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 Wouldn’t You Know We’re 

 

 Riding on the Kerekes Express? 

 

  Meet Newtek Training Manager Bill Kerekes  

At Newtek, we believe what makes us different is our people — from engineering to customer support. As an on-going, occasional series, we’re sharing the personal stories of Newtekers, like Bill Kerekes, who are not only talented, hardworking professionals, but also interesting people outside the office.

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While Newtek Training Manager (among other things) Bill Kerekes will offer the pronunciation of his surname as Kuh-REE’-kƏs, he is more than aware that his ancestral Hungarian progenitors would likely utter, Keer’-uh-kesh. And so it goes with the Americanization of pronunciations. Bill will also tell you that he is young enough that he was not reminded of such every time he heard Crosby, Still, and Nash’s “Marrakesh Express” on the radio – “until now.”

And so it goes for the do-it-all knight of all things Customer Service – “Biz. Ops.” newest promising face (and second longest tenured support agent at Newtek). In other words, if you call in and your trouble escalates to Bill, you know two things:

1)      Your problem is fairly complicated.

2)      It will be resolved without having to move beyond Bill. (That is a fact. He really is that good.)

Now, one might think that such an accomplished and talented young man showed early gumption for technology and, depending upon perspective, the following narrative may serve to either support or dissuade one’s opinion in such regard:

“I suppose I was lucky, The car was kind enough to find a tree to halt its progress. I was fine, the car on the other hand, was pretty much toast.”

Little_Tike“Billy, get out of the driver’s seat,” urged Bill’s mother. Back then, he was but a two-year-old “torn between curiosity and obedience.” Like any good boy, Bill paid heed, climbed out of the car and walked all the way around to the passenger side. He then climbed back in (astute). You see, it was the shifter knob that was of particular interest to the young lad – accessible from either the drivers’ or passengers’ side.

Bill’s somber expression belies the extraordinary tale he was about to share, “If you know rural Western Pennsylvania, it is extremely woodsy and hilly. Now consider my mother’s car was parked in the grass facing up hill on a fairly steep (lore has it between 30 and 40 degrees) incline, and that behind us were some random trees and behind them was a semi-steep gorge say about 15 feet deep – it was lightly protected by a few more randomly placed trees and shrubs.”

My eyes widened …

With a nod, Bill admitted, “I managed to get that baby in gear.”

In summary, the car began rolling backwards – a veritable Kerekes Express if you will – comprised of one car and one small boy in the passenger seat, mouth agape. The oddly united cavalcade was followed by a screaming mother approaching Ussain Bolt speed. In a difficult to imagine set of circumstances, particularly in a landscape sparingly dotted with trees, the Kerekes Express managed to catch trees with BOTH open doors causing them to bend backwards as the Express continued its chaotic rumble toward its showdown with the gorge.

“I suppose I was lucky,” is the verbiage Bill chose to explain, “The car was kind enough to find a tree to halt its progress.” He paused, “I was fine, the car on the other hand, was pretty much toast.”

And your mother?

“Relieved, I suppose. And in retrospect, pretty fast. She got there just a few moments after the collision. If we didn’t have the pictures it would seem pretty surreal.”

Do you remember it?

“It’s been told so many times, I don’t know if my memories are pure or influenced … but, sort of, I suppose. My memories can best be described as something of a blur – gears grasped, rules broken – like doors upon tree trunks.”

“It’s been told so many times, I don’t know if my memories are pure or influenced … but, sort of, I suppose. My memories can best be described as something of a blur – gears grasped, rules broken – like doors upon tree trunks.”

Even with such tales, the quick-witted trainer is undeniably competent and unquestionably a people person. When he speaks about what motivates him in his job, his response is both simple and reassuring, “All I seek to do each day is make a difference. I want to know that I did X or Y last month and I helped so and so accomplish this or that or both, today. That is what keeps me going. That is what I love about what I do.”

Ever have any off days?

“Well sure, there are days where my synapses and neurons aren’t firing quite as quickly as others and I have to remind myself to be patient, but if you mean ‘difficult people days,’ no. I welcome challenges. In fact, I was just telling my new trainee class about a customer who called after just making national news for what was a fairly big story. And it was a crazy one. (It would be a confidentiality breach for me to say anymore.)

“Anyway, he was calling to ensure that his site could handle what he (rightly) estimated to be a potentially large surge in traffic. At any rate, we chit-chatted and he discovered that I actually like to go to the shooting range. He called me back a few days later to thank me for all the assistance and, remembering my affinity for the shooting range, he boldly offered to land his helicopter in Newtek’s parking lot (let me pilot it) and fly us both to a private area where he keeps a tank that I might like to fire off a few rounds from inside.”

You accepted?

“Um, no, but I did think for a minute that Customer Support at a tech company was far more exciting and interesting than most of my buddies likely imagine,” he laughs.

.

Most Newtek staff members will tell you that Bill is the consummate professional and probably spends just a bit too much time at the office – a trait that has seemingly been a part of him since his formative years.

“I received the perfect attendance award at Douglas Road Elementary, home of the Dolphins Mascot Dougie,” grins Bill, “I was awarded a coupon for a free meal. I was so excited.”

How was the meal?

“To a ten year old, it was glorious. There was an all you can eat buffet with all kinds of stuff. But then,” he pauses, allowing the moment to build for what may very well be the most delicious instance of irony in the history of human kind, “I got food poisoning from THAT Ponderosa, at THAT meal, on THAT gift card, for THAT attendance award …

“And I missed the next two days of school.” There has never been a better story. That has to be it.

 Moreover, if you are seeking the idyllic Company to begin your Technology Support career, one would be hard pressed to look beyond Newtek, simply for the opportunity to sit in the month-plus training class taught by this weaver of tales, a man whose delivery is rife with impeccable timing. Not to mention, he is the consummate pro and an actual living tech-reference tool. (Incidentally that does include video game knowledge, which you likely already imagined.)

And while Bill will tell you that he spends most waking hours at the office, he does make it to the shooting range on occasion, bowls a few frames when the spirit moves him, and continues to break rules like, “Throwing my ginger right on top of the sushi. In fact, I am soon headed to Japan  for about a month with some close friends. I am a bit concerned that such action might get me hustled out of the country (having drawn the ire of an insulted Sushi chef). But hey, you like what you like.”

Any advice for those seeking Customer-centric positions?

“Well, don’t worry too much about what you don’t know, technically speaking. I mean, I can definitely train an eel to swim like a dolphin. I do that all day long, but … you cannot succeed in this type of work if you do not have the ability to listen and focus carefully enough to truly understand. Those are the keys. I want individuals who possess and really even embody those skills first and foremost. In other words, you must CARE. Tech know-how is just a bonus, well at least for those coming in the door.”

In the meantime, you can find Bill in the training room or on the phones, listening, understanding, and helping. That is, of course, until the Kerekes Express heads off to Japan in 2014.

We just hope, for everyone’s sake, it is not in reverse.