» Featured Articles
» Subscription Information
» Reader Survey
» Companies Actively Recruiting
Answering the Call
From launching satellites to laying fiber-optic cables, engineers and technical experts answer the call and keep the world communicating.
This spring the coronavirus (COVID-19) delivered unprecedented challenges to our healthcare and economic systems, but it’s also pushed the limits of existing telecommunications and networking infrastructure. As millions of people set up offices and classrooms at home, telecommunications and internet service providers (ISPs) scrambled to meet the greater demand for bandwidth.
The crisis most certainly necessitated an immediate technical response, but the experience also shines a light on just how fast the telecommunications and networking industry are evolving - having stood tall and steadfast in providing continuous service throughout the global pandemic. It also shines a light on how far they still must travel to satisfy growing demand beyond global pandemic parameters, now and in the future.
According to the Cisco Annual Internet Report, fixed bandwidth speeds will double during the next 36 months, and speeds for both mobile and Wi-Fi will triple.
As such, advancing the infrastructure to fulfill these projections requires a diverse workforce of engineers and IT specialists. The four professionals featured here not only showcase how different skill sets are valued and applied in this quickly changing landscape, but also how varied career paths can be within this necessary and needed technical realm.
Corona Directs Global Outreach for Viasat
The proliferation of cellphones seems so complete that it’s hard to imagine there are still markets not linked up to the internet. According to Cisco, though, only slightly more than half of the world’s population was able to log on in 2018. The research also indicates the connectivity gap is quickly shrinking. By 2023 two thirds of the world’s citizens will be online, thanks in part to the growth of commercial communications satellites.
Technology Review reports approximately 2,000 satellites orbited the planet last year. Within five years, another 1,100 could be launched, including Viasat-3, developed by Carlsbad, CA-headquartered Viasat Inc.
Company statements describe the project as a trio of satellites that will provide broadband to all populated continents, with an anticipated 1 terabit or more of network capacity. That far surpasses the multiple gigabit-per-second capabilities of its predecessors Viasat-1 and Viasat-2. The new orbiters are scheduled for launch next year.
“The world needs some level of connectivity. It’s been proven to drive education, healthcare, and conductivity between loved ones and families in different villages,” comments Fernando Corona.
Corona’s career spans the evolution of the telecommunications industry, including a stint as the top executive of a popular prepaid cellphone company before becoming a director for Viasat. That means he’s also seen the limitations of tower technology in some regions. Not only do areas lack the infrastructure or have geography that prohibits tower installation, but Mother Nature can interfere with communication, leaving communities isolated at a time when communication could be lifesaving.
“Tertiary networks are fine when you don’t have an issue, but when natural disasters happen, they can fail. We have service all over the Caribbean, which is a hurricane corridor, and [after storms], we have quickly gotten refugee centers up and running consuming hundreds and hundreds of gigabytes per month. This is a virtual group disaster recovery response using satellite communications,” says Corona.
Working with governments and industry throughout the Caribbean, Mexico and South America to expand satellite communications for more reliable access excites Corona. However, technology is only one component of his duties. He must account for cultural and geopolitical trends, which individualizes virtually every project.
“You can’t cookie-cutter technology. Different people use and approach communications opportunities differently. What consumers can support or afford in Africa versus those in Colombia versus the U.S. is very different,” notes Corona. “I’m thinking through the ecosystems of the process to implement the adoption of satellite.”
Of course, cost always has to be calculated, but isn’t always straightforward.
“How do you build a business model for governments, non-government organizations, and businesses to subsidize those impoverished areas?” Corona asks. “It has to happen at the intersection of economics and technology, but that’s the vision of our leadership: driving down costs to make satellite communication affordable across the world.”
The challenge of operating within varied countries is exactly what Corona values about his role and Viasat’s reach. Having lived and worked abroad, he enjoys experiencing different cultures, and learning how business is conducted within those environments.
“For example, from a Latin American standpoint, there’s nothing like being face to face and building relationships. There has to be a level of confidence built before even doing business. Once you build that trust, [it’s good even] though it’s a longer relationship [to build] than commercial transactions between two companies,” he points out. “It’s a people business regardless of where you work.”
Communicate your career goals with the experts at Viasat Inc: careers.viasat.com. Track company developments on social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.
Thompson Keeps Black & Veatch on Track
Even during the days of stay-at-home orders when the Black & Veatch workforce conducted business from home offices, Tobias Thompson looked forward to checking in with his team. He’s always appreciated the easy collegial relationships he’s cultivated within the telecommunications division.
“I’m working with great people. I like coming to work and not worrying about somebody who appears to be unhappy being there. It helps me come to work with the same positive attitude,” he says.
Black & Veatch, headquartered in Overland Park, KS, is an employee-owned engineering, procurement, construction, and consulting corporation with operations in multiple industries, including telecommunications.
