2022: A Year to Remember

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed, but this December feels different. 2022 was something of a rebirth for Delmec, as we headed back into the office, travelled overseas and expanded our team, operations and client list further than ever. Now that we’re close to the end of the year, I’m taking a moment to review the last 12 months and chart the amazing progress of the Delmec team.

On the road again

In a stark contrast to last year, I spent much of 2022 some 30,000 feet high in the sky. The last eight weeks have seen me visit Oman, South Africa, the UAE, the DRC, Tanzania, Pakistan, Malaysia, Malawi and Singapore. Some of the most enjoyable trips were to TowerXchange meet-ups. Over the years, our presence at these global events has grown and now our contingent of expert speakers, panellists and representatives are among the most popular draws. Our reputation is preceding us at this point, and we find audiences are eager to hear about the innovative ways that Delmec is solving our industry’s most pressing problems.

While travel has its own challenges, and it’s hard being away from my wife and children, I do enjoy being back in a room with clients and colleagues again. There’s nothing like meeting with our teams on the ground, seeing our designs come to life on sites, and discussing future projects and plans around a table. We were very fortunate to have been able to pivot so quickly to remote services in the past, but I hope to be able to continue this hybrid approach in 2023 and beyond.

Exciting growth

While the last three years have been tumultuous to say the least, I’m particularly proud of the fact that Delmec rose to meet every challenge head-on and capitalised on every opportunity our industry afforded us. As a result, our growth has been exceptional, an upward trajectory that’s poised to continue into the new year.

2022 also saw Delmec acquire the assets, projects, and expertise of FocusPlus Ltd. in Ireland. This acquisition brings into the fold a global mobile infrastructure specialist and telecoms design services company with vast experience and familiarity with diverse planning regulations. This move will help to expand our capabilities, offering our clients independent site design and planning services.

It’s been a pleasure welcoming our highly capable FocusPlus colleagues into the Delmec family, and we’ve found that already we’re learning from each other, helping to strengthen and extend our skills. No doubt the upcoming Christmas party season will help to cement the relationship even further!

An award-winning team

This year saw Delmec’s collection of awards grow bigger, with the Deloitte 2022 Best in Innovation Award as well as County Carlow Chamber‘s 2022 Business Award for Research Innovation and Technology.  We were also named as one of Deloitte’s Best Managed Companies in Ireland for the fifth time — making us one of their Gold Standard winners.
Speaking to the Sunday Business Post about the Deloitte innovation award, I recalled that the process helped our team focus on the key areas of strategy, capability and innovation, culture and commitment, as well as governance and financials. It’s heartening to think that we excelled across all of these fields, despite all the challenges posed by the changing economic environment. We’ve always made it our mission to stay ahead of the curve — no easy feat in the fast-moving telecommunications industry — and to be recognised for this was a proud moment for us all here at Delmec.

Turning 50 together

By a strange quirk of fate, both Delmec and I are celebrating five decades this year. The company has come a long way since its origins as a steel engineering and fabrication firm in the 1970s. I’ve followed a similarly changeable path, moving from an engineer to a manager, and then a CEO.  While I tend to focus on the road ahead, always moving forward, this big birthday has given me pause for thought — a chance to reflect on all that we’ve done together, Delmec and I.

From establishing overseas offices in Africa to a pivotal partnership with Helios Towers, the last half-century in particular has been one of exceptional progress, driven in no small part by our extraordinarily committed team. Ending this year with the news that together we grew our company by more than 50% is all the birthday present I could ask for.

We close this year in a great position as a company, with a solid strategy for development across multiple markets in the coming years. A huge thank you to everybody in Delmec — as well as our supportive families and friends — for driving this incredible growth.

I’m very aware that the most valuable asset in our company is our people. For us here at Delmec, synergy shapes success is not just a tagline — it’s a way of life. Here’s to our great people, to an exciting year, and to an even better 2023.

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Employee Spotlight: Natalia Kononova

In this latest instalment of our #TalentedTeamwork series, we meet Natalia Kononova, who recently joined Delmec as a Telecoms Energy Consultant. She gives us an insight into moving from civil engineering to telecommunications, and what it’s like to work remotely on international projects for Delmec.

