At 56 years old, most people are considering slowing down or even retiring altogether. For Cliff Anderson though, it seemed the perfect time to start a new career as a wind technician! Fast forward 14 years and today you can still find Cliff regularly climbing 300+ foot towers, sometimes several times a day. Today at 70 years old, Cliff is our oldest wind tech, still actively climbing and proof that age really is just a number.
How it began
Cliff was living in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 2008 and working as a stage hand, traveling the world setting up for acts like Beyonce, U2, Kiss, The Black Keys, and other mega bands. It was challenging work which often led to being overseas for 3-4 months at a time, and Cliff was ready for a change. That’s when a friend mentioned there was a job opportunity to work on wind turbines at a site nearby in New Jersey.
He walked across the street to apply, and, after successfully climbing the tower and demonstrating that he was not afraid of heights, he was hired on the spot.
Cliff spent the next year working there, learning the business from the ground up. He was then given the opportunity to attend training courses at the GE Renewable Energy Learning Center in Schenectady, New York and was soon expanding his skills and ready to take assignments on the road, once again resuming his passion for travel.
Challenges and Rewards of the Job
Cliff says that he has always loved to travel and so one of the motivating factors in taking the Wind Tech job was that opportunity it gave him to travel across the country. His job as a stage hand allowed him to see the world, but within the US, he had never been away from the East coast. After 14 years with the Company, Cliff is now proud to say: ‘I’ve been to every state in the US that has wind turbines except for Hawaii and Alaska.” That ability to see the country is one of his favorite perks of the job and working for FieldCore.
In the early days, Cliff says that most of his training was on the job and hands-on. “For one of my first assignments, I was lucky enough to be on a team of guys who had been around quite a bit. They showed me the ropes and taught me a lot.” Now, it’s Cliff’s turn to repay that education to new Wind Techs who are coming up in his footsteps.
When he’s working with new techs, it’s important for him to try to give them the benefit of all the experience he has learned over the years. “I point out things, ask them questions like how it works, what they think needs to happen, etc. Mentoring is an important part of the job.”
“I can think of five new hires that I worked with who are now leads or managers,” he says proudly. “One of them put his harness on backwards the first time I took him up – now he’s an engineer with the company.”
“Everything takes teamwork’ he says. ‘Someone needs to be watching out for the weather for example. We have to work together and check in with each other regularly.” That’s one reason FieldCore began the Peer Check system to encourage and remind employees to buddy up and look out for their teammates.
When he considers the advice he’d give to younger Wind Techs, Cliff says it’s important for anyone to take ownership of their own career. “If you want to learn something new or take a training class, raise your hand and let your manager know. FieldCore has lots of opportunities for employees to move around and take on new jobs and learn new skills, you just have to put it out there and let people know.” Throughout his long career, he says, that is his only regret; that he didn’t take his own advice more often.
Despite that regret, Cliff credits FieldCore and the opportunities it has provided him for the positive direction in his life. He notes that as a kid, this is someplace he never thought he’d be. Growing up on the streets of Harlem, he struggled with addiction but now says proudly that having purpose and direction in his life has led to him being clean and sober for more than 26 years!
‘It’s been a great ride, very enlightening, educational and rewarding for me because I love to travel, meet new people, see different things, experience life as much as a I can,” he says. “FieldCore has afforded me that.’