Strong interpersonal relationships aren’t simply a perk for the engineering specialist II. Thompson’s days are filled conversing with team members to gather information about project status. Then there are client questions that need answering and fielding requests from various other departments. In fact, among his primary responsibilities is forwarding data and figures from the field to accounting for billing requirements.
Oftentimes, he’s building new relationships, too, as various individuals get involved on projects.
“I deal with training and bringing other people up to speed, whether they’re new to the company or come from other groups or markets,” he explains.
These situations can test Thompson’s communication skills, especially when contextualizing projects with long design and implementation phases.
“It’s a challenge bringing someone new up to speed and recalling the project history so you can show how far things have come,” he comments.
Not all his professional relationships center on job-specific tasks. In fact, Thompson seeks connections with other employees he may not encounter via the course of a day or project. Soon after onboarding with the company three years ago, he joined EBONY, one of several Black & Veatch employee resource groups.
“I’ve found it really helpful to be introduced to other people who look like me and who have similar interests,” notes Thompson.
He also emphasizes the importance such contacts can play in relation to career development.
“Networking is probably underrated, but it does help down the road. You connect with people, so when you’re ready to move to another opportunity, you have people in your network who can help you get there,” explains Thompson.
When it comes to career growth, though, it’s not only who you know, but also what you know. Thompson stresses the need for continuous learning, which doesn’t have to be limited to one’s specific discipline. For example, he earned a degree in urban planning and design, which doesn’t automatically dial in with deciding where fiber optics cables should be installed. Through classes, he was introduced to telecommunications technology and software, and that was a foray into the industry. “Every opportunity I could get to use the software, I took it. That was a springboard for what I do now,” he relates.
And, in hindsight, his education proved beneficial for project design and logistics. “In telecom you have to dig and do boring, so you have to do that in the public right of way, not on people’s property,” elaborates Thompson.
“Having that understanding of urban planning helped me become a better designer.”
As for his future professional development, Thompson continues working toward engineering specialist III status, and aspires to assume a leadership position or accept international opportunities, all of which he can pursue within Black & Veatch with a little assistance from his network.
“There are different avenues you can work your way up, and Black & Veatch supports that,” he states.
Design your own career path at Black & Veatch: bv.com/careers. Track company developments on social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.
Richardson Secures Her Place at Palo Alto Networks
Until a few years ago, the majority of machines connected to the internet consisted of computers and the fast-growing segment of smartphones. According to the Cisco report, however, the Internet of Things (IoT) introduced new families of connected devices. Analysts predict home applications will command the largest segment of the market by 2023, and vehicle applications will represent the fastest-growing share.
Whether a legacy machine or the latest smart feature, each new device networked or app downloaded opens the door for a possible security breach. That predicament has spawned a niche function within networking and created a new market for Palo Alto Networks.
The company specializes in engaging emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and orchestration, to build virtual fortresses around users’ data. That combination of networking and security matched Ashley Richardson’s experiences as an information technology specialist in the U.S. Army Reserve.
“We had the ability to perform vulnerability scans, and since I had my Security+ certification, I was able to help initiate the scans and remediate with a patch management process. I really enjoyed the cybersecurity-related work, and I knew I wanted more of it,” she explains.
Actually, Richardson has always had an insatiable curiosity with computers. “My dad worked as a utility worker, [and] I remember seeing his big hand-held computer, and trying to push buttons on it to see how it worked and what it did. Also we were one of the first families I knew that had a computer. I played computer games on it and I always wanted to be on it,” she recalls.
Despite her deep affinity with computers, it wasn’t until her military career that Richardson ranked information technology (IT) as more than a personal interest. “I worked my way from call center to help desk, eventually working as an escalation desktop support engineer,” she elaborates.
Those responsibilities cemented the idea of a career in computers as a civilian, ultimately prompting Richardson to register for a training class sponsored by Vets in Tech at Palo Alto Networks. She hoped to have some fun expanding her knowledge base from an industry leader, but by program completion, she graduated with a job offer from the Santa Clara, CA-headquartered corporation.
Richardson began her civilian career as a technical trainer, then moved to professional services engineer, and, most recently, serves as a Cortex system engineer. Although still excited by technological advances and possibilities, Richardson has become equally motivated by the mentorship promoted within the company.
“I was empowered to go back and finish my degree by my first manager at Palo Alto Networks. My second manager encouraged me to improve my technical knowledge as much as possible. My newest manager is pushing me to increase my knowledge of the threat landscape and become an expert in the field. Palo Alto Networks not only hires the best, but they also want you to keep being the best,” she states.
Additionally, Richardson welcomes the diverse representation within the organization.
