WWLF News and Annoucements

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  • 02 Sep 2022 5:13 PM | Anonymous

    After the Great Resignation:  Your Next Move
    By Carolyn Hardwick, Senior Vice President, Engineering, Stratis 

    We are all too familiar with the phrase “the great resignation.” Over 47 million Americans left their jobs by the end of 2021, and there were 11.26 million job openings (Zippia) in the United States in January 2022.  What do these statistics mean for employers and for employees?  Many companies state that their toughest challenges these days are recruiting, managing, and retaining employees.  As a manager who has interviewed over 300 candidates over the last 3 years, I can tell you that recruiting and managing is not for the faint of heart.  To take it a step further and to be honest, lately, I have seen candidates and employees behaving badly.

    You may be one of the telecom workers who analyzed your work situation and decided to resign in the past 18 months.  With the new challenges of working from home, flexing your schedule, or juggling home-schooling with work demands, perhaps you decided to pursue a position that offered better work-life balance, higher pay, or better benefits.  Job candidates and employees hold a lot of power in today’s job market.  “To put it simply, the bar has been raised and the power has transitioned from the hands of the employer to those of the employee.” says Kristen Fowler, Vice President at JMJ Phillip Executive Search, writes in Forbes.

    I recently heard the phrase, “with great power comes great responsibility”, a line quoted by Peter Parker in Marvel’s Spiderman.  It is similar to a Biblical parable of the faithful servant in Luke 12:48: "To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked”.  If you know you are in a favorable and powerful position as an employee or prospective employee, shouldn’t you use your abilities in the best possible way? 

    If you are contemplating change or are in the throes of recruiting for your next position, what’s your next move? Knowing those first impressions are lasting impressions, I hope that everyone, whether interviewing or simply attending work meetings, adheres to some basic business guidelines: be prepared, be prompt, listen more than you speak, and dress professionally.  Even in a virtual setting, showing up late, being disheveled, wearing your “weekend casual” attire, and being unprepared demonstrates disrespect to your audience.  

    Be realistic about your worth and your experience.  If you’ve been in the industry with little or no experience, know that you will be offered an entry-level position with a commensurate salary.  Be realistic, but don’t disqualify yourself by demanding an unrealistically high salary.  Be prepared to go through months of training, and be willing to work diligently to get to the next level.  I recently spoke with a CEO who credits his success to being the person who was willing to do the jobs no one wanted to take.  He also took every opportunity to learn something new, take advice from managers, and believed that there was no limit to what he could achieve.

    Finally, if you have landed a new job, stop looking.  Your new employer has hired you with confidence and is ready to train and retain you.  It is inappropriate to start your position, yet continue to interview with other companies.  It is also unfair to start a position, then threaten to leave within the first 90 days with mention that another company has approached you with a better offer.  Don’t burn that bridge with a company that is investing in you as part of their team.

    Remember your power and your responsibility.  Be humble.  We can all learn.  “There can be a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Confident people are naturally magnetic, but nobody is attracted to people who act superior to others” (Celia Harvey) Let’s all put our best foot forward and raise the bar with our best efforts and contributions.  Decide to bring your A-game every day, and you’ll see an incredible return on your personal investment.  Don’t let anyone hold you back, including yourself.

    Sources: 
    18 Great Resignation Statistics [2022]: Why Are Americans Leaving Their Jobs? – Zippia

    Why Is It So Hard to Find the Right Candidates in Todays Economy

    The-6-rules-of-starting-a-new-job


  • 02 Sep 2022 5:07 PM | Anonymous

    Arelis Baden
    WWLF City Rep South Carolina
    Kineticom, Regional Manager

    1) How long have you been a City/Regional Rep for WWLF and what is your territory/region?I began as a City Rep in Michigan and am currently the City Rep for South Carolina.

    2) Why did you join WWLF?When I started in the industry, I saw WWLF as a great way to network but realized quickly that was only a small part of it. Getting to know some of the ladies locally and nationally made it a fun way to connect and support each other in the industry.

    3) How has being a part of WWLF impacted you personally or professionally?Being part of the WWLF has helped me grow in my career by getting to meet so many strong professional women who boost your level of confidence and help mentor you as you develop in your career.

