My hope is that when this post is published I will get some input from others in the industry that will dispel what is to follow in this post. However, there’s a larger part of me that doesn’t think it will happen. Namely because I’ve lived it myself and seen firsthand how this segment of the industry is treated, and I have former colleague who tell me nothing has changed. This disparity doesn’t just exist at the major wireless carriers and telcos, it extends itself to just about any company who has a network large enough to need them. Again I’ve lived it. I’d also like to make it clear that this post isn’t meant to be a gripe, but more a dialogue for what I believe is a conversation that needs to be had.
So who’s this redheaded step child you ask? I’m writing on behalf of the Engineers, Technicians, Analysts, or whatever their title may be, who find themselves in a Network Operations/Support role. Not the entry level personnel who make tickets and monitor screens but the teams that perform the heavy lifting, troubleshooting, outage bridges and nightly maintenance windows. Those who may find themselves at a desk for hours on end tied to some sort of VoIP phone in a revolving que answering calls dealing with anything from a simple point to point link being down, to having an entire portion of the country without access to Facebook or something much more serious; say for example a lack of e911 services. Holidays provide no reprieve either nor does the dark of night as these departments are 24/7 365 days a year.
I’d imagine that if you struck a companion of yours and regurgitate what was stated in the preceding paragraph they’d assume that Operations personnel are pretty important and they wouldn’t be wrong. Unfortunately, in my experience, the very companies that depend on their networks to operate efficiently don’t see it that way because if they did, they would appropriately market the jobs and compensate the employees according to true market value. More on that later.
Far too many times I’ve found myself, working with someone who isn’t capable of performing at the level dictated by the roles and responsibilities of the position because the salaries offered aren’t going to attract top candidates. That’s unfortunate because the skilled individuals will always end up doing more than their share, get burnt out and leave. High turnover is usually associated with these roles and I’m sure someone will counter with the fact that those roles aren’t meant to be long term or sustainable. To those folks I’d say some engineers, myself included, truly enjoy the pressure, responsibilities, troubleshooting, and problem solving that these roles entail and isn’t a reason to feel punished.
Other departments and groups within the companies are just as culpable. Every single group believes their problem is so much greater than the next and they all wanted it fixed now! You’d be surprised at the number of snide and rude comments I’ve witnessed through various forms of communication channels and nothing is done about it. Every mistake is magnified and every successful fix is marginalized. About as thankless a role as you could wish for.
A quick word for Operations Managers out there also, please grow a backbone and stick up for your team. Stop allowing them to feel like second class citizens when they are an integral part of the company. Poor morale will always produce poor results. I texted several former colleagues from my duration at the wireless carrier and asked them to describe our operations team, which we all were a part of, in two words and none of the responses were appropriate for this post. Misery and punishment are the words I’d choose. Allowed a third word it would be unfair.
To the corporations I’d say pay the “extra money” so that you can attract the truly qualified candidates. That would alleviate the burden on the leaders within the team who are continuously picking up extra slack and keeping your well-oiled machine operating more efficiently, more often. Clearly there’s a disconnect between upper management, HR, and line level managers that needs to be solved. Maybe a bridge with your operations team could solve that problem too.