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Engineering-Wise - Fasten your seat belts

Mon, 05/31/2010 - 8:15pm
Mark Dzuban President and CEO of the SCTE

Mark DzubanWhen I was a kid, there was never a dull moment when my father was around. He was an engineer by trade who believed that you need to be passionate about what you do for a living. Was he ever!

As a kid, I lived and breathed working in the basement workshop with him. Whether it was etching our own circuit boards, building transmitters with war surplus parts or creating rocket engines out of stove pipe in the backyard – true story – my father was always up for a project that involved good ideas, the skill to make them work and the desire to do what was necessary to improve them.

Decades later, my father’s training is still paying off. There’s not as much time for circuit boards these days, and the neighbors frown on V-1 rocket engines mounted to picnic tables, but the concept of getting a project to perform well is paramount.

Offhand, I can’t think of a better example than the expansionary philosophy we’ve embraced at the SCTE. Over the past year, I’ve grappled with a challenge that’s been greater than anything my father ever threw at me: How to take an organization that has been a strong contributor to the cable industry over the years and make it even better.

I’ve been a great admirer of the SCTE throughout my career. As an equipment manufacturer, a cable operator and an active participant in the deployment of new technologies, I’ve appreciated how the SCTE’s standards processes and training programs can make our industry better. Also impressive has been the ability of the SCTE to maintain its grassroots feel and the camaraderie and information sharing among its members.

My challenge – really a tremendous opportunity – has been to build on the attributes that have made the SCTE so important to the industry, and to create an organization that is innovative and has a vision of the future needs. This is critical to building a value proposition that can attract and retain members in a sustainable business.

I’m fond of reminding folks to fasten their safety belts, and that’s certainly been the case in recent months. We lit the rocket before Cable-Tec Expo last year, and since then we’ve been whizzing past objectives. For the SCTE, the milestones have included: an enhanced relationship with the NCTA, CableLabs, CTAM and The Cable Center; also, energy management leadership, outreach to programmers, new educational tools and job aids, as well as conducting a CTO search to build notable engineering depth of knowledge at the SCTE.

When you’re riding the rocket, sometimes you’re just hoping that you’re headed in the right direction, but our guidance system is more reliable than that. Everything we’ve done has been part of a high-octane fuel mix that’s a combination of board of directors’ input, the CTO advisory council and lots of member feedback. So with seat belts snapped in, here is a status report:

• Our relationships with the NCTA and CableLabs are stronger and more clearly defined than ever. Between the innovation of CableLabs, the policy expertise of the NCTA and our own strengths in applied science, we have covered many bases. If you attended any of the Spring Technical Forum sessions in Los Angeles last month, you know that the SCTE is driving the discussion of the issues that are shaping the industry’s future.

• Our Smart Energy Management Initiative has become a rocket of its own. Since we first brought up the issue with the Green Pavilion at Cable-Tec Expo last year, energy management has been a hot discussion topic. This is a new area where education can provide real, quantifiable results for our industry. We’ve barely scratched the surface, but already we’re seeing great value.

• For the SCTE to be a leading technical organization, we need a CTO. We’re hiring a well-regarded technologist who can interact on a peer level with the CTOs to the front-liners. It’s part of what my friends at TWC call “suits to boots” – meeting the needs of engineers and operations personnel from the field level to the corporate office.

• We also need to involve content providers in our processes. Many of the standards that our committees work hard to create – SCTE 130 is a great example – have a direct effect on how content providers do their business and generate revenue. We’re trying to do a better job of explaining to programmers why they should be at the table when standards are created. HBO and TBS just came aboard, so maybe we’re succeeding.

There are other developments in the works, but we only have 850 words here. In the months ahead, we’ll be using this space to discuss some of the issues that are critical to our industry and the initiatives the SCTE is undertaking to address them. Network operations. Educational and mentoring programs. And running efficient networks through our leadership in energy management.

They’re all part of our mission to expand the SCTE’s contributions to the industry. To carve a leadership position for the organization in applied sciences and the business of engineering. And to do it while preserving the core values that historically have been the backbone of the SCTE’s strength.

I’m just sorry my father can’t be along for the ride.

mdzuban@scte.org

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