    4) Where did you get your start in the industry? What is your current role?
    I started in Telecom staffing 10 years ago and I am currently a Regional Manager at Kineticom.

    5) What has been the best experience you’ve had with WWLF?
    All the experiences I have had have been extremely rewarding, but overall, I am happy to be a part of the organization because I am able to connect with strong women. Over the years going to events and meeting these women, I have been able to see how everyone grows individually, and it inspires me to work harder and continue excelling in my job.

    6) What does confidence mean to you?
    Confidence to me means staying focused on how I as an individual can grow personally and professionally, staying positive, motivated, and patient in order to achieve my goals.

    7) How would you describe yourself in three words?
    I would describe myself as positive, grateful, and motivated.

    8) What do you like to do outside of work?
    Outside of work, I love to travel, experience new restaurants, and spend time with my daughter.

  • 01 Aug 2022 1:53 PM | Anonymous

    Juliette D. Hamer
    Business Development, Director of Sales, Tillman Infrastructure

    When I started in telecom in 1993, I had just moved to Texas from Los Angeles and was working for a temp agency.  They placed me at a two-way radio company called A&B Electronics as a file clerk. I had no idea what two-way was, let alone what they even did! I had plans to be an architect: I would design, and my dad would build. Little did I know my path was about to change.

    Time went on and A&B Electronics grew to be Pittencrieff Communications and a few years later was acquired by a little company we all know: Nextel Communications. I was so eager to learn and absorb as much as I could from the people that took the time to teach me. I wanted to be in every department so I could understand how each impacted one another. And that I did, I would soon move from filing to air-time billing, to a position as an executive assistant to the Director of Operations as well as Human Resources in my early years. 

    Several years later, I started working for Titan Towers, and this was truly my introduction to legal and the tower side of vertical real estate. I had the most incredible leaders at Titan who mentored me, many of whom are still in the industry. While I was working at Titan Towers, I found my groove and knew I was headed in the right direction. I was hooked on wireless. After a brief stint on the carrier side working for T-Mobile, I soon went back to the tower side with Mountain Union Telecom, T-Mobile Towers, and Crown Castle. My direction shifted and the collective experience from my past gave me the confidence to continue to pursue advancement. Currently, I work at Tillman Infrastructure as their Director of Sales. This is a position I created in tandem with my boss, as a solution to business needs and the next step in my career advancement.

    Of all the lessons I have learned over the years, one of my key takeaways is you do not have to stay in a role that is not the right fit for you. If you find yourself in a role that is not fulfilling, glean the information you can while seeking out your next opportunity. Always trust your gut and surround yourself with teams that make you strive to be better. Find companies that believe in you and give you the platform to grow and be the best version of yourself. As you continue to grow, establish relationships, and pivot to the next endeavor, pause and enjoy the journey and never forget the “telecom roots'' you came from.

  • 01 Aug 2022 1:46 PM | Anonymous

    Heidi Nelson
    Business Development Manager, Harmoni Towers
    LWA Vice President

    How long have you been a City/Regional Rep for WWLF and what is your territory/region?
    I was appointed in January 2014.  New Orleans is my area!  They also added Jackson since the two are so closely related.

    Why did you join WWLF?
    I believe WWLF is an amazing organization that really helps women in the industry connect and learn from one another.  One thing I really enjoy is that we are able to learn from all facets of the industry and build each other up.  Women helping, mentoring and uplifting women is so important!  I also appreciate and commend our male members and supporters!

    How has being a part of WWLF impacted you personally or professionally? 
    I have gotten to meet some wonderful women and have been able to build relationships with them whereas I might not have been able to otherwise.  I’ll reiterate again that it’s been such a pleasure learning from all of them as well.

    Where did you get your start in the industry? What is your current role?
    Believe it or not, I started as a receptionist at Faulk & Foster in 2004!  I enjoyed learning and helping so much that I quickly moved up the ranks because I was so eager to do more and more.  I attribute a lot of my success to the training and excellent managers I was able to sit under there, as well as Integrisite and Castille Consolidated!  I am now a Business Development Manager at Harmoni Towers.  I absolutely love our company and my team!

    What is your favorite Quote?
    My all-time favorite quote is:  If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly!  I truly believe that anything you do, you should absolutely do your best.  I often always quote this to my son as well, working to pass along my drive to him.

