Celebrating the Women of the Wireless Infrastructure Industry

In honor of International Women’s Day March 8, WIA reached out to women who are influencing and leading the wireless infrastructure industry. We asked them to share their thoughts on the future of the wireless industry, their advice for women just starting out in wireless and their reflections on what factors have led to their success in their career.

Denny Albertini, Vice President National Sales, Crown Castle

I have been blessed during my time at Crown Castle to be surrounded by some very talented leaders who have supported me and gave me a voice. I feel the most successful people are effective communicators who demonstrate collaboration every day. When working through conflicts, I believe how we communicate is equally important to what we communicate. We must ask questions and be good listeners to fully understand the cause of the problem before we can begin to solve it. I expect a lot from myself and from those I work with, but I strive to continuously build and strengthen relationships that I believe are the foundation for Crown Castle achieving success.

Deb Bennett, National Sponsor Facilitator, Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP)

I offer two pieces of advice for women just starting out in the industry. 1. Not only should you be involved with WWLF, be engaged. Volunteer for a committee. Offer to set up a meeting in your location. Take advantage of not only the networking opportunities WWLF brings, but also the programming. For a relatively small investment, WWLF brings unique personal development opportunities that one might not have access to in their current role. 2. Find a mentor. There are various types of mentors you need throughout your career. For example, a coach may help build your on the job skills or assist navigation of tricky situations. The connector shares their network to help you succeed or keeps you in mind for new opportunities. An advisor provides career development advice. At some point, you may find the need for any combination of these types as part of your professional development.

Jen Courtemanche, Vice President of Property Management and Financial Operations, TowerCo

The most exciting thing about the wireless infrastructure industry today is the deployment of 5G and the amount of infrastructure needed to support it! I’m amazed by the technology leap in the automobile, smart city and healthcare industries and excited to be part of it. The densification and speed to market required by the carriers in this effort drive our process improvement for developing macro sites at TowerCo. It’s thrilling to put systems and tools in place that foster collaboration at this level.

Blair Crawford – Director of National Accounts, Vertical Bridge

What I find most exciting about the wireless infrastructure industry today are the technological advancements. Working in an industry that supports cutting edge technology is extremely exciting. Concepts that were once considered imaginative are now a reality. My advice for young women joining the industry is to take ownership and control of your career path, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Our industry is ever changing, and what is today may not be tomorrow – be willing to learn and understand that career growth and progression come from the willingness to continuously learn.

Cheryl Downs, Director, Network Property Management and Lease Operations, T-Mobile

Wireless is always exciting and likely will be well into the future because growth and change is driven by new and emerging technologies. With each new technology release (3G, 4G and now 5G), the proliferation of products and services changes, too. Wireless is exciting because we LEAD these changes rather than follow them.

Jeanette Evans, CEO, Hinge

There’s never a dull moment in wireless. Just when you think you’re caught up on learning the ins and outs of a new technology or new aspects to a certain technology (4G, small cell/fiber, oDAS/iDAS) then along comes something even more new and exciting – 5G, Smart technology and IoT. Soak up and learn as much as you can; ask questions that you don’t have answers to or take the time to really understand that component or aspect you don’t have a knowledge base for; and surround yourself with positive mentors (men and or women) that will help you in your career/career path. There are so many moving parts to our industry so be patient with yourself and those around you; always treat people (all people) the way you would want to be treated, work hard but have fun, be true to yourself, take criticism with a gentle heart (yes I said heart) and don’t take anything personally.

Heather Gastelum, Senior Manager, National Tower Safety & Operations, T-Mobile

Here are three tips I would give any young woman just starting out in the industry: 1. Participate in professional organizations. 2. Think about who you know, or who you would like to meet. Find a trusted advisor who can help you assess your skills and provide you with feedback. Investing in business relationships where you can learn from and teach others will pay long-term career dividends. 3. Above all RAISE YOUR HAND. Seek out opportunities that will stretch your experience and push you outside your comfort zone, and that will require you to think and act differently. Stand out and expand your brand! This has served me extremely well in my career. By raising my hand and speaking up over the years I have been granted opportunities that I know would have passed me by if I hadn’t been proactive.

Becca Gould, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, American Tower

The most exciting thing about the wireless infrastructure industry for me is the benefits our industry provides to all. As a company with operations in 17 countries, I get to work with some truly amazing people on a wide variety of initiatives, including CSR projects. Our Digital Villages project provides connectivity access at some of our sites in India, Nigeria and Ghana. At these locations, children who do not have the opportunity to go to school can access educational modules and classes. This can make a real difference to individuals and families and demonstrates the value infrastructure can bring to everyone. That’s exciting. 

