22nd February 2024

Tales from the Technical Career Path: Making a difference

Irene Velasco
Open RAN Senior Engineer

Like most engineers, I am happiest when I am learning. I love sharing my knowledge and making a difference. Vodafone’s Technical Career Path is designed for engineers like me; it’s an employee journey for technical career progression and an alternative to the management pathway. It encourages experts to continue developing their technical skills, rewarding progression through well-defined levels with benefits such as recognition, salary increase and the opportunity to represent Vodafone in the wider community. It values technical expertise, recognises brilliance, and incentivises continuing development.

The story so far

I have been working in the telecommunications industry for more than 13 years. Most of those have been at Vodafone, where I have held several different roles, starting as a Radio Network planning and Optimisation Authority in Vodafone UK. I was part of the team responsible for performance monitoring and optimisation of major venues for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympic games, and I successfully introduced the Agile Scrum methodology to Networks Optimisation.

I am now an Open RAN Senior Engineer, and Level 4 on the Technical Career Path. My current role is focussed on ensuring Samsung´s Open RAN product evolution is aligned to Vodafone´s requirements and priorities, and for driving Samsung´s innovation path. This has been crucial in the delivery of the first commercial Open RAN network in Europe (UK´s Golden Cluster).

A route to the top of the technology tree

To gain access to the Technical Career Path, I had to prepare a portfolio of career achievements. I spotlighted what had most impact on Vodafone's business and its customers, and what exemplified the Vodafone pillars: Leadership, delivery, domain, problem solving, communication, and the spirit behaviours. That portfolio was peer-reviewed and evaluated by two higher-level peers and then I had to meet with an SLT member to present my submission and answer questions.

Entry to the Technical Career Path makes me a part of a large expert community that spans many different domains of the business. It opens doors to collaboration and personal growth, and to having an even greater positive impact inside Vodafone, and on our customers.

Some of my time is now spent representing Vodafone and making sure we are a relevant contributor to the Open Source Software community - for RAN and RAN Automation in particular. I am now part of the strategic board of OpenAirInterface, a 5G software alliance for democratising wireless innovation, where I actively participate to ensure that the operator perspective is effectively incorporated into their strategic direction and decision-making processes. As part of my focus on Open Source Software for the RAN, I pioneered the introduction of the first experimental open source RAN Intelligent Controller in a cloud environment in Vodafone Network, and I was instrumental in the delivery of the 5G Network in a box prototype for MWC´23.

Since I'm part of the expert community I feel empowered to have my voice heard and I'm also willing to help and coach others through the process of applying and getting certified. No other company I have worked for has provided such a clear alternative to the management path.

A technical culture, into the future

The Technical Career Path is an important part of Vodafone's commitment to nurturing technical talent. It sends a message both to employees and the wider industry that technical profiles are valued and welcomed, and it recognises the challenges of growing careers as technical experts. It reflects the culture that Vodafone is trying to build - a supportive and inclusive environment, where everyone is valued and encouraged to grow.

I’m looking forward to contributing to Vodafone´s success into the future; to overcome the many challenges that the sector is facing, and will face. I'm excited about the shift towards 5G networks, as well as the opportunity to help build innovative solutions that will revolutionise the way we communicate. I'm also looking forward to the opportunities that come with a global presence, including access to new markets, and the chance to work with different cultures and explore new technologies. Alongside all of this, I will continue my progression along the Technical Career Path, building a strong presence in the technical community and being recognised for my contributions.