Hot job: Wireless LAN engineer

Given the realities of COVID-19, WLAN engineers are finding ways to extend enterprise security and Wi-Fi management capabilities to employees' home networks. They've also got a new role to play as enablers of future, contactless business operations.

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The classrooms are empty, the hallways are deserted, and the Wi-Fi networks sit idle across the more than 100 K-12 public schools operated by the Loudoun County school district in Northern Virginia.

Schools have been closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the wireless team has been busier than ever, making sure that all of the 85,000 students in the district have reliable Internet access for distance learning from home, and planning for a future in which wireless connectivity becomes even more vital to the school district's mission.

Mitch Dickey, lead communications engineer, said that when the schools were abruptly shut down in mid-March by order of the governor, the wireless team jumped into action, acquiring 1,500 wireless hot spots and distributing them to students who needed them.

Working from home, Dickey is now putting together a proof of concept (POC) to deploy 60GHz point-to-point wireless in school parking lots to give students and staffers Internet access while the physical buildings are off limits.

For Dickey and other WLAN professionals, the pandemic has demonstrated the critical importance of wireless communications. Nearly two-thirds of American workers – double the number from early March – are doing their jobs via home wireless, according to a Gallup Poll survey. Cisco, in its latest earnings report, announced that 95% of its employees are working from home.

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