SICK's Own Accordion-Playing Senior Product Trainer

Rolf Agner, Senior Product Trainer, is the kind of person whose personality shines through a screen just as well as it does in person. That may be due to the sheer amount of social interaction he’s cultivated through the years. This social interaction had been spearheaded by his love of the accordion.

Accordion to Rolf…

As a kid, when he wasn’t cutting lawns for 35 cents a pop, Rolf was taking music lessons. One day, his teacher asked him to fill in for a band performing at the school in return for $20.

“This was in the 1950s, you know? $20 was a lot of money for a kid,” He laughed. “It nearly made me faint!”

He continued at it, and by the time he made it to high school, Rolf and his band would perform at the local church regularly. They even managed to win the Illinois State Fair twice. In the 1960s, they were good enough to perform on the radio.

Despite his success in music, Rolf took a 75% pay cut to become a computer programmer for the U.S. Navy once he finished college. He quickly realized that he felt too confined in the cube he worked in, which pushed him into trying out sales jobs. “Hey, if I get into sales, I’m going to be forced to meet and he said, repeating those thoughts from decades ago.

Rolf's Time at SICK, Inc.

Speaking with him, you would never guess that Rolf was once a very introverted person. When he was touring with his band, he didn’t participate socially as much as the others. More often than not, he would take time between breaks to study.

“We’d finish a set and go backstage. The others would be talking, but I’d be studying from my textbooks until we got called up again,” he said.

Considering this, going into a profession where social interaction was pivotal was the perfect way to get out of his shell.

“I just threw myself into it, 100%.” Rolf said. He grew a lot in sales, and worked with manufacturers in several industries for 15 years before finding his way to SICK, Inc. in 1999.

Most of Rolf’s early career with SICK was focused on sales and sales management, but in the last several years he has been one of our senior technical product trainers. This is the kind of job that requires a lot of traveling on-site to train SICK’s customers on any of the 40,000+ products available. As the years have gone on, Rolf has become more active in virtual training, leading to his role as the Senior Product Trainer.

“It’s more cost efficient, and just as good as in-person training,” he said. “I do miss the personal relationships that come from meeting face-to-face, though.”

In his free time, Rolf can be found with a fishing pole in hand, enjoying the wonders of nature. While he no longer performs on the radio, nowadays Rolf is the Secretary of the Chicago Accordion Club. He visits the city monthly for meetups. More recently, Rolf became the host of SICK's newest podcast, On Air With SICK USA.

We All Have Forks in the Road

There are not many people who can say that they went to school with a rockstar. There are even fewer who can say they rejected a rockstar from their band. In Rolf’s case, he’s one of two people he knows who can say that.

When he and his friend were starting to become more popular with their music back in high school, Rolf was approached by a young man who was interested in making the duo a trio. The two refused the offer. It wasn’t until many years later that Rolf realized the same young man he had rejected was Dennis DeYoung, famed singer-songwriter of the band Styx.

While he doesn’t regret anything about the life he’s lived, that revelation reminded Rolf of something he learned during his time in sales.

“Most people don’t recognize an opportunity when they’re presented with one. That or they don’t have the talent, education, or experience to take advantage of it,” he said. “We all reach these forks in the road. You have to develop the education, preparation, and open mind to really take advantage of these opportunities.”