    If you could meet anyone dead or alive who would it be and why?
    Honestly, I have about 14 different people that I would like to meet.  But, at the top of the list, is my paternal grandmother.  She passed away when I was very young, so I didn’t really get to know her, but stories of her are amazing.  She was a poet and the best person most people say they’ve ever met.  She went out of her way to show kindness and humility.  Also, it’s pretty cool that I look almost exactly like her.  I try to be the person that people would say that about as my mark on them.

    What do you like to do outside of work?
    My dad is a high school football coach and it’s pretty much all I know, besides telecom!  I love football (Geaux Tigers & Saints)!!  I love to fish.  I enjoy my roles as Vice President of the Louisiana Wireless Association and Board Member/Clay Co-Chair for the South Wireless Association as well! But, most importantly, my number 1 is my son.  He keeps me on my toes and is without a doubt my “why”.

  • 01 Aug 2022 12:51 PM | Anonymous

    Sorry to interrupt what you were doing, but do you have a few moments to read this article?

    Saying “I’m sorry” is so ubiquitous in our day-to-day vocabulary that it has almost become an unconscious filler phrase or standard sentence starter. Does your outgoing phone message start with, “I’m sorry I missed your call?” How many times have you apologized for ‘bothering’ a co-worker or client when you have a question? Do you say you are sorry if you have to turn down an invitation to a work-related event?

    Certainly, apologizing is sometimes necessary, but experts advise people to pay attention to what they are apologizing for, especially at work. And especially women, who tend to offer up more apologies than their male counterparts. Interestingly, when scientists studied why women say sorry more than men, they found it is because women and men have different perspectives on what type of behavior warrants an apology, with women finding themselves guilty of more offenses and viewing those offenses as more severe than men typically do.

    For many of us, apologizing often just feels like the polite thing to do when things don’t go exactly to plan, and it can become a handy catchphrase to diffuse a potentially uncomfortable situation and keep the peace. However experts suggest saying sorry can have unintended consequences, such as making the apologizer appear weak or blameworthy, and it can devalue their contributions.

    Career coach Elana Konstant blogged about what she called her ‘apology addiction,’ an affliction she didn’t fully realize she had until she started her own business and found herself apologizing for charging for her services. She said people she counsels on career transitions often apologize when negotiating employment offers or requesting a promotion or raise, a habit she interprets as an attempt to appear less aggressive and engender approval. Konstant suggests counting how many times you apologize on a given day, especially at work, to see if you might be an apology addict as well.

    If you discover you are an over-apologizer, there are a few things you can do, experts say. First, only apologize for things you are truly sorry and regretful about. Put an end to apologizing for things that are out of your control. Don’t apologize for doing your job or taking time off for personal reasons. When you are tempted to apologize, try tweaking it into a ‘thank you’ instead. For instance, rather than saying “I’m sorry I’m a few minutes late,” try “Thank you for your patience while I finished up on a call.”

    Orlagh Claire, a blog for young professionals, outlines other seemingly innocuous phrases that inadvertently minimize your authority and presence in the business world. For instance: “Just.” Just following up, just reaching out, just checking in. Just diminishes your question or comment so just stop saying just.

    The blog also challenges professionals to think twice about the word ‘Yes.’ As women, it can be easy to fall into the trap of saying yes to every ask or task that comes our way in an attempt to demonstrate our value on the job. Being honest about your workload and limits will actually set you up for success more effectively than taking on too much and not being able to give a project the attention it deserves. And when you politely decline, don’t say you’re sorry.

  • 04 Jul 2022 10:29 PM | Anonymous

    Debra Mercier, Comcast Business Sales Executive WWLF Co- Executive Director of Programs

    In an industry that is focused primarily on customer-driven satisfaction, creating the perfect customer experience is so much more than giving the customer what they want. It is about creating strong, lasting relationships. It’s about knowledge of the industry itself and providing real-time support. It’s about knowing their needs before they do and understanding future requirements that will assist in their growth as well as ours.

