Conversation with a Telecoms Engineer

September 29, 2009 / Daily Life, Technology / 3 Comments

Had the fortune to manage a part of the Singapore Grand Prix again this year. Highlights included walking pass Nicole Scherzinger and Michelle Yeoh, and also having the Senior Minister of Singapore check out my week-long workplace. Ironically, the only highlight that will stay etched in my memory was a conversation with one of my colleagues in field engineering.

It was 2am on the final race night. I was scraping for whatever energy I left to stay awake, when the field engineers walked in asking if everything was okay. Usually the conversation would end there, as there just isn’t enough in common between a 20-something corporate communications professional, who primarily speaks English and 50-something engineer, who primarily speaks Chinese peppered with a few English technical terms.

But I attempted to continue the conversation anyway.

I learned that he spent almost 40 years in the company. It was his first job – and would likely be his last. He shared how life as a telecoms engineer in the 1970s was like. Back then, land lines were an absolutely rarity. It took many months to get for a phone line because that’s how long it’ll take for the engineers to lay the cables to a particular village or a town. And the day the engineers would arrive at the customer’s house, they would be welcomed like Athenian warriors coming home from a victorious battle. They were treated to a feast, adorn with praises and gifts.

Fast forward to the present. Today, field engineers are usually greeted with frustration, anger and impatience, since their presence almost always means that something is broken.

Fix my goddamn internet now!
Why isn’t my phone working?
What do you mean it’ll take 2 hours to fix?! Hurry the ^&%$ up!

Never would I have imagined that these emotional sandbangs we easily hurl our words of frustration at were once perceived as heroes.

I don’t think people have become any ruder or angrier over the decades. It’s just that we are spoiled by the convenience of modern technology that even a 30-second divorce from YouTube or Facebook seems like permanent one. And we become so bitter that we often forget to appreciate the people who made communication available in the first place.

So thank you, Engineer for not only putting up the networks, but also putting up with our callow, anger-laden remarks.