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Telecommunication Infrastructure?

Telecommunication Infrastructure?

Telecommunication Infrastructure?

Hello Everyone,

This is my first thread/post on eng-tips. I want to get some advice SEs about Telecommunication Infrastructure design (towers, stations, etc.). It would be great to get some feedback from engineers with some experience in it.

So I'm currently a California PE (Structural) and have about another 18 months to become eligible for the SE exam. Currently, working for a small structural engineering firm in Southern California, our projects are mostly DSA/OSHPD, so I am getting pretty valuable experience for my exam in a couple of years. Work I do is also pretty challenging (interesting) and I do learn new things often. However, I do have some retrofit projects that are pain in the neck right from design all the way through construction, due to so many unknowns, but I have good ones too to balance the bad ones. I have a total of 3.5 years experience under my belt.

So here is the big question, I've been talking to a Telecom Infrastructure Design Firm (they do zoning, site acquisition, design) and they seem very interested. I'll be meeting the higher-ups next week and they will show me some of their projects (which I had asked for) to see how complex and challenging they can be. Before I do that, I would really appreciate some feedback here, I don't want to be doing the same thing over and over, if all its gonna take is just do a tower and foundation design and be done. Is that all or is there more to it? I can imagine it could be challenging if towers happen to be in urban areas or on top of buildings, but what more is there, am I missing stuff? I did some research, it looks like they mostly use a RISA like software call TnxTower.

The other side of it is obviously the pay, I'm making $80k with my current employer with regular benefits and end of year bonus too, the new firm does appear to be willing to hire me between $90-95k. I'm trying to evaluate how much room is there for growth in the longer run (professionally/financially) if I were to jump over. While the $10k-15k raise + bonus seems pretty attractive, I do give a lot of importance to job satisfaction and something that is rewarding professionally too.

Sorry for the long post, just want to see what I can get from you guys so I can think it over the weekend and go with some preparation to my meeting/final interview. Appreciate any help I can get.

RE: Telecommunication Infrastructure?

I don't know much about telecom but I do know a bit about upper level engineering positions that pay well. Pay increases in this order:

1) Folks that can design stuff.
2) Folks that can manage projects profitably.
3) Folks that can manage other folks managing projects profitably.
4) Folks that can bring in work (sales).

Ten years in, there's a every chance that you won't be spending hardly any of your time designing things regardless of your particular industry. At that point, it becomes about where the greatest opportunity lies rather where the coolest project work is. I wish that I had a better appreciation of this early on. I like to design stuff... still. If management and fiscal reward are the top priorities, then the situation needs to be viewed through glasses of a different color. Then, I'd be seeking lots of face time with quality clients in a profitable sector. Telecom may well offer that. I actually think that's one of the ways in which bridge careers have a leg up on typical building careers.

I like to debate structural engineering theory -- a lot. If I challenge you on something, know that I'm doing so because I respect your opinion enough to either change it or adopt it.

RE: Telecommunication Infrastructure?

Worked in telecom for a couple of years about three years ago doing and using what you mention.

Be careful here, as the big boys, like American Tower, are buying up the towers from Verizon and AT&T and moving to do engineering in house, cutting out or down the costs of outside consulants.

I left as this was in the beginning throws and the market was down.

I would pursue American Tower or some other company at the source of the market rather than an outside consulting firm right now.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)

RE: Telecommunication Infrastructure?

KootK - Can't agree more on the chain of command you mentioned. However, ten years is still down the line for me. But again you are right at some point the engineering stops and its about management and bringing in business.

msquared48 - I don't know much about telecom, I looked up American Tower, and went to their careers section too, they do have Structural Engineering positions available, but as I looked into their website more, they are simply a competitor of the firm I'm talking to. What I didn't understand clearly was when you said "big boys like american tower are buying up the towers from Verizon" while I understand that they do engineering in-house, why would Verizon or other clients sell their sites to American Tower? Aren't American Towers just another consultant for Verizon, etc.?

It sure does look like American Towers is much bigger. The firm I'm talking to started in 2000, they are 200 people now.

RE: Telecommunication Infrastructure?

Verizon and AT&T were looking for a cash influx to expand in other areas than the towers.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)

RE: Telecommunication Infrastructure?

If you don't mind me asking, did you start with Telecom and moved to buildings? And what made you make the switch?

RE: Telecommunication Infrastructure?

"ten years is still down the line for me" which will seem to happen in about 8 seconds if you dawdle.

RE: Telecommunication Infrastructure?

Buildings for 35 Years First, then telecom for a couple, and back to buildings.

The economy...

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)

RE: Telecommunication Infrastructure?

Appreciate the responses.

3DDave - Time does go by fast, not gonna dawdle, just figuring out the course.

RE: Telecommunication Infrastructure?

I have to say that Mike's description does not incline me towards Telecom. Real money is only ever made in our craft via some permutation of a meaningful ownership stake, be it conventional entrepreneurship or a well contrived share program. In house engineering at a large enterprise doesn't really sound like it would be that. You might be trading $15k now for little improvement upon that down the line unless you really take to management. Especially so if it's dedicated sales people handling the clients and you as the in house wizard behind the curtain.

I like to debate structural engineering theory -- a lot. If I challenge you on something, know that I'm doing so because I respect your opinion enough to either change it or adopt it.

RE: Telecommunication Infrastructure?

Be mindful though that building experience does mesh with Telecom as you are doing a lot of structural analysts and retrofit of existing buildings to install or upgrade equipment. That work is cyclic though in response to needed upgrades based on competition among telecom companies...

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)

RE: Telecommunication Infrastructure?

A friend of mine used to work for American Tower. He sealed an ungodly amount of designs each week. (He was upper level engineering).
He did not like it.

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