Service yard saviors: Cheryl Spencer

img_7768.jpg

All photos Craig Lamb

Cheryl Spencer easily qualifies as the extreme multitasker of tournament support techs. With Lowrance for 15 years, her formal title is senior tournament support tech and pro team manager. The latter role is easily understood. What Spencer does in her tech job encompasses much more than the title implies.

She was interviewed during the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite Series at Lake Guntersville. It was one of many tournaments underway across the nation that she would work remotely on that Saturday. 

“It’s 6:30 a.m., and I already have 302 emails,” she said, matter-of-factly.

Bundled into the same jobs are tech support, customer service, communications and product development, along with managing the brand’s pro team. You name it, and at any given tournament, she does it all.

And she does it all while being on the road 200 days a year.

Spencer is ideally qualified for the job. She has held other marketing positions with Lowrance, including trade and consumer shows coordinator. Before that she was in technical and production roles at a Tulsa TV station. Most of all, she is an avid angler, also having competed on the Women’s Bassmaster Tour and the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Opens. 

“The guys relate to me as a tournament angler and having been in the industry for so long,” she said. “They know that I understand what they need done, knowing how their boats are set up for competing, and how the units are installed.” 

She continued, “I can talk them through what they need to change on the screen, even while driving down the road and not having to see the unit. A lot of that is built on trust.” 

Spencer loves her job. It’s obvious. On any given tournament morning, you will find her going from boat to boat, providing helpful advice, making a quick adjustment to a unit, or simply sharing wishes of good luck. In between, she will be snapping photos or recording videos with her smartphone, acting as a true fan of the sport.

There rarely is any downtime, although she took a break to share more about her job and life on the road in this interview.

Where are you from and how much do you travel?

I am originally from Kansas City but live in the Tulsa, Okla., area. I travel 200 days a year and have traveled for 30 years, ever since getting out of college.

How long have you been at it?

I have been with Lowrance for 15 years, with the last five as a tournament support tech.

What kind of training does it take to do your job?

I am more or less training every day while on the road. There are things that I observe with our new products, especially early in the season, that need attention. It’s like real world research and product development. I work with the R&D department and what we call quality control, and with the product expert. I converse with them and together we can determine what the fix is. There are also a lot of different installs on the boats, so I get to see those and how our units are rigged and perform. Everything that is new comes through what I am working on. My job day to day never changes. It’s more like on the job training.

What’s inside your trailer?

The most important part for me is what is just inside the door. It’s my office space. I have my computer and Wi-Fi hotspot. While those guys are fishing, I switch hats. There are emails to answer, lots of coordination to do, phone calls to make. The other portion of the trailer has units that I can exchange, and replacement cabling for transducers and units.

What is the most common task you perform?

(Laughs) The most common task is correcting user error. I get a lot of, ‘I pushed something and I don’t know what I pushed,’ type of needs.

What does your work week look like?

Usually, we arrive the night before the first day of practice. Then, it’s getting set up in the service yard. Practice days usually run from 8:30 a.m. until 6 o’clock in the evening, depending on everyone’s workload. Those are the short days. During the tournament I like to arrive one hour before takeoff time. I like to get there early before the guys arrive at the docks. If they can see me or have questions that they forgot the night before, I am there to provide answers, or to change a setting on the unit. After takeoff I go into pro team mode until weigh-in. Then it’s back at it with service needs until well after dark.

What’s it like in the service yard, working with the other service techs?

Anytime an angler comes in with an issue, we all try to pitch in if needed to get them back out on the water. The faster we do it, the better that is for all of us. We are like a family. It doesn’t matter what brand we wear on our shirts. We don’t look at that when we are in the service yard. We pitch in and help each other. The boat guys might help me pull cable, or hand me a wrench. I will do the same for them. We just want to get all our guys back out on the water.

What is one tool you cannot do without?

My electric drill gun with a Phillips head.

Do you have any travel quirks?

I travel with my cat. His name is George and he keeps me grounded. My quirk is keeping him comfortable. He acts and imitates what it would be like to travel with a dog. He is loose in the truck when I am driving. He hangs out on the console or in his soft mesh carrier. Even when I travel long distances, sometimes for 10 hours in a day, he is there beside me.

What’s your favorite tournament town and why?

I would say it’s Guntersville, Ala., because I am most familiar with the town, and it has a good selection of eateries. It’s the kind of place where I can take a lot of scenic photos.

What do you like to do on your down time?

I am a hobbyist photographer. I like to go places where there is great scenery. Madrid, N.Y., is a favorite. It’s on the way to another favorite town, Waddington, which is on the St. Lawrence River. Madrid is a neat little town with some great scenery shooting locations. The skies up there have the deepest purple, pinks and magentas.

What do you most like about your job?

I would say the travel and scenery I get to see. And the people I get to meet. Even though I am away from home most of the time and miss my family, I have one on the road. It’s like a friends and family scenario. Meeting new people, seeing new places, the morning sunsets and evening sunrises. All of it.