Episode 24: Verizon’s Emily Murtaugh intersects 5G, diversity, rural-urban experiences




Verizon marketing specialist Emily Murtaugh explores the definition and potential of 5G technology, which could offer mobile and wireless speeds as fast as fiber-wired connections. In her explanation, she explains the infrastructure needed and the fourth industrial revolution potential of 5G for rural and urban communities alike. She also discusses the magnitude of the tech in terms of impact on agriculture to feed 9 billion people, telehealth, robotics and autonomous vehicles.

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass graduate and Omaha, Neb., native, Emily also shares her insights after taking the leap to move to New York City. And, of course, she shares her leadership tips, which are focused on selflessness.

“Get prepared. Get excited. We’re early on in [5G], but the magnitude is incredible. We can be thinking about making it work for what we want and what we need. 5G can open doors to optimize experience but also inspires people to get creative and imaginative.”
Emily Murtaugh
Marketing Specialist, Verizon | Graduate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

About Emily


Emily Murtaugh is a Manhattan-based marketing strategist with a demonstrated history of working in the telecommunications, advertising and services industries.

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln alum, she currently works on the Consumer Microsegments team within Verizon Wireless, with previous roles in the Global Content and Media division of Verizon leading business analyses and content strategy across Verizon Wireless, Verizon Fios, Yahoo!, AOL, and Tumblr.


Bold Voices Student Segment

Listen at 10:49 of Episode 24!

“Any great company has good design,” says RFI Graphic Design Intern Kara Sloane.

The Omaha, Neb., native, a junior Graphic Design student in the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, digs into graphic design in rural, urban and beyond during her Bold Voices student segment.

Based on her experience as an RFI intern, Sloane shares her insights on graphic design in rural communities. “Rural holds a lot of potential that isn’t represented in its design,” she says. “In the future, if we represented rural in a more future-focused way that is more professional but exciting too, I feel like it would bring out this possibility,” she continues.

Read the full Bold Voices release! »


Show Notes

Dr. Connie: Welcome back to the Royal Futures podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Connie. And joining us today is Emily Murtaugh, Marketing Manager with Verizon Wireless. Welcome to the show, Emily.

Emily Murtaugh: Hi, thanks for having me.

Dr. Connie: Absolutely, we’re super excited to have you because one, you’re a University of Nebraska-Lincoln alum,

Emily Murtaugh: I am.

Dr. Connie: So tell us a little bit about your educational experience.

Emily Murtaugh: Yeah, so I was born and raised in Omaha, and have one older sister that also went to the University of Nebraska. My first year, freshman year, was 2011. And I actually started as a Biology major with sights being set on going Pre-Med, and then ended up taking a design class, actually, through the Textiles & Fashion Design department. And ended up really loving it and having great relationship with the professor, and ended up talking to him about how I liked using the creative side of my mind, I liked the kind of analytic piece of science, obviously, and he kinda helped steer me towards a major that was half in the Textiles department and half in the Journalism school. So I ended up graduating with a major in Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design Communication. But it was really great because I got to have one foot in each of these schools and ended up loving it. And that led me to marketing. So I took the scenic route to find my passion for my career but it was definitely worth doing, I enjoyed the ride.

Dr. Connie: Awesome. And I think that’s what’s so great about life, being able to explore and kind of develop your own way. And I also love to hear from people how they translate various majors into these amazing careers. Now, I hate to say we lost you to New York City, but I think this is just a very cool experience, it sounds like, in terms of coming from Nebraska but having this experience in New York. So tell us a little bit about the comparison and contrast.

Emily Murtaugh: There ended up being three or four months between when I interviewed and when I got my first offer at Verizon, so I had three weeks to move my life out to Manhattan. So I didn’t have time to be afraid and just kinda made the leap. But it’s really great, it’s definitely a change in merely every way. It took me a long time to kind of retrain myself not to smile at people on the street anymore, because here that’s uncommon and people think you’re a crazy person if you’re smiling at strangers. So it can be kind of exhausting at times, but it’s also great exposure to different cultures and diversity and the best entertainment in the world, so I love it. Especially at this point in my life when I’m new-ish in my career, still, I think it’s a great place to be in and learn things that you wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to in Nebraska.

Dr. Connie: I think what a great opportunity to go and explore life a little bit. I know when I’ve been to New York I felt the same way, it was a lot of stimuli, like you’re saying, it was constantly on. I don’t think I slept very well–


Dr. Connie: the whole time I was there. So I imagine it does take little time to get used to all that.