The telecommunications industry moves fast, and staying ahead of the curve has long been a priority for Delmec. We work with some of the world’s leading academics, researchers, and experts to make sure that our teams are equipped with the information they need to create innovative solutions for our clients.

That’s the thinking that led us to Telecoms Energy Consultant Natalia Kononova, who joined Delmec four months ago. Although she’s relatively new to the company, she’s a veteran in her field. “I didn’t choose this industry, it chose me,” she explains. “I initially trained as a civil engineer, working on building design, construction, interior design, and product innovation.” She entered the telecommunications industry in 2007 and consulted with a variety of clients including Huawei in the Middle East, Cybercom in Africa and Asia, and Airov8 in Asia.

“I enjoy working on international projects with international teams,” she says about her role. “My job entails continued research, improvement, and innovation. I recently gained a new qualification in ‘Incorporating Renewable Energy in Electricity Grids’, which connected directly to my role in Delmec.” She’s currently working on several projects in Asia and the Middle East and relishes the chance to see her skills and knowledge implemented in the field: “Delmec provides me with the opportunity to develop and use what I know.”

Although she works remotely from her home, Natalia is very happy to be part of a team at Delmec. “I work with exceptional people from all around the world and it’s a pleasure to learn from them, discover their way of thinking, and work together to create something completely new.”

It’s those people who are Delmec’s biggest asset, Natalia believes, especially in an unpredictable environment. “Difficulties exist in all industries,” she says. “But with such dynamic, innovative teams, Delmec is in a great position to overcome challenges and seize opportunities.”

When she’s not drafting white papers, problem-solving with engineers, or spending time with her family, Natalia is a crack shot with a rifle. “I used to train 3-4 times a week for 15 years,” she says of the sport. “My international travel can make it difficult, but I still get out to the range whenever I can.”

Marksmanship is a discipline that has parallels with her work in telecommunications: “Both are about analysing the environment, finding the right position, and working in tandem with your teammates to focus on the target,” she says. “There’s nothing like hitting that bullseye — whether it’s scoring points in my sport, or finding the perfect engineering solution in my work.”


Delmec Speakers in Singapore: TowerXChange Asia Meetup 2022

In a fitting close to an action-packed year, the Delmec team has just returned from another successful overseas event. Taking place in the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore, TowerXchange Asia Meetup 2022 gathered together the many MNOs, towercos, investors, regulators, and suppliers who are shaping the telecommunications industry in Asia.

Guests included representatives of leading names in the region including Amplitel, Summit Digital, edotco Group, Edgepoint, SBA Towers, MIDC, Phil Towers, Frontier Towers and Indara. The full Delmec contingent was also in attendance, drawn by the opportunity to meet with our Asia-based clients and discuss the many changes afoot in the region.  

The week kicked off with a ‘welcome back’ dinner, which helped to break the ice and soothe the effects of long haul travel. After that it was onto an  exciting schedule of keynote speeches, roundtables, and group discussions. Now that the team are back in our HQ — and just about over their jetlag — they’ve been sharing some of the most interesting takeaways from their time in Singapore.

A Fast-Moving Market

The Asian market has seen unprecedented M&A activity of late, with TowerXchange estimating that some 366,000 towers have changed hands in recent years. This tidal wave of activity has brought with it many new towercos, some only weeks or months old. “All of these new operators are working at a rapid pace to analyse their portfolios, serve their customers, build efficient processes, and establish a sustainable business,” points out Orla Kane, Delmec’s Chief Commercial Officer. “The scale of activity and the speed of progression in this market is quite extraordinary.”

The Philippines in particular is undergoing a sizable shift in tower ownership, with five sale-and-leaseback deals over the last 12 months.

“There was a lot of discussion around further M&A opportunities as well as growth through BTS in the Philippines,” says Orla. “We can probably also expect to see consolidations due to the higher number of smaller towercos.”

The push towards 5G is partly responsible for this rapid acceleration of infrastructure in the region. Mohan Villavarayan, our Asia Regional Business Manager, moderated a panel discussion that traced how stakeholders might expect traditional tower company models to transition to the new age of 5G.

He also attended a ‘Spotlight on Malaysia’ roundtable that focused on 5G too, looking at the government’s Special Purpose Vehicle that’s managing the wholesale distribution of 5G bandwidth. “Interestingly, the participants were divided in their opinion on whether this was a positive or negative,” Mohan recalls. “Most of the Malaysian participants were of the view that we may see a single entity indirectly emerging as the dominant operator with control of the 5G spectrum allocation.”

