Anthony Neal-Graves is general manager of the Modular Communications Platform division of Intel Corp's Digital Enterprise Group. The division works with Intel's communications infrastructure products. These, Neal-Graves explains, are building-block technologies, used to create modular network solutions for the enterprise and service provider markets.
"We use our silicon technology to develop board-related communications products," he says. "We focus on core infrastructure platforms, the equipment that essentially provides the backbone communications for all of us."
Neal-Graves is responsible for all product activities and support functions of his group. He has eight direct reports and an overall staff of more than 1,000 in New Jersey, Oregon, Poland and Malaysia. He is based in Denver, CO.
Keeping lines of communication open across the multiple sites can pose a challenge, he admits. "We do a lot of open forums, and we do online cyber chats, where staffers can ask questions via a chat room."
Neal-Graves got a 1979 BSEE from Polytechnic University (Brooklyn, NY). His 1980 MSCS is from the University of Southern California. His degrees give him an advantage as a manager at tech-heavy Intel, he says: "Engineers like working for other engineers."
Neal-Graves grew up in the heart of New York City's Harlem. "As a kid, my claim to fame was I had a little telescope and I could look down 125th Street and see who was playing at the Apollo Theater," he says.
As a junior high student he was encouraged to take the entrance exam for the prestigious Bronx High School of Science. There he met up with a teacher "who really encouraged me to go to school for an engineering degree."
It was clearly the right choice. His high SAT scores made him a National Merit Scholar, and he won a scholarship sponsored by AT&T;'s Bell Laboratories. He went on to Polytech, working summers at Bell Labs' Holmdel, NJ site.
"I went back to the same group every summer and worked on some early technology leading to the development of cell phones. It was really cool," he says.
After he graduated, Neal-Graves moved to Colorado.
"I've always been willing to take a risk and do something I've never done before," he says. "Up to this point I'd never been any farther west than Holmdel, but Bell Labs had a facility in Denver and I just asked if I could go interview there. My first job there was writing software for PBX telephone switching systems."
Willingness to deal with change became an important strategy for Neal-Graves. By asking, he was able to move to a new job every few years, steadily broadening his capabilities.
In 1984 he landed his first Bell Labs management post, overseeing fifteen software developers. This was an early step in the company's affirmative action initiative, he says, "But you had to demonstrate that you deserved the job." He surely did, and went on to project manager, then marketing manager.
Neal-Graves goes to Washington
In 1993 two division managers at Bell Labs sponsored Neal-Graves for an AT&T; management training program. He went to Washington, DC as part of the Congressional Fellows Program at the Brookings Institution (Washington, DC), the well-known think tank. He spent a year as an aide to U.S. Rep William Jefferson (D, LA), a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
"I was actually on Capitol Hill," Neal-Graves says. "That helped me see that I could do more with my career."
Working for Lucent
In 1995 Neal-Graves left Denver. He returned to New Jersey to spend two years as an AT&T; general sales manager. In 1996 Lucent was spun off from AT&T;, taking Bell Labs with it, and Neal-Graves returned to development work. He went on to division manager, then director.
"In my whole experience with AT&T; and Lucent, I was always looking to grow to the next step in the company," he says.
"There were genuine attempts through the '80s and early '90s to progress diverse people forward in
Neal-Graves left Lucent in 2000 to join Technology Control Services. It was a Florida-based software dot-com, building technology for telephone calling cards. The start-up was acquired by a Boston-area company later that year, and Neal-Graves was hired by Intel as a director.
He was recommended by a business friend, the president of a company Intel had acquired. "It was a business relationship that became a friendship," he says. "I think most of the real opportunities that people have in any industry are through relationships."
Neal-Graves now works to promote mentoring relationships within Intel. "We're bringing in a lot of young African Americans and we want them to understand how to deal with corporate culture, and give them political and business savvy," he says.
He's trying to build a better mentoring network for staff at other sites. For example, he works with the Network of Intel African Americans in Arizona when he travels there for management meetings.
Throughout his career Neal-Graves has always believed in himself. It's a trait instilled by his father. "He didn't even have a high school education, but he made his way through the world, and just always believed that he could accomplish things," Neal-Graves says.
For himself, "I've realized that your career in corporate American can be important, but it's only one aspect of who you are. Working is important, your family life is important and the things you do in your community are important. I think you need to have that good balance. My wife and I focus on achieving balance every day."