                I have always said, ‘love what you do, and it will show.’ This is another component of the great customer experience. The customer should be able to rely, not just on the quality of the work but the integrity of the team. Trust is a key factor as well. I suppose you could say that the telecom industry is much like a balancing act. On one hand, we have quality and needs. While on the other hand, we have speed and reliability. So many factors go into creating a great customer experience. For me, integrity and credibility are at the top. The customer has chosen you, now go out and give them the best experience they have ever had. Tell them what you are going to do, then go do it.

                After 20 years in the telecom industry, I’m not quite sure how to put my journey into words. Let’s just say, ‘be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.’ Ironically, I didn’t actively look for a position within the industry. However, the industry found me. Like many others my age, I put my career in the hands of employment agencies; starting first with a growing cable television company. This was a time before cell phones became as popular as they are today. I was then, as I continue to be, a very forward-thinking person. I knew what I wanted, and I simply went for it; headfirst.

                As I stated previously, I didn’t find telecom, it found me. Paging was where I really dug my heels in and grew as a salesperson. Surprisingly, successes came easily, and naturally. I was intrigued by how quickly the products and services evolved and all the training. I thrived on interpersonal connections, and, like a sponge, I gained as much knowledge as I could. Frankly, there was so much to learn. The different businesses and products were vast, and I took it all in. I wanted to know everything about the telecom industry.

                I feel a sense of enormous pride when I think about all I have accomplished. As the industry has grown, I too have grown with it. Unfortunately, growth isn’t always enough. Lately, we have had to take on a larger amount of adaptability. Within the last two years, the world around us has changed, and we have found that we must change with it and adapt to the diverse needs of our customers. It has taken me 25 years to get where I am today. A lot of hard work and sacrifice; long hours full of success and failure. My failures are small, but I value them just as I do my successes. It is easy for a person to be judged upon by their successes. However, it takes a real winner to accept the judgments of their mistakes, for it is not how many times we win but how we accept defeat and gain strength from it.

                The future of the telecom industry is unknown. Much like gazing into a crystal ball. There are so many advances on the horizon in the telecom industry. However, technology is rapidly changing. Even as we speak, new devices are being developed, networks are being built and new companies are entering the industry. The industry is changing so we must change with it. What I see more and more is the convergence of solutions and Telecom as a Service, this will allow all buildings and users to get what they need when they need it, and fully managed solutions. We need new, free-thinking individuals that are not afraid to get their hands dirty; men and women that have the ability to think out of the box. Scratch that, throw away the box and dive in -  the world is our oyster. 

                My advice to those seeking a career in the industry is to first find a mentor. This will guide you along in your journey. Always keep networking; in sales it is the key to your success. You never know who you’re talking to and how that person can support you someday. Never stop learning, always want more, and become active in your community.

                Eight years ago, I was introduced to WWLF, and the access to so many people, education, and companies, WWLF gave me the support platform to help launch my career to the next level. I became a member, a mentor, and in the last 3 years on the Leadership board. The knowledge I have gained from this organization is priceless. I am currently excited and ready to run for President in the upcoming election later this year, these opportunities are open and ready for you to go for it. I am a strong believer in what WWLF stands for. The organization’s passion for advocating for strong, career-minded women is one I wholeheartedly share. I work hard to support the success of our industry for our customers and for those of us that strive for professional and personal success.

  • 04 Jul 2022 10:21 PM | Anonymous

    Stella Bezabeh, Verizon, Sr Engr Spec-Ntwk Reg/RE - Venue/IB/DAS Solutions Southern California Network

    How long have you been a Rep for WWLF and what is your territory/region?
    I have been with WWLF since 2012, I started as a City Rep and am now National Director of West Events

    Why did you join WWLF?
    I joined WWLF to learn about the many facets of the industry and network with others in different parts of the nation. A lot of my WWLF family have become very close to me and considered my work family.

    How has being a part of WWLF impacted you personally or professionally?
    WWLF has personally impacted my life by giving me confidence and resources on how to become a better leader. Professionally WWLF has strengthened my communication skills and allowed me to build a diverse network.

    Where did you get your start in the industry? What is your current role?
    I got started in the industry in 2004 working on the Nextel project as a permit expeditor. John Koos saw potential in me and gave me the opportunity since I had never worked in wireless. I currently work in Real Estate managing In Building and large Venues in the SoCal market for Verizon.