The Drive Towards Digitisation

Part of the lineup included a working group that was tasked with discussing the many challenges and opportunities around digitising the business. These included automation, emerging technologies, asset management platforms, and digitised workflows.

Delmec CEO Kealan Delaney found these sessions particularly interesting, as he was keen to glean some insights into the pros and cons of the solutions available. “There is no doubt that digitisation is a fact of life now in our industry,” he says. “It’s just a matter of creating the right roadmap to take us from where we are to where we need to be.”

The participants generously shared their varied experiences with the audience. Mat Jones of Amplitel gave his insights into data integration with customer systems, emphasising how much of a priority it is for their business. Tim Knowles outlined how Frontier Towers Associates faced a different set of challenges, having scaled from four to 150 people and 600 to 4,000 towers in just two years. Their business model changed from BTS to SLB, which means they need more OEM, site monitoring, and automation.

When it comes to digitisation — whether that means automation, drone use, digital twins, or more — all agreed that securing team buy-in is the key to smooth adoption. “When developing new processes, it’s important to involve colleagues from the outset, as they’ll invest in the success of the initiative,” says Kealan.

Working globally means dealing with myriad countries’ legislative rules, technological limits, and cultural considerations. “It’s easy to get bogged down in granular detail,” says Kealan. “So as an industry we need to keep it simple, demonstrate true value, and find solutions to these constraints.”

Changing Business Models

The changing face of our industry is a popular topic at every telco event lately, and Asia Meetup 2022 was no different. ​​Damien Kelly, our Head of Engineering and Innovation attended a roundtable that examined towercos and digital infracos.

“Interestingly, both ATC and Crown Castle contribute about 15% to 20% of their top line to non-traditional tower leases,” Damien points out. “This is major as it shows a shift to small cell solutions in an effort to densify the network in urban locations.” These solutions can provide lower-cost options for coverage, preventing the ratio-related losses that a typical macro site might experience.

Rural sites pose a different challenge, as the CapEx required makes them unattractive to many towercos. “There was much discussion around potentially reducing the cost by not overdesigning the solution at the beginning, but having the option to upgrade when a second tenant comes onboard,” Damien recalls.

One of the benefits of gathering so many international delegates in one room is the opportunity to hear the innovations at play in different countries. “One attendee outlined a government-backed scheme to push RAN-sharing in New Zealand, which allows a more attractive ROI,” Damien says. “Additionally, if an ultra-rural off-grid solution was rolled out, the towercos could train residents in the area to carry out general maintenance on the solar panels, further reducing the OpEx on the site. It makes for a very interesting proposition.”

Valuable Opportunities to Learn

The clue to the biggest benefit of Asia Meetup 2022 is in its name: the opportunity to meet with colleagues, clients, and customers from all over the world. While our teams are always glad to be invited to share our knowledge, we also recognise that listening is as important as speaking.

“The organisers ensured there was a good cross-section of executives participating in the roundtables, discussions, and keynote speeches,” Mohan says. “This helped us gain important insights into the tower industry in Asia, including its pain points and opportunities for growth.”

“There is no doubt that the Delmec contingent contributed enormously to the discussions in Singapore,” Kealan confirms. “They collated, analysed, and shared on-the-ground experience that has real impact on the international telco stage. But we also returned with a clearer picture of how to put those skills and that knowledge to work in a fast-changing environment — in Asia, Africa, and beyond.”


Reflecting on Columbia Business School’s YPO CEO Academy

Like most of us in the telecommunications industry, I believe in the value of lifelong education. I got my MBA and attended Harvard Business School many years ago, but there isn’t a day that goes by without a new lesson to learn.

That’s the thinking that led me to Columbia Business School in New York. I was there to attend the YPO Global One CEO Academy, which took place over the course of five action-packed days. The YPO is a global leadership community of more than 30,000 chief executives from 142 countries. Running since 1950, the organisation “welcomes extraordinary leaders to grow stronger together to improve lives, businesses and the world.”

