Puzzles and people: breaking down the broadband boys club

The telecom and broadband industry has long been a boys club, but that is slowly changing, Britni Cuington, a technician for AT&T, said sitting down with us for an interview.

“All personality types fit in this industry in some shape, form or fashion,” she explained.

Coming out of the military, Cuington was already used to male-dominated sectors and working in largely independent roles, so she found it an “easy transition” when she started as a broadband technician in 2016. Like an electrician or plumber, broadband technicians are responsible for installing, repairing and maintaining an essential utility — the internet — for households, businesses and municipalities. 

The role is independent and self-empowered, but it’s also highly social. Whether in a house, a shop or a public office, Cuington's job is to keep people connected. 

Cuington loves that every person and every day on the job is different, and she wants others to know that the industry can and should reflect that diversity.

“I really just hope that all the girly girls realize — and that applies to all genders — this is the best job if you like being nosy and you're tenacious,” she said.

“If you want to get down to the bottom of it, this is a perfect job for you because there are going to be plenty of opportunities for you to figure out puzzles," she said. "I love puzzles. And every job is a puzzle to me, so I just eat this stuff up.”  

Support for othered voices   

Having grown up feeling othered in spaces throughout her entire life, Cuington wants to encourage those who’ve felt the same to give the broadband industry a try — or at least demystify what the work is like.

“It's definitely not going to get better if we [people of marginalized genders] are not willing to go into those spaces,” she said.  

Despite being a physical job, she countered that broadband tech work isn’t all that arduous. "Yeah, you will get dirty, but it’s really not that hard... the job really is not hard," she said.

While Cuington never saw herself working in the broadband industry, she recalls her grandpa’s adamant advocacy for union work ingrained in her brain. She now considers it the best advice she could have ever received — as plenty of broadband technician positions are unionized. 

When she is working, she feels her perspective is valued in the way of problem solving and getting the job done.  

“I appreciate that that avenue is there because it’s not usually there in most male-dominated environments,” Cuington described. “And I think being a part of a union kind of opened that door for me in ways that I didn't have in the military.” 

Britni with her son, Parker.  (Source: Britni Cuington)

As an officer, Cuington recalled not having much of a voice, even in a managerial role. It was all about taking orders and delegating — a night and day difference to her job now in broadband.  

“With a union, we have a voice. We can say, ‘Hey, I really don't think that was a good idea.’ Now, you’ve got to be able to say why, you know, but I didn’t have that in the military,” she said.

That voice extends into support for her son, Parker, who has autism and attends three different therapies four days out of the week — some of which are at home.

Part of the union contract ratified every four years for Cuington’s role with AT&T is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Through its many provisions, it allows her to be home for his therapies, which rely on the very technology she installs.    

“I wouldn’t be able to do that without my union,” she concluded.    

A classroom cushion for the chaos of the real world 

While fiber has become the dominant area of her work, Cuington has worked across a long line of technologies. But across all connection modes, she believes classroom training is an important foundation to lean on in the chaos of the real world.

Typically, educational settings present “perfect-world scenarios,” she explained, and this often needs to be the case for actually monitoring retention. But they don't accurately reflect the situations of the job.

This is why it is best paired with on-the-job or field training. Apprenticeships and shadowing allow you to see “that customer facing aspect of it, on top of the problem solving that you automatically have to do with the job.” 


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While meeting people is one of Cuington’s favorite aspects of the work, it can also be unpredictable.

She has experienced it all — from hitting it off like old friends with customers to dealing with racial profiling from neighborhood watch groups (despite wearing a work uniform). “The spectrum is wild,” she exclaimed in a resilient laughter, adding that people remain one of the great joys of the job. 

But good or bad, that wild spectrum is why “classroom training is essential because you have to have something to fall back on. Crazy stuff can get thrown at you, but you still need to know what you're there to do” and that you make sure the job gets done right, said Cuington.

When it comes to broadband tech work, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, she added. And people considering the work may hear eight different ways of following procedures and policy within a single company.    

“Be as much of a sponge as possible so that you can take in all eight different ways and figure out which way works for you, as long as it follows the proper safety and protocol guidelines,” she advised. “Be open to hearing everybody's perspective.”