    What is your favorite Quote?
    Have courage and be kind. You have more kindness in your little finger than most people possess in their whole body. And it has power. More than you know —Brittany Candau

    What do you like to do outside of work?
    Outside of work I am quite active. I play competitive tennis, box, and take HIIT Classes. Outside of those activities, I have a large family and a great group of friends with whom I manage my time around.

    If you could meet anyone dead or alive who would it be and why?
    Mahatma Gandhi. I love everything he is about and how he leads in action. He doesn't need to say anything for people to listen.

    How would you describe yourself in three words?
    Genuine, Loyal & Adventurous

  • 04 Jul 2022 10:15 PM | Anonymous

    “We have a big problem in this industry, in this country and in the world,” said Carrie Charles, chief executive officer of telecom staffing firm Broadstaff, opening a panel focused on the wireless workforce at Connect (X) in Denver. “This is one of the most complicated times in the history of our world when it comes to the labor market. We have a labor shortage. People are leaving their jobs by the droves. They're going to different places. They're changing their minds. They're looking at what's meaningful for them.”

    Charles noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the culture of work, creating new workplace environments and rules, spawning the Great Resignation, and amplifying the importance of diversity and inclusion. The panel, “Harnessing the Power of Your Workforce,” delved into the workforce challenges the industry is facing. Panelists included Blair Crawford, vice president of national accounts and marketing for Vertical Bridge and former executive director of industry relations at the Women’s Wireless Leadership Forum; Lynn Whitcher, general counsel at MD7 and WWLF’s director of education; Leslie Freeman-Kowalczyk, principal of the telecom engineering department at WT Group and director of membership at WWLF; Amanda Cahill, senior director of business development at Network Connex and president of WWLF; and Beth Martindale, vice president of WWLF and senior project manager for wireless at Mears Broadband.

    Cahill noted that diversity and inclusion has been a hot topic for the past couple of years but asked what that really means for the telecom industry. Diving into research and statistics, Cahill said embracing diversity has been shown to increase revenue, attract and retain talent, and motivate existing employees. She cited a recent McKinsey & Company study that found highly inclusive and diverse organizations generate 2.3 times more cash flow per employee and 1.4 times more revenue.

    Whitcher cautioned, however, that diversity has to be more than checking a box. She said the benefits of a wide variety of voices, experiences and backgrounds among a company’s employee base can yield new ideas and innovation. But achieving diversity can be difficult, noted Martindale. We naturally gravitate toward others who we have things in common with and that we can relate to, and finding qualified candidates who are different from us can be challenging, she said.

    Whitcher, who shared that most of her department at MD7 consists of Asian females, said being open to candidates who don’t look like you is key. For her, that meant investing in a junior lawyer who grew up with a single mom and didn’t have a lot of businesspeople in his network.

    “He looks very different than me,” said Whitcher, “but he happens to be a white male. It’s too easy in these diversity discussions to say, ‘Okay, let's measure against white male.’ Well, there isn't such a thing as a monolithic white male experience. That's not enough. We know the conversation has to be deeper than that.”

    Crawford also emphasized that diversity is much more than checking a box. Instead, companies need to live and breathe diversity every single day, she said. Vertical Bridge, for example, brought in a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) consultant to evaluate its team, the company and its operations, and then to educate the team on what DEI means. The company conducted a survey to get an accurate view of how its employees felt about diversity and inclusion.

    “If we’re not asking questions, we're just making assumptions that our employees feel like they're being included,” she said.

    Vertical Bridge then created a DEI task force to target improvements and enhancements to its DEI efforts. Those ideas include engaging in philanthropic activities that support underserved communities.  Vertical Bridge’s Charitable Network has donated more than $7.6 million and employees have given more than 4,000 hours volunteering in their communities. These types of activities also provide connections to a larger pool of potential employees who might be recruited through internships and referral programs, said Crawford.

    On the topic of finding new sources for diverse employee candidates, Martindale said it’s important to think outside the box. She noted former WWLF President Carolyn Hardwick was a teacher early in her career, but a summer gig with Sprint led Hardwick to pursue a career in telecom where she now is a C-level executive.

    “You've got to look in unique places,” said Martindale. “I went to a lineman’s college and spoke with them about coming to work for our company. They didn't know what we did, and they knew nothing about wireless because they know power. They didn't even know that this was an avenue for them.”

