Engineers, IT pros and others play
vital roles in telecom
Folks with degrees in STEM areas and more are acing both technical and
technology-related work in the complex communications industries
Communications companies recognize the value of inclusion and work to put together diverse
groupings of techies
In terms of race, gender, nationality, culture and religion, the global telecommunications giants employ highly diverse workforces. Recognizing the value of diversity, they actively work to bring in a wide range of professional folks. The science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines are particularly important.
C. J. Bland is president and CEO of the Minority Professional Network (MPN, mpnsite.com), a Web-based interactive global “career, economic and lifestyle connection.” Bland is an engineer himself and has worked at AT&T, Bell Labs and NASA.
“The world around us is becoming more diverse,” he declares. “We need to tap all the talent that’s available.” It’s important, he says, “to continue to diversify our organizations and corporations so we can bring different backgrounds and perspectives to the table. Our diverse employees can also help us recruit and retain other diverse candidates.”
Eugene Williams is a network planning director at Verizon
“I saw an opportunity to work with new technology and it was exciting,” says Eugene Williams, director of network planning and engineering for the Baltimore, MD-based Potomac Region of Verizon (New York, NY). His region includes Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia.
His responsibilities include overseeing the planning and engineering of fiber interconnections between Verizon’s switching centers. That includes both facilities work and customer network engineering plans. His group includes
about 125 people spread across his territory; the group
serves a variety of Verizon organizations.
Williams completed a 1974 BS in math at the Virginia Military Institute and began his career at C&P Telephone, which became part of Bell Atlantic and later Verizon. His first assignment was
a special services loop survey in northern Virginia. Three months later he became a supervisor of a three-person team at the main distributing frame in Annandale, VA.
In early 1975 Williams was transferred to the coin installation and repair organization. His team of technicians handled installations and repairs for pay phones across northern Virginia, a sizable and critical job in those pre-cellular days. Later that year he transferred to residential installation and repair in Springfield, VA.
“I averaged two different assignments a year for the first few years and was exposed to many aspects of the business,” Williams says. “It was how I gained an understanding of how the company works.”
In 1976 he moved to a first-level management position in outside plant design in Fairfax, VA; next came a second-level management job in outside plant planning for telephone services based on projected area growth in the northern Virginia region.
In 1979 Williams received his MBA from Southeastern University (Washington, DC), and during the next few years he took on a variety of management assignments in the engineering organization, including a stint as team lead at the engineering assessment center in Silver Spring, MD, and budget responsibility for outside plant construction across C&P. Toward the end of this period he managed training for the company’s Construction Activities Management Information System (CAMIS) for engineering budget documentation.
In 1986 Williams began a three-year rotational assignment at Bell Communications Research (Bellcore, Livingstone, NJ), working on projects with national scope for the seven “Baby Bell” telephone operating companies. In 1989 he moved to the project management team for a new job-tracking system that replaced the older CAMIS.
He went on to network planning, based in Newark, NJ, and worked there until 1995 when engineering consolidated in Baltimore, MD. He did several manager-level jobs in network planning, and became director of customer network engineering and collocation planning for the thirteen states served by Bell Atlantic.
Immediately after September 11 he was posted to New York City as part of the telecom restoration effort. He transferred to director of engineering for eastern Pennsylvania in 2002, moved to several other eastern states, and last year took his current job of director of network planning and engineering for six functions across the entire Potomac region. Williams has received several Verizon awards during his career with the company and its predecessors.
“I’ve been in engineering a long time with increasing responsibility for budgeting, planning
and working with our key stakeholders,” he says. “Each new position has increased in scope and complexity, so when I became a director I understood how important it was to look not only at our own goals and strategies but at those of our key stakeholders, and understand the big picture.”
His math degree has definitely helped him. Math, he says, “provides a problem-solving foundation by teaching you to break problems down and solve them piece by piece.” Williams is doing his best to help others receive the same benefits: he’s active with several community organizations that promote educational enrichment for at-risk high school students.
When Williams began work thirty-three years ago, he could “count on one hand the number of black technical managers at C&P.” Things are much better now and, he says, “I make sure we have a very diverse pool of candidates for any position to be filled in my group. Verizon and its predecessor companies see the value and importance of diversity. I am very proud to be a part of this corporation.”
EE Alina Urdaneta is a marketing VP for Siemens Communications
Alina Urdaneta has applied engineering concepts and practices to a variety of interesting jobs. Today she’s VP of marketing for the North American region of Siemens Communications (Reston, VA). This worldwide Siemens company is a global provider of “open unified communications” products and services like enterprise switching platforms, applications and end-user devices that integrate into existing business infrastructures and workflow.
Urdaneta has more than twenty years of career experience, ten of them in management at Siemens. As an engineer who moved into marketing, she’s made her mark by combining marketing with engineering principles. Her dad was an ME and her mom an agronomy engineer. Her brother and sister are engineers, too.
“My father used to say, ‘Engineering
is a universal language; technology is spoken everywhere,’” Urdaneta recalls. “Although marketing motivates and moves me most, engineering has given me a set of skills that I’ve taken everywhere. It requires problem solving and ingenuity that translate to creativity, and I see it as something that opens doors and opportunity!”
In the two years she’s served as a marketing VP, Siemens has “developed technologies and versions of technology at warp speed,” Urdaneta says. Her team of twenty-five, with four supervisors who report to her, tracks and markets forty to fifty technological products, and the menu of new and enhanced products can change every quarter.
“Our customers want to know how all this applies to their businesses, and my engineering background helps me understand the changes and the benefits they offer.”
Urdaneta was born in Cuba and grew up in Venezuela. She learned English as a child when her family moved to Louisiana for two years while her parents got masters degrees at Louisiana State University.
She became fascinated with EE in high school, and completed combined BSEE and MSEE degrees in power systems engineering at Universidad General Rafael Urdaneta in Maracaibo, Venezuela in 1981.
In college she interned for Consultores Occidentales SA, one of the top engineering consulting firms in Venezuela. After graduation she worked there for six years, rising to engineering project manager.
In 1987 the government of Venezuela began to license private companies to do satellite and wireless communications, and Bell South started building a robust cellular network there. Urdaneta and two engineering friends started a group to sell satellite and wireless service. Eventually they also became distributors for Hewlett-Packard’s medical division, selling and servicing defibrillators, ultrasound machines and ICU monitoring equipment.
“That was a very interesting and rewarding experience,” Urdaneta says. But Venezuela began experiencing economic and political upheaval, and in 1994 she and her engineer husband decided to move their young family to Miami, FL. She became marketing and test program manager for Hurst Corp (Miami, FL), which manufactured high-tech hurricane shutters.
In 1997 Urdaneta’s husband moved to a job in Virginia and she found her marketing director job at Siemens Communications. “The company is a household name in Latin America and other parts of the world,” she notes, but not so well known in the U.S. The job appealed to her just because of that interesting challenge.
The Urdaneta children are grown up now, making job-related travel a lot easier for their mom. The boy is at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY), interested in power systems engineering, and the girl is majoring in engineering science and mechanics at Virginia Tech, Urdaneta notes with pride.
Ramnik Kamo is a Lean Six Sigma master black belt at Nortel
Ramnik Kamo has worked for Nortel (Toronto, ON, Canada) for eighteen
years and in a number of roles. He’s worked for the company in India and Raleigh, NC.
“My background includes pre-sales engineering, product management, sales, business development and Lean Six Sigma,” he notes. “I have broadened my horizons while adding value to the company. Basically I’ve broken the mold where people from certain cultures get boxed into a single type of role!”
Kamo says he’s always been a “numbers” person, and always had a fascination with how telecom appliances and devices work. He has a 1994 bachelors degree in engineering from Mysore University (Hossan, India), a 1997 masters diploma in business admin from the Symbiosis Institute of Management Studies (Pune, India) and a 2001 MBA in business finance from Henley Management College (Oxfordshire, England).
When he got his engineering degree in 1994 he went to work as a sales engineer with Nortel in New Delhi, India. The next year he became product manager, then moved on to manager of bid and commercial marketing in the India office.
He became manager of Nortel’s DMS business line in 1997, working on R&D optimization and helping develop offshore R&D capabilities.
Next he moved to Nortel’s Raleigh, NC facility as senior manager of network and business planning, and became a key member and business-planning owner of the incubation team for Nortel’s VoIP product line. In 2000 he became director of market development for transmission/optical and metro Ethernet products.
