#STAC2022: The people who actually build our networks

I clearly remember a conversation I had with my Bell Labs office mate thirty-five years ago, as we were driving on the Garden State Parkway to a meeting. It was a beautiful spring day and looking out at people installing fibre optic lines along the road, Sam commented that he wished he had a job like theirs, able to enjoy working outside on a day like that one. I replied that they were probably looking at us, thinking those guys are lucky, getting paid to just sit in a car.

There is a certain degree of instant gratification when you work in construction. At the end of a shift, you can see what you accomplished. That is a huge advantage over the kinds of jobs that I have always had. Long range planning, network development, software and feature requirements definition, policy and regulatory strategies: all of them important, but with milestones measured in months, if not years (if at all).

That probably explains why I enjoy cooking. No matter how complex the recipe, there is a defined start and a finish (usually hours later), and almost always a most gratifying project conclusion.

All of which is a long introduction to what I really wanted to talk about – the importance of outside plant infrastructure and the people who are building our networks.

As various jurisdictions across the continent try to accelerate expansion of networks to unserved areas, and mobile carriers race to expand 5G networks in urban, rural and private networks, the past couple of years have demonstrated the dedication and essentiality of those telecommunications professionals so clearly. Normally working in all kinds of challenging weather conditions, coupled with additional COVID protocols, for the next few days, many of these people building Canadian networks will pause to connect over the broadband facilities they built themselves.

Today, Canada’s premier tower industry event gets underway at noon (Eastern). STAC2022, the annual Conference and Exhibition of Canada’s Structure, Tower and Antenna Council, is taking place virtually from March 28 to 30, 2022.

This event is dedicated to safety and best practices in the communication tower industry, bringing together the industry professionals who build Canada’s communications networks. Attendees include representatives from wireless carriers, broadcasters, oil and gas companies, utility providers, tower engineers, contractors, manufacturers, safety trainers and safety equipment suppliers from across the communications and tower industries.

Over the next 3 days, sessions will include: a look at safety standards, examining tower failures and near misses, reflecting on equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, examining rope safety, and a report on efforts to recruit more people into the field.

I’m especially looking forward to tomorrow morning’s session with singer, songwriter and mental health advocate, Steven Page.

If there is a special kind of job satisfaction from building networks, STAC2022 provides an opportunity to have a better appreciation for the physically challenging work.

At the end of the day, such events enable inside and outside network professionals to learn from each other, vicariously sharing in each others’ successes and learning from failures.

I’ll share some highlights from the sessions in upcoming blog posts and on Twitter (hashtag #STAC2022).

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