Business Growth

Nicolette Hurley: ‘I can do it’

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Another in a series

By Eddie Wooten

In her first days with City Wide Exterminating in North Carolina, technician Nicolette Hurley had to make a decision regarding which mosquito blower she would use.

Not only that, City Wide's only female technician at the time would make that call in front of the other technicians, all men, at the company lot in Locust, about 25 miles east of Charlotte.

"You can use the small one," Dylan Morrison, a City Wide co-owner and the director of operations, told Hurley. "But you might have to fill it up again to complete the whole yard."

Twenty pounds empty, capable of carrying 2 gallons, versus 30 pounds and a capacity of 3½ gallons.

"I want to try the big one," she said.

The mixture sloshing inside the tank initially did a number on the 5-foot-6 Hurley.

"I looked like a baby dinosaur walking across the parking lot," she recalls. "Then I was like, 'Yeah, I can do it.'"

Indeed, she can. 

Hurley, who is in her fourth year with City Wide, earned the company's award for technician of the year in 2023. 

"She will work circles around anyone," says Ashley Morrison, City Wide's majority owner. "She's fantastic. Her customers love her. She's got fantastic attention to detail."

Yet Hurley remains a bit of a rarity in the field for pest control companies. A 2024 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that only 5.1% of pest control technicians are women, although National Pest Management Association CEO Dominque Stumpf believes those results should be higher. 

Hurley is part of FieldRoutes’ Showcasing Women In Pest Control series, and she recently talked about her role as a technician and what she brings to it, her one job phobia, and more.

My position

Pest control specialist

City Wide Exterminating, Locust, NC

"I'm out in the field. Every day, I run a route. I also help cover other routes if there's a tech out or a heavier workload in a certain area. My main thing is residential pest control: Going to customers’ houses, doing the regular pest control, then quarterly services. I do have several commercial accounts in my area.” 

Years in pest control industry

Why my company chose me as its technician of the year

"We've had a couple of review competitions, and I've generally done well in those. I enjoy helping people. I have good rapport with (customers), so I get good reviews. 

"Always trying to do a good job and have attention to detail. I always show up with a smile. Always eager to help. If I have an injury or something, my body just heals. I work through it. We're good. I just always show up unless I'm just really, really sick."

A career I once envisioned

"I always had good grades. I actually got a scholarship to go to a community college. I was torn between doing either graphic design, because I always liked art, creativity, and things of that nature even though I'm not great at drawing, and simulation game development. I went with graphic design.

"I never actually applied my degree properly. I've just always worked off those skills. It helps you think about how things are presented when you work somewhere as far as flyers or things like that. And I think about how to contact customers, communicating the message I need to communicate."

What the pest control industry is all about for me

“Being a part of the pest control industry is my job at the moment and possibly a career. It’s a chance for me to help people with their pest issues. It also allows me the opportunity to go to new places and meet new people. One of the most satisfying parts of the job is getting the opportunity to help people. 

“Sometimes people have pest control as a preventative to reduce their risk of pest issues, but others have extreme infestations. Seeing the relief and hearing the gratification from people after you have remedied their issue or provided informative advice is a fulfilling feeling.

“As a tech you never know what the issue could be. It can range from ants in the bathroom, roaches in the kitchen, to mice in the garage. Almost everyone is usually happy to see the ‘bug people,’ especially if they are currently having pest issues.

“Most encounters or interactions I have had with other techs and reps in the tech community have been positive and supportive overall, so it is also cool to be a part of that community.”

The biggest misconceptions about women in pest control

"A Lot of customers are kind of shocked. I wear a hat all of the time. Even when I'm not working, I just like hats. A customer might be like, 'Hey, sir.' I don't really necessarily correct them because they generally figure it out a couple of seconds later when I turn around. 

"It seems like more females than men are usually shocked that I do pest control. They're like, 'Oh, I could never do that with the bugs and everything.' Or when I show up and say, 'Yeah, I'm doing your crawl space evaluation,' and they're like, 'Oh, you're going in there?' 

