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How LinkedIn Changed my Life: Opening New Doors in IT

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During my college years, I ran a successful painting company while working on a degree in Information Technology. Whenever I earned a certification, I would proudly add it to my LinkedIn profile and update my network on my new achievement. When I finished a class, I made sure to add any skills I had gained to my LinkedIn profile as well. This was a good opportunity for my colleagues to endorse my new skills and let potential employers know I exist.

It was during this time that I was contacted by a recruiter through LinkedIn. I was offered an opportunity to intern for a global IT services company. It came as a bit of a surprise, as I had not applied for a job, nor was I looking for a job. I knew I didn’t plan on painting forever and decided that this would be a great opportunity to get started on the career path I was working so hard to obtain. Needless to say, it didn’t take much thought to follow up with the recruiter and begin the interview process.

I felt very fortunate to have been selected for such a great opportunity. Working at an established global company, I was exposed to a lot of great learning opportunities, supportive coworkers, and a chance to network on a global level within the company. The company treated its employees well, with a great starting wage, incentive programs, and lots of resources to learn. As a major player in large scale cellular networks, I was able to learn a lot from the company and my coworkers. They offered the flexibility to work from home as well. I never ran out of challenges or learning opportunities. The opportunity for growth and advancement within the company seemed limitless. This was the kind of company I wanted a career with! I was quick to embrace the company culture and get involved. Intrinsic motivation came naturally to me, I loved where I worked. Employee engagement ran high -- resulting in a higher employee engagement and retention rate (a feat that some companies have reported saved them $2M a year).

I was tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the cellular networks ran smoothly. Working with my teammates to solve any situations that arise as quickly as possible. The first month I was trained out in the field, working with engineers, field technicians, and tower climbers to maintain and troubleshoot cell sites. I was excited to make a name for myself and show the company my value, initiative, and out of the box problem solving. This was the kind of supportive and collaborative workplace culture I knew I wanted to be a part of.

After a month of training in the field I was able to work from home, monitoring the networks and assisting my teammates remotely. Before too long I was given the responsibility of reporting the current network states and any issues that the networks may have. I began researching ways to improve the identification of issues and irregularities in the network, with the goal of locating problems faster, identifying resolutions, preventative maintenance opportunities and faster response times. I wanted to develop a database that logged equipment failures with the goal of predicting the lifespans of the equipment. This would aid the procurement team with future purchasing decisions as well as creating a benchmark of probable equipment failures, giving the field technicians the opportunity to perform maintenance or replace equipment before hardware failures. To accomplish such a task, I needed to be able to remotely access each piece of equipment and pull any data that would be useful.

Using a terminal emulation program, I was able to securely pull the data I needed. Due to the large amount of cellular sites and equipment I needed to access, automation was necessary. I began to learn how to do this using VBScript, logging into each piece of equipment with the correct credentials and escalating user privileges as necessary. With many different technologies and operating systems to understand, learning opportunities were endless. I felt very fortunate to have hands on exposure with lots of different technologies. Creating welcome challenges to overcome, learning the appropriate commands needed to navigate the different operating systems and retrieve the desired data.

Once I mastered VBScript and was able to automate the pull of desired data, I then needed to be able to manipulate the data and present a clear and understandable report to the various teams each day, prompting me to learn the ins and outs of Microsoft Excel. Through books and lots of online community groups, I began to learn all about Excel and Visual Basic for Applications. This allowed me to automate the manipulation of the data, generating beautiful reports which were emailed through Microsoft Outlook.

With the reports that were created, I was able to cross reference each piece of equipment; identify past issues on that piece of equipment and any values that fall out of desired thresholds, signifying any potential issues a site may have. When a potential issue is recognized, an email would be sent to the field technician or engineer assigned to that cell site with the necessary information to resolve the issue. Capable of making data-driven decisions, the reports were visually pleasing, organized and capable of retaining access to a database of past reports; enabling projections and preventative maintenance, with the ultimate goal of reducing impact on customers.

Determining the optimum hardware conditions, such as temperature, tx/rx powers, microwave paths, antenna azimuth settings and more gave me baselines to determine any deviations that may arise. Once the baselines were established, I determined allowable deviation ranges that did not signify an issue, rather a normal fluctuation that is to be expected. Then I began researching the backlog of successfully completed tickets, noting the cause, identification and solution of previous network and hardware issues. Comparing the baseline data with the logs of these tickets allowed me to identify values that fell out of the normal baseline range. Problems aren’t always triggered by alarms or monitoring, reinforcing the need for a deeper look into each device. With all this data I was able to catch problems before they became an issue and establish a database to reference the likely cause of a deviation or failure and develop a solution for resolution. 
Various manufacturers of network equipment were deployed at cellular sites, presenting amazing learning opportunities. I was exposed to the inner workings of various switches, routers, controllers, and microwaves. Creating opportunities to study and earn industry leading  certifications with such companies as Anritsu, Cisco, and CompTIA.

A small drop in power combined with an unknown gate entry often indicated copper theft. Copper is found in computers as a means to aid with electrical and thermal transmissions and are used throughout a cell site and within computer circuits. Copper is valuable as scrap metal, resulting in an increasing surge in copper thefts, making security at cell sites a concern. A signal transfer degradation and dynamic range loss combined with a site entry alarm often indicates that a tower climber was working on another provider and bumped an antenna, misaligning the antennas. An intermittent signal transfer between antennas can indicate a storm, and can be verified by current onsite weather conditions. A weak or complete loss of a signal between microwaves can be caused by an obstruction between the two microwaves, such as a bird’s nest or a construction project. Microwave shots need a clear path. Sudden reboots of switches and routers could indicate the equipment is shutting down to protect itself from overheating, indicating a probable cooling fan failure, which is typically caused by a dirty filter. Determining the length of time before a filter should be replaced or cleaned is a great start to preventative maintenance. An erratic transmit or receive signal can indicate a pinched or partially severed cable. First, check the site entry logs to see if someone may have been onsite, inadvertently damaging cables. An onsite visit will generally show rodents have chewed through cabling, or that construction nearby has cut through the cable.

The daily reports were customized and emailed based on certain conditions and sent to upper management, engineers and field technicians, each customized report created was based on name, title and coverage area. Only showing the issues specific to the recipient's coverage area. The reports gave field technicians and engineers a daily snapshot of the network and its equipment, helping identify current and projected issues in the network, and enabled the procurement department to make more informed decisions. The data helped technicians quickly see cell sites that may be having problems, such as improper microwave pathing, failed hardware, power loss, packet loss, etcetera.

Management received a comprehensive report with an overview of the current network state and any major issues, along with visual representations of current and historical data to gauge improvements over a specified period. The development of websites continues, requiring more network resources and improved features and functions as they become more complex. Keeping up on user trends is very important, and this report helped managers keep up with the ever changing networks. 
Soon after, I began getting requests from upper management across the country to automate many different reports. I automated reports that had previously taken hours to complete. Eliminating redundant, tedious and time consuming reporting freed up a significant amount of time (and money) for the company. Harnessing the skills I learned has opened up new doors and created a passion for automation, fostering a love for learning and continuous growth. 

LinkedIn changed my life, I have developed a strong desire for constant progression and a willingness to put in the work, knowing that with perseverance you can accomplish anything. A foundation has been laid for what I expect to lead to new opportunities, prompting a desire to continue my education, considering earning an MBA online. I know I can expect an exciting future, leveraging new skills and building relationships. Who knows where LinkedIn will take me next.
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Author:Josh Snow
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by:Arkel Thompson
Good day,
                     This's a great and inspirational story, keep up the good work.
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