Advancing in a highly technical industry like next-gen comms necessitates constant training and often re-training to evolve your skill set as technology evolves.
For female engineers in this industry, it may also take a little extra boost to have the confidence to pursue the training and keep advancing in a male-dominated space. That's why CommScope Inc. has begun to offer training in distributed antenna systems (DAS) and has made it free for its female employees and partner companies. (See CommScope: How to Keep Up in Constant Change.)
Pinder Chauhan, director of Global Technical Support Services for the Distributed Coverage and Capacity Solutions (DCCS) team at CommScope, got the idea to offer the training free to women when she saw there were none signing up for this important training. By making it accessible and welcoming to women, she helped increase enrollment in the DAS training from zero to 25 women -- and growing. (See CommScope Blog: DAS Training for Women.)
Chauhan, a past Women in Comms speaker and a lifelong learner herself with a with a bachelor's degree in computer engineering from Carleton University and a master's degree in business administration with a concentration in telecommunications at the University of Dallas, talked to WiC about why training is important, how women can keep advancing in their career and more. (See Women in Telecom: Collaboration Critical to New IP.)
Women in Comms: Tell us a bit about your background, philosophy and/or leadership style.
Pinder Chauhan: I entered the telecommunications field about 25 years ago after completing a bachelor's degree in computer science from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. I first worked as a software engineer in test and software development for BNR, a research company of Nortel. I then migrated to Dallas to pursue a role as wireless software development manager with Nortel USA. Soon after that, I realized that I would like to further develop my business acumen and completed an MBA at University of Dallas, majoring in telecommunications.
My next set of professional roles involved product line management, business development, new product introduction and technical support. I joined CommScope in September 2012 to further grow my skillset in the distributed antenna system (DAS) arena. All my previous experiences were on the RAN side. Today, I am director of Global Technical Support Services for the Distributed Coverage and Capacity Solutions team at CommScope.
My overall work philosophy is to always be learning, growing and making a positive difference. I like to think that I lead by example. It is a lot easier for someone to learn from "do what I do" than "do what I say."
WiC: What do you see as the biggest issue facing women in comms today?
PC: Overall, I think there can be a lack of encouragement for women in comms. We need to change that in order to increase the number of women in our industries. Right now, there can be limited visibility to the various types of job opportunities available in the comms field. Some groups, like the Women in Comms organization, are trying to change that. The more we can network, mentor and increase access to job opportunities, the better it will be for women.
WiC: What can we, as an industry, do to recruit, retain and/or promote more women?
PC: We need to raise awareness and provide information to young women at the school and university level. They should learn early on about career opportunities in STEM jobs, and what they need to do to get these jobs. Recruiting candidates for entry-level STEM jobs should be inclusive. Women who are currently in comms positions can volunteer as mentors to younger professionals, and industry groups can help facilitate these relationships.
WiC: Are there any programs you or your organization are involved with that you'd like to highlight?
PC: Definitely. CommScope has become a big supporter of women in comms, particularly in the DAS industry. When I started in my current role as head of Technical Support more than three years ago, I noticed that almost no women were attending our DAS training courses. To encourage more women to get training in DAS, CommScope began offering free classroom training and certifications in DAS to qualified women from our partner organizations. The goal is to help women improve their knowledge of DAS and potentially help them find employment or expand their work into DAS.
Since launching this program more than a year ago, the number of women who have participated in our DAS training classes has increased significantly -- jumping to more than 25 attendees from a starting point of zero, with more than half of them taking advantage of the free training opportunity.
WiC: What is your biggest piece of personal advice to a woman pursuing a career in the next-gen comms space?
PC: Don't doubt yourself or your abilities. Seek a mentor who has made this journey successfully, and come up with a realistic but aggressive plan. Be visible and network. It can be challenging, but you have to put yourself out there. Get involved in a group like Women in Comms. I was fortunate to speak at a women in telecoms networking event last year. It was a great experience and I met a lot of other women in the industry. I look forward to attending more events like that, including the Women in Comms events.
— Sarah Thomas, , Director, Women in Comms