ICCAs focus: The next generation

Winner of TCCA’s Young Engineer of the Year award at the 2022 ICCAs, NSW Telco Authority’s Shaunak Patel, discusses the importance of recognising young professionals within the industry.

Could you talk about your professional background? How and why did you get into the critical communications industry?

From a young age, I have been interested in telecommunications and the important role it plays in critical communications and security. Inspired by my grandfather who was an engineer, I completed my Bachelor of Engineering, majoring in ICT (telecommunications) at the University of Technology, Sydney. After completing several internships, I kickstarted my career in the private sector at Kordia Solutions Australia and have since worked across a diverse range of large telecommunications projects.

What’s your role at NSW Telco Authority? What specific projects are you working on?

I joined NSW Telco Authority in 2020 as a spectrum engineer within the Spectrum Management Office [SMO]. Our organisation is responsible for delivering critical radio communications to first-responders and essential services to keep people and places in NSW safe.

In my role with the SMO, I am responsible for ensuring spectrum is managed efficiently across our NSW government agencies and customers. I also provide technical support related to spectrum for our stakeholders.

Our team supports the delivery of the Critical Communications Enhancement Program [CCEP], which is a $1.4bn investment by the NSW government to expand and enhance the Public Safety Network [PSN]. The PSN provides emergency service organisations access to a common interoperable crisis communications network.

What engages you most about the work? What makes you most enthusiastic?

I enjoy being able to work with a range of professionals – both internally and externally – who come from either a technical or a non-technical background. Before starting my engineering career, I worked in customer service, which has given me a strong foundation and understanding of customer engagement and the important role collaboration and consultation play in successful project delivery.

At Telco, we place customers at the heart of everything we do, and this resonates strongly with my values and beliefs. I also enjoy troubleshooting and problem-solving. Knowing that I am playing a part in keeping our people safe truly drives me.

How would you like your career to progress?

Working for an organisation that has a vision to be the connectivity leader for the NSW government is very inspiring. I am excited to be part of a team that is driving the future of the critical communications industry through technology innovations and solutions. Ultimately, I would love to lead a team of young engineers, guiding them through their careers and supporting them to become successful.

Why is it important to recognise the contribution of young engineers within the sector?

I feel recognition is extremely important on all levels, particularly for younger employees as it helps build confidence in their work. It also celebrates their contribution and empowers them in knowing they are making a difference.

Engineers may be known for their introverted tendencies, and I can proudly say I am one of them! But, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing, supportive peers and extraordinary managers who go above and beyond to notice the intricacies and specifics of my work. It has helped me grow as a person both professionally and individually.

How can the critical communications industry attract more of the best young engineering talent?

Graduate programmes are a fantastic head start for young professionals in their careers. I would love to see increased availability for engineering graduates to access opportunities across the sector. One of the benefits for graduates is their access to rotations across a business to really get a holistic understanding of what the business does.

NSW Telco Authority has introduced an initiative that enables employees to shadow colleagues and teams from other parts of the organisation to gain an insight into the work they deliver.

Within their roles, I strongly support the need to empower young team members as decision-makers and influencers. This not only benefits the individual but the business as a whole. It ensures they look at their contribution and work and how it supports and impacts others.

To continue the conversation join us at Critical Communications Network - the new online community for the sector