Women In Comms

Wealth of Job Opportunities for Women in 5G Era Is 'Mind Boggling'

5G promises not only faster speeds and lower latency, but will also "open up a lot of high-skill jobs," said AT&T Business's AVP of Enterprise Mobility Christina Cheng at Light Reading's NV & SDN Americas event in Dallas last week.

"5G is also changing business models for the customers who are thinking through how to adopt it and adopt the benefits," said Cheng. "It's not just how the IT organization is thinking about how to move to a cloud-based infrastructure, it's thinking about how to take better advantage of the data they have -- delivering better analytics and customer experience."

During a Women in Comms breakfast workshop, panelists shifted focus from the hype around connected cars and drones to debating how 5G could impact job opportunities for women in comms and tech.

(L to R) Kelsey Ziser, Light Reading; Vibha Chhatwal, Fujitsu; Prajakta Joshi, Google Cloud; Amy LaFebre, Verizon; Sue Rudd, Strategy Analytics; Christina Cheng, AT&T Business. Photo by Mitch Wagner, Light Reading.
(L to R) Kelsey Ziser, Light Reading; Vibha Chhatwal, Fujitsu; Prajakta Joshi, Google Cloud; Amy LaFebre, Verizon; Sue Rudd, Strategy Analytics; Christina Cheng, AT&T Business. Photo by Mitch Wagner, Light Reading.

"The number of opportunities [5G] opens up is mind boggling," said Prajakta Joshi, senior product manager for Google Cloud.

Joshi predicts that 5G will break down departmental silos between product development, engineering, IT and more since no one has all the skill sets necessary to develop and support this technology. As the barriers between departments such as networking and IT begin to dissolve, women in tech will need to develop skills to "connect the dots" -- clearly communicate highly technical topics across departments, added Joshi. It will become increasingly important for women in comms to develop technical and soft skills across department lines, and engage more in historically male-dominated areas such as the open source community to build the solutions that will support 5G deployments.

Qualcomm predicts that "The 5G mobile value chain alone could generate up to $3.5 trillion in revenue in 2035, and support up to 22 million jobs."

"When a market is in turmoil and disruption -- and 5G is certainly disruptive -- there's always an entry point for new people and new skills," said Industry veteran Sue Rudd, director of Strategy Analytics.

To be successful in the 5G era, women will need to develop new software and logic skills, but Rudd notes that employees with unique backgrounds in fields like classic language and mathematics also make great programmers. In short, a range of skillsets will be of use to achieve success in 5G-related fields.

As 5G supports greater network automation, new opportunities will arise for women in comms to move away from "the mundane and focus on the strategic," explained Amy LaFebre, director of Technology, Commercial Data Systems for Verizon. LaFebre also encouraged the audience to develop cross-organizational skillsets -- "Look at your career as a lattice of moving from organization to organization," she said. In addition, she provides her direct reports with opportunities to take public speaking courses to build their confidence in communicating across industries.

Join Light Reading in investigating the design of advanced 5G transport networks and the integration with edge cloud infrastructure and services. Register today for 5G Transport & the Edge in New York on October 10. Reserve your spot and learn from and network with industry experts; communications service providers get in free!

While 5G may support new job opportunities across more verticals, automation could eliminate some middle management positions and companies may still face limited hiring pools. Vibha Chhatwal, manager of Network Sales Engineering for Fujitsu, shared an instance where she posted a job opening and of 60 applicants, only two were women. To better support career development for women in comms, Fujitsu launched an internal initiative called WIN -- Women's Innovative Network -- four years ago. The program has grown to 200 members that engage in personal development, community outreach, professional organizations and more.

LaFebre noted that Verizon has a similar program called WAVE -- the Women' Association of Verizon Employees -- which is an employee resource group with monthly newsletters and discussions to provide career advice and development opportunities.

Cheng noted AT&T's programs of Women of AT&T and Advocates for Women In Tech Employee Network are similar initiatives to WIN and WAVE. She also joined panelists in providing the audience with parting professional advice. Cheng said it's important to pick highly visible projects, and to be deliberate in selecting a career path -- or others will select it for you. Chhatwal and Joshi encouraged women not to second guess themselves and be willing to continuously learn and improve their skill sets.

"Continually learn, take advantage of lateral opportunities, and when you're in a new group try and figure out how you can differentiate yourself by adding value and problem solving," said LaFebre.

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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