"A lot of the women I service think it's really awesome. And even a lot of the guys think it's actually kind of cool that I'm doing it. They're more shocked that I'm not someone who works in the office taking calls or something of that nature but I'm actually out in the field doing the really nasty jobs."

A mentor

“When I first started, I mostly trained with Dylan both in the classroom and in the field. It’s valuable getting to observe someone with years of experience in the pest control industry and seeing how they work. You have to play detective at times and ask questions or look for evidence to figure out what kind of insect the customer is seeing or how they are getting in or where they’re coming from. 

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Above: City Wide Exterminating's Nicolette Hurley with Dylan Morrison.

“After initial training, I started doing termite jobs and bed bug jobs often. I worked with Adam Hartsell a lot with termite and bed bug jobs. We did a lot of not-so-fun jobs together, but we both have a pretty good sense of humor so it made it not so bad.

“The thing that I learned from Dylan and Adam was to make the best of things and not take things too seriously. You just have to go with things sometimes and work with what you have in a situation.

“I’m still learning today if I work with someone on a job or ride with them. You don’t have to be amazed by someone or even agree with how someone does everything or even like them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still learn from them. It is easier to look up to and learn from people you like, but life has taught me to keep an open mind and realize there are different things to learn from different people.”

My biggest challenge

"Vines. I have this weird relationship with vines. When I was younger, my dad showed me the movie, 'Little Shop of Horrors.' When I got a little bit older, he was watching 'Jumanji' and called me, 'Come look at this.' I walked in when the plant burst through the wall, trying to grab people. That just solidified it. And then it became a joke: 'I don't like vines.' 

“(When she encounters vines) I say the word 'potato' repeatedly. I don't know how that became my coping mechanism. And I only did it at work. Or I call my mom on my earbud and say, 'Hey, you know how you ramble? Can you just ramble about stuff, so I can get through this?'

"There have been times where it feels like maybe there's a little bit of a question, because I am a female. But the way I handle it, my personality, and knowing what I'm doing and actually showing results, it's always gotten handled pretty quickly."

My biggest opportunity

"I definitely enjoy working for the company. I've definitely shown that I'll put in the work. We'll just see what kind of avenues and what options I have available. I wouldn't mind getting more into selling as far as residential and commercial and maybe being a mix of that regarding my route.”

A woman's superpower in pest control

"Attention to detail is probably one of the things I got from graphic design. If there are kids toys, animal stuff, making sure that you don't treat too close to it, being mindful of those things. If customers have something that's fallen over in their garden or the trash can be brought up – just helping. Or when I'm in a crawl space, if I see, 'Oh, it looks like this pipe could be leaking.' 

"(At a new house) I had mud all over my boots because it was a pretreat. The driveway was the freshest concrete ever. When I stepped on the concrete, I took my boots off and walked in my socks to get back to the truck. 'It still looks nice. I'm just going to let it be.'

"Sometimes women are smaller, so we fit in more places."

"It's good to have men and women in management positions – presidents, owners of companies in pest control and also as field techs – because it helps give a balanced view of things. It helps to have the male perspective and the female perspective. You get to see things from all sides. In the end, that benefits customers."

You also should know

"(Regarding fiancé and fellow City Wide technician Sam Schuman) We encourage each other and build off each other. We're like that with everything in life, but it's cool to be able to do that with work, too."

My advice to a woman starting out

"Always have an open mind. There are going to be different, difficult customers. Don't let something get under your skin. Smile and go with things a little bit."

In Case You Missed It

Previous entries in FieldRoutes' Showcasing Women In Pest Control series:

Showcasing Women In Pest Control: ‘A Needle Moved’ (April 30, 2024)

Dominique Stumpf: ‘Women will just figure it out’ (May 2, 2024)

Tithaney Bray: 'Insects can do whaaat?' (May 7, 2024)

Essence Blackhurst: 'What in the world?' (May 9, 2024)

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