    Beyond bringing in diverse talent, there are also challenges with promoting women into leadership roles, said Charles.

    Whitcher emphasized that women need to bet on and believe in themselves in business. “Let me tell you ladies, what definitely should not stop you from attaining a leadership role is yourself,” she said. “You are smart enough. You are capable enough. You've earned this.”

    Cahill agreed with the importance of being your own advocate in career development. Sometimes that can be as simple as letting your company’s leadership know that you have interest in moving up. Often, employees don’t feel comfortable having those conversations internally with their leadership team, so they end up having them externally and then leaving for the role they wanted, Cahill said. This highlights an opportunity, as well, for employers to ask their employees what their goals and career aspirations are before they look outside the company for those opportunities.

    “You can be anything that you want,” said Cahill. “Don't let yourself hold you back. The answer is always ‘no’ until you ask. Yes, it may be uncomfortable, but everything that grows from that is on the other side. And what do you have to lose?”

  • 28 May 2022 9:37 AM | Anonymous

    The Sprint and T-Mobile merger ushered in a new phase of the telecommunications industry. This merger has impacted all of us by the creation of a new carrier and a surge of work. We all have felt the increase in activity but adding a global pandemic to the mix has made this time truly unprecedented. It is important now, more than ever, that we focus on burnout. What it is, the signs and symptoms, and what we can do to manage it.

    We have all heard of burnout but many of us think it’s a fleeting phase of job-related stress. Burnout is much more serious than that. It is a syndrome of chronic stress with no end date that is often accompanied by extreme exhaustion and depression. Burnout is defined as a type of job-related stress that affects one’s emotional, physical, and mental health but burnout can be caused by more than occupational stress. Personal commitments, relationships, and other catalysts of stress can cause burnout. More specific causes of burnout include a lack of control, unclear job expectations, lack of social support, work-life imbalance, and a chaotic or unpredictable environment.  Burnout is not yet a medical diagnosis but if you are not careful it can lead to many medical conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, insomnia, and a weakened immune system.   

                Although chronic stress causes burnout, the signs and symptoms between stress and burnout are very different. The symptoms of stress include over-engagement, reactive emotions, hyperactivity, and anxiety. Burnout symptoms are more aligned with depression than anxiety. With burnout, you may experience, disengagement, distant/diluted emotions, loss of motivation, lower activity, and a feeling of helplessness. The Mayo Clinic has a list of questions you can ask yourself to determine whether you are experiencing burnout at work. These questions include “Have you become cynical or critical at work?”, “Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?” and “Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?”.  If you answer yes to any of these questions, it’s time to monitor your symptoms and prepare to manage burnout. 

    Burnout can be tackled with the “Three R Approach” – Recognize, Reverse, and Resilience. Once you recognize the symptoms you can begin reversing the effects. Reversing the effects of burnout start with finding support. Reach out to family, friends and even your mentors to communicate and connect. Think about ways that certain home or work responsibilities can be delegated out and ask for help. Even if the people you reach out to cannot take on any responsibilities, just talking to someone can help alleviate your stress. In addition to finding support, reversing the effects of burnout includes limiting your contact with negativity in your life – this could be people or situations. You can also work on reframing the cause of your burnout. Reframing the cause of your burnout can look like finding the positives and value in your work, taking time off, or reestablishing better boundaries.  The third step in this approach is to build resilience. Building resilience is a continuous effort to keep from falling into burnout. Everyone has different ways to keep burnout in check. Some examples include exercising, setting boundaries around work, journaling, and meditating. The most impactful way to build resilience is to check in with yourself regularly. Taking the time to regularly assess your feelings and evaluate your priorities is an easy and effective way to keep burnout at bay. All too often many of us fall into the trap of constantly moving from one task to the next and saying “yes” without really considering our capacity.

    When it comes to burnout, the times when we are busiest are the most important times to make space for ourselves and our mental health. Summer is a fun time of year but with travel, childcare, and a high customer/client demand, burnout can creep up quickly and silently. Prevention is always better than recovery so monitor your symptoms, focus on the three R approach, and check in on your employees, coworkers, and friends. Most importantly, make sure you check in with yourself!

