E14 - Jill McDaniel at Ritter Communications30 June, 2023
On this week’s episode on The Route to Networking, Harry Stephenson, one of the USA consultants at Hamilton Barnes, sat down with Jill McDaniel, the Director of Network Planning and Deployment at Ritta Communications.
Jill has been in the networking industry since the early 2000s and it was a long road for her to get to the position she’s in today. She spent the first 15 years in Telecoms, working her way into various Engineering roles and spending a lot of time behind the desk.
So going back to where it started, in 2000, 20-year-old Jill, started at Alltel Wireless in an entry-level position. She spent 10 years there growing and progressing through various roles.
A combination of experience, certification, and education will set you up for success and open many doors for you and once you pop that certification on your LinkedIn, you’ll be guaranteed a job. Although Jill didn’t get a degree, she still believes having one is useful but at the same time says: “I’ve seen plenty of engineers with no degree and minimal experience with certifications upon very lucrative engineer positions so once again it’s subjective to your goals and where you want to work”.
After leaving high school and going straight into work, Jill suggests to any student coming up into the industry who wants to take a similar route to her, to not underestimate the tools and resources that are available online. These will benefit someone coming into this industry, so make sure to use them if you can. Making connections on social media platforms, to keep talking and building relationships will also help in getting your name out there to big employers.
Being in the industry for such a long time, the inner passion must still very much be alive. Jill shares what makes her so passionate about the field she is in. “I am 100% all into the building and chipping away at serving the underserve, that’s what I’m passionate about” … she continues, “It tugs at my core that these children living in a rural area and not able to have the things they need like research for the school and educating themselves”. She ultimately can’t wait to see the government back rural broadband.
Before graduating high school, she wanted to be a ‘Charlie’s Angel’ and after graduating, she enrolled in a private investigating school. It wasn’t long before her dream of that was shattered as it turns out, nobody wants to hire a 19-year-old to do important work. Nonetheless, she ended up landing a role at Alltel and she says it was a big deal with work there back then this is where she got her foot in the door in the networking space. Alltel was a great company to work for, it had great incentives, a great salary, and brilliant opportunities. She also liked the fact it challenged her, “if I’m not challenged and if I don’t have a big problem to solve, I tend to get bored”.
In her current position at Ritta Communications, they ensure they determine what solutions suit their customers’ problems by staying informed with current and future technologies. In a huge industry like this one, every business must stay on top of the latest and greatest tech, so they aren’t left behind. They also stay on top of practices and make sure not to get dead set on what was sold to them by the vendor but test it to see if it works.
As Director of Network Planning and Deployment for Ritta Communications, Jill faces many daily challenges. She expresses that they struggle with burnout, especially a lot more recently than in the past 4-6 years. There’s a lot of initiative to get fibre in the ground and get it to build faster and with there being a lot more competition out there this can present a burnout. She combats these burnouts but having a happy hour video chat with herself and her team, they talk about anything and everything, even things like conspiracy theories and UFOs.
Want to hear about her biggest networking disaster? It’s a big one, you don’t want to miss it… Listen to the podcast here: