By Vera Arzikulova, FTTH Project Technician
My father was a big inspiration to me so I suppose it’s no surprise that I followed in his footsteps and ended up studying mechanical engineering at college. It might seem like an unlikely choice for a woman in Ireland but it’s different in Latvia, where I come from. There are so many women engineers and no-one thinks anything of it.
As it turned out, I have never really used any of the engineering skills I studied. Mobile and fibre was exploding everywhere when I started looking for work – fibre to the edge, fibre to the home – so I could see there was more chance of a long-term future in telecoms than engineering. I was familiar with AutoCAD and Excel, which are used in network planning and design, so at least I had some skills that I could easily apply to telecoms.
Working for telcos
Before coming to Ireland, I spent six years working in Portugal designing mobile and fibre networks for telcos like Vodafone and Portugal Teleco. During this time my husband got a job in Ireland and was only able to come home to visit our son and me once a month. We did this for two years but it was difficult and we decided that we’d move to Ireland to join him. So I had to find a job. I had only just updated LinkedIn when a position came up at 4site. They got straight back to me and I was invited for an interview.
I was very nervous, practically shaking, because I was in a new country, my English wasn’t great, and I knew nobody. But they were very nice to me and made me feel very relaxed. At the end of the interview they offered me a job! This had never happened to me before; usually you get told they’ll be in touch but they asked me when I could start. It was amazing.
My network design experience in Portugal was a great help. 4site were working on SIRO, a really interesting project that uses the country’s electrical network to bring fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) in towns across Ireland. Connections to buildings could be underground or overground – it was our job to design the most efficient route. The project was a new type of technical challenge for me, but the tools were the same. I use AutoCAD drawings to design how the fibre is distributed, split and then connected to lots of premises.
I love the work. I like it best when there’s a problem to solve and you have to get to the bottom of it. If it happens it’s at the build stage. They take our plan and occasionally run into an issue that we couldn’t have anticipated. The result might be a loss of signal somewhere between the network centre and the connection to the premises. It can be really difficult to discover the cause but it’s very satisfying when it’s resolved.
The first months were a steep learning curve as I adapted to 4site’s way of working and leant about SIRO. It was made easier by my colleagues who were very supportive and quickly became friends. The only problem is that I had set up home with my family in Newbridge and I was commuting to Limerick every day.
4site had said at the interview that we could sort something out but I didn’t know how. Then, after two months, they rented office space 10 minutes away from my home. I go to work there every day and work remotely, staying in touch with colleagues over Skype. Every Friday I still go down to Limerick which keeps me connected to my team. It’s the best of both worlds and the perfect work-life balance.
If you think you would suit the 4site culture, contact us now. (even if there are no obvious open roles, we want to talk to any analytical problem solvers interested in an engineering job!)