A bright future in the sector


The 2021 TCCA Young Engineer of the Year, Motorola Solutions’ BoonBeng Lee, talks to CCW news editor Philip Mason about life after the award and the opportunities available to young engineers in the critical communications industry.

BoonBeng Lee, TCCA’s Young Engineer of the Year 2021, meets TCCA chairman, Mladen Vratonjić, at CCW 2022
BoonBeng Lee, TCCA’s Young Engineer of the Year 2021, meets TCCA chairman, Mladen Vratonjić, at CCW 2022
Could you tell me a bit about your background and why you wanted to get into the critical communications industry?

After completing my undergraduate degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering in 2014, I applied for a job with Motorola Solutions, but it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped and I didn’t get the job.

A few months later I reapplied with Motorola, by which time I’d improved my interviewing skills and was better prepared. Pleasingly, I was offered the job of software engineer graduate trainee which I was happy to accept.

My first project with Motorola Solutions was in ‘signaling code refactoring’. Although it was a straightforward refactoring project, I learned a lot about the company’s TETRA radios in terms of their functionality. It also helped me to understand the important focus Motorola places on code integration, which eventually impacts the quality of many of its products.

In 2017, I got a scholarship from the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce for a Master’s Degree Course in Engineering. I completed the course and obtained my degree the following year with help from Motorola, who provided me with the flexibility I needed to balance my work and study schedule.

What’s been your most interesting project so far? What are you most proud to have worked on?

The most fulfilling project for me was working on Germany’s BDBOS 2018 specifications catalog. That was the first time I learned about BDBOS, a federal agency in Germany that regulates the operation of digital radios.

The agency releases new specifications every year, which includes new functionalities needed by radio users. It was really interesting to work with our counterpart in Germany to better understand the user requirements and to design solutions to meet their needs.

With encouragement from my team, I have also participated in different activities, for instance patent generation, innovation ideas and pitching. So far, I have managed to pursue and receive two patents. I learned a lot about patents within my team and importantly, some of the ‘tricks’ required to be innovative in generating them.

How has winning the Young Engineer award at last year’s ICCAs benefitted your career?

It has provided me with more opportunities to interact with different people. The award has also given me the opportunity to participate in CCW 2022 in Vienna.

I was so excited to see and experience the latest technologies that the critical communication industry has to offer, and meet with people from around the world who have made a positive impact on the critical communications sector.

Why is it important to recognise up-and-coming talent within the sector?

The critical communications industry is of vital importance to public safety users and ultimately, helps to make our communities safer. I believe we need to help everyone to understand the important mission of our industry while also recognising the talents we have in order to retain them.

By promoting and celebrating the good work of emerging engineers, we can also help to attract more talent into the industry, in order to further strengthen the capability and breadth of our workforce.

What could the sector do better to attract more top talent in engineering and technology roles?

I think promoting the importance of what we do is really important. I want to help Motorola Solutions to share more stories about how our products help the public safety sector in their day-to-day operations, as well as in life-critical moments when it matters the most and the technology just has to work. Those stories are really important to our industry and help to show how critical our technologies can be in the hands of frontline public safety users.

What are you most excited about for the future, both in terms of your own career and the direction in which the industry’s heading?

The industry has started venturing into converged devices that integrate the best elements of LMR and LTE. That’s quite exciting for me as I contemplate my future in the industry overall and the technologies that I’ll get to work with. Ensuring we can get the best from both LMR and LTE will be a big challenge for the critical communications industry, and I am really excited to be a part of that.

What will be the most transformational/disruptive technology over the next five years, and why?

I think 5G networks will significantly improve broadband cellular networks in so many ways, including faster speeds, greater bandwidth, security controls and more. 5G is becoming more common around the world. The critical communications sector [therefore] has a great opportunity to explore how it can be used to improve public safety. This is especially true in the development of converged devices that maximise their use of the best available communications networks at all times.