Emily Murtaugh: It does, it does for sure. And when I first moved here, there were a couple weeks where I was like, this is awesome, this is great, and then it kinda sunk in that it wasn’t a vacation, this is my life now. But there is quite a few Nebraskans here, which helps, one of which is my very best friend who I’ve known since elementary school, who also was a UNL alum. She works at the Huskers bar that plays all the football games during football season, so there’s reunions every Saturday during football season, there’s a bunch of former Huskers. So it’s still that sense of community here, that Nebraska flair is still present here, which helped make it feel a little bit more like home.

(music transition)

Dr. Connie: Well, Emily, tell us a little bit about yourself as a leader. How has your leadership development changed during your career?

Emily Murtaugh: I started out elementary and middle school pretty introverted. So I think in high school that changed a little bit because I did theater and ended up having some leadership roles in the drama department and the music department, but I think it really sunk in, my leadership style, in college, which, again, was when I was part of the Student Alumni Association. I had a couple terms on the board of directors for that group and then one term as president. And to me, I think leadership goes hand in hand with selflessness and a service role. So what was important to me then and still is important to me now is, to really take time to invest in whoever your team is or whoever the group is that you’re leading and get to know their specific strengths, not necessarily only as it pertains to your business or your organization, but their strengths as just people, and figuring out how to balance those. The other thing that I think I was lucky to experience in leaders in my life and something that I try to continue in any leadership roles I have is, working hard to grow people’s confidence in themselves. That’s something that I struggled with through school and I think a lot of people are sitting on great potential and amazing abilities, but are kind of waiting for that someone to make them realize that their ideas or input is worth saying and worth hearing and is valuable. My greatest pride in my leadership career was that I was president of that group, the Student Alumni Association, my junior year of college. So theoretically I could’ve been re-elected and did go up for reelection the following year, for my senior year. And there was a girl who I had a mentor-mentee relationship with my sophomore and junior year, and she ended up beating me for president my senior year. And I think that it’s easy to look at that as a loss, but in my mind that was the best way to end my time as president, knowing that I had a role in making someone exceed my abilities and become a greater leader than me. I think that’s the ultimate kind of success, as far as leadership is concerned.

Dr. Connie: It sounds like you have a very open and abundance mindset around leadership. So how do you see that evolving now and into the future?

Emily Murtaugh: Leadership for a long time has been analogous with seniority, and I think that, especially as things move more towards digital, diversity is growing in leadership, which is awesome and is long overdue. At Verzion we have a group that’s dedicated to neurodiversity and different mental health diagnoses and making sure that there are people at the table who can represent those with anxiety or depression or ADHD in addition to, obviously, racial and ethnic diversity, gender diversity, and physical ability diversity. So I think leadership in the workplace is very much starting down this path of valuing those more intangible qualities that are important in a leader.

Dr. Connie: Okay, I have to ask a little bit more about neurodiversity. This is the first time I have even heard this term as a futurist, so we have a bit of a narrow scope around what diversity might mean.

Emily Murtaugh: Right

Dr. Connie: So how did Verizon kind of help cultivate this diversity but also the inclusion of those diverse audiences?

Emily Murtaugh: The neurodiversity group is an employee resource group, so it’s opt in. And I opted in. I was diagnosed with PTSD so I was like, “oh, I’ll do this.” And they have meetings monthly to talk about how to either cope with any symptom that any of the members have while in the workplace, because most have diagnosed mental health statuses but are very high functioning, so a lot of people in the workplace have no idea that oh the person next to me has anxiety or what have you. So it’s an environment where people that are dealing with some sort of mental health issue can all have a safe space and be with each other and know that they can talk openly about any struggles they’re having or share coping mechanisms that they’ve found work for themselves. They’re just bringing visibility to different types of mental health, to kind of proving the point that, regardless of any diagnosis you may have, you can still be an extremely valuable addition to your organization. And in some ways that’s a strength, because we’re here to serve customers and the consumer, many of which will have had mental health diagnoses at some point in their life. So it’s all about representation.

Dr. Connie: This is just brilliant. Because one of the challenges, especially in rural Nebraska, rural America, is this whole issue around mental health. People don’t have access to it, but also there’s still this stigma around, okay, if I go get help, whether at work or in my community, people might see me getting help or reaching out and make these assumptions. So I love how Verizon is just bringing that out to the open. Okay, let’s not make this a negative, let’s really turn this around and find that opportunity for our employees and our business, because we do know we’re serving customers in the same situations.

