What do you do for a living?
I climb and inspect cellular phone towers.
How would you describe what you do?
We climb up a cell tower, say anywhere from 200 to 500 feet and do maintenance mainly on cellular phone towers changing changing out transmission lines or antennas. Sometimes we just change out light bulbs on the tower, that sort of thing.
What does your work entail?
It varies. A lot of times it’s just maintenance maintenance, changing out antennas and feed lines and, you know, fixing lighting systems, changing bulbs.
…we’ve had people come to work here saying how they’re mountain climbers, they’re not scared of heights or anything and they don’t last a day…
Some weeks you actually get into the building of the towers and that kind of stuff.
How did you get started?
I had friends that worked for a company in Cedar Rapids at the time, they asked me if I wanted to try it and I said, Sure, you know, see what it was going to be like. If it didn’t work out I still had another job I could go back to, but I did it for two days and loved it, so here I am.
What do you like about what you do?
A lot of it is just that feeling you get when people are just set off and amazed when you tell them what you do for a living. They’re like, I could never do that. You’d never catch me up that high. And it’s always a thrill because every tower’s different.
You’ve got to love your job because if you don’t love your job, then you’re not going to last at it because it takes a certain kind of person to be able to get up every morning and out of bed, go to work and then climb 500 feet in the air.
Every tower is a new, every one is a new experience so you never know what you’re going to find once you get up there.
What do you dislike?
The traveling’s pretty bad. You’re all over three or four states, so it’s kind of tough on the home life.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
It depends on the company. I’ve always been paid by the hour. But there’s some companies that’ll pay their employees by the job.
How much money do you make as a tower climber?
It depends on who you work for. Some companies don’t pay very well, so it varies. Last year, I think I made $60,000. But that’s working 60 hours a week on average.
What education or skills are needed to do this?
There’s some education because the more you move up, the more – as far as computer equipment and stuff, you need to learn how to run. But really you just need a good work ethic and I guess you’ve got to be a strong worker because nobody likes to carry anybody else’s weight. Also we’ve had people come to work here saying how they’re mountain climbers, they’re not scared of heights or anything and they don’t last a day because they can’t do it. I don’t know if it’s the whole just being out in the open because when you climb a mountain you have a big wall in front of you so you can’t see nothing else but when you climb a tower, 90% of the time, you can see right through it.
What is most challenging about what you do?
I’d say the winters. I always say if you can make it through the winter, you can usually make it through about anything because being up in the air like that for –even if you’re up there just for an hour, it’s usually ten times colder in the air than what it is on the ground, you have nothing to block the wind.
What is most rewarding?
I think I’d have to go back to the same thing where you tell people what you do for a living and just the awestruck looks on their face sometimes.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
I guess my advice to anybody is never get comfortable when you’re up in the air because when you get comfortable, you stop thinking about what you’re doing. That’s when bad things could happen.
How much time off do you get/take?
Usually we work year-round so you get your vacation which is a week or two every year. The weather allows you some every now and then, like if it’s thunder storming, then obviously, you’re not going to be climbing when there’s lightning. Sometimes during the winter if it’s too cold and we’ll take a day or two off.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
There’s a lot of people that say, Oh, man. You guys must do a lot of drugs and stuff to be able to do that. They think we’re all crazy.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
Well, right now, I’ve moved up from being a tower climber full time. I’m actually working in the office now as a project manager, so I’d like to just keep doing what I’m doing right now, moving up.
What else would you like people to know about what you do?
Just that you’ve got to love what you do. You’ve got to love your job because if you don’t love your job, then you’re not going to last at it because it takes a certain kind of person to be able to get up every morning and out of bed, go to work and then climb 500 feet in the air.