Next he moved up to leader of technical sales and business development, then leader of account and business development for North America East and Canada. Last year Kamo moved to sales operations, where he worked on Lean Six Sigma projects, completed his own black belt training and led Nortel’s first customer pre-sales Lean Six Sigma project.
This year he advanced to Lean Six Sigma master black belt. He’s working on projects to drive measurable improvements in processes, productivity and customer satisfaction. His work also involves market research in support of new product development, and coaching in the use of Six Sigma tools and methodology.
“I work at the leadership level to guide project deployment, and coach eight to ten project leaders at a time,” he explains. “These project leaders are usually the top talent in their groups.”
Kamo notes that he’s learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. He thinks of his experience as a toolkit of working knowledge of the company, and he’s always available to mentor and coach others.
“I’m pushing myself very hard with Nortel as a training ground for my talents,” he says.
CS grad Sara Carroll manages customer solutions sales for Ericsson
Sara Carroll began her work career at Ericsson’s North American HQ (Plano, TX) in 1994, as soon as she completed her BSCS at the University of Denver (Denver, CO). She started in a “fairly technical” job, and she was ready for it: her engineer father got her into computers at an early age.
“After a couple of years at Ericsson I realized the best opportunities were in management and sales,” Carroll notes. “I planned for a well-rounded career by taking various positions as they were offered. My idea was to stay technical, but develop business technology and marketing skills for an entree into key leadership positions.”
She moved from senior customer support engineer to strategic product manager in 1999. In her new job she sparked the evolution of advanced network services products, and was in charge of technical and strategic management planning.
In 2001 she transferred to tech sales support. The work sometimes meant creating full
end-to-end solutions for strategic new business, always keeping overall profitability in mind. She also acted as liaison between local sales and global product units.
Carroll became customer solutions sales manager in 2002. Now she develops, negotiates and closes new business with existing customers and new partners. She develops creative selling strategies for products and services and she’s involved in all aspects of the government telecom sector.
“I don’t do any hands-on IT work now,” she explains. “My job is to understand the customer’s needs and determine what products best fit them. I travel half my time because my customers are all over the U.S.” In fact, her beat even takes her to Ericsson’s global HQ in Sweden, sometimes bringing along customers to see products being developed for them or meet with engineering and production managers.
Carroll had several mentors along her career path, and now she’s mentoring several women. “I don’t try to find their solutions for them; I ask questions to help them better understand the organization and solve their problems on their own.”
Ericsson was diverse culture-wise when Carroll joined the company fourteen years ago, but has just now caught up with regard to gender, she believes. She says there’s a “pretty good balance” of women in high-tech positions at Ericsson today, and she notes that the company handled her three maternity leaves very well.
Tanya Madan manages network ops for Sprint
As a young girl, Tanya Madan decided she wanted a professional career. In 2000 she completed a BS in electronics and telecom at Cummins College of Engineering at the University of Pune (Pune, India). She came to the U.S. to work on an MS in telecom management at Oklahoma State University, which she completed in 2001.
Then she joined Sprint’s local telecom division in Overland Park, KS as a network translations engineer. She was responsible for solving issues related to DMS-100 switch translation.
In 2003 Madan was chosen for a fast-track job rotation program. She began as a senior network planner in the local division, managing multi-million dollar projects from inception to deployment. The next year she became a supervisor in network services, where she created, led and stabilized a startup service-delivery team that provisioned half a million digital-phone orders annually.
In 2005 she moved to manager of business reporting and analysis. She created and led a team of sixteen analysts interfacing with fifteen cable partners, covering a VoIP customer base of more than two million. She also worked on contract negotiations with a major VoIP provider and advised on an outsourcing initiative which resulted in $10 million in labor savings.
Since last September Madan has managed network ops with a team of local, remote and offshore provisioning specialists, supplying voice and wireless platforms for new and existing cell sites. “We request new towers based on capacity needs,” she explains.
Somewhere along her career path Madan says, she stopped thinking as a manager and began thinking as a leader. “Now I empower my team members and give them confidence to achieve their goals. They go that extra mile knowing that I will support them.”
Madan received the 2006 “rising star” award of National Women in Technology, and several “excellence” awards at Sprint for her performance and leadership. Leadership development programs offered by Sprint have helped her establish connections with co-workers who became her mentors, and she also mentors others.
