People are at the heart of any business – as employees, leaders, mentors, and friends. Jason Hull, part of the Technical Services Team at AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings, credits finding his ‘dream job’ to a man who was all four: Virgil Wilson.
Jason met Virgil in 1995, the year after he married. Jason had left school after the 9th Grade and left home soon after. He found work in body shops, putting into practice some of the skills he’d learned from his father: “I was at the time working for a body shop in Everett Washington. Virgil was a Technical Consultant from AkzoNobel and would see me working on a vehicle and help correct some of the bad habits I’d picked up when I was younger, like using the wrong thinners or the mentality of I have to be fast.”
“He took me from being a below-average painter to one who started getting compliments from my employer and coworkers on the quality of my work.”
Jason says that Virgil was a very patient man, and it was through him that he learned ‘slow is fast’: “Put simply, if you wanted to be fast, then the “slower” option in the end, is faster. He taught me to be a better painter, and he taught me how to take and give criticism and feedback. He coached me on how to coach and train others, which is something I love to do today.”
It was through Virgil that Jason secured a job at a distributor, selling AkzoNobel products, as well as a rival brand: “I told the owner that I would help any customer struggling with their paint system, but I would only sell AkzoNobel paints” he explains, “because I had worked with it throughout my career, and it made the job of vehicle refinishing that much easier. I was an AkzoNobel man even before I started working for them!”
Interested in transferring his automotive skills to the aerospace sector, Jason applied for a job at Boeing where he painted wide body jets in the Everett facility: “At the time I thought that was as far as I could go, if I couldn’t work for AkzoNobel as a technical representative I figured at Boeing there would be opportunities beyond being a painter.” While working at Boeing I met Mike Suhara, I had been working very close with Mike and the Engineers at Boeing Research and Technology (BR&T) to solve some reoccurring issues we had in the paint hangar. I’ll never forget the conversation.”
Although a great organization to work for, the job at Boeing still fell short of Jason’s dream. Even Boeing Managers told him that he had missed his calling and should have been working for the paint company or BR&T. Then his big chance came to join the Aerospace team at AkzoNobel: While discussing solutions to a paint problem with Mike, Mike paused and said, “You know what you should do? We have a job posted on our website; you should apply for it” So I did. “I remember going to the interview and then having to wait a month to find out whether I had got the job. It was the worst month of my life! Mike also displayed a lot of patience as I probably asked him daily about the position.
“I also remember taking the phone call and my wife waiting anxiously to see if I’d been successful. I think my smile said it all. It was the moment I had been waiting for more than 20 years and thought might never have come.”
Today, Jason is part of a team that helps customers make the most out of the products they use, constantly looking to find ways to further improve through shared experiences, round tables, and discussion groups: “It’s more than simply a customer services’ role,” Jason explains. “It’s about making sure our customers are successful.
“Understanding the basics and performance of the paint is essential, but so too is understanding the fundamentals of equipment set-up and use. That’s where we come in. Sometimes it can be the smallest thing. We had a recent case where the customer was unhappy or (frustrated), and it transpired the air hose they were using was too small. The fix was as simple as that.”
Training is a particular passion: “It is not unusual to work with painters for whom some of the fundamentals are lacking because they have never been formally taught the basics. Seeing the difference, you can sometimes make in just a day’s training gives you such a good feeling.”
I would like to say, I know I would not be where I am today if it were not for Virgil Wilson, he willingly shared all his knowledge when asked. But I honestly believe after working for AkzoNobel, Virgil is one of many that hold the same values as he does. The entire global Aerospace team from Tami, all the way through the organization, everyone has been supportive and willing to help me in the five years now that I have been a part of the company, it is truly, in my mind, what a Team is supposed to be.
As for the future, Jason wants to give something back, to be a mentor himself and develop further training initiatives. With the full backing of his peers, he has been working on his presentation skills, and is constantly looking to improve. He still calls Virgil, now long-since retired, for the occasional piece of advice, and is forever grateful to the opportunity that AkzoNobel has given him: “You might not believe it, but this is my dream job,” he concludes.
“At 19 years old I was painting custom bicycles and wheelchairs to earn a living, and now 30 years later, I’m working for the company I love, and it is taking me to places like Brazil to teach customers the same things Virgil taught me, only on airplanes and not cars. How crazy is that?”