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Life at the Top: Celebrating Tower Tech Appreciation Day

If you made a cell phone call or checked your social media today, you have a wireless tower technician to thank. These are the men and women doing the hard and dangerous work behind the scenes to build and maintain the tower infrastructure keeping us all connected in our daily lives. That’s why today, May 8th, Tilson joins the telecommunications industry in celebrating Tower Technician Appreciation Day.

With more than 400,000 cell sites in the United States across towns, cities, and roadways, you might not know that someone needs to build and maintain these sites. To many people, these structures aren’t given a second thought, but tower climbers have to climb to great heights with their tools and equipment to perform the work. Even a task as simple as changing a tower light bulb (which is critically important for safety and tower visibility) means a person needs to make the long climb to the top – sometimes 400 and 500 feet high.

To explain what a day in the life of a tower technician involves, and to inspire the next generation of tower climbers, we turned to the experts: Tilson’s own Tower Techs and Wireless team.

Meet Our Featured Tower Team

Brian Gibbs – Tower Maintenance Foreman

Based out of Alabama, Brian has been with Tilson for 8 years. Outside of work, Brian enjoys hunting, fishing, gardening, and cooking – he owns a BBQ catering business.

Zachary Shortt – Tower Foreman

With Tilson for nearly 9 years, Zachary lives in New Hampshire and spends his free time playing board games and going fishing with his family.

Corey Odom – Wireless Maintenance Lead

Corey has worked with Tilson for 3 years and lives in Texas, where he climbed his tallest tower at 1,600 feet tall! When not climbing, Corey likes to spend time outdoors with his fiancée and 2 kids.

Alisha Stokes – Tower Foreman

Alisha is approaching her second year on the Tilson team. She lives in Virginia with her fiancé and young son, loves taking family vacations, and tackles DIY crafts in her free time.

An Ever-Changing Day in the Life of Tilson’s Tower Techs

One thing that our tower team agreed on is that no two days are ever the same. From remote mountains to urban roof tops, the job requires traveling to unique locations to work on a variety of wireless equipment. Whether on building rooftops or on free-standing towers hundreds of feet in the air, technicians need to be ready for anything. Tilson’s own team has built and installed equipment for major cellular companies, local emergency services, U.S. Air Force Bases, and everywhere in between from coast to coast. The one constant in the work, however, is the need for careful planning and attention to safety to get the job done.

First thing in the morning, teams meet to review the day’s work, gathering the parts, equipment, and tools they will need for the day. Safety is always the goal.

“Before any work begins, we complete a job site safety analysis to go over what hazards we may find and determine how we can remove or alleviate them,” said Zachary Shortt.

Corey Odom, a Wireless Maintenance Lead, also underlined this critical safety mindset, adding, “While we as a company and as a team have minimized a lot of the risks, we still work in one of the most dangerous industries.” The height of the tower obviously presents an inherent risk, but tower technicians are also exposed to the elements throughout the day, dealing with extreme heat and cold, wind, and precipitation.

Tower Foreman Alisha Stokes recognized the lengths Tilson goes to for safety, saying I admire how much effort and attention Tilson as a company puts into safety. Tilson creates an environment where people work great together to get the job done safely and correctly.”

Despite the challenges, each team member shared reasons they find the work rewarding, whether it was a love of being outdoors, the joy of building something from the ground up, or the uniqueness of each new day.

“The variety of our work keeps the day-to-day interesting and allows us to do different things on each site,” said Corey Odom.

Before a climber can start their ascent, their ground partner performs a buddy check on their gear, including their climbing harness, gloves, helmet, and communication device used to remain in contact with the ground workers. As the climber ascends, their safety ropes must always have three points of contact with the structure for a safer climb. Any tools or equipment for the job must be continually raised and lowered via pulleys as the work is performed. The work is not only physically engaging, but also mentally stimulating.

Sometimes the reason the tower technician is on a job is a straightforward repair or install, and sometimes it is more difficult.

For Tower Maintenance Foreman Brian Gibbs, the troubleshooting is the best part. “I describe troubleshooting as finding the ‘ghost in the machine,’ carefully going through all steps to figure out the problem and how to fix it. I get to be a Jack of all trades and learn multiple skills – putting my talents to the test and finding the proper solution is my favorite part of my job.”

What exactly is it like working in an “office” hundreds of feet in the air? Assuming you aren’t afraid of heights, it can bring a sense of peace and offers incredible views found nowhere else as seen in these photos shared by the team:

At the end of the day, the climber descends back to ground level, the team provides documentation of the day’s work to the client, and they get ready to do it all again the next day!

Elevating Your Career

Tilson has over 100 team members on our Wireless division, but each has their own unique journey that brought them here. Some joined the telecom industry straight out of high school and others found their way after searching for a new career path. Tilson also participates in the Department of Defense SkillBridge and Airstreams programs to help military service members transition into civilian jobs, which is how many have found meaningful careers on Tilson’s Wireless team.

In Zachary’s example, he was working in a lumber mill when his brother, a Tilson employee, recommended he make the switch.

“I applied never knowing that this was the job I wanted to make a career out of,” Zachary said. “I fell in love with climbing and the feeling of pride that comes with completing tower projects.”

In Zachary’s case, he started green to the industry and has been promoted at Tilson multiple times from the role of Tower Technician I to his current position of Tower Foreman.

For those curious about becoming a tower technician, both Brian and Corey shared the same advice: “Be a sponge.” Since the job brings new experiences every day, it requires a desire to always learn and grow. For those who come with a willingness to learn, Tilson is committed to providing the training, support, and culture to help you find success in the industry.

Alisha praised the support and culture she found when she joined Tilson, sharing that she “experienced a huge sense of togetherness and encouragement, feeling both welcomed and supported.”

Corey added that “Tilson as a company makes sure we are appreciated and goes the extra mile to show us – it makes the challenging days worth it and encourages us as employees to give it our best.”

We could not be more proud of our tower technicians. They are the heart of Tilson’s wireless work, and we rely on their courage, dedication, and expertise to get the job done safely and efficiently. Their efforts mean that we can keep communities across the nation connected and safe with steady access to cellular and broadband services. This Tower Technician Appreciation Day, we want to extend our gratitude to everyone on our Wireless team and to those across the entire industry for all their hard work. The next time you check your phone, recognize the team behind the scenes and extend a ‘thank you’ to them for making it all possible.

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