My name is Johnny Lane and I’m the ‘Lead Wireless Surveyor’ with 4site, the providers of innovative engineering solutions for major infrastructural developments in telecommunications. This role is very important as I am part of team which creates the link between old technologies such as 2G and 3G and new technologies such as 4G and 5G, as well as being at the ‘coalface’ of IOT or ‘The Internet of Things’.
My hobbies haven’t really changed since my secondary school days but the advent of broadband has afforded me the opportunity to keep up with subjects which weren’t taught during the standard school day such as AutoCAD and B.I.M (Building Information Modelling) and 3D mapping using Drones.
These hobbies have really helped me build my career in the telecommunications sector despite never having attended third level education.
4site employs over 80 highly skilled professionals to design, survey, build and maintain world-class communications networks. The 4site team adapt technology, tools and processes to deliver reliable and future-proofed turnkey services for clients across Ireland, the UK and further afield. 4site also has considerable experience in the planning, design and build of wireless networks. Clients include Vodafone, SIRO, Cignal, CityFibre Huawei, 2RN (RTE), Three, Ericsson, Nokia, CommScope and enet.
Has your opinion of STEM changed since you were a teenager?
Very much so! At secondary school I was terrible at maths and this really set me back when it came to the Leaving Cert. Maths was my worst subject by far! I attended grinds prior to the leaving cert to brush up on maths and just barely managed a pass, whilst at the same time earning an ‘A’ in Higher Level Physics and Construction Studies.
I chose to forgo Third Level education and found myself instead climbing telephone masts and installing telecoms equipment when most of my classmates were away at college.
The experience I picked up along the way couldn’t have been gained in Third Level education as there are no courses which cover such a career path! In the company I now work with – 4site – we are looking at formulating a recognised syllabus in order to create a viable path for people interested in Telecoms/IoT. And yes, it amazes me how I now use maths every single day as part of my job!
In your opinion, what is the biggest myth about STEM careers?
The idea that ‘you need a degree’ to work in a STEM field. Sure, it is the standard route nowadays but take it from me, experience counts for more than you think! Education should be viewed as an ongoing part of your career not just a springboard off which you launch into your career.
Do you believe that there is enough being done to encourage girls to study STEM and pursue STEM careers?
From what I am seeing, there are many females coming on board at 4site as graduate engineers which is great to see. I would hope that the stereotypical image of an engineer has long been lost to the deed of time…!
Describe an interesting day in your current position.
No two days are the same at my job! I could be climbing a mast taller than the Spire on O’Connell Street, or I could be piloting a drone, mapping a mountainside. To be honest, I can’t say I’ve ever felt bored at my job.
What has been your most exciting career moment to date?
Abseiling down the blade of an offshore wind turbine was one of the more memorable days I have worked!
Do you get to work with any new technologies?
We are amongst the first to get to grips with the latest emerging telecom technologies. Right now for instance, we are starting the design process on the 5G networks which will enable the next generation of IoT devices to communicate and ensure our insatiable appetite for data is taken care of. I work with the latest drones, 3D scanner, and cutting-edge software like esri arcGIS, AutoCAD, and Revit.
Do you ever get to travel abroad for work?
Yes. I have worked throughout Central America (Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala) carrying out network upgrades in some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever witnessed! If you are interested in travelling with your career, Telecoms/Network engineering is absolutely the path for you!
What kind of other experts do you work with on a day to day basis?
Throughout a standard working day, I will engage with Structural Engineers, Radio Engineers, Planning Consultants, ESB Engineers and Build Contractors. It can be easy to feel intimidated with my lack of education ‘on paper’ but again experience is not to be underestimated.
Is your current job, and the work of the wider team, making a difference in the world?
Without a doubt. My team and I are designing and maintaining tomorrows cellular networks. Nowadays it is hard to imagine how we survived without lightning fast internet access. We are working to provide a platform on which innovation can be built upon.
What do you hope to achieve in the next year in your current position?
I hope to gain a certification in Autodesk Revit for Building Information Modelling (B.I.M)
Do you feel that you fit the stereotypical description of a person in your role?
No. Most of my colleagues have had some form of Third Level education and while such an education would certainly have been an advantage I am happy to report, there are other ways.
I have been told by my peers throughout my career that ‘That piece of Paper’ means nothing unless you have an interest and drive to innovate.
If a young person told you that they would like to get into your role, what advice would you give them?
I would 100% recommend the path I chose. Especially if you enjoy the outdoors. An interest in emerging technologies and desire to learn are the only prerequisites for the role.
What do you want to see change in the industry in the next 10 years?
While driving and climbing will always be a requirement in this industry, they are the most dangerous aspects of the job. Through our use of Drones and B.I.M, gathering as much information as possible when on site, we are aiming to dramatically reduce the amount of time our engineers are travelling and climbing and hopefully reduce the risk of potential accidents in doing so.
What are your priorities for the year ahead in your role?
We have recently taken on some graduates from UL in Limerick and I would like to give them as much onsite experience as possible. Getting out to a site and seeing what you are designing in the flesh is very important for designers.
Did you complete any sort of placement or internship during your studies? If so, did it prepare you for what you do now?
I was taken on by my first company as a ‘Rigger’. Once I had my SafePass and Climbing certs in place I was put to work. This hands-on experience has helped me immeasurably.
Name one thing on your bucket list.
To gain a Private Pilot’s Licence.
What television series are you currently watching?
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
What living person do you most admire, and why?
There are many, but I’ll say Professor Brian Cox.
I am no particle physicist but I enjoy listening to him speak about theoretical physics and enjoy how my mind wanders as a result.
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