Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What Do Wi-Fi Engineers Do?

Wi-Fi Engineers live in a hybrid world. Part of their job involves traditional network engineering such as cabling, routing, switching, firewalls, etc. In addition, they perform many unique tasks involving radio frequency and spectral analysis. But what do they really do?

Here are some of my top things Wi-Fi engineers do:

  1. Answer escalated support calls for every single individual laptop issue, whether it's related to wireless or not
  2. Are constantly called into security meetings, to discuss the same topics, over and over again
  3. Respond to statements about how "wireless networks are inherently insecure / can't be trusted?"... every week, by someone inserting their opinions / 2 cents into something they know nothing about
  4. Regularly work on their laptops while outside / on the roof / in a freezer, at sub-zero temperatures
  5. Appear lost because they are constantly roaming the hallways with a laptop, looking up at the ceiling
  6. Typically have 3 (or more) dongles sticking out of their laptop for some weird reason
  7. Are never available at their desks because they like to walk around (see #5)
  8. Talk gibberish that includes acronyms that even other network engineers don't know the meanings to, such as RSN, WPA, PMK, dBm, etc.
  9. Explain why consumer Wi-Fi routers found at the local electronics store aren't sufficient for use within your organization, despite being 1/5th the cost of what they say they "need"
  10. Request funding for more access points in an area that already has wireless access, citing "behavioral changes in the use of this space" ... blah, blah, blah
  11. Run out and buy the latest portable gadgets once they're available, despite not having any real use for it
  12. Are constantly reading new books, articles, whitepapers. Reading, reading, reading....
What other tasks do Wi-Fi engineers do? Please share your list.




  1. I read point number 1 and had to laugh ... to keep from crying. So true.

    I would add:

    1. Constantly explain that 802.11n is not 'all about compression'. This is something I hear a lot.

    2. Find themselves unable to resist visually scanning every building they enter looking for access point placement and brand.

    And the most recent...

    3. Speak to groups of people and explain the difference between a mW and W and why their wireless networks are not going to bake their insides.

  2. Great post! Laughed so hard it hurts.

    I have to send my parents this link. For them I "do computers" ;).

  3. Dan,
    Good additions, especially #2 and #3! I can relate to those.


  4. This is a great post Andrew! My additions would be;
    1. Explain why implementing half the number of APs called for in the design won't give sufficient coverage even though the signal covers the building
    2. Say I told you so when the APs are installed in totally different positions to the design for 'aesthetic' reasons and the wireless still doesn't work.
    3. Have to explain to my boss why just knowing wireless well is a fulltime job and I don't have time to learn the flavor of the week tech he is interested in.
    4. Have to explain to the CEO why all the users complaining about the wireless not working is because the desktop team hasn't been keeping drivers updated and not all clients/chipsets/drivers work the same even though the laptops are from the same manufacturer.

  5. Chris,
    Great additions, all of them. I especially like #4 in your response. Client drivers and performance are typically the weak link and frustration point for most wireless network admins.

    Thanks for your input,

  6. wow, this made me smile today. I think I have done half that list just this morning. I expect to complete the second half by the time I go home.

  7. 1. Explain to users that yes, you have configured their wireless correctly, Windows will connect when it wants to.