  • 28 May 2022 9:30 AM | Anonymous

    Senior Manager for National Site Safety, T-Mobile

    Heather Gastelum is one of the few women who focuses on construction safety in the wireless industry.  She is a member of T-Mobile’s Women & Allies Employee Resources Group, serves on the Women of NATE (WON) committee, and is a member of WWLF.

    I got my start in Wireless Construction in 1994 when I first moved to Washington state.  I had struggled to find work even though I had experience.  I took the first temp job offered, knowing I needed to work and keep my skills up.  The position was with Cellular Communication Services (CCS)  and after two months they offered me a full-time job as a Construction Coordinator. 

    I have a “non-traditional” upbringing, spending a few summers working for my father who held a general contractor's license and was an owner/operator of a custom steel fabrication manufacturing facility. I spent hours of my childhood looking at designs and blueprints on our dining room table and asking countless questions.

    Honestly, I wasn’t sure I was interested when I was first asked to take on a Construction Manager role. In the time spent working for my dad, I developed the ability to just see how something should fit together.  I spoke up in project planning and pre-construction meetings and called out things that the “boys” hadn’t even taken into consideration. Well, my call outs “did you consider this”, or “try that” caught the attention of the lead guy, Rick Turnure, who told me “you know more about construction than two of the guys I hired and we could use you more out in the field.”

    It was fantastic to be pushed and sponsored by a man who recognized that I knew more than a typical coordinator. He pushed the company leadership to give me a shot. We walked our first job together back in 1996 and two weeks later I was handed my first 25 raw-land new site builds for Sprint PCS. The rest, as they say, is history.

    The National Association of Women in Construction maintains statistics that show women working in construction numbered only 1.5 percent of the entire U.S. workforce in 2018.  Keeping in mind they do not account for our industry, I feel their numbers are in line, even perhaps a bit high, with the current state of women in the telecommunication field “construction” roles.

    On a positive note, NAWIC shows the gender pay gap is significantly smaller in construction occupations, with women earning on average 99.1 percent of what men make vs the 81.1 percent average for Women across the U.S.  (Source: NAWIC https://www.nawic.org/statistics and the 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics report)

    There are many challenges that face women in wireless construction, especially for female tower climbers.  While we have female friendly climbing gear, the tower structures have not changed. The average height of women in America is 5’ 4” and the standard distance between step bolts/pegs horizontally is 24”, which can make the climb more difficult and take longer than it would for a guy who is 6’ tall. 

    As I hosted a recent “Women of NATE” LeanIn session, I asked participants the question “What’s one of the biggest challenges Women face in our Industry?”  Some of the answers were: “Having tower companies believe that women can climb too.” “Always having to prove you really know what you’re doing.” And another said “lack of respect.” It is sad to think  that there are crews and companies that are still making field roles unwelcoming to women. It takes each and everyone of us to shift gender stereotypes.

    Right now in the industry we have a few female trainers, a few husband-and-wife crew’s and more female crew members now than we ever have but we are still barely scratching the surface of potential for Construction Managers, Tower Technicians, Crane Operators, Truck Drivers, Welders, Fabricators, Backhoe Operators, Integrators and so much more. What else can be done: Bring Back Trades. Take the opportunity to challenge your local High schools to bring back trade classes.

    My call to action for each of you is to be the kind of employer, manager and crew member that will be welcoming and share your knowledge. Remember back to when you first started out.  It really upsets me when I find out that there is still hazing and many other pranks. That type of nonsense isn’t professional and generates bad attitudes.  Be someone willing to answer “stupid questions” because that’s the only way others will learn what you didn’t know at one point either.  A crew is only as strong as its newest member.

    Construction can be intimidating for men and for women. I was only 22 years old when I walked my first design walk, bid walk, pre-con, post-con with nothing but men that didn’t know me and clearly thought it was gonna be fun. Ladies, stay true to you. Show up, hold your own, speak with confidence and ask a ton of  questions until you feel like you understand the task, how to execute it and what’s needed to support the team goals.

    I will be forever grateful for the opportunities that I have been given:  from the first guy who mentored me by acting as a sponsor with management, by letting them know I deserved the opportunity. To the guys on that commercial job that exposed me to trades I had not previously worked with and taught me so much. But those opportunities were granted to me based on my willingness to learn.  You can be confident without being arrogant. You can be open to new opportunities by asking for a chance.

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