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December 2011/January 2012

Diversity/Careers December 2011/January 2012 Issue




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Managing

Dimitrius Weddington manages server architecture at Cox

His many responsibilities at the cable entertainment and broadband services provider focus on statewide uses of key IT infrastructure capabilities


Dimitrius Weddington is manager of server architecture and support staff for cable entertainment and broadband services provider Cox Communications (Atlanta, GA). Working in the company's Phoenix, AZ office, he handles multifaceted responsibilities, focused on corporate and statewide uses of key IT infrastructure capabilities.

One of his team's accomplishments is a national solution that lets techies work from home using their own computers and other equipment. This is a lifesaver in Phoenix, for example. It's a very geographically dispersed area with Cox HQ at the northern end of the city. "My own commute is fifty miles one way," Weddington notes dryly.

"So if we insist that our employees be in the office physically, we're limiting our potential employee population to mostly northern Phoenix residents. But if people can work from home using their own equipment, we can recruit from any part of the metropolitan area, and we broaden our employee base without having to provide them with a computer or any special equipment.

"It's a win-win," he believes. "Since we don't have room for our entire employee population on campus anyway, there are real estate savings as well. We lower our costs on the corporate side while making our employees happier."

The strategy has national implications for Cox, he notes. "We are seeing other offices, like those in Virginia and California, start to do the same."

Another facet of Weddington's work involves the Cox Media Group division. "This group sells ad space on our cable systems. Sometimes we produce the ads and other times third parties produce them; either way our staff is responsible for seeing that the applications and infrastructure necessary to make that happen at a national level are working."

Arizona is a major client
His team is also responsible for the state of Arizona itself. "We are effectively the IT hub for the state of Arizona," Weddington explains. "Cox has 21,000 miles of capability in the ground including fiber optics and coaxial cables. We provide all traditional IT services like file storage space, applications and database servers. Cox is the first system to be fully integrated into a state."

Staff of seven
Weddington has a staff of seven people who report to him directly; one of them works remotely. "One person supports the state of Arizona, another is responsible for servers and storage infrastructure and another takes care of our server virtualization layer which, among other tasks, puts operating systems on machines."

Another is responsible for remote worker apps and solutions, one handles the Cox Media line of business and one is responsible for telephony tech at the Cox call center. "When a customer calls a company and hears that the 'call may be recorded,' our group handles that capability on lines provided by Cox," Weddington notes.

The seventh person is responsible for the company's application delivery system. "When you access a website like www.cox.com you aren't logging directly onto a Cox Web server. Your request is handled by networking technology that routes the request where it needs to go," depending on what the user is trying to do, he explains

"Fair and approachable"
Weddington believes his management style is fair and approachable. "I really try to establish an open dialogue with my staff," he says. "I constantly challenge them with new ideas and thoughts, but seek their input as well."

Weddington joined Cox in 2010, and when he got there, he says, some people on his staff were surprised at his level of technical knowledge. Of course they didn't know that his resume includes twelve years at Intel Corp (Santa Clara, CA). But he can understand their attitude. "Their previous managers and leaders were not technical pros, and that's what they were used to." That is also the rationale for some of the changes that brought a techie like Weddington to Cox in 2010.

To Intel and beyond
When Weddington graduated from college in 1996 he went to work for Intel. "Intel made the microprocessors for Blackberry but they sold that business to a company called Marvell Semiconductor (Santa Clara, CA) in 2006. Marvell isn't a household name but they own eighty percent of the market for the controllers of all hard drives. They're a big player that you don't know about because they are an embedded product."

When the product moved to Marvell, Weddington went along with it. But when Marvell reduced its workforce Weddington rejoined Intel in 2008 for one more year.

By the end of 2009 it was time for some soul searching: "Am I okay to stay where I am and have a slow but steady progression career-wise, or do I want to branch out and see if there are opportunities where I can grow faster?"

He responded to an online job posting by Cox. He had his first interview on a Friday, the second on Monday and got a job offer the next Friday, just a week after the first meeting.

Growing up
Weddington was born and raised in Chicago, IL. "Education was absolutely stressed in our house," he says. "I had an extremely fortunate upbringing because my mother was a white-collar worker, an administrative assistant to congressmen and local government leaders. My father was an electrician, a blue-collar guy."

During the summer he went to work with both of them at various times. "My dad worked at the Chicago Housing Authority, 'the projects,' but when I was with my mother I would be introduced to state congressmen and other executives."

He had an even more important introduction: "I saw my first data center, although they weren't called that at the time. Mom introduced me to a computer operator who showed me Lotus 1-2-3 and I was mystified and deeply attracted."

History-making family
Beyond interesting careers, Weddington's family gave him exposure to important phases of black history. Both his parents are from Mississippi, where his mother's family was influential in the civil rights movement of the 1960's. "My mom is from Greenwood, MS, where Stokely Carmichael created the phrase 'Black Power,'" he says. "At one point Dr King had to go and get my mother and aunt out of jail."

His aunt is the late June Johnson, who was a figure in the Mississippi civil rights movement. As a fifteen- year-old in 1963 she was an original member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, beaten and jailed by state troopers in what has been described as one of the most savage incidents in the civil rights movement.

College days
Weddington attended the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI) where he completed his BSEE in 1996. "I chose Michigan because they offered more money than Illinois, and I chose EE because my dad was an electrician and that's what I was used to."

He began college with the Professionals Training Program, a summer program for incoming minority engineering students. "Not only did we do things academically but we also got information about how to dress professionally, how to talk, how to engage, and how to be a professional. Early in college that's incredibly important."

Approaching graduation, Weddington was offered an Intel summer internship, but parlayed it into the year-long co-op that launched his career. "I had a lot of other good opportunities at school, too," he notes. "I met Dr Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut, and Charles Bolden, NASA's current administrator."

Today & tomorrow
Weddington is involved with the IT Senior Management Forum (ITSMF, Atlanta, GA). "Currently I'm part of what they call the Management Academy that will give us tools and skills to grow professionally," he says. The goal is to fill the pipeline for African American IT execs.

What's next? "Educationally, I want to get an MBA," says Weddington. "MBAs are about exposure to other areas like law, finance, accounting and governance: new thoughts and ideas.

"Professionally, my next major step would be to move to a director level, the first layer of executive management. Through ITSMF, I'm fortunate to have a mentor who is a former CIO and can tell me about it. ITSMF has no other agenda than to give you feedback to make you better, with no corporate politics involved."

As Weddington sees it: "I've had a very blessed life, without knowing at the time that I was being blessed."

D/C



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