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Navigating the Intersection of Telecommunications, Standards, and Leadership with Michelle Kang

By Colliers Engineering & Design

In the ever-evolving world of telecommunications, Michelle Kang, PE, stands as a beacon of leadership, adaptability, and expertise. From her early days in technical work to her recently promoted role as Telecommunications Discipline Leader, Michelle’s journey reflects a commitment to growth and a willingness to embrace challenges head-on. She has navigated the intricacies of the telecommunications industry, a traditionally male-dominated domain, breaking barriers and showcasing the invaluable contributions of women.

Her influence extends beyond her immediate role, shaping industry standards, leading a nonprofit foundation, and contributing to educational initiatives through the podcast. Michelle’s story is one of strategic pivots, continuous learning, and a holistic approach to industry challenges. Her resilience and achievements serve as an inspiration not only within her field but also as a testament to the importance of diversity and inclusion in shaping the future of telecommunications.

Professional Journey: From Technical Lead to Business Operations

Michelle’s trajectory in the AEC field has been marked by a seamless blend of technical prowess and a transition into business and leadership. According to WomenTech Network, women make up just 28% of the STEM workforce in the United States, growing from an 8% minority in the 70s. According to Zippia’s latest data, only 12.3% of telecommunications engineers in the U.S. are women.

While attending Ohio State University pursuing a degree in civil engineering, Michelle says that she didn’t start out with trying to begin a career in telecommunications, but rather fell into it like most people. Her sophomore year, Michelle landed a job doing structural analysis for telecommunication tower projects, learning the software, learning the standard for telecommunications infrastructure and learning how to accurately make calculations. After making the decision to leave the Columbus, Ohio area to move to Nashville, Tennessee, Michelle was hired by a firm as a dual-purpose employee, working on both the structural side, but also the telecommunications side that she preferred.

After obtaining her Professional Engineer (PE) certification and faced with a pivotal career choice, Michelle transitioned from technical work to the business operations side. Navigating this shift showcased her adaptability and strategic thinking. Recognizing her former company’s needs, Michelle stepped into a role demanding a delicate balance between technical know-how and business acumen. Despite the challenges, this strategic move accelerated her career, placing her in a unique position bridging technical intricacies with broader operational considerations.

Shaping the Industry Landscape

In 2012, Michelle found herself at the forefront of change when a major infrastructure owner urged her firm’s participation in the Telecommunications Industry Association TR-14 committee, who is responsible for the ANSI/TIA-222 Standard, “Structural Standard for Antenna Supporting Structures, Antennas and Small Wind Turbine Support Structures” and the ANSI/TIA-322 Standard, “Loading, Analysis and Design Criteria Related to the Installation, Alteration and Maintenance of Communication Structures.” Around 2014, the dynamics within the committee shifted. Traditionally focused on towers, the committee’s attention expanded to include the examination of mounts—the structures holding antennas and radios on the towers. Technological advancements had ushered in larger and heavier equipment, prompting concerns about the structural integrity of these mounts. Michelle’s background in structural analysis positioned her uniquely to contribute to this evolving landscape.

At that time, the committee comprised around 30 individuals and little did Michelle know that her engagement would catalyze a series of events leading to her becoming a key figure in shaping structural standards. Her professional journey took a significant turn when she stepped into a leadership role within the committee where she led a group that delved into the intricate details of mounts, navigating complexities, and addressing structural concerns.

Alongside Lemmy Recinos, PE, her esteemed colleague and Senior Technical Manager at Colliers Engineering & Design, Michelle became recognized as an industry expert in mount analysis. This transition not only elevated her professional standing but also brought brand recognition to her firm. Michelle and Lemmy’s collaborative expertise became sought after by major industry manufacturers and carriers, propelling them into direct collaboration on national programs.

The committee’s expanded focus on mounts had a far-reaching impact. It addressed critical concerns arising from changes in technology, fostering a safer and more robust infrastructure for the rapidly evolving telecommunications landscape. Michelle’s expertise not only influenced standards but also extended to collaborations on various projects with industry leaders.

