ICCAs focus: Hard work pays off
The 2019 TCCA Young Engineer of the Year, Motorola Solutions’ Angelene Koid, talks to Philip Mason about life after the award and the opportunities available to women in the critical communications industry.
Could you tell me a bit about your background and why you wanted to get into the critical communications industry?
It all started when the hiring manager from Motorola Solutions came to my university to recruit new engineers - I got a job offer during the interview! With Motorola Solutions being a top multi-national company, I decided to accept the offer on the spot. I had just completed my undergraduate degree, in 2013.
I started on the Motorola graduate training programme. As a trainee engineer, I was initially placed in an established team responsible for developing Digital Mobile Radio. After that I was offered a permanent position as a software engineer before being chosen as part of a new team to develop TETRA two-way radios.
In 2017, I was promoted to become a feature owner for compliance features of two-way radios. Throughout this period, I practiced one of the Six Sigma [process improvement] tools that were actually developed by Motorola Solutions. Essentially, my role is to govern the software processes which ensure the radios operate correctly and in compliance with the right standards.
What most attracted me to the role - and the industry - was the opportunity to create products and technologies that make a real difference to people’s lives. I knew Motorola could provide the right environment for me to follow that passion.
What’s been your most interesting project so far? What are you most proud to have worked on?
The Norway-Sweden ‘common cross border’ feature is the most interesting project I have worked on so far, having been given the opportunity to be a technical lead in the development of the terminal or Mobile Station product. I found it really interesting because it was the first feature to enable seamless cross-country communications. Therefore, it required careful collaboration between different stakeholders and infrastructures.
I’m proud to create devices that work for police officers irrespective of the country where they are located. One of the key requirements of the project was the ability to handle the mobility and location of terminals while using different infrastructure in different countries. Seeing how so many different elements came together cohesively at the end of the project is one of the best moments for my technical career.
How has winning the Young Engineer award at last year’s ICCAs benefitted your career?
It has opened up more opportunities for me to explore the world and learn from other leaders. I have already been invited to several discussions for leadership talks, internally and externally. The biggest highlight for me was joining WE19, the world's largest women’s engineering conference held last November in California. I was able to experience many talks given by female leaders all over the world. This inspired me to continue learning and striving to achieve my goals.
Why is it important to recognise up-and-coming talent within the sector?
It is very important to recognise talent within our sector. It lets employees and the wider industry know that their contributions are appreciated. Recognition can be made at many levels, including peers, managers and all employees throughout an organisation.
I have always encouraged my team to recognise peers who have helped them in the moments that matter. This creates a good work culture and improves team morale.
How easy is it for women to become successful within the sector, particularly in relation to the engineering/technology side?
Regardless of gender, being a successful person in life is never easy. There are not many women in my field, but I am grateful that I have always had a strong support network around me.
I worked as hard as - if not harder than - all my other colleagues, and hard work pays off regardless of gender. I have also been given many opportunities to pursue pathways for female engineers through support groups including the Society of Women Engineers and the Women’s Business Council at Motorola Solutions.
Going back to the previous question, this kind of recognition also helps women feel more motivated and valued by their employers.
What barriers are there, if any, to women becoming successful in the sector?
None. I think Motorola Solutions promotes a good gender-equality culture. However, I sometimes feel my age can be a disadvantage because some people may not take my input as seriously because I am young. In these situations, I have to strive harder to get my points across.
What are you most excited about going into the future, both in terms of your own career and the direction in which the industry’s heading?
I aspire to be a leader across most two-way radio areas, and to become a System Architect responsible for designing end-to-end solutions for our customers.
I have now decided to take up a new challenge in platform development, and I want to incorporate different components of what I’ve learned from working on the entire radio ecosystem. I will also continue to be involved in innovation, and will hopefully have been granted some patents within the next five years.
The requirements for public safety communication are rapidly changing and may possibly include the needs for wideband-based, multimedia applications and remote security. It will be interesting to see how the collaboration between LTE and DMR networks can support these new applications and I hope to be one of the early pioneers helping to move mission critical technology forward.
What will be the most transformational/disruptive technology over the next five years, and why?
The continuing implementation and growing maturity of Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things will be key success factors for the future of critical communications.
Although AI is already in use in multiple sectors, it has yet to fully take hold within the mission critical environment. For example, AI and IoT can be incorporated into security systems for image processing to identify potential suspects. AI can also be incorporated to analyse police officers’ physical and psychological condition, based on data from body-worn devices.
There are many other use cases that AI and IoT can bring to the mission critical industry. For example, drones can be used to capture real time video of forest fires, and to help forecast where fires are spreading.
There are many challenges ahead when implementing AI and IoT in mission critical industries, particularly in relation to data integrity, security and higher data rates. However, I believe that these are challenges that can be overcome with responsible technology development. I am looking forward to contributing to it.