(music transition)

Katy Bagniewski: Welcome to Bold Voices, our segment with rockstar students from the University of Nebraska who are making a difference in rural. Hello podcast listeners, it’s Katy Bagniewski, Production Specialist of Rural Futures with Dr. Connie. And joining me today is Kara Sloane, a junior studying Graphic Design at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Welcome, Kara.

Kara Sloane: Thanks for having me.

Katy Bagniewski: Kara is our graphic designer at RFI so I’m really excited to talk to her about that. But first, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself.

Kara Sloane: I am from Omaha, Nebraska. It seems kind of redundant but I’m really interested in art, that’s how I got started doing graphic design, and I’m really passionate about creating and inspiring people.

Katy Bagniewski: What do you love about design, and really just art?

Kara Sloane: I think what I like most is being able to create something new every time, and trying to create something that isn’t out there, which I think is really exciting. And being able to inspire other people too, because it’s always fun looking at what other people make and think “Ooh I really like that” and hopefully someone will look at what I do and say the same thing.

Katy Bagniewski: From your perspective, why is graphic design, and good graphic design at that, important?

Kara Sloane: I think the most important part of graphic design is what it goes unnoticed. You know, graphic design is more than just a little graphic in the corner, or making a website pretty, it’s really about making an identity for something and showing its history and meaning. Any great company has good design.

Katy Bagniewski: What have you learned from your RFI Graphic Design Internship?

Kara Sloane: Well, I’ve learned a lot being here. This is my first Graphic Design Internship, so, that’s definitely one thing. (laughs) What I’ve learned the most is probably working more in a corporate environment and working with a team and meeting deadlines. So really I’d say, to sum it up, I’ve learned to adapt to all those kind of things that didn’t make sense and to adapt my way of working around that.

Katy Bagniewski: Okay, so I think that there’s room for improvement in many of our rural communities to be better about branding and graphic design. What are your thoughts around rural design?

Kara Sloane: I think, yeah, right now rural is not represented in the best way that it could be. Rural holds a lot of potential that isn’t represented. So I feel like, in the future, if we represent rural in a more future focused kind of way and more professional but exciting too, I feel like it would bring out this possibility.

Katy Bagniewski: What advice do you have for our creative audience that may be listening?

Kara Sloane: One of the most important things I’ve learned was listening to what other people have to say. Because your graphic design, and art even, and all that, it’s not just for you to make and sit in your room and for you to look at all day, it’s for everyone else out there to experience it, so what other people have to say about it and their critiques are really important.

Katy Bagniewski: Yeah, I think that’s especially true just for all creative fields. Take your criticism with grace, it will help you. So, thank you for sharing that, Cara, and thank you for being our Bold Voice. We love having you here at RFI and look forward to see how you’ll grow in the future.

(music transition)

Dr. Connie: So, Katelyn Ideus, our executive producer for the podcast, attended the UNL Mobile Me and You conference and she actually did more than that, RFI really helped sponsor that. But she saw your talk at the Mobile Me and You conference, held by the Journalism school here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and she said your presentation was outstanding, so of course then invited you to be on the podcast. And your presentation was about 5G. So tell our audience a little bit about what is 5G, give us some detail around that.

Emily Murtaugh: That is the big question right now, what is 5G? So 5G, first and foremost, just stands for 5th Generation, and it’s talking about cellular technology. So when you look at your phone now, in the top corner there’ll either be a 3G, a 4G, or an LTE. So 5G is the next generation of this cellular technology, wireless, and it has really great potential to enhance networks speeds. It can increase speeds up to 100 times, the average is 20 times faster than 4G. So that’s about one gigabit per second, which is crazy, and is more comparable to like a fiber wire connection. So 5G can theoretically bring that speed, first and foremost, to your cell phone or wireless home Internet connections instead of having to have fiber or broadband of some type. So there’s two different types of 5G as well. Like I mentioned, there’s the cellular technology which will be used on your phone, or in home. And there’s a couple different ways to look at the speed enhancement. One is just if you’re on a highway, for example, the amount of lanes, so how many cars can go on this highway. One is that 5G has way more lanes so it can push more information through faster, and that opens up the door for almost instant cloud access, watching Netflix in HD, in 4K and all that, and having really crisp pictures and audio. And then the other component of the speed enhancement is latency. Latency is your devices reaction time based on the network. So that means downloading that high definition amazing video to your phone in a matter of seconds. So it’s really exciting, it opens the doors for a lot of emerging tech that quite frankly is hard to put an example to because the technology is just being built. As far as use cases for 5G, that’s still something that’s way under development and it’s early on and who knows what this will all do, but it’s an exciting time for sure. And Verizon just launched its first testing of the home 5G wireless connection in California and a couple other cities, and industry wide we’re looking at bringing 5G to mobile this year with the release of a couple different 5G-enabled devices. So it’s lots of moving parts but all exciting things.