The telecom field, she says, is growing globally and rapidly. “I’m fascinated by this field.
I’d like to have a role in senior management and be part of the innovative technology that
It seems very likely that she’ll get that chance. Ralph Reid, VP of corporate social responsibility, inclusion and diversity for Sprint, declares that, at Sprint, “We are committed to ensuring that all our employees, regardless of heritage or background, are able to bring their own unique abilities and talents to better serve our diverse customer base.”
Debbie Smith is compliance project manager for SBA Communications
Telecom companies aren’t always doing telecom. They have IT needs of their own, just like most other businesses. Debbie Smith has filled posts in many areas of IT in her more than twenty-five year career.
Since 2004 she’s been IT/Sarbanes-Oxley compliance project manager for SBA Communications (Boca Raton, FL).
She manages projects and works with internal and external auditors to make sure the IT department is compliant with SOX controls. She also audits IT department policies, procedures and day-to-day operations for network ops, application development, financial systems and the helpdesk, and oversees testing of disaster recovery plans and software to ensure SOX compliance.
Smith has actually been headed toward IT management for her whole career. She graduated from Palm Beach Junior College (Boca Raton, FL) in 1981 with an AA in marketing and retail merchandising. That was the year IBM introduced the PC, and Smith soon found a job at the company’s Boca Raton location.
In 1984 she joined the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI, Boca Raton, FL). She was there for sixteen years, working in publication production, tech writing, PC acquisition and configuration and more. She credits NCCI for giving her experience in technical support, team management, software development and, in general, involvement in the technology side of the business.
In 2000 Smith joined Rexall.com (Boca Raton, FL) as IT project manager. And in 2001 she finally met up with SBA Communications as helpdesk manager. “SBA was a small shop then but it was growing. IT was a good fit for me.
“It’s a challenge to be a woman and mother and work in IT, but it’s a good career,” she says. “This company is continuing to grow, and I’d like to stay here as long as they’ll have me!”
At Comcast, Elizabeth Graham is a VP of advanced services
“I’ve thrived on the challenge of not having a technical background. It encourages me to continue to learn and better understand the technology,” declares Elizabeth Graham, VP of advanced services for Comcast’s North Central division (Manchester, NH). Her law degree has given her a unique perspective on the telecom industry, and she enjoys the challenges of working in the field.
Graham received her BA in history and literature from Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) in 1991, followed by a masters in modern history from Oxford University (Oxford, England) in 1992 and then her JD from Harvard Law School in 1995. She went to
work as a corporate attorney, handling mergers and acquisitions, securities and financing transactions at a New York City law firm.
In 1999 Graham joined a predecessor company of Comcast. She started in law and government affairs, eventually overseeing franchise negotiations and license compliance in cable systems across New England.
In 2005 she moved to her position as a VP of advanced services in Comcast’s North Central division. Now she oversees major cross-functional initiatives like new product rollouts, process improvements and product enhancements, leading a fifteen-person team. She was drawn to this role by the rapid pace of change and innovation, she says.
“Ever since my first day in the cable industry I began to see the transformation that cable system upgrades were bringing to the communities we serve. It was a fascinating time, literally offering consumers the opportunity to change the way they communicate and connecting them to what’s important in their lives,” says Graham.
“I had to develop a thorough understanding of components relating to system upgrades, from cutovers to consumer benefits. And I had to do it virtually overnight, so I could effectively communicate with local community leaders about the upgrades.
“I truly enjoyed watching the network enter the twenty-first century right before my eyes, moving from video-only to today’s IP-based, advanced fiber network.”
Throughout her career, mentors challenged her to reach for new opportunities. Now she’s a mentor herself.
“For several years I have participated in the Women in Cable and Telecommunications mentoring program for women in the cable industry. I get a chance to share my experiences and insights with women just starting in the industry.”
For two years, Graham has sponsored an Emma Bowen Foundation college intern in her department, and she volunteers to help teach science to public-school girls in an
Graham wants to get closer to developing Comcast’s next generation of products and services. “I have the advantage of having a strong network of senior women in technology in Comcast’s North Central division, which makes it easier to be a female leader in the field,” she explains.
Her role is expanding now as a result of a Comcast division realignment, which added Illinois, Indiana and Michigan to her responsibilities.
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