Rudy Ynostrosa, a telecommunications professional of twenty-five years, shares how his part-time job in college became a life-long career.
What is your job title? How many years of experience do you have in that field?
Network Surveillance Engineer. I have been in my current position since October, but I have been working in the telecommunications field for twenty-five years.
Would you describe what you do on a typical day?
I am responsible for providing network surveillance for a nationwide network that offers internet, video, and VOIP phone service.
I sit at a desk with three monitors in a network operations center looking for alarms to determine if there is trouble and whether we can fix it remotely, need to dispatch a technician, or need to involve a carrier. I am basically doing triage for the nationwide network.
What is your ethnicity? How has it hurt or helped you?
I am Hispanic, (Mexican-American.) It has both helped and hurt me.
Early on in my career, it was a little more difficult because they didn’t classify us as Hispanic; they classified me as Mexican, and I think at that time there was a bit more of a stigma being a professional Mexican. Even today there is still a stigma out there, but it has gotten better.
Once you get in the workplace, no matter what your surname is, when you perform well, the creme will rise to the top.
Sometimes you have to work extra hard to overcome that surname because of the stigma that comes with it. It has gotten better over the years, but my recommendation would be if you have a Spanish surname, be prepared to perform on all cylinders and stand out in front of the crowd.
I think being Hispanic has helped me in some instances. With the EEOC especially, when you get into upper management it can be a great benefit. I have been a Vice President and a director, and being Hispanic has helped me in that regard because they were looking for a minority candidate.
What languages do you speak? How has speaking another language helped you?
I speak both Spanish and English. I think that being able to speak Spanish has helped me in some instances. Working with a technician in Miami, whose predominant language was Spanish, as recently as this past weekend, I was able to communicate what we needed from him when his coworkers were having difficulty explaining the task due to the language barrier.
What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that happen?
To never rest on your laurels. You always need to be performing at your best and never take anything for granted, especially your job.
Three years ago I was a director of project management, and I was performing to the best of my ability, and my boss, who was a Vice President of engineering, gave me glowing reviews. I knew there was a reduction of workforce, and I was told I would be fine and reclassified in a different group, but when it came down to the cut, the decision was out of my Vice President’s control and I was still laid off, so never take anything for granted and always be on your toes.
What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?
A large part of succeeding in the workforce is being skilled socially. There are some people who are naturally better at the social aspects of work than others, and it is a big part of being a professional in today’s workforce.
I don’t think schools emphasize the importance of this enough. It is something you can learn all through school through participating in organizations, building friendships, community service, and joining groups such as sororities or fraternities.
Some people never build those social skills, and they can have every degree or qualification in the world but without the social skills, it makes it difficult to progress in their careers.
How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I was lucky and was in the right place at the right time.
While in college I was working part-time for a company in Dallas, one of the first radio common carriers (before cellular communications). They were trying to build networks across the country, and when I finished school they took me on full time.
On a good day, when things are going well, what’s happening and what do you like about it?
On a good day, I am able to fix a lot of things and control how things are going as well as the outcome of situations and scenarios. When things are clicking and you’re in a groove and fixing things and answering questions and helping other people and hitting your stride it is a sense of self-accomplishment.
When everything goes wrong, what’s happening and what do you dislike?
When things aren’t going your way and you keep hitting a roadblock, a wall, a fork in the road, and one obstacle after another, it makes it frustrating and you feel like you aren’t getting anything done.
What is your favorite part of your job? What areas do you struggle in or wish you could avoid?
Working with other people is my favorite part of the job. We share many interests and goals in life personally and professionally.
I sometimes struggle with being a little too honest. I’ve been doing this so long that I struggle when upper management asks a question but don’t want an honest answer. It’s hard for me to tell them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, but sometimes that is a reality of the job.
How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?
It can get very hectic and stressful, but I’ve learned over the years that as soon as I leave the office and ride home, I must try to leave work behind me and not take it into the house when I get home at night; I try to separate the two. I call it “my time to decompress.”
What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?
The salary range is anywhere from $25-50 an hour. No, I can’t say I am paid enough.
What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?
We were going through merger acquisition and there were a lot of people I knew whose jobs were at stake, and we were trying to make the best case for keeping our own people; I was able to help build a strong case that kept 90 percent of the workforce intact, and I felt really good about this.
What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?
Coming home to my wife who was eight months pregnant and telling her I was laid off was challenging and tough and stressful at the same time. I would like to forget that.
What education and skills would you recommend for someone wanting to succeed in this field?
I would suggest they get an electrical engineering degree and minor or maybe obtain a post-graduate degree in business.
What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
I would say it’s like any other job, it has its pros and cons, and it’s what you make of it. It’s very hectic, very dynamic and fast-paced. Some people can take it in stride and other people struggle with it. It is not a job for people who thrive on routine and predictability.
How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
I take a couple weeks a year, and I probably should take more. Over the last few years I’ve been doing a lot of contract work so if I take time off I don’t get paid. With my current job, I have vacations, and I plan to use them as much as possible.
If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
I would like to work my way up to management into a more stable environment whether it is this company or another company. That is what just about everyone wants in this economy, stability, and job security.