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Engineering Wise - No Cable Tech Left Behind

Fri, 12/31/2010 - 7:15pm
Mark Dzuban, President and CEO of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers

Tuck is the right program at the right time.

When we announced our SCTE Leadership Institute program at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business late last year, there were a couple of things that struck me: First, that this is the right program at the right time for the future of our industry, and second, that cable technologists have made remarkable strides over the past six decades.

Mark DzubanConsider the evolution: In less than a lifetime, we’ve seen cable technology go from simply an idea to a single-purpose solution for better, clearer television to highly complex architectures for the delivery of comprehensive telecommunications services that impact every aspect of our customers’ lives.

We’ve come a long way since my pre-teen days, when I helped my father build amplifiers in the basement of our home for Bark Lee Yee’s Twin County system. As cable services have become more critical, the grassroots innovation that characterized cable’s infancy has been replaced by sophisticated network planning, engineering and implementation.

While the mission for cable technologists fundamentally remains the same – to identify problems and opportunities and to enable new services that will enrich people’s lives – their impact on the industry has grown dramatically. It’s been estimated that technology professionals today are responsible for creating and managing more than 50 percent of capital and operating budgets.

To be sure, field engineering skills remain on the front lines of our relationships with consumers. But more and more, operators, programmers and vendors alike are seeing a need for new training programs that prepare today’s executives for the implementation of new technologies and that prepare the promising engineers of today to be the leaders of tomorrow.

Let’s face it: Most of us in the engineering and operations workforces have the technical prowess that we need to positively affect our companies’ bottom lines. But the increasing demands on our networks are creating demand for a new breed of technologist who’s equally prepared for the climb ahead – whether it’s up a pole or up the corporate ladder.

In this new business environment, there’s a need for individuals who can ask and answer tough questions and build the consensus we’ll need to deploy new technologies and move the industry forward. What’s on the horizon? Can our networks support it? What’s the long-term impact on our networks? Does it make good business sense? How do we align the physical and human resources that we need to succeed?

The SCTE Leadership Institute at Dartmouth (apply at http://www.scte.org/tuck) doesn’t have the answers to those questions, but it can help participants find them. Together with the faculty at the world-renowned Tuck School of Business, we’ve put together an immersive educational experience that is intended to foster the communications, leadership, business, operations and critical thinking skills that can help operator, programmer and vendor attendees to anticipate and manage the changes that are ahead for our industry.

The April 26-30 program is truly a team effort: While the heavy lifting of creating and teaching is being done by the Tuck faculty, the curriculum has been influenced by senior executives in the industry. I’m particularly grateful to Glenn Britt, an alumnus of Dartmouth College and the Tuck School of Business, and Mike LaJoie at Time Warner Cable, who have made commitments to serve as guest presenters.

Applicants are advised to bring finely tuned vocal chords and a willingness to share opinions. We’ll have five days of dawn-to-dusk discussion in such courses as: “Connecting strategic vision to implementation,” “How to build the right team,” “The art of effective decision-making,” “Aligning the supply chain” and “Building an integrated broadband operations strategy.” Plus more conversation each night at dinners that are intended to promote exchanges of ideas among peers.

We’ll also have courses that are designed to help executives avoid the potholes on the road to success. “First to market, first to fail?” discusses the process of developing radical consumer innovation, including the pros and cons of early vs. late entry into new product markets. And “Why smart executives fail” will take a frank look at how companies and leaders stumble and will help attendees to develop ideas and systems that can help them avoid similar mistakes.

It sounds like a lot of ground to cover, and maybe it is. But with the rapid shifts in the communications landscape, the need is greater than ever for training that can raise the level of cable’s game.

In the months ahead, you’ll see an assortment of additional programs that are geared to every level of SCTE’s “boots to suits” constituency: More LiveLearning webinars and “Virtual Classroom” events. New programs at the SCTE Cable College at RIT. And associations with other institutions of higher learning.

I opened this column with a look back at the accomplishments of the past 60 years. With the development of programs like the SCTE Leadership Institute with Tuck at Dartmouth, I’m confident that our industry can benefit from even greater technological achievements in the decades ahead.

E-Mail: mdzuban@scte.org

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