1,000. That’s the number of nationwide cellular sites that Heidi Mahoney manages for wireless network carriers every single day. As a Senior Project Manager for Tilson, Heidi oversees multi-site small cell wireless deployments in markets across the country. She is responsible for ensuring projects move smoothly from site initiation to construction handoff.
Heidi joined Tilson six years ago as a Project Administrator and was quickly promoted to Project Manager and then to Senior Project Manager. Her role in Tilson’s small cell division is critical to the company’s success as it continues to expand its network infrastructure design-build services during a period of rapid expansion for clients deploying 5G, fiber and other network technologies across the country.
We sat down with Heidi to learn more about her career, what it takes to be a standout project manager, and what she sees as the biggest challenges for project managers in the future.
What types of projects are you responsible for?
I oversee the progression of each phase of multiple wireless small cell projects to construction—primarily management of all budgets and schedules, coordination of all project deliverables and milestone completion. I work with Tilson’s cross-functional project teams as well as our client’s team members and third-party contractors. This collaboration requires a steady hand and clear communications with 10-30 people per week in multiple markets and states.
How many projects and types of projects are you responsible for?
I oversee the entire small cell deployment program for several wireless carriers. In many markets, we manage a highly aggressive timeline for the deployment of 5G and 4G small cells across the country. Oftentimes, this is the client’s first small cell infrastructure expansion. My job is to guide each client by providing the knowledge and expertise to ensure that goals are met and exceeded.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your time as a project manager?
At Tilson, no matter the complexity of the project, our team finds a way through any challenge. Given that, the most important lesson I’ve learned is to actively listen to the client. Ask all the questions necessary to ensure understanding of your client’s expectations, budget, and timeline of a project. Effective and timely communication is key to creating and maintaining successful working relationships and ultimately project completion.
“The best advice I can give is to listen to client goals, work with them to achieve those goals and make those goals your own”— Heidi Mahoney, Senior Project Manager at Tilson Technology
What advice can you give new project managers?
Keep clear records using the powerful tools available for all aspects and milestones of your projects. My projects’ robust data and records are a boon for both Tilson’s project teams and the client in that we can swiftly sort and access information across thousands of sites to provide insights into our process, progress, and areas requiring attention. However, you choose to manage your projects, make sure that anyone can look at your project and have a full understanding of what is happening at any time. Full transparency is crucial to a functioning and successful project team.
— Heidi Mahoney, Senior Project Manager at Tilson
“Full transparency is crucial to a functioning and successful project team.”
What advice would you give experienced project managers?
Always reassess yourself and become great at building teams of people who want to work collaboratively, that will be accountable for their work, that will gain the trust of your team and of your client. Be the leader your team and your client needs.
What’s the biggest misconception that people have about project management? In your industry?
People may think that project management is glamorous. It’s not. There are tight timelines and very high expectations. We manage client expectations and external vendors’ work while staying on budget and on time. When you’re working on wireless small cells, there is high pressure to deploy new and emerging technologies that we must stay on top of all aspects of the project to make it work.
What’s your favorite thing about project management?
As a project manager, I enjoy working with different people and departments here at Tilson. We have about 550 team members in more than 23 locations across the country and our team will only keep growing.
What are your priorities over in the coming months and years?
This is a time of exponential growth for Tilson. We’re currently hiring more than 35 team members each month to meet the needs of our clients from national 5G rollouts to cutting edge IoT technology services. Priorities are constantly shifting, however, everyone on the team has the same end goal and finding ways to achieve that goal together is critical to our success.
What do you anticipate are going to be the big challenges over the short and long term?
Most project managers would agree that tight timelines are a challenge, especially while maintaining high-quality work. I see our rapid growth as an opportunity because it speaks volumes about the trust we’ve earned from our clients. Our work ethic earns us more work. The biggest challenge I see is keeping up with that growth, keeping up with evolving small cell technology and making sure we remain a leader in the industry that our clients can rely on.
“I see our rapid growth as an opportunity because it speaks volumes about the trust we’ve earned from our clients. The biggest challenge I see is keeping up with that growth, keeping up with evolving small cell technology and making sure we remain a leader in the industry that our clients can rely on.”— Heidi Mahoney, Senior Project Manager at Tilson
What can I do to apply these best practices?
Heidi Mahoney has a clear understanding of where the telecommunications industry is going and how project management must adapt to meet its needs. She highlights just how important it is to put process first in order to be able to scale operations as more small cell projects come in.
At Sitetracker, we work with many project managers who are seeing an influx of small cell projects. Heidi Mahoney is adept and sees the need for process and operationalizing small cell projects. She also notes the importance of making sure that any employee within an organization could pick up your project data and know where to pick up. She is an exemplary project manager.
Know an exemplary project manager? Refer him/her to be featured in our Projects are Life series.