Fast forward to the present, and Michelle’s early leap of faith into committee leadership solidified her position as a thought leader and expert influencer. Her role in the standards committee extends beyond technical contributions; it embodies a commitment to industry-wide progress and safety.

Promotion to Telecommunications Discipline Leader: A New Chapter

Michelle’s recent promotion to the role of Telecommunications Discipline Leader represents another significant milestone in her career, marking a transition to a leadership position within Colliers Engineering & Design. Women account for only 5% of leadership positions within the technology sector. This elevation not only acknowledges her past contributions, but also signifies a new chapter where she takes on broader responsibilities. As Telecommunications Discipline Leader, Michelle now finds herself at the helm of a specialized team, responsible for overseeing and steering the telecommunications department’s operations. Foremost among them is ensuring the sustainability and longevity of her team, including a dual focus on client satisfaction and proactive positioning to capture new opportunities. Michelle recognizes the importance of maintaining strong relationships with existing clients while actively seeking avenues for expansion and growth.

Telecommunications, as Michelle points out, is an industry marked by rapid changes and cutthroat competition. Her role necessitates a keen understanding of industry trends, coupled with the agility to adapt to these changes swiftly. This underscores Michelle’s strategic vision and her commitment to keeping her team ahead in a dynamic landscape.

Beyond external factors, Michelle emphasizes the internal aspect of her role. Fostering an environment that encourages and provides opportunities for staff advancement is a key focus. Retaining top talent within the department is crucial, and Michelle’s commitment to providing avenues for growth reflects her dedication to nurturing a skilled and satisfied team.

One aspect Michelle finds particularly exciting in her new role is the opportunity to learn and broaden her industry perspective. Leading the Telecommunications Discipline exposes her to operations beyond her Nashville home base, allowing her to understand the challenges faced by teams in different regions. This not only enhances her personal growth, but also contributes to the overall success of the department.

Telecommunications Industry Foundation (TIF): A Holistic Approach

Beyond her immediate professional sphere, Michelle’s leadership extends to the Telecommunications Industry Foundation (TIF). As the vice chair of this nonprofit organization, Michelle plays a key role in fostering dialogue among stakeholders in the industry. TIF’s mission revolves around uplifting the telecommunications industry by providing support and education on quality, safety, efficiency, and workforce development.

Michelle speaks passionately about TIF’s role as a bridge, bringing together diverse stakeholders to address industry challenges. By taking a holistic approach, TIF aims to represent the varied perspectives of government, advocacy groups, consumers, and experts. The foundation’s impact goes beyond the industry, collaborating with federal agencies like OSHA and VCC to address industry-related issues.

A fascinating aspect of Michelle’s outreach efforts is the podcast titled “Telecommunications Industry Therapy.” Available on major platforms such as Apple, Amazon, and Spotify, the podcast hosts guest speakers who delve into issues arising from the rapid advancement and deployment of telecommunications structures. The podcast serves as an educational platform, featuring subject matter experts, industry leaders, and even board members discussing various facets of the industry. Recent episodes have focused on the TIA 222 Revision I Standard, providing insights into changes, impacts, and industry best practices.

The Journey Ahead

As Michelle continues to navigate the advancing telecommunications landscape, her strategic vision, commitment to collaboration, and holistic approach reflect her dedication to shaping a sustainable, successful and diverse future for the industry.

Looking ahead, Michelle sees the future of the Telecommunications Department intertwined with collaboration across different disciplines within Colliers Engineering & Design. Her emphasis on work-sharing and assisting other departments reflects a collaborative approach, positioning the department as a flexible and supportive entity within the larger organizational structure, and we cannot wait to see where Michelle’s leadership takes them.

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One Response to “Navigating the Intersection of Telecommunications, Standards, and Leadership with Michelle Kang”

March 21, 2024 at 10:01 am, Sue Zitzman, Colliers Engineering & Design said:

Great article Michelle.


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