2021 FierceWireless Rising Star — Dish’s Marco Santi

Dish Network's Marco Santi (Dish)

For 2021, FierceWireless has compiled a young and accomplished slate of up-and-coming wireless executives. We’re doling out the names of our winners, two per day, so that readers have the time to enjoy reading their profiles. These are all folks to keep an eye on as they make a mark in wireless, working in diverse areas of telecommunications.

Marco Santi started his telecom career working as a financial analyst for Nokia’s SAC Wireless, a site development, engineering design, network construction and management firm that is based in Chicago. But he quickly learned that he preferred the operations side of the business rather than finance, so he moved into project management where he helped major telecom operators such as AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon with their network expansions in several markets.

That ability to run large-scale deployment projects played a big part in Santi getting the attention of Dish Network. He joined Dish in December 2020 as the market general manager for the Detroit region. In this role, Santi oversees Dish’s 5G rollout in the Detroit area. As a GM, he owns everything from network design to operations and oversees all the components of the network from engineering to RF, site design and construction.

This type of oversight in a market is unusual. Most operators have their engineering team oversee the network buildout across the country. Santi believes that Dish’s management structure allows him to make decisions quickly, which helps speed the construction of the network. Plus, his team is able to work more collaboratively because they aren’t waiting for headquarters to make decisions.

RELATED: Dish breaks ground for first 5G site in Orlando

Santi said that the job with Dish was appealing to him because he had always wanted to work on the operator side of the business and the startup nature of Dish’s endeavor was also a draw. Since joining Dish in December, Santi has been on a hiring spree and hired 20 people including an RF manager and several wireless engineers. “I’ve staffed my team from the ground floor and handpicked everyone on my team,” he said.

The most difficult part of the job is trying to get things done during a global pandemic. “There’s a lot of challenges on the supply side with components,” he said, adding that Dish is also reliant upon municipalities to get building permits, and many places are still not fully staffed.

The pandemic also forced some very strange job interview situations. Santi said that he interviewed one RF engineer at a mall parking lot where they met and walked around talking for nearly an hour. Another job candidate was interviewed while he sat in his car and Santi talked to him through a rolled down car window.

Weirdness aside, Santi said that people in Detroit are excited about what Dish is doing and are anxious to be a part of it.