Paula Nurnberg, From Admin to COO, Guiding NATE From the Ground Up


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“Paula Nurnberg has touched more tower people than virtually any other person,” Jim Tracy, CEO of Legacy Companies and former NATE Chairman, told Inside Towers. “For 25 years she has encouraged safety to the almost 900 companies who make up NATE. Her impact on the industry is immeasurable. She has been the glue that has held together our tower association since 1995,” Tracy said.

Since its inception, the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) has become a rock of credibility, a fount of resources and a game-changer in how the tower industry operates. Paula Nurnberg, its Chief Operating Officer, has not only been a witness to that transition but an integral part in making happen. In a segment of the industry that has more-than-its-share of male leadership given the brawn and bravado tower climbers need to survive, Nurnberg has also witnessed the growing role of women in that testosterone-fueled arena.

Her stint with NATE began in Watertown, SD in August of 1995, when she was hired as the Administrative Assistant, one of two staff members, herself and the Administrator. The first NATE office, she said, was a 16×16 room adorned with stacks of files around its perimeter. Her first job: install and test the fax machine. In addition to general office duties, her role as the low admin on the totem pole began as coordinating membership and related services, accounts, the annual and summer conferences and exposition, the Tower Times (which began as a four-page newsletter), marketing, advertising, committees coordinator, and building the first NATE website.

“Fortunately, there were a host of dedicated NATE volunteers who were always willing to step in and help wherever needed,” Nurnberg said.

Nurnberg said she’s grateful to have had the opportunity to join NATE in its infancy and be part of the growth and evolution that continues today.  It ranges from their first NATE Accident Prevention, Safety and Health Program Guide to an annual trade show, a must-attend event by industry standards, that attracts thousands of wireless infrastructure executives and operators from across the spectrum.  What hasn’t changed, Nurnberg said, is that from their inaugural Board of Directors to the current Board, they have maintained the focus of NATE’s Mission Statement based on safety, education and commitment to a rough and tumble industry.

Nurnberg is particularly proud of the Tower Family Foundation, founded in 2013, to help provide financial assistance to family members of a severely injured, permanently disabled, or deceased tower worker, injured or killed in an accident stemming from working at heights on communication structures.

“Witnessing first-hand the difference the Tower Family Foundation has made in the lives of tower workers and their families,” she said, “has been heartwarming and rewarding beyond measure. Over the years with NATE, I have had the privilege of collaborating with countless successful, effective women who have flourished as leaders, both personally and professionally,” she said, noting the association has always had a healthy representation of women present in its committees, workgroups and, later on, in the make-up of the Board.

She points to the Women of NATE (WON) Committee established in 2016, which was established to foster an exchange of ideas, expertise, and camaraderie among individuals at all levels, from emerging professionals to industry veterans. The committee recently launched the WON Mentorship Program, allowing participants the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally by learning from each other’s perspectives, discussing professional issues and supporting their peers in the resolution of various challenges.

“From my observation, women have taken on larger roles in various and diverse capacities within their companies and also within NATE and the industry. The number of women in the industry continues to climb and it is evident at the various industry related conferences where women are involved in a broad range of roles,” Nurnberg said.

Editor’s Note: Having known Paula since those early days of NATE at their third(?) trade show in San Diego, I remember showing up there representing my fledgling company, Fryer’s Site Guide. I had been told all of the booth space was sold out but, undaunted, brought a gunny sack full of jerry-rigged metal tubing and stretch fabric for my booth hoping there was an opening.  Paula was understanding, cooperative and with a level of calmness only found in the Dakotas, made a spot for me. It was easy to see then she would be the calm in the eye of the NATE hurricane for years to come.

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By Jim Fryer, Managing Editor, Inside Towers

April 22, 2019

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