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The President's Series - Keith Mandoske
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The President's Series - Keith Mandoske

Apr 2014

Our President's Series continues as Scott Brown, Director of Business Development for the W-T Family of Companies, dives into the professional experience and lives of our company presidents. This month: Keith Mandoske, President of W-T Communication Design Group, LLC.

What was your first experience with the wireless communication design business?

In 1994 I was running the survey company and happened to be standing across the hall by our blue print company. I heard a guy complain that he could not get land surveys done quickly enough.  Turned out he was with Whalen and Company. He was building for Smart SMR or Illinois (the predecessor to Nextel and Sprint). We started doing surveys a few days later.    A few months later I was at a deployment meeting and heard them say they needed more A&E design firms as they were all falling behind.   We started doing site designs a few days later.

You are a veteran of the Navy. Can you tell us more about your experience and how it has shaped your leadership skills in this field?

I joined the navy while I was still in high school and shipped out to boot camp about four weeks from my eighteenth birthday. Within a year, I was deployed on the other side of the world.  I was a diesel engine mechanic and worked on a landing craft that brought the Marines from the ship to the shore.  I wanted to learn and went to every school my command would allow.  Learning leadership in the military is quite contrary to today's motivation techniques.   The best aspect you learn is you meet people from all walks of life and you all have to come tighter to get the assignment or mission complete.  You learn that everyone is different and you have to adapt your leadership tone as the situation warrants.   Using the "it's my way or the highway," mentality worked in the service but it does not work in today's engineering field.

From what I understand, you started as a surveyor and have moved your way up to President of the largest W-T company. Tell me more about your experience climbing the ranks and watching our groups grow.

I actually started as a junior drafter in the MEP group laying out base sheet and stenciling title block and bed sheets by hand.   My first 2 1/2 months, though I did not even pick up a drafting  pencil,  I was stuck getting everyone  lunch, shoveling  the snow from the sidewalks  and making blueprints and taking care of deliveries.  I knew that everyone had to start somewhere.  W-T was my first job after I left the Navy.  I had just come from a position where I had 40 people who reported to me and I was the Chief Engineer in charge of 15-18 landing crafts.   I did not expect to come in and be the next project manager.  I knew that if I did a good job at getting everyone lunch and I did not complain I would be given bigger and more important roles.  I did what it took to complete the mission I was assigned.   My saying to my wife was, "It all pays the same, what do I care what I'm doing."  After about six months of drafting base sheets and learning by osmosis, I would do more than what was asked.   I saw what the guy did with the drawing after I gave it to him and I helped him by going just one step further and making his job easier.    My supervisors noticed and when the opportunity to start at the ground floor of the land survey company came around, Scott Triphahn and Steve Triphahn asked me to join.

The average cell phone user is not aware of the technical aspects as to how their phone works. Can you explain the process and the role W-T Communication Design Group, LLC plays?

What most people outside of the industry do not realize is the sheer amount of cell sites it takes to start and run a wireless network.   In the Chicago, five county metropolitan areas, each of the five wireless carriers have more than 4,500 individual sites.  That means there are over 20,000 cell sites in those five counties.  They are all inter-connected with fiber or microwave.  When a "build" takes place or a technology changes, you can't just turn one site on at a time as they are built, you need to turn on hundreds at a time.   We are forced into such tight timelines and we get such significant work spikes, it takes a lot to manage all the action and keep the clients happy and on schedule.

What makes W-T Communication Design Group unique to our clients?

I think that our product quality and customer service are by far the best asset that we bring to the table.  We know and understand the time constraints the customer is under and know that delays cost time and money.  We work hard to make sure we provide the best products to limit revisions and costly delays to improve the network.  By communicating with and serving the customer, we alert them of the issues and mitigate the problem before it becomes significant.

I hear that you are involved in the Kane County Office of Emergency Management. Can you tell me more about that?

I joined the agency as a volunteer in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in September of 2005.  I joined my local volunteer fire department when I was sixteen years old and have always respected both fire and policemen for the service they provide for the community.  After the navy, I was a part time paid on call fireman in Streamwood Illinois for four years before moving outside of the village limits.   After 9/11, I wanted to do something for my country and my community; in the wake of Hurricane Katrina I knew I needed to act.  I joined as a regular member and quickly advanced in rank to Senior Member and then to my current position as a Lieutenant.  I have three duties that I am responsible for: I am the Disaster Intelligence Officer and would brief the County Board/Crisis Team as a crisis or disaster situation unfolded.  I would be given information from team member, assimilate the data and present information to the board so they had facts to act and make decisions.  During field operations, I am the Safety Office and make sure that program, event and situations are done as safely as possible. Lastly I am responsible for the Counties Search and Rescue Team.  I make sure that the team is properly trained and ready to assist law enforcement when a person becomes missing or lost.   These range from missing children to lost senior citizens with Alzheimer or Dementia.  Our day to day operations consists of traffic control for law enforcement and fire departments.

You seem to be a busy guy. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy working around the house and find myself very handy.  As a former diesel mechanic, I enjoy working with my hands on cars and just generally like being outside. In the last few years, I have given up on ATVs and joined the off-road community in the comfort of my Ford F-150 Raptor.  I enjoy driving off-road, listening to country music, and spending time with my friends on the trail and around the campfire. 

Keith M. Mandoske, LSIT
W-T Communication Design Group, LLC – President

Keith has over twenty years' experience in all aspects of telecommunication site design, civil engineering, land surveying, and construction management. As President, he is responsible for the daily operation of W-T Communication Design Group, LLC. This includes the management of the field and office personnel as well as ensuring both field and office quality control standards are met.

His expertise includes executive management, difficult site design solutions including water tanks, project and financial management, DAS site design and structural innovation. Keith's commitment to W-T spans more than twenty-two years. He also currently serves as Secretary for the Illinois State Wireless Association.