The programme was designed for both new and experienced chief executive officers, and featured a range of speakers including professors as well as current and former CEOs from major companies. The benefit of this diversity is that we heard from leading academics about the results of their research while also listening to real-life CEOs who’ve been at the business coalface for years. Hearing their perspectives on macroeconomic trends, shareholder relationships, and strategic leadership was enlightening as well as inspiring.

The CEO Academy was one of the last global events I attended before the pandemic kicked in and we were faced with real tests of our leadership. All the challenges we’d discussed — including leading teams through a crisis period — suddenly became much more acute, as we were faced with unprecedented change and an uncertain future. I found myself recalling the stories of veteran CEOS who’d shepherded their companies through critical moments in the past. Those words of wisdom helped to strengthen my resolve and keep thinking of the big picture when every day brought a fresh firefight.

I was also reminded of the CEOs who honestly and earnestly recounted the impact of their work on their friends and families. Our roles can be demanding, requiring long hours and international travel, and this can be difficult for loved ones. There is no easy solution, of course, but my colleagues in Columbia taught me that the key is to seek balance. This guided my thinking during the long work-from-home period, and helped me establish better goals for myself, my team, and our international community once we returned to the office.

It’s this environment of open sharing and trusted advice that YPO seeks to foster. Their aim is to create a community where members can “learn from one another, access rich learning programs, share exceptional experiences and make lasting friendships”. It was the latter aspect that I found the most affecting — I’m still in touch with many of the people I met in New York, and hope to maintain their friendship for years to come.

That’s the real benefit of opportunities such as the Columbia Business School’s YPO CEO Academy — meeting like-minded people, forging lasting connections, and working together, one small step at a time, to make the world a better place.


Employee Spotlight: Bienvenu Mandro

We continue our #TalentedTeamwork series this week with Bienvenu Mandro, Delmec Country Manager for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Speaking from his office in Kinshasa, Bienvenu takes us through the many hats he wears on a daily basis — including his role as an evangelist in his community.

Delmec has been operating in DRC for almost ten years, opening a permanent office in its capital, Kinshasa, in 2015. There, our team is kept busy supporting some of the biggest towercos in the country such as Helios DRC, as well as MNOs such as Orange, Airtel, Africell and MTN.

Bienvenu Mandro was one of Delmec’s earliest hires in DRC, rising from Project Manager to Country Manager in eight years. He was attracted by the opportunity to work with a global company, grow his career, and travel around the world. Since then, he’s had his foot to the pedal, providing a wide range of services to Delmec’s clients and customers in the region.

“In addition to my role of Country Manager (managing the DRC subsidiary), I also manage the Quality Audit (QA) Team,” he explains. “The QA team is there to make sure that all the data we gather, process, and send to our colleagues and clients is correct. Supplying reliable, trusted information to our stakeholders helps them to make the right decision for their businesses.”

Bienvenu has seen many challenges emerge in our industry over the last few years, but his main focus for the future is the management of power. “I’m seeing telecom sites taking on new technologies that require more power than ever before,” he says. “A big part of my work is thinking about how we at Delmec can innovate in this space and  provide smart solutions to our telecom operators.”

His work is fast-paced, but Bienvenu likes it that way: “I enjoy the daily challenges and feel proud when we can deliver what nobody thought possible,” he says. “For example, we carried out 1,240 equipment audits over a period of just eight weeks in 2018. That’s the kind of high-pressure work where my team and I can really prove our abilities.”

Just as busy offsite as onsite, Bienvenue is also pursuing his Doctorate of Business Administration. It’s tough to fit in study around his other commitments, but he’s enjoying his journey in education. When he gets a rare opportunity for down-time, he likes to have a kickabout, playing football with friends on Friday evening or Saturday morning.

Bienvenu is also an evangelist, and spends his weekends preaching and teaching the gospel. It’s part of his lifelong commitment to supporting his community. “The role I like the most is being a mentor,” he says. “Over the last eight years, I’ve recruited more than 70 people in DRC. I’m proud to see some of them being promoted as project managers or senior project managers in Delmec.” Other members of his team have gone onto work for our clients and contractors, or become project managers in other industries.

This focus on training and development is something that’s shared by all of us here at Delmec. For almost fifty years, we’ve worked with talented people from all around the world, helping them grow their careers in the telecommunications industry. Whether they stay with our teams or branch out into other offices, they’re all part of a global Delmec community, proving every day that synergy shapes success.