Paula Nurnberg, chief operating officer of the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE), has contributed to the success of the membership organization, and she said she has benefited from participating in its Women of NATE (WON) Mentorship Program, too. An employee and official of NATE since its inception in 1995, Nurnberg has a personal reason for wanting to advance the association’s safety agenda: Her brother lost his life at a construction-related workplace two weeks after she started working at NATE.
As a nonprofit association representing member companies in the wireless and broadcast infrastructure industries, NATE provides a unified voice for tower erection, maintenance and service companies. Nurnberg said NATE’s first, foremost and primary mission is safety. She said her brother’s death impelled her to make a difference in the lives of others.
“Every day, I think of my brother, and am reminded of how precious and fragile life is and what an incredible opportunity it is for me to continue to be part of an organization that is focused on safety,” she said.
In 2013, NATE took steps to establish the Tower Industry Family Support Charitable Foundation (Tower Family Foundation). Nurnberg said that the Tower Family Foundation was established 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 or other on-the-job-related activities that tower workers are involved in on a daily basis.
“Witnessing first-hand the difference the Tower Family Foundation has made in the lives of tower workers and their families has been heartwarming and rewarding beyond measure,” Nurnberg said.
In speaking about possible gender-related career roadblocks, Nurnberg said that she has worked with both men and women and has also been involved in various activities involving groups comprised of both men and women. “These life experiences have included innumerable situations where, regardless of gender, the individuals involved had to put their differences aside and focus on the task or activity at hand in order to be successful,” Nurnberg said.
When it comes to using her role as a NATE leader to encourage creative thinking within the organization, Nurnberg said it makes a difference to set aside time for brainstorming so the team can exchange, explore and refine ideas, and then provide the time and resources to develop and implement those ideas. She said that seeking out and providing resources, tools, training and votes of confidence allow team members to fulfill their duties without micromanagement. Providing opportunities to participate in webinars, seminars, mentorship and industry events, she said, helps to encourage personal and professional development.
Regarding a characteristic that Nurnberg said every leader should possess, she identified integrity as a key attribute. “It is a concept of consistency of all actions and represents a commitment to do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the circumstances,” she said.
To help herself grow and develop as a leader, Nurnberg said she engages in mentorship opportunities that allow her to interact, listen and learn from mentors who surround her in every facet of her daily life. She said she prefers viewing challenges as opportunities.
For leadership development, “be open to new ideas and change,” Nurnberg said. “Set aside time on a regular basis to review goals, and if something isn’t effective, refocus, make adjustments, and move on.”
Nurnberg said leaders do well to sharpen their listening skills. “First and foremost, listen to understand before responding,” she said. “Seek opportunities and resources to learn and grow, both personally and professionally.”
Countless successful, effective women have flourished as leaders, both on and off the clock, Nurnberg said. “Among the many habits of these women are preparedness, persistence, passion and, most of all, an unwavering sense of believing in themselves.”
Nurnberg said that mentorship is essential to both developing and retaining individuals in leadership positions. She said it is a significant factor in achieving success and benefits everyone, regardless of their position, gender, age or job.
“Throughout my career, I have been surrounded by mentors, both men and women, who have challenged, guided and inspired me along the way,” Nurnberg said. “I have learned immensely by observing and reflecting on their unique ways of handling various diverse situations and challenges.”
She said she is fortunate to be involved with the Women of NATE (WON) Mentorship Program, which was designed to foster an exchange of ideas, expertise and camaraderie among individuals at all levels, from emerging professionals to industry veterans. Nurnberg said that participants have the opportunity to grow by learning from each other’s perspectives, discussing professional issues and supporting their peers in the resolution of various challenges.
A host of both women and men have inspired Nurnberg inside and outside the office by demonstrating their steadfast passion, determination, dedication and enthusiasm for the safety and greater good of the individuals in the industry the organization serves. She said she has been encouraged by those extraordinary individuals and that she felt fortunate to have the opportunity to serve alongside them.
Nurnberg’s family has provided motivation, too. “Throughout my life, my parents and sister have exhibited unwavering spirits and incredible courage and work ethic,” she said. “They have faced many challenges with fierce determination and grace and have always persevered. They have inspired me significantly. Additionally, my two children — a 27-year-old young man and a 23-year-old young woman — inspire me to be the best version of myself. In leading by example, it is my hope that I also inspire them.”
As for the biggest challenge likely to face the next generation of women, Nurnberg said it will involve achieving work life balance. “I hope future generations have the opportunity to take full advantage of what has been accomplished by previous generations and build upon it without sacrificing their personal lives,” she said.
This article ran in the May 2019 issue of AGL Magazine.