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'I'm never bored here'

Visiting clients across Latin America is a large part of Edwin Salazar’s job. From his home base in Colombia, he routinely travels to wildly different parts of the subcontinent, traversing mountains, islands, and urban areas. Salazar sits down with Looking Up to discuss the challenges and rewards of the job.  

Salazar supports a Manitowoc customer at a wind farm in Peru.
Salazar supports a Manitowoc customer at a wind farm in Peru.

As a service support technician for Manitowoc, Edwin Salazar regularly flies each week from his home in Colombia to various locations within the region — from remote villages along the Andes to beach towns by the Atlantic Ocean and urban metropolises in between.


In this interview, he explains why his job requires not only technical skills, but also good physical conditioning to endure the challenges of traveling through such a diverse geographical region.


Looking Up: What countries or areas do you typically cover?  


Edwin Salazar: I live in Bogota, Colombia. I mainly cover Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, but I also work across Spanish-speaking countries in South America. I support colleagues in Central America and the Caribbean as well.


LU: How long have you been at the company and what other jobs have you had?  


Salazar: I have been working with cranes for more than 17 years — almost 10 of them with Manitowoc. Before joining my current team, I worked with Manitowoc Cranes at a rental company.


LU: What is it like working in a vast region with diverse temperatures, humidity levels, and altitudes?


Salazar: Sometimes I need to travel from an area at sea level to a place that has an altitude of 5,000 meters (about 3.11 mi). This can be strenuous on my body. It is common for workers to suffer from mal de altura (altitude sickness) in the first few days after arriving at these places with very high altitudes, high air pressure, and reduced oxygen. This happens in some cities in Peru and Chile, for example.


People suffer from headaches, vomiting, and shortness of breath; that is why safety crews recommend that we get acclimated to a new area with high altitudes for a couple of days before performing any intense work. We take longer breaks and, if necessary, receive additional oxygen from masks available in trucks at construction sites.

Breathtaking heights and amazing views: Salazar takes a selfie in the Gulf of Uraba, Colombia.

LU: Tell us about one of the most challenging service support jobs you were involved with at Manitowoc?


Salazar: Back in July 2020, we were sent to Argentina to disassemble five Manitowoc cranes and prepare them to be shipped to the Dominican Republic. They had been assigned to a mining job at a very high altitude many years before and were sitting there idle for seven years!


Because we were in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were special guidelines that we had to follow to ensure crew safety, which we expected would slow the work. Additionally, we encountered a few technical issues while trying to put them to work again. After some time, we were finally able to move the cranes to the port, where they were shipped. The whole process was extremely challenging, but we had a great team on board with a lot of disposition to make things happen. In the end, we were able to finish the project within only 30 days — half of the expected time.


LU: How does Manitowoc’s commitment to innovative design make your job easier?


Salazar: For operators who are new to Manitowoc cranes, the machines can look complex. However, it does not take long for them to realize how intuitive, easy, and pleasant it is to operate these cranes. Clients also quickly understand that the assembling and disassembling processes are very efficient and ahead of the competition. It makes our job as technicians so much easier! We do not need to spend a lot of time explaining how things work. Clients love it! Once they get familiarized with the cranes and see how uncomplicated these machines are, their confidence boosts and we see improved performance on the job site.


LU: What is your favorite part about working in Latin America?


Salazar: I really enjoy traveling, meeting new people, and learning about new cultures. Although we all speak Spanish, some words are used in different contexts in different countries; social approaches can be quite different as well. Of course, each place and each job has its own particularities and interesting challenges. 


I am constantly learning about new things and new technologies, meeting new people, and overcoming new challenges. I am never bored here!



LU: When you are not fixing customers’ cranes, what do you like to do?


Salazar: I love spending time with my family. I have two kids — a 10 and a 17-year-old. They play volleyball and practice kickboxing and I enjoy watching their tournaments. We also like motorcycles and sometimes take rides together.


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