Blog & Tools

Telecommunications engineers have diverse and important tasks at SDN

When he’s interviewing job-seekers for engineering positions at SDN Communications, Mitch Elfstrand, vice president of engineering and operations, considers applicants’ past experience an important factor. However, there are factors more important than experience, in his view.

“When I interview people, the two biggest things I look at is attitude and drive,” Elfstrand said.

Nearly everything else can be taught, he says.

Elfstrand oversees approximately 50 people who are responsible for SDN’s growing network, operations, land, and buildings. Roughly 20 of those employees work in the general field of telecommunications engineering.

It’s an area of critical responsibility because SDN, which employs about 150 people overall, is in the business of selling broadband connectivity and related telecommunications services to businesses and other organizations.

Variety of positions involved

Telecommunications engineering is a category that takes in a broad range of workers. Specific positions within the field include:

  • Network engineers: They’re responsible for designing, building, and implementing networks.
  • Operating engineers: They focus mostly on supporting the network through means such as facility design, power and HVAC systems, and security.
  • Headend engineers: They operate and maintain centralized television headends, including designing and maintaining satellite dishes and supporting electronics.
  • Circuit design engineers: They design circuits on the existing network to accommodate the requirements of new customers.

Working with telecommunications systems can involve a wide range of technologies, including satellite transmissions, radio waves, telephone cables, and optical fibers, Elfstrand says.

“These jobs all have many challenges as well as rewards. Believe it or not, communication is one of the biggest challenges in the communications field,” he said. “It is important that ideas and projects are articulated in a consistent manner for both the engineer as well as technical staff to carry out the work.”

Challenges and rewards

The engineering staff at SDN ranges from people with four-year university degrees, two-year technical degrees, and some with no post-high school degree at all, other than experience from the “School of Hard Knocks.”

There are three levels of engineering positions and three levels of technician positions at SDN.

“It’s more about attitude and drive than formal schooling,” Elfstrand said. He’s a graduate of Mitchell Technical Institute and has been with SDN for about 14 years.

In addition to attitude and drive, Elfstrand looks for other skills and characteristics in prospective telecommunications engineers:

  • Ability to manage projects
  • Leadership potential
  • Ability to work in a team environment
  • Technical expertise
  • Problem-solving ability
  • Creativity
  • Potential to manage vendors

Dealing with challenges in telecommunications brings rewards, Elfstrand says. There is satisfaction in solving problems in creative ways, for example.

In addition, telecommunications engineers at SDN get to work on the leading edge of technology and be part of a team that provides high-quality products and services, he says.

With advances in technology steadily unfolding, telecommunications engineering is a promising field – one that merits consideration from young people pondering career paths.

SDN Communications is among the companies that have created great opportunities for telecommunications engineers. For more information about the company and its products and services, visit the SDN Communications website.