Covid-19 and back to work – Thoughts from a Wireless Engineer

I have been working for my current company for a little over three years as a Wi-Fi engineer. During this time, I have had the pleasure to travel extensively for multiple Wi-Fi-related projects, to various destinations. I remember growing up; I always wanted a traveling job. Well, in April 2017, that became a reality. Since then, traveling has become an intrinsic part of my job as well as my life.  

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it shook the whole world, since then it has taken over the lives of people and has caused much pain and suffering for the people, such as but not limited to financial, emotional and medical issues, etc. Travel restrictions, curfews, closed stores, closed places of worship, unemployment, social distancing, wearing masks are some of the implications as a result of this pandemic.  

This pandemic created a paradigm shift in how people work and interact with each other. No more shaking off hands, standing 6 feet apart (social distancing), reduced or no visits to the office and client locations, virtual meetings, increased washing and sanitizing of hands and areas, no dine-in, take out only.

Since March of 2020, my travel schedule got restricted due to health and safety concerns. Most of my work shifted to desk work, catching up on some training videos, virtual meetings, remotely performing tasks, etc.

As nations all over the world are figuring out how to move forward and open up, eventually, life must go on. People must adapt to what everyone has been calling a new norm. Back to work for some people means getting out in the field and interacting with other people. Specifically for Wi-Fi engineers all over the world, this means:

  1. Packing
  2. Flying/Driving
  3. Checking in a hotel
  4. Meeting the client at their location
  5. Performing survey/heat mapping
  6. Dining out
  7. Traveling back
  8. Unpacking

Masks(s), hand sanitizers, wipes, possibly gloves are now part of items we pack and carry as they are considered PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).  

First survey

Finally, in the second week of July, I had to do my very first Wi-Fi survey since the pandemic hit. It was a local location and did not include any air travel. Furthermore, I was not around too many people, which reduced the complexity of it to a certain degree. Walking in the building required a mask, no handshakes, and keeping my distance from all the people I interacted with, using hand sanitizer throughout the building. Since I was doing heatmapping of a large building that required lots of walking in some humid and hot areas, I must admit with the mask on I was running out of breath at times while walking fast. It was not something I had ever done in the past. Although I have decent stamina wearing a good mask in a humid and hot building will certainly make you stop and gasp for air.

Heat mapping with a face mask

Air travel

After completing this wireless survey/heat mapping, my next task included traveling out of state. I was dropped off at the airport, as I made my way through the sliding doors and stepped inside, I noticed people coming in and out all were wearing a mask. It was not as busy as it usually is, although I did not see any specific signs telling me to wear a facemask I did put one on. Walking through ATL airport and reaching your gate requires going through multiple escalators and a train. People disregard social distancing in such areas although, there is no other option due to small sections. I found it best for my own and others’ protection to put the mask on as I made my way to the gate through TSA, multiple escalators, and the train.

After I reached my gate at the airport, I decided to take a seat until it was time to board. I noticed that most of the seats had signs promoting social distancing and encouraging people to sit 6 feet apart.

It will time to board soon, I scanned my Delta Airlines boarding pass and walked in the plane. As soon as I walked in, a member of the flight crew greeted me and handed me a sanitizing wipe. I used this sanitizing wipe to clean and sanitize my seat. Inside the airplane airline policy followed social distancing as follows:

  1. First-class cabin two seats – Single passenger
  2. Comfort + and Main Cabin 3 seats – Middle row empty

For snacks and beverages, Delta followed a pre-packaged snack policy. Delta Airlines flight crew provided us with pre-packaged snacks in a zip lock bag. Unless eating or drinking, we were required to keep our mask on during the flight.

As compared to Southwest Airlines, I liked Delta Airlines’ process to deplane. They asked everyone to allow the row in front of them to leave first and allow a 6 feet distance. The process was very smooth when followed by everyone and allowed everyone to deplane in no time.

While riding on the shuttle bus on my way to the rental car facility, I put my facemask again. There were too many people inside the bus. After picking up my car as a precaution, I wiped the steering wheel and some general areas inside the vehicle with a sanitizer.  

NOTE: Every time I was on and off the bus, train, plane, etc. I was ensuring to use my hand sanitizer or after touching any handrails. 

Final thoughts

In the end, I would like to conclude with some high-level bullet points:

  1. The overall experience was not as bad or complicated as I thought it would be.
  2. Virus or no virus people should be practicing basic hygiene, which many people forgo even during these times.
  3. Personal space should be given to people when in public places. And with a pandemic on our hand, it is not only polite but imperative for our health and others that we follow social distancing rules.
  4. Wearing a mask if not 100% protect you or others but a decent facemask may offer at least some protection in addition to social distancing. In the infosec/cybersecurity world, there is a concept of layered security or a multi-layered security approach. There are hundreds of articles written discussing the benefits or a layered or multi-layered security approach. I look at all these different measures as a layered, or a multi-layered approach to protect myself and others around me from any possibility of contracting the illness.
  5. Be kind and courteous to all, especially people with disabilities, senior citizens, mothers trying to juggle luggage and kids alone. You never know your simple act of kindness may make a positive impact on someone’s life.
  6. Wishing every one health, safety and safe travels.

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