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Engineering-Wise - Putting lessons learned to work

Tue, 09/04/2012 - 10:15pm
Mark Dzuban, president and CEO of the SCTE

I will see you in Orlando!

SCTE's Mark DzubanYou have to work pretty hard to make a connection between yard work and SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, but that’s what I was doing this summer. Shawn and I moved into a new – more on that in a minute – home earlier this year, and the last several months have been spent transitioning from chaos to order.

Our “new” house is a converted barn built by Col. Thomas Bull. He managed an iron furnace that supplied George Washington’s troops with cannons and cannon balls. Shawn’s domestic instincts and some well-placed technology improvements quickly turned the house into a home, but the property – untouched in some places for more than a century – was another matter.

Naturally, we’ve done what any good cable engineer would do: clear away clutter that hinders performance, optimize the value of key elements and create a streamlined architecture that increases user satisfaction. And it was somewhere between the wild roses and the poison ivy (trust me, there was plenty!) that I realized that there were lessons learned in the landscaping that could be applied to SCTE Cable-Tec Expo.

First, a word or two on Expo, if you’ll indulge me. In recent weeks, the SCTE team and the Expo Program Committee have intensified their sprint toward the third week of October. Expo this year will be held Oct. 17-19, following a pre-conference Digital Home Symposium and selected pre-conference workshops Oct. 16. All events will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

Once again, our Program Committee – led this year by Jim Ludington of Time Warner Cable – has outdone itself. We’ll be inspired by experts in innovation and leadership. Our opening panels will discuss the need to build a more diverse workforce, as well as the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for the Tier 2/3 operators. And we’ll have a record-setting number of technical workshops and associated sessions.

The show floor, a magnet for cable engineering and operations professionals at every level, will be alive with technology and innovations that can help us to optimize existing services and deploy new ones. Pavilions will showcase products and solutions in two areas that are key to the future success of cable: the delivery of digital video content and services and smart energy management.

So what’s the connection between a pre-industrial barn and a cutting-edge technology conference?

Here are some thoughts that struck me as I was removing underbrush, chainsawing felled trees and re-engineering our landscaping over the summer:

  • There’s no substitute for keeping current – Whether it’s clearing thickets of overgrowth, keeping a sharp eye on network performance, or simply staying abreast of the new techniques and technologies that will be discussed and shown at Expo, a proactive approach is critical to the continuous delivery of high-level products.
  • Have a plan of action, but be ready to ad lib – Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensible.” To get the best return on our time investment – in clearing the land, developing our networks, or making the most of Expo’s educational sessions and exhibits – it’s important to map out objectives and strategies beforehand. At the same time, we need to be prepared to adjust when faced with obstacles or delays.
  • Capitalize on unexpected opportunities – Whether you’ve discovered a neglected landscape feature in the underbrush or you’ve found yourself sharing the elevator with a key contact, you have a unique opportunity to achieve better results than you’d originally anticipated.
  • Take the time to do it right – “Do-overs” in the yard – and even in our networks – are often possible, but given the choice between a cold beer after work and putting in overtime to correct a mistake, I’ll take the former every time. A missed opportunity at Expo or failure to take advantage of all that the show has to offer often can’t be corrected for another year.
  • Take time to mentor, learn from and bond with your peers – One of the greatest benefits of the summer gone by was the opportunity to work directly with my youngest, Ashley. He and I teamed up to tackle the most labor-intensive projects, giving new dimensions to our father-son relationship and enabling me to pass on things I’d learned from my own dad. Whether you’re a cable veteran or an industry novice, one of the best things you can do at Expo is participate in the peer-to-peer transfer of knowledge that can make all of us better.

As you might expect after years of neglect, the transformation of our property is not complete, but we’re well on our way to making it what we want it to be and are continuing to make improvements. In the same way, SCTE Cable-Tec Expo is only part of the process in the advancement of our careers. Long-term success is dependent in part on putting the lessons learned to work, implementing new technologies that can power new market opportunities, and continuing to capitalize on educational programs from SCTE and other industry sources.

I look forward to seeing you in Orlando!

Email: mdzuban@scte.org

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