[2012 Technician of the Year Awards] Never too Old to Learn

Features - 2012 Technician of the Year Awards

With 20+ years of experience, David Hicks, PCT’s Termite Technician of the Year, has stuck to a simple guideline that has given him much success in an industry he loves.

December 28, 2012
Bill Delaney

There is much that David Hicks likes about his job. Every day is a new challenge, and he’s fond of the people in this industry. But perhaps more than anything, Hicks enjoys teaching and instructing others. And on the flip side of that coin, as the industry grows and technology advances, he’s always learning something along the way.

“Being able to train new technicians I think is one of the best things about this job,” said Hicks, termite technician and coordinator of the St. John’s County Branch of Bug Out Service, Jacksonville, Fla. “You get somebody who has never done this before, you get to train them from ground zero, you get to watch them grow in the industry.”

That was Hicks himself back in the mid-1980s, when he picked up a job out of necessity that involved home repairs — a job that sometimes required doing termite and pest work. After living for a few years in Michigan and working outside the industry, Hicks said he returned to Florida with a dream job in mind.

“When I thought about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I thought back and I had the most fun doing pest control,” he said. In 1994, Hicks landed a job with Bug Out as a termite technician and he hasn’t looked back.

“David has been specializing in termites for many years,” said Linda Prentice, technical director for Bug Out. “He knows termites inside and out. He’s been treating houses for years. He’s trained, he goes to an account and he’ll tell you exactly what’s going on just by looking around.” And more than his technical skills, Prentice said Hicks is notable for his humble demeanor, strong work ethic and excellent customer service skills.

Hicks is ACE certified through the Entomological Society of America, and is GreenPro and QualityPro certified through the National Pest Management Association. Prentice claims Hicks has trained “thousands” of technicians throughout his career, a number Hicks is quick to humbly draw back to “hundreds,” but one thing is for sure: He has left his mark on the industry he loves.

Leading the way. Since 2001, Hicks has been in the role of coordinator, which includes general household pest and termite training. “It must be about 11 years I’ve been in this position. I’ve seen a few (technicians) go on to get their certificates and they’ve gone on to training roles like I’m in. They’re making a career out of it,” he said. “It’s pretty good to see.”

My Toughest Termite Job

David Hicks enjoys a challenge, and while he said he’s come across plenty of strange (and sometimes frustrating) jobs throughout his career as a termite technician, one in particular stands out in his mind.

“We had an account that was out there in Jacksonville, a reoccurring termite infestation,” he said. The termites had taken up residence around a sunken bathtub fixture, and despite Hicks’ and his team’s best efforts, the pests kept coming back. “We did everything we know to do on this.”

Hicks said Bug Out eventually convinced the customer to remove the bathtub to get a better look at what was causing the frustrating infestation. Lo and behold, underneath the fixtures was a large piece of plywood in which termites had taken up residence. A builder was hired to redo the entire bathtub structure, and the problem was solved.

“It was one of those situations where you pull your hair out trying to figure out what’s wrong,” Hicks said. “You’re doing everything you can, and it was satisfying finding out it was something you didn’t do; it was a construction issue. You can see some crazy things in this industry.”

Being able to help others find their way in the industry is something Hicks prides himself on. His son, David Hicks Jr., was recently one of those he helped. David Jr. got a job at Bug Out several years ago, and though he is now working for another firm, Hicks said he had great satisfaction in helping propel his son into a successful career.

“I never knew [David Jr.] had a like for it,” Hicks said. “He came to me and wanted me to train him. He progressed right up the ladder here, and he became one of our sales guys. He’s moved on, but the ‘apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.’ He just loves this industry too — that’s just a big pleasure there.”

Hicks has a wife, Della, and three children: David Jr., Alicia and Alinda. He also has five grandchildren. “All of them are great kids,” he said.

Hicks holds high expectations for his trainees. He said one of the most frustrating parts of his work can be when a technician comes on the job, but his or her “heart and soul” is not invested in it. “That’s one of the most disappointing things to see, technicians who see it as just a job. They just go home and leave it. I like when I see people coming in and they really want to come in and they want to do it.

“If you find something you like, it’s not going to be a job,” he added. “It’s going to be fun. You’re not going to have a hard time getting up and going to work. I get paid to do something fun.”

The cutting edge. Hicks is quick to call himself a “tool guy.” When any new product, strategy or tool makes itself available, Hicks is the first to jump on board and to enthusiastically apply it to his work.

“David is very talented with all technical equipment, video, computers, our handheld units, and any new challenging technology that seems to come our way,” Bug Out’s Prentice added. “He is very mechanically inclined and designs and makes modifications to our equipment all the time.”

Prentice added that Hicks is quick to learn and adopt new control strategies, and has lead the company on the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) frontier.

Hicks said the constantly changing landscape of the pest control industry is something that keeps the job exciting day-in and day-out. When he first started working in the pest management industry, he said termite retreatments were far more prevalent, but with the introduction of enhanced technologies retreat rates “have been a lot better,” improving the industry’s reputation among consumers.

When it comes to testing new products and tools, it helps that Hicks has a curious mind. He is fascinated by the latest inventions are at his and other service technicians’ disposal. “Give me a new tool to play with — it’s great,” he said. Whether it’s working from a PDA rather than pad and paper, using infrared cameras, CO2 sensors, borescopes and other inspection equipment, Hicks enjoys and takes advantage of new developments in termite control. “There’s so much technology out there that is involved in this industry,” he said. “Nobody is a spray junkie anymore. You go out there and pinpoint, and it’s fascinating.”

The author is associate editor of PCT and can be contacted at bdelaney@gie.net.