Beware: Wireless Industry Imposters
As I head out to CTIA today to meet with colleagues and friends in the wireless industry, I find myself reflecting on the last 15+ years of my career in this space, and how much our industry has grown and shifted since I’ve been a part of it. A few months ago, I founded Quantum Wireless, and while I’ve represented our company at other industry conferences, this will be my first “big show” as president of Quantum.
The title of this post is a little tongue-in-cheek. Are there really “imposters” in our industry? A few. Mostly what I notice though, is that there are a lot of folks in our industry who really have no experience with wireless technology or solutions, or any credible wireless background. In looking at the CTIA speaker schedule, I can’t help but be a little amused at some of the people who represent us as “experts” in our space. A lot of these people came from a business or consulting background. Some bought their way into our space. Some fell backwards into it through good luck and timing. To be sure, there are a ton of really smart business people out there. Does that mean they are wireless experts?
Don’t get me wrong – many of these folks are very intelligent and charismatic individuals. I’d like to think that what they lack in true wireless experience may help our space in some ways. But as someone who’s been in the trenches of every aspect of our business, I’m proud to say that I’ve earned my right to be at the table. I’ve paid my dues, and have the battle scars to prove it.
I may be a little biased because of the path I’ve taken to get to this point in my career. I did not get here the easy way. As a matter of fact, I probably took the most difficult path possible to get to where I am today. I did not cheat. I did not take any short cuts. I did not pass “Go” (although I feel like I went to a metaphorical jail few times).
I graduated with a degree in Radio Frequency engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Many people probably don’t even know they give out formal degrees for “black magic,” but I found an ACC school that offered it, at one of the top 5 electrical engineering programs in the country to boot. Did I pursue a business degree? No. A degree in communications? Of course not! I come from a long line of engineers who shamed and humiliated those who did not appropriately use math and science to solve single-question final exams that take four hours to finish. For those of you who weren’t RF engineering majors at Georgia Tech – it’s like getting a diploma from Hogwarts without the cool spells and wizards (except for the nerds playing dungeons and dragons on your freshman hall).
If anything, my degree was more similar to medieval torture. I think the most appropriate simulation would be to lock yourself in a dark, 10’ x 12’ dorm room and gently tap your head over and over with a ball-peen hammer… for four years… and make sure this room is far away from any social activities or members of the opposite sex.
After several years of self-torture at Georgia Tech, I was fortunate to start my career in RF engineering at Nextel Communications. Nextel was a great company with a stellar business model, and I was put out on the front lines of their enterprise business to build custom wireless solutions. I was able to create and architect amazing infrastructure solutions for Nextel’s (and later Sprint’s) Fortune 500 customers. I am still grateful today for my experience and the lessons I learned there.
It was at Sprint Nextel where I made my most difficult and daring career decision: I left engineering to go to the “dark side of the force” – sales and business development. I built and developed some of the largest and most cutting-edge DAS solutions in our industry. My career flourished and I’ve been fortunate to have been a leader at some of the largest DAS OEM and third-party players in our space. But ultimately, I always knew that in order to truly build wireless systems the way I wanted to, and to go back to my RF engineering roots to develop quality, game-changing solutions, I would need to start my own company.
Since founding Quantum, I’ve received so much support from everyone in our ecosystem (carriers, OEMs, integrators, third parties, and most importantly, good friends). I look back on my career and am very proud of what I’ve accomplished. I realize that I’ve got a really great story to tell. Just like any other great story, it was a long and winding road to get to this point, and it has been an incredible journey so far.
So if you’ll be at CTIA this week, let’s connect. I’d love to discuss the real trends I see in our industry and what Quantum Wireless is doing to change the game. Hope to see y’all there… Oh, and keep an eye out for those “imposters.”
Dan Harkness is CEO of Quantum Wireless, a provider of commercial wireless solutions that improve cellular and data connectivity in both indoor and outdoor environments. Contact us today to discuss your property’s wireless infrastructure needs.