Scaling Heights: Tower Climbing at Day Wireless Systems

We follow the 16-year career of Day Wireless Systems (DWS) climber-turned-leader Jeremy Engelstad to explore the potential experiences for Tower Climbers, and a picture of what a career can look like at DWS.

Embarking on a career as a Tower Construction Technician is like stepping into a world where the sky is literally the limit. This unique and challenging profession calls for individuals who possess a blend of physical prowess, mental fortitude, and an ability to navigate heights. Tower Technicians are the unsung heroes in the telecommunications and construction industries, playing a crucial role in erecting and maintaining the towering structures that keep our world connected. Whether it’s scaling dizzying heights to install equipment or performing intricate maintenance tasks high above the ground, the role of a Tower Construction Technician is not just a job, but an adventure that offers a different perspective on the world.

As the Eastern Washington Construction Manager, Jeremy Engelstad is one example of a person who found more rewards than risks in his career working with Tower Construction at DWS. After 16 years at DWS, he is not only advocating for this role, but—along with other Tower Construction supervisors at DWS—is also looking for good people to fill these roles. 

From Military to Tower Construction

Jeremy served in the Army infantry and decided to transition to civilian life after completing a tour in Iraq in 2006. Returning from Iraq and stationed in Texas, he was interested in finding a path that would lead him back to the Northwest, closer to his roots in scenic Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. This goal intersected with a fortunate connection: his stepmother knew two Tower employees at DWS, their recommendation and his determination led him to join DWS’s Project team (now the Towers team) in 2007. 

Building a Career at DWS

Engelstad’s career at DWS began as a Tower Technician in the Seattle area, later becoming a Tower Crew Lead. After his simultaneous pursuit of a Bachelors degree in Business Management, he was ready to return to Idaho. This led to a pivotal moment where he proposed a business plan to open a Construction Team for DWS in Spokane, Washington, located roughly thirty minutes across the border from Coeur d’Alene. His proposal was eventually accepted, and they successfully established a shop that has been consistently profitable ever since.

Engelstad credits the Day family’s support for the opportunities and camaraderie experienced at DWS. A highlight, from his perspective, is the company’s willingness to take risks based on employee ideas, fostering a culture of loyalty and hard work, with a major benefit being the opportunity to support the families and careers of employees.

The Essence of Tower Construction

As a supervisor of Tower Construction, Engelstad enjoys the dynamic nature of his work, which combines desk duties with on-site visits, including mountain sites and tower tops, offering breathtaking views. This carries forward his favorite aspect of working in Tower Construction, getting out into nature and never having two days that are alike. 

Additionally Jeremy’s satisfaction in completing projects that significantly impact public safety by enhancing emergency communication services that will benefit the local community. Community is a strong motivation, which carries through to the camaraderie found in Tower Construction teams, a key factor in creating successful outcomes for Tower projects as well as a stellar safety record.  

What Makes DWS Unique

Engelstad appreciates the autonomy at DWS. For employees who demonstrate a good work ethic, a reward is a sense of freedom in the workplace. The company’s willingness to listen to and address employee needs, such as implementing a flexible work schedule to accommodate educational pursuits at employee request, stands out. Like other DWS employees, Engelstad has found reasonable requests are entertained in the workplace, and if a good case is made, many of them are also implemented. 

Additionally, Tower Construction has a great pay structure, even for new, inexperienced employees. “High time,” or time spent working on the tower, receives 1.5x pay. There is regular travel in summers, which includes a travel per diem. 

Ideal Qualities for Tower Construction

When discussing ideal candidates for Tower Technician or apprentices, Engelstad prioritizes attitude, willingness to learn, and work ethic over specific work experience. He finds most aspects of Tower Construction can be taught to those who are open to take on a variety of new skills and proven techniques. 

Interestingly, Engelstad has found that individuals with backgrounds in rural industry such as farming often possess valuable practical skills for Tower Construction, including a strong work ethic. It may not be expected, but skills such as towing trailers, mechanical repairs, and even knowing how to properly tie down loads can be very useful in Tower Construction. 

Another excellent aptitude is the ability to embrace change and be comfortable with encountering new experiences. Enjoying travel and getting out in nature are also ideal traits for people interested in this role! 

Onboarding and Career Progression

Engelstad underscores the importance of on-the-job training (OJT) over formal education in the early stages of a tower tech’s career. The onboarding process is hands-on, with more formal training and certifications coming into play later. Career progression at DWS can lead from an apprentice role to skilled positions and even management, as evidenced by Engelstad and former head of Towers division Lane Falkner’s career trajectories.

Not all Tower Climbers will end up in leadership positions, but the opportunity to make lateral moves to other career paths, such as RF (Radio Frequency) Technician, Rental, and Sites, also exists at DWS. Overall, Tower Technicians at Day Wireless can look forward to gratifying careers working alongside dedicated colleagues and friends. 

Challenges and Rewards

In Towers, there are stories of challenging yet rewarding experiences, like navigating difficult terrains in extreme weather conditions and encountering wildlife. In one such experience, Jeremy and a Tower Tech went to check a microwave dish on a high mountain in Idaho and found the road to be completely gone, with 8 – 10 feet of snow in an avalanche situation. They took an uncommon route across the face of the slope, down several miles through the woods and back up the other side with a hike across an icy cornice. By the time they got back to the truck, the tower tech asked Engelstad, “You never quit? Why is that?” Jeremy credits his military background for instilling in him the determination to see tasks through to completion.

On the job, Engelstad and his crew have seen a number of wildlife, including grizzlies and black bears, mountain lions, and snakes, but the most challenging have been moose, who can be very territorial, particularly while they are raising their young. They have been known to charge people, vehicles, or stay in the road and refuse to move. In one memorable instance, they came across a hiker who was being chased by a moose. The hiker ran and jumped into the DWS work truck to avoid being struck. 

In Seattle, Engelstad recalls an Osprey circling the tower, diving, and dropping a ‘bomb’ on him… part of the Towers adventure that requires a sense of humor. When faced with obstacles like nests hindering their work, they follow protocol by contacting the wildlife department for guidance on the appropriate steps to take

These stories exemplify the unpredictable and adventurous nature of tower construction, emphasizing the importance of accepting challenges and being adaptable in this line of work.

Tower Construction Skills

There are a lot of skills to be gained in tower construction beyond construction of a tower. Tower construction also involves operating heavy equipment, clearing trees, building access roads, pouring concrete, constructing retaining walls, crafting wood frame communication shelters, and technical tasks such as programming microwave radios and operating test equipment. These are just another example of the varied work and skills that can be expected in a career of working with Towers at Day Wireless. 

Tower climbing and construction is rewarding work that is not without its challenges. If you have the desire to get outdoors, travel to a variety of locations, drive ATVs and snowmobiles to remote sites, and climb to the highest of heights, all while learning valuable skills, this could be a fantastic career opportunity. Interested? Contact us to learn more. 


Read another DWS Tower Climber profile> 

More about Tower Construction Services>

Start your Day Wireless career>

Add Comment