Carolyn Hardwick, Senior Director, National Accounts, KPGCo and President of the Women’s Wireless Leadership Forum

Telecommunications is a male-dominated industry, so find ways to connect with other females, especially those in leadership roles. Seasoned female leaders can provide mentorship, opportunities to network, career guidance, and feedback.  These tools, along with a willingness to learn, will help a new colleague progress in her career and understanding of the industry.

Leticia Latino-vanSplunteren, CEO, Neptuno USA

After 20 years in the industry,  I believe we are entering into a one-of-a-kind phase, both from a technology perspective and from the perspective of being a woman in this industry. What 5G will enable, technology-wise, will be a game changer and will allow many of us to lead our companies during a transformative and disruptive time, which to me is very exciting. As a woman, never before I have felt that there is a concerted industry effort to help us advance, and also to give us a voice like there is today. We have been waiting a long time for this, so I know that we will capitalize on the opportunity and make invaluable contributions in this new era.

Rachel McCaffery, Vice President, Operations, Advantage Engineers

Technology – in this industry, nothing stays stagnant and is constantly evolving. From DAS and 5G, I’m eager and excited to see what’s next for the wireless infrastructure industry. Take advantage of every learning opportunity presented to you, gather knowledge, and always seek to understand all facets of the industry. Evolution is the best part of our industry and it’s important to keep up on trends and be a contributor to innovation. Never be afraid to try new things, seize an opportunity, or fail. Failing helps us learn and makes us a stronger but it never hurts to have a guide. Strong mentorship has been a key component to sculpting my career and developing strong leadership skills.

Debra Mercier, Vice President, Business Development, Wireless Concepts International and Vice President of WWLF

The wires are cut and 5G is coming. That means a completely different way of living and it’s an exciting time to be in the wireless industry. I have met the most amazing people in this industry who have embraced me. I feel very lucky and blessed and try to give back any way I can. My advice to young women getting started in the industry is to just go for it! We’ve worked hard and we’re smart. This industry is ready for us.

Katie Miller, National Outreach – Spectrum Management, T-Mobile and President of the Northwest Wireless Association

Young woman in any industry – especially wireless – should work hard and not be discouraged about being green. The wireless industry has hundreds of thousands of experienced employees and contractors that use what seems like an infinite number of acronyms. Early on, I think people who ask questions and learn quickly stand out – and every question you get answered adds great knowledge! My other recommendation: find one of these industry veterans who is valued by others and with whom you connect and ask them to be your mentor. A mentor doesn’t need to be someone that is in a mentorship program, it could be someone that you interacted with briefly but found informative and engaging. Finally, and this is one of my own objectives for 2019, network within your own company or organization. Networking is a great tool in this industry, that is sometimes overlooked. Get to know people in your own office or company who work on different initiatives – it can easily provide rewards in the short-term, and long into the future (even 10 years later!).

Cathy Piche, East Area President, Crown Castle

I would strongly encourage young women entering the wireless world to be a student of the industry. Learn, investigate, question everything. Two decades ago we were building networks and deploying technology to communicate via voice. Today, the wireless industry is revolutionizing the way we live and will live tomorrow. Take advantage of every conversation, experience and learning opportunity presented and for those not readily available seek and challenge to make it happen. 

Julie Song, President, Advanced RF Technologies (ADRF)

Never be intimidated by those that you perceive smarter than you, stay confident in your abilities and never let your voice go unheard. By surrounding yourself with open-minded individuals, you will have support from a strong team that values your opinions. A group with a diversity of strengths, backgrounds, and ideas is of utmost importance and will help you look at problems holistically and be confident in the decisions made to solve them.

Pat Troxell-Tant, CEO, Vogue Towers

I was very fortunate early on in my career to meet and form business relationships with some of the industry’s top leaders.  We were all somewhat trying to learn together and while many were competitors, we shared the same passion about our jobs and this industry called wireless. We each had the professional goal of building infrastructure to support our customers – the carriers. From those relationships, I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to help establish and foster the Tennessee State Wireless Association in 2000. By 2005, we had formed Georgia and Alabama with two other great new industry friends, David Downie and Andy Rotenstreich, and I was serving as Vice President of all three. We were next exploring a state association in Florida and the Carolinas when my then CEO, Jerry Kent of AAT Communications, reminded me of my “day job” – running a sales organization for the largest private tower company. Our growing interest in these associations led us to reach out to PCIA (WIA) and joined forces to launch SWAP with Connie Durcsak in March of 2005. Of course, the rest is history as they say with dozens of associations and it is rewarding to see so many great causes SWAP has supported and how much the states have accomplished through a unified voice. The people within our industry are truly some of the most talented, giving and supportive people you will ever meet and wireless truly is more than a career…. it is family.