed that aae were looking for a customer service engineer, and I knew Neil MacDonald, our Technical Manager, well from our time together at college 30 years ago (as well as living in the same street!). So I asked him if aae was still looking, he said ‘yes!’ and so I made the jump.
It’s interesting how other firms have been making savings and scaling down during Covid, while aae have been getting busier over the last two years and employing more people. So it’s a really exciting place to be. We’ve obviously upgraded the image and the brand, and it looks like we’re reaping the rewards from doing that.
How has your career changed or progressed since joining?
As I’ve only been here 14 months, it hasn’t progressed that much. This said, as I haven’t so far been able to travel – it’s been all office and workshop based – I’ve been getting to know all the equipment we make inside out. Before, at my previous company, I used to build the equipment, test it and knew everything about it because I’d been there so long. Since joining aae it’s been a bit like starting again.
It’s very similar equipment, but there are subtle differences, so I’ve been learning as much as I possibly can about the products. This way, when I am finally unleashed into the world and free to travel, I’ll have a full understanding of the equipment and the confidence to talk our customers through our systems. So when they have the tricky questions, I’ll have all the answers. You might say I’m waiting now for the opportunity to get on out there.
Also, the people here are great, the atmosphere is nice and you enjoy coming into work. I’ve been absorbing the company culture the last 14 months, too.
What’s been your biggest highlight so far?
I’d probably say Ocean Business, the big trade show last October in Southampton. We went there with our new stand, released Pyxis to the market and carried out some new product demonstrations. I finally got to see customers face to face again and interact with them in person, rather than through a Zoom call.
There were plenty of people who I already knew from my years in my previous job and new customers as well because aae’s client base is slightly different. It was great to introduce myself to customers, see real people and show them how our products work. That’s been the highlight for me so far.
Ocean Business was actually delayed by 6 months due to Covid, so we were like caged tigers, waiting to get out. We’re very much looking forward to the next big show, Oceanology at the Excel in London this March.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
I’d say starting at a new company. My previous company had been my only real job for 25 years, so starting not only with new equipment but also a new way of working was a challenge. There’s always an element of fear of going from somewhere you’ve been comfortable for a long time to somewhere new.
But it has felt like a very easy transition to make. Looking at a whole new range of equipment that you’ve never seen before and wondering how to fix it can be very daunting. But everyone’s been very helpful, helped me train and been very patient with me. The change from one job to another couldn’t have been nicer. What could have been a big challenge was made a lot easier by the people here – a bit like everything we do, really.
“If a customer is on a ship that’s costing thousands to operate every day, they can’t wait for 6 hours until you’ve had your coffee in the morning!”
What do you love most about your job?
I would say the customer satisfaction. The customer has invested a lot in our equipment, and if they’re having problems with it or don’t know how to use it, you can be on the other end of the phone to talk them through the process of getting the equipment working correctly.
At the end of the day, if they can understand the full potential of the equipment and the best way to use it, and you’ve helped in that, then it makes everything worthwhile. Obviously, if they’re happy with the equipment, then they’ll potentially want to come back for more and work with us again for all their needs.
What do clients appreciate most about what you do?
They’re happy that you’re always on the end of the phone or an email, and that they can rely on aae’s equipment not only to work but if they do have problems there will be someone there to help them. We’ve got a great customer support team who are available 24/7, which gives customers faith in the equipment as well as faith in the company.
Obviously, our equipment is used all over the world, so there is a team of us on a 24-hour call rota, even over Christmas and New Year. If a customer is on a ship that’s costing thousands to operate every day, but they can’t use it because our equipment’s down, then they need answers as soon as possible. They can’t wait for 6 hours until you’ve had your coffee in the morning!
What do you think makes aae technologies unique?
I think it’s how it started, with Adam running with an idea, setting up as a small, family-type business and growing the company, but not losing any of that family ethic. We haven’t got too big or too corporate, and we still have that family approach. It’s all very friendly, no politics. Adam is still running the company after 32 years and has the same mentality as when he started out.
From an equipment point of view, the reliability and the quality of our products is what customers really appreciate, so they come back to us time and time again. Maintaining that reputation is very important for a company of our size. I’ve seen from the outside how the company has grown over the years, and it’s very impressive how they’ve gained the reputation they have.
Do you think a lot of what you do is defined by good customer service?
Yes. As we said before, the industry is very small. If a company starts to get a reputation for poor customer service, word will get around and you’ll start losing customers. Even though the industry is global, it’s still very small and everyone knows everybody. So it’s very important to have good customer service, helpful staff and reliable equipment to maintain your reputation in the industry.
What are you excited about for the future?
To be able to see the customers again at their place of work rather than via a Zoom call. Oceanology 2022 coming up in March and some exciting new products that aae is waiting to release into the market. So I can’t wait to go out, meet people and start demonstrating them to the customers.
I remember in my interview with Neil and Adam that I said this company is growing and on the verge of something very big. There is some exciting equipment around and there’s plenty of scope for the company to grow even more. It feels strange to say the growth of the last two years has been just the start of it when the company has been around since 1989, but it’s definitely the start of a great new chapter for aae.
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