Dr. Connie: Well good because that really frames up our next question and that is, I really want you to put that futurist hat on, how do you think 5G will impact the future?

Emily Murtaugh: First and foremost, I think the easiest example to kind of bank on is as it relates to content. So whether that’s all the streaming services that are now also highly adopted or gaming, 5G allows for an insanely better experience. Outside of content, there’s a whole slew of more industrial applications, I guess, so that is the self-driving car piece. With the low latency of 5G, the car’s reaction time is way quicker, it’s closer to the blink of an eye than anything. So it really, truly can support communities of those self-driving cars. Telemedicine is another huge one, so being able to speak to medical professionals online, via video, and even controlling robotics for small procedures. A doctor in San Francisco can be operating on someone in New York City because, again, that reaction time is now within the regular reaction time that a human would have, would they be directionally present. So there’s a lot of amazing things that can be done on this network. But again, the network is still being built and honed and we have to figure out the regulatory specifications for it, so we’re still right on the cusp of all of that innovation. But there’s a reason that 5G has been referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, because it’s really going to spark, I think, a lot of new innovation and enhancement that we really can’t even imagine right now because we’re still learning about how great can this network possibly be.

Dr. Connie: This is a huge topic for rural because many of our rural areas, especially if you’re outside of city limits, are not connected to broadband or any sort of high-speed Internet. And actually, some of the latest FCC data, in a place like here in Nebraska, shows that 87% of Nebraskans have what’s considered high-speed broadband but only 58% of rural Nebraskans do. This is not just in Nebraska, this is national, this is an international conversation around broadband. That if we don’t get our rural areas connected, what we’re really going to miss is the ability to help shape the future economy, that Fourth Industrial Revolution. I think this is a very important point. So what do you see in terms of some of those costs, benefits, even the feasibility of implementing 5G in rural America?

Emily Murtaugh: Well, one thing, the biggest precaution with bringing 5G to rural areas is really understanding how the infrastructure is set up to support 5G. So for example, the 5G that Verizon has launched already uses what’s called millimeter waves, or Ultra Wideband spectrum, so it’s really high-frequency waves that we have purchased and licensed from the government. So Ultra Wideband and that millimeter wave is what allows for the super high-speed increases, but the problem is that each of the cells that communicate to each other on the spectrum to transfer information, each of those cells have a smaller range. So Ultra Wideband and millimeter wave are very much used in highly concentrated, highly populated urban areas. That’s why over the next year or two, as different service providers start coming out with 5G, a lot of them are starting in the big cities because you have more buildings and light fixtures and whatever to attach those cells to. So that’s one type. The other uses low band frequencies, which still increases speeds, not as much as the millimeter wave but still will give you a speed increase, and still provides lower latency about similar to that of the millimeter wave, but the cells needed for that have a much broader range, much more similar to the distance between cell towers that are supporting 4G. So, with that in mind, to bring 5G to rural areas, what makes the most sense based off what we know now which, obviously, there’s still tests being done and we’re trying to figure out different ways to make bringing 5G to rural areas even more efficient, but based off the information that we have and have tested, using the low band frequency is going to be A: more cost effective and B: more reliable for those rural areas. I think what you can expect is a lag time between when 5G launches in, like I said, those bigger cities, and from when it gets to the more rural areas. And that’s, again, by nature of we as an industry, not just Verizon. So Microsoft, for example, started looking into how to use a White Space spectrum, which is just unlicensed spectrum that has not been purchased by any one company, it’s still government owned, or publicly owned I should say. But how do you use that underutilized spectrum to help expand existing broadband connections? So things like that, that’s something new that has been tested and now is getting rolled out further, industry wide, people are trying to figure out the best ways to involve rural America. Because not only is it giving service to people who need it and should have access to it, but I think the implications of getting high-speed service, and in this case specifically 5G, to rural areas really can make an impact on a global scale. So for example, if you look at the increasing population and if we have 9 billion people on earth, we’re going to have to increase food production, productivity, by 70% or somewhere in that range. So if we’re able to bring 5G to rural areas, specifically farming areas, for example, that opens up the possibility of smart farms, for example. So having sensors placed throughout the fields and having those sensors be able to communicate the growth of whatever crop is there, and then have that communicate either to the farm equipment or the actual farmer, and control irrigation systems. And that can affect like I said productivity, efficiencies on the farm, can reduce waste if things are becoming automated, farmers can save money on manual labor, save time that way too. And that can help answer to that food crisis that we have heard about is potentially coming our way. So I think it’s understood in the industry that bringing 5G to rural areas will not only impact those customers who have thus far been underserved, but it really can have a huge impact on society worldwide.

