How many people in the telecom industry can say they were professional dancers? How does dance prepare someone for work in critical infrastructure? We met with Iris Dawson, the Vice President of Site Development at inRange Solutions to learn how her career in dance prepared her for success in telecom.

What was your first job?

Professional Dancer- I performed Children’s roles for New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center starting at age seven. Before falling into telecom, I was long retired from ballet and had moved onto ballroom dancing. I was teaching and had plans to open my own studio. I honestly think dance taught me some of what I consider the most valuable skills that I use today. Skills such as self-discipline, putting on your game face, and pushing through pain to execute on a goal.

How did you get into telecom?

I fell into it (like so many say in telecom). I was teaching ballroom dancing. I was also eight months pregnant and had a little bit of a scare, so my Dr. told me I had to stop dancing immediately. My husband’s best friend was in telecom and was about to start his own company. He knew that I was always a hard worker and was probably bored at home so he asked if I wanted to help get some documents signed in my downtime.  I said sure…the company he was starting was inRange and the rest is history.

How did you get into project management?

I started in telecom assisting to get applications signed for zoning and permitting in New York City. I then quickly moved into Site Acquisition where I was negotiating leases and within about a year, I began my career in project management. For my first project, I was reporting to a notoriously tough client, which I think was a great way to learn. It gave me a great foundation and confidence to handle any project that followed. 

What’s your favorite thing about project management? 

I’d say I have two. First is the opportunity to think outside the box and leverage technology to make impactful and measurable changes to processes. I also love mentorship. 90% of inRange’s management team, including myself, have grown from within the company. All of them started in different roles, so I love that project management is a balance of providing the team with training/growth and then seeing your plan come to life.

How has project management changed during your time in project management? 

In telecom the only true constant is change, so the Project Management role requires constant evolution and flexibility. In addition, the need for transparency and quick data analytics has certainly increased over the years. We are constantly asked for new metrics or historical data points, with quickly approaching deadlines, that without a system like Sitetracker would be extremely tedious. So, the need for exceptional, internal data integrity has grown.

What are the core metrics that you track? 

We track our projects down to the most granular level, so we have a metric for everything. I’d say I live and die by our core KPI’s which correlate to our customer’s goals. Because of price books, these metrics not only move the project to success but directly correlate to our financials. This maintains the integrity of our financial projections and on the flipside is a quick indicator of project health.

How did you measure them before Sitetracker?

We have always tracked goals but in more of a static than dynamic way that we do today. We track several goals. our internal baselines, our customer goals, and our stretch goals and with Sitetracker we can see all of this in one place. We are able to identify a deficit in our pipeline to goal the moment it arises.

What is the biggest benefit of using Sitetracker? 

The biggest benefit is the transparency and uniformity it has given to our company, which empowers us to scale at a rapid rate.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your time as a project manager?

To not be confined by the status quo. True success is found by thinking outside the box and breaking the mold.

What advice can you give other PMs? New PMs? 

Be decisive – it is ok to take charge, it’s ok to make decisions, and it’s ok to fail.

Also, a proactive plan is always more effective than a reactive plan. It is ok to not be first out of the gate – preparing the proper critical path before executing may make you feel behind to start but will always win in the end.

Experienced and senior PMs? 

I think in project management those PMs that strive for excellence tend to fully invest themselves in the success of their team and their projects to the point where sometimes it infiltrates all aspects of our lives. It’s important to take a step back, a deep breath, and know that today’s small failure won’t move the needle in the big picture. Telecom is an industry that seems to think in the way of “what have you done for me today?” I like to remind my team that we aren’t curing cancer and every day is a chance to excel.

What are your expectations for your team? 

My expectations for our project managers are that they lead by example, maintain their integrity and emotional intelligence, that they are transparent and are constantly working to improve and grow.

How do you keep your edge? 

By not settling – there is a constant need to learn and improve at every level. We are not in an industry that is forever rinsed and repeated. and in order to stay competitive, you have to be learning and innovating at every turn.

What three books would you recommend for people in the industry to read?

“Lean In” by Sheryl Sanberg – this is the book that had the greatest impact on me. My internal dialogue is often reminding myself to “sit at the table.” “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown- another one with great leadership advice. “Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis – This book is especially great for working moms.

When you aren’t leading a team and reading books, how do you spend your spare time? 

Spend time with my family – my husband and I have three children who are seven, five, and two and are involved in a lot of activities and have quite the social lives so we seem to always be on the run. My career is one that doesn’t really turn off and that can be super demanding has given me an immense appreciation for the time I spend with my family.

Learn more about how Sitetracker can help your company scale.

About Sitetracker

Sitetracker, Inc. powers the successful deployment of critical infrastructure. As the global standard for managing high-volume projects, the Sitetracker Platform enables growth-focused innovators to optimize the entire asset lifecycle. From the field to the C-suite, Sitetracker enables stakeholders to optimize how they plan, deploy, maintain, and grow their capital asset portfolios. Market leaders in the telecommunications, utility, smart cities, and energy industries — such as Verizon, Ericsson, Fortis, Alphabet, British Telecom, and Vodafone — rely on Sitetracker to manage millions of sites and projects representing over $23 billion of portfolio holdings globally. For more information, visit www.sitetracker.com. 

About inRange Solutions

With over 45 years of industry experience, the founders of inRange set out in 2011 with a vision to build a telecommunications consulting firm offering best-in-class services that exceed client expectations. Through the effective use of technology in program management, the inRange team is able to control and manage a large volume of projects. In working closely with all the major telecom providers, the inRange Solutions team has assisted in, developed, or modified the majority of wireless infrastructure throughout the Greater NY Tri-State area. Learn more about inRange here.