Telecom engineers make the world a global village

Give us a brief description of your duties and responsibilitiesA telecommunications engineer ensures that there is availability of network in a region. There are several modes of availing network depending on departments; some provide Internet, others GSM, others fibre optic internet connection and so on. Television, radio and phones all use waves; the difference is in the frequencies.
Ntabgoba during the interview. Photo by Mwai.
Ntabgoba during the interview. Photo by Mwai.

Give us a brief description of your duties and responsibilities

A telecommunications engineer ensures that there is availability of network in a region. There are several modes of availing network depending on departments; some provide Internet, others GSM, others fibre optic internet connection and so on. Television, radio and phones all use waves; the difference is in the frequencies.

What did you study at university?

I studied Telecommunication Engineering at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology. Two universities in Rwanda offer that; National University of Rwanda and Kist. I also hold a Microsoft Certified IT Professional, a collection of six certificates awarded after intensive courses. At A-Level, I majored in Mathematics and Physics.

Besides the academic stuff, what else is required to be a good telecom engineer?


You have to love and have hands-on skills to work since the work may require you to even climb up to set up towers. Those who prefer the management side of the profession require a mixture of IT and finance because most decisions have to be feasible financially to be supported. It also requires you to read a lot, self study is how engineers progress.

Any emerging trends in this field?

Being in an information age, there have been enormous changes. Aspects and features change fast nowadays, probably faster than any other industry. For example, we are now using 3G but soon it will just be history as well. You have to always stay updated. The good thing is that the basics are always the same.

Is the career universal; can you practice it anywhere in the world?

Of course, it is a universal career. That is how I have been able to work in various countries in Africa. The leading company in telecommunication is Ericsson, which occupies about 60 per cent of the world’s telecommunication equipment, so you can see it is universal.

What are the best moments in the occupation?

Seeing your work creating value is a moment to behold. At times you go to a remote village without phone or Internet service and by the time you leave a few days later, the residents can make calls and access Internet easily. It is fulfilling to see your work having a positive impact on the community.

What are the challenges that one should expect?


For some people, climbing up towers which are between 40 to 80 metres high can be a challenge. But you can be an engineer who doesn’t go up towers if you don’t fancy heights.

You have to be able to face new tasks which at times even change according to weather conditions. One must always be ready to get to work whenever the network is down.

Where does an engineer fall in an organisation’s hierarchy?


Most telecom engineers come in as heads of departments, for example, director of satellite, director of radio and planning, director of fibre, etc. Many report to the chief technical officer who reports to the CEO.

How do people advance to higher levels in this line of work?


Progress in this line of work is by learning and relearning, not necessarily by going back to school but by self study methods. You have to study the latest research reports and learn the new trends in technology. Good thing is that the changes build on the existing ones so it is easy to learn. In telecom engineering, you don’t necessarily need to have a Masters degree to progress (as long as you can perform).

How many hours a day do telecommunication engineers work?

The working hours are irregular since it is demand based.  It is one of the few professions that allow  you govern yourself, you don’t have to report to work at dawn and leave in the evening. At times when the network goes down, you have to fix it regardless of the time, in times of stability there may not be as much work.

What are some of the things that could turn one into a failure in this field?

Unlike in the past, today an engineer should be good with software as well as hardware. However, most processes have been automated and one needs high programming skills to be able to deliver. An engineer who doesn’t have programming skills is quite at risk.

Advice to anyone interested in the occupation?


If they are in high school, they need to focus and put effort in Mathematics and Physics. At university, they need to put effort in computer programming.

Stay informed, read tech news and learn about the latest advancements. Telecommunications as a profession will always be relevant since people have to communicate and the world is moving toward a global village. No one else makes the world a global village as much a telecom engineer does.

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