Telecommunications Manager  What They Do

Just the Facts

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dotTelecommunications managers plan and direct the use of evolving communications technologies and make sure they're reliably connected to each other. These managers are the link between the businesses that use telecommunications technologies and the companies that provide them.

"My main responsibilities are handling all help desk [questions] that come in to the telecommunications help desk, answer the help desk telephone line, complete any adds, moves, and changes to the lines within the building, maintain the call accounting database, input work orders, generate monthly billing, [and] order necessary equipment as needed," says Janay Doctor. She's a telecommunications manager in Philadelphia.

dotSome telecommunications managers work directly for phone companies or long-distance carriers. They may manage a client's telecommunication needs on an on-call or on-site basis.

On-site telecommunications managers typically work exclusively for one large company or organization. This is the case for Laura Geery-Larson, vice-president of telecommunications for the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.

"You need to understand how the phone companies provision circuits and how they integrate into the equipment," says Geery-Larson. "They are very elementary [technical skills]. I mean, you need to understand how wiring infrastructure [works]. You need to learn how use your tools -- screwdrivers, punch tools, things like that."

The telecommunications manager often acts as an expert shopper, pricing out the best long-distance and Internet packages for their employers.

dotPrice isn't the only consideration. Good service is essential to avoiding downtime and lost revenues.

Giving good service means being able to understand a customer's needs. A manager has to analyze and evaluate business needs and be able to recommend solutions. This requires a good understanding of the technology -- but it doesn't mean you have to know how to fix it yourself. At the same time, telecommunications managers increasingly have IT backgrounds as companies are using Internet-based communications solutions rather than traditional phone lines.

With the merging of IT and telecom, large organizations are increasingly making telecom one of the responsibilities of a senior-level officer within the company.

"What we're seeing these days is a chief operations officer or a chief technology officer who would have the mandate for both the telecom, the voice side of the house, and data, the IT side of the house, and then [they] have business unit managers reporting to them," says telecommunications consultant John Glover.

Some telecommunications managers are self-employed (such as Glover). They act as consultants to businesses and organizations of all sizes.

Often, choosing a telecommunications solution is about finding the right balance between price and reliability. Telecommunications managers must work overtime when problems arise. People with special needs in the area of movement may still be able to do this job. For those with visual or hearing needs, interaction with customers and clients will pose some challenges. This is a fairly stressful job, due to the fast pace of change and the many details a manager must oversee.

dotGeery-Larson says demand for telecommunications managers is probably going down, at least in their traditional role.

"I think it's decreasing, absolutely," says Geery-Larson. "Because everything is the Web and computers and a lot of companies [have] installed voice-over-IP systems (VoIP, Internet-based communications), just to alleviate costs. Not that those systems work any better -- some don't. That's where your process as to how you evaluate different things and what you need for your business comes into play."

Doctor also sees a shrinking demand.

"I think that the demand for telecommunications managers is definitely decreasing," says Doctor. "There are a lot of other tools and systems that are coming out, and a lot of companies are upgrading from the traditional PBX to VoIP or systems that are handled remotely." PBX stands for private branch exchange, a telephone exchange that serves a particular business or office.

One reason that demand for telecommunications managers might be decreasing is that telecommunications in large organizations is increasingly handled by a senior-level officer such as a chief operations officer or a chief technology officer, says John Glover.

At a Glance

Plan and direct the use of telecommunications technologies, from phones to the Internet

  • Continuous learning is required to keep up with changes in technology
  • A manager has to analyze and evaluate business needs and be able to recommend solutions
  • Experience in customer service and business is required