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Engineering-Wise - Cable Transformed

Mon, 01/31/2011 - 7:15pm
Mark Dzuban, President and CEO of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers

We’re in a race with technological change.

That was some flood of announcements that came out of Las Vegas last month. Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Samsung teaming up to stream live TV. New devices from Cisco and Motorola. More relationships for streaming cable content directly to Sony TVs, Apple iPads and Android-based devices. Should the “C” in CES suddenly stand for “cable and consumer”?

Mark DzubanReports of our industry’s death at the hands of “cord-cutting” are greatly exaggerated. With each new agreement, cable is adapting and changing and growing and increasing its ability to remain a premier provider of the next generation of entertainment technologies.

It’s a time of transformation for our industry. The delivery of IP-based content to any device in the home is helping us to revolutionize the way our customers view the in-home experience and the companies that provide it. We’re pushing our networks to new limits, increasing our competitive edge and positioning cable for the future.

If that sounds a little like the SCTE gospel we’ve been preaching, that’s no coincidence. Over the past two years, our job has been to reshape the SCTE to prepare cable for the changes that are now on our doorstep. We’ve spent considerable time listening to our members, building an organization and program that meets their needs, and being understandably proud when the results of our activities meet or exceed expectations.

The SCTE wears many hats for our industry. We’re a driver of technology innovation, the hub of the industry’s standards efforts, the exchange where problems and problem solvers come together, and more. But over and above anything else, SCTE is about the education that is needed to make the implementation of new technologies as smooth as possible.

Learning is hardly a one-way street. One of the things we’re trying to do more of is to reach out to membership to identify needs. What we’ve learned over the past year, in particular, is helping us to build a comprehensive portfolio of vehicles that can expedite the transfer of knowledge at every level of the technology workforce.

For SCTE, 2010 was a pivotal year for the development of educational resources. Under the guidance of our new CTO, Daniel Howard, the Professional Development team of Pam Nobles, Steve Harris and Susan Parno is building a wealth of resources for everything from bite-size “tech facts” to full-course informational meals. There are a few data points that can give you insight into our approach and how it is being embraced by the industry. First, our staff has spent more time interacting directly with members at the chapter level than ever before. Second, even in the tough economic environment of 2010, our membership was up appreciably. And finally, our 2011 events – including the Canadian Summit next month, the SCTE Leadership Institute with Tuck at Dartmouth, and as far away as Cable-Tec Expo this fall – are meeting or exceeding expectations.

We could hire a research firm to study the trend, but I’m a guy who often sees things in black and white. Here’s the Dzuban’s-eye view of the situation: No matter how much knowledge we make available, there always seems to be an appetite for greater understanding of how we can get more from our networks.

At SCTE, we’ve got a few goals for 2011. One is to work with the operator, vendor and programmer communities to drive the creation of content that can help the industry at large. Whether it’s the migration of IPv6, the impact of IPTV or the technical requirements of 3-D – to name a few topics – we need to help our constituents understand what is waiting around the corner.

The other key PD goal for the coming year is simply to increase the accessibility of our existing and new products. It’s analogous to being a car dealer: The critical moment is when the customer takes the car out on the open road for a test drive. While our products don’t have quite the sizzle of a Porsche, the equation is the same: When we give our customers hands-on experience with new learning tools, it can be a transforming experience.

We’re asking ourselves the tough questions. Are we meeting our objectives? Are our products meeting the needs of the industry? How can we improve our products and how we offer them? What can we do to help the mobile workforce? How do we communicate to the millennials who are joining our ranks?

We’ve got a lot on our plate. In our meetings with chief learning officers, we’re promising to deliver plenty in the first half of 2011 alone. Online courses. Training manuals and programs. A “Cable 101” course. Courses on the “Impact of going all digital” and “Fundamentals of IP networking.” Certification prep.

It’s a lot of ground to cover, but we’re moving quickly to get it done. As CES demonstrated, we’re in a race with technological change. At SCTE, it’s our job to give our members and the industry the training they need to emerge as the winners.

E-Mail: mdzuban@scte.org

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