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article imageQ&A: What women need to know to get ahead in tech Special

By Tim Sandle     Sep 18, 2018 in Business
Ondas Networks, a supplier of private licensed broadband cellular data networks, have announced the appointment of industry expert Kathy Nelson to the senior leadership team. Nelson offers some insights for women entering STEM fields.
Kathy Nelson has over twenty years of experience in technology and utilities, and has recently been appointed as the Director of Technical Product Marketing & Industry Relations for Ondas Networks.
Nelson has an extensive resume with noted positions as Chairwoman of the Utilities Technology Council (UTC), a decade-long tenure on UTC’s Board of Directors, and being the recipient of the Electric Power Research Industry (EPRI) Technology Transfer Award for her work on Field Area Networks.
Speaking with Digital Journal, Nelson discussed her background, her new role and expectations at Ondas Networks, and how this change from public to the private sector means not only for the company but for all women in the industrial internet age.
Digital Journal: What are the challenges for women wishing to enter the technology field?
Kathy Nelson: If there is a challenge, I would say it’s the low number of women in technology areas and the lack of visibility of those that are there. If we want girls to enter technology areas, they need to see other women in those positions, which means the women that are there need to be more visible.
DJ: Have you personally experienced any difficulties within the tech world?
Nelson: Not really. My hiring manager was always very supportive and encouraging. When I joined the board of Utilities Technology Council, I was one of two women on a board of 80 men. Because I was outspoken from the onset about utilities’ issues, I quickly had many very supportive board members that encouraged me to go into leadership within UTC and I had a lot of support and encouragement to become UTC’s first chairwoman.
DJ: What advice would you offer to women seeking to enter STEM professions?
Nelson: Go for it. There are so many great areas to go into. It’s fun and exciting. Every day is something new and different.
DJ: What is your education and career background?
Nelson: I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from North Dakota State University. I spent 25 years working as a telecommunications engineer at Great River Energy, a generation and transmission cooperative located in Minnesota which provides electrical service throughout a 56,000 square mile area to approximately 1.4 million people. I primarily focused on Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Land Mobile Radio telecommunications systems. Approximately ten years ago, I joined the board of directors of Utilities Technology Council, a global industry trade association that provides advocacy and education for electric, oil & gas, and water utilities. My tenure on UTC’s board of directors culminated by serving as UTC’s first Chairwoman of Board.
DJ: What did your role as Chairwoman of the Utilities Technology Council involve?
Nelson: As chairwoman of the board of UTC, I provided leadership for UTC’s members. One of the major development that happened during my year as chairwoman was the introduction of a policy resolution process. This was extremely important for UTC and its members as it’s the mechanism for UTC to accurately represent its membership’s needs in its advocacy efforts. Additionally, I served on the board of directors of UTC’s global regions and UTC’s Global Advisory Council (GAC).
One of the main efforts that came out of that group was joining the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to work and advocate towards utilities becoming a worldwide radio user and obtaining a global spectrum allocation. Both of which are very long-term efforts. In addition to these, I was in touch with UTC’s CEO on a weekly basis providing leadership and direction as needed throughout the year. From a practical standpoint, I went to many UTC conferences and gave many presentations.
One of the best parts of the year was being able to meet many UTC members at these various events and being able to better understand each members’ needs. Many of the needs of utilities and mission-critical industries are the same throughout the world and it was very interesting and eye-opening to hear this firsthand.
DJ: For what did you win the Electric Power Research Industry (EPRI) Technology Transfer Award for?
Nelson: I won the EPRI Technology Transfer Award for work I did on a Field Area Network pilot project from 2013 – 2016. We piloted a couple different technologies including Full Spectrum’s (now Ondas Networks) and had the only joint utility/FirstNet pilot in the country. FirstNet is the public safety-private LTE network that is being built for data interoperability for public safety agencies.
DJ: What does your role at Ondas Networks involve?
Nelson: My role at Ondas Networks is to be involved and engaged with mission-critical industries within their trade associations, conferences, and advocacy efforts. I also provide customer perspectives and input into product development.
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