“My first impression of Palo Alto Networks was that everyone was so welcoming, and there were a lot of different kinds of people. [It’s] a great work environment for minorities, veterans, LGBTQIA+, everyone!” she shares. “The diverse workforce really made me want to be there.”
Indeed, she’s come to value how much the people factor factors into her career satisfaction at the company.
“True integrity means a lot, and it shows when times get hard,” she offers. “Management is incredibly supportive for both the good and bad times in your life.”
Secure your own technical career at Palo Alto Networks: jobs.paloaltonetworks.com. Track company developments on social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.
Citrix & Owitti Forecast Cloud Formations
When Hopeful Owitti joined Citrix 18 years ago, he was assigned to the company’s engineering group. When he returned to the group a year ago - after stops in consulting, technical readiness, sales enablement, and tech support departments - one might think his career traveled full circle. However, technology changes over the past two decades have filled his encore performance with an array of all-new experiences.
Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Citrix creates digital workspaces, develops and maintains networks, and runs analytics to devise solutions.
“Citrix has been an industry leader in key categories of virtualization and app delivery for decades, pioneering the new category of a digital workspace. The industry used to be focused on mobile as a strategy, and only a few years ago, the cloud started picking up. The discussions went from if customers would go to the cloud to when would they go to the cloud,” comments the director of service delivery assurance for cloud engineering.
As a company, Citrix began its own transition to a cloud model, doubling down on investments in cloud-based products and services, only three years ago. The chance to partake in that endeavor prompted Owitti to move back to the engineering group, and turned out to be one of the most extensive and rewarding professional experiences for him thus far.
“It was really good to see that level of teamwork with everyone coming together to get through the journey,” he recalls.
In that project and many of his assignments, Owitti functions as an intermediary between clients and engineering teams. He solicits information about users’ needs and experiences, then helps figure out how to deliver those wishes while making sure solutions coalesce with company objectives. But just like technology, client perspectives evolved over time.
“There were challenges for customers managing their own data. Customers trust Citrix to handle their most important workloads. With this responsibility, we’ve become laser-focused on availability, performance, and security of our cloud services to meet our customers’ expectations,” says Owitti.
Recent events, however, have mandated Owitti turn some of his focus toward network and cloud support for remote workers. The 2019 National Compensation Survey reported that approximately 140 million civilians, or 7% of the workforce, had access to flexible workplace options last year. The coronavirus (COVID-19) changed that radically. Now, Owitti believes the trend will likely continue long after stay-at-home directives are lifted.
“Right now it’s hard to think of going back to the way things were after everything settles. Companies will need to have the ability to support remote options for better levels of productivity, performance, and security, and Citrix will remain at the forefront of enabling companies to achieve that successfully,” he says.
While the aftermath of COVID-19 on office design and occupancy remains to be determined, Owitti is assured his journey within Citrix will continue to evolve.
“Citrix is known for its unique culture. We have an environment that supports innovation, and continuous improvement that have enabled me to craft my own path. I figured what I’d like to do next and what experiences I wanted to gain to get to the end goal, and I’ve had the opportunity to do that with the support of the leadership and executives,” he says.
Aim high at Citrix: jobs.citrix.com. Track company developments on social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.
Numbers to Know
• 3.6 networked devices per capita by 2023, up from 2.4 networked devices per capita in 2018.
• Fixed bandwidth speeds will double during the next 36 months, and speeds for both mobile and Wi-Fi will triple.
• More than 70% of the global population will have mobile connectivity by 2023.
• 5G speeds will be 13 times higher than the average mobile connection by 2023.
• The total number of distributed denial-of-service attacks will double to 15.4 million by 2023.
Source: Cisco Annual Internet Report (2018–2023) White Paper, cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/executive-perspectives/annual-internet-report/white-paper-c11-741490.html
Six Trends Affecting Telecom in 2020
• Digital transformation will shift to business model transformation because transformation in the digital era is as much about cultural shift in how to service the customer as it is about taking advantage of new technologies.
• The power will shift to the customers as they’re no longer required to stick with a certain provider, thereby making customer experience more important than ever.
• The forecast for public cloud will be bright, with cloud popularity continuing to grow in 2020, especially among operators.
• Telecom companies, which have built their business on connectivity, will need to look beyond connectivity to collaboration in order to profit, focusing more on using their networks to offer value-added services and taking that next step to maximize profit via the establishment of new digital business models and partnerships.
• Because customers now expect proactive, personalized, and seamless experiences, customer experiences will need to become end-to-end journeys at telecom companies, and this can be accomplished via organizing their systems and behind-the-scenes processes, and bridging organizational silos.
• Since seamless payments will be essential for good customer experiences, telecom companies will need to look beyond the traditional payment options that have been available for years to answer growing consumer demands, evolving technology, increasing mobility, and growing connectivity.
» Feedback for the Editor
» Request Article Copy