(music transition)

Dr. Connie: One of the things at the Rural Futures Institute we’ve really been exploring is the fact that a lot of our communities are small makes them rural. But we also know that many people in those communities, while there are challenges we recognize, we can also have a thriving future when we look at ways to join rural and urban together, and not really focus on the divide but really the interactions that exist between our rural and urban audiences.

Emily Murtaugh:  And it really is an interesting economic play too. I think that 5G opening the door to all types of working remotely can be very good, can engage people anywhere, including rural areas, to connect with those who are miles and miles and states away from them. However, in telemedicine for example, if it becomes more widely adopted and you’re able to meet with a specialist who is the best in the country without having to travel, it’s great and it can provide top of the line medical care to people in rural communities without them having to travel to wherever the doctor that they need is. But there’s a worry that that’s going to take away the need for certain medical professionals in those rural areas, or decrease the amount of need for medical professionals in those areas. So, you know, not as many job listings in those places. So I think it’s all about balance. Obviously, the big one to me from where I sit at Verizon is, maximizing access to connectivity and the best connectivity possible, because regardless of how all the 5G stuff shapes out, we’re just becoming increasingly dependent on tech anyway, that there needs to be even access across the country and ideally the world. But we have to balance that with making sure it’s affordable and making sure that it’s being used in a way that will enable communities, no matter how big or small, to really function optimally and cause as few negative effects as possible. I think that’s something that will be interesting to watch over the next couple of years, it’s how all of these different digital and tech and infrastructure and economic components balance out and work together, because they’re all so highly connected.

Dr. Connie: Agreed, and I think that’s where too, it’s that adoption, it’s the access, it’s the affordability. But it’s also, I think, putting my futurist hat on, how do we create new systems, models, and even communities that really take advantage of and help stimulate this economy, this emerging Fourth Revolution that we’re in, Economic Revolution that we’re in. So using health care as an example, what is the role of hospitals moving forward? It’s going to be completely different in both rural and urban, and I think you’re starting to see health care take a hard look at that. Our medical center here, for example, at the University of Nebraska, has really been a leader in that. I think rather than think about what hospitals were and how they’ve always been, it’s how do we break the model, how do we disrupt that model, and create one now that really thrives in what’s being offered and what’s being developed in the current and the future, and use that strategic foresight lines to create communities of the future.

(music transition)

Dr. Connie: So Emily, tell us, what parting words of wisdom do you have to share with our audience?

Emily Murtaugh: Yeah, I think, what’s most exciting to me and what I hope excites everyone listening is that 5G really does create a ton of opportunity for you, no matter what your career is, no matter if you’re a student or a seasoned veteran in the workforce, 5G will most definitely play a role in your job, in what you do outside of work. So I think it’s important to start becoming familiar with it, start reading up about it here and there, get prepared because it’s coming. But also get excited because there is a lot of power that comes with 5G for the individual, so thinking of how to use it, of developing those use cases. We have a team at Verizon that’s dedicated to brainstorming what we could possibly do with 5G. And that’s something that I think illustrates how really on we are in the process of adopting 5G, but also what magnitude of an impact it could have. And that really comes down to leaders in communities, leaders in businesses, innovators in different education systems, and there’s a lot of power to make 5G kind of what you want or what you need, depending on what you do and what your values are. Like I said, whether that be work or more in your personal life. So I hope that not only does 5G open this door to optimize an immersive experience and positive experiences for everyone, but I hope that it kind of inspires and motivates people to get creative and get imaginative and start thinking in ways that really people haven’t ever thought before. It will be exciting to watch for sure, and I’m excited to be a part of it.