Dzuban is cobbling together a plan for SCTE’s future

Mon, 03/02/2009 - 8:00am
Mike Robuck

Mark Dzuban has one month under his belt as the new president and CEO of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE), which was plenty of time for him to start formulating a game plan.

Mark Dzuban

Dzuban is drawing upon his 41 years in the cable industry, including stints as a pole climber, bucket operator and vendor employee, as well as jobs at both Bell Labs and AT&T, to define his plan. He is also leaning on the membership of the SCTE and other cable organizations, such as CableLabs and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), to define not only what works best now for the cable industry, but also down the road.

“We’re in a situation right now where the marketplace has become sophisticated from a technology standpoint,” he said. “My intent is to get ahead of the ball on these much more sophisticated networks and broaden the stroke from traditional nuts and bolts engineering to engineering that covers engineering economics.

“How do you select and manage very large, very complex networks? How do you wisely spend the precious capital that we have on new technology? You can’t do it twice if it doesn’t work the first time.”

Dzuban said one example of a broader stroke was creating efficient relationships in peering. With standards for peering in place, cable operators would be able to have more efficient networks while driving down costs.

Dzuban describes himself as “very mission focused,” and he has a long history of being able to turn concepts, such as drawing up an early schematic for telephony over hybrid fiber/coax (HFC), into tangible technologies that have benefited both service providers and consumers.

The second leg of Dzuban’s plan after engineering economics is operations, which includes the continuation of the “bread-and-butter systems” in place today, as well as preparing for the operation of the next wave of technology.

“We have the engineering economics, the operations science piece, and I also want to focus on the kind of tools we need to get there,” he said. “I want to build alliances. I’ve been to see [CableLabs CEO] Dick Green and my friends at CableLabs, and I’m going to do the same thing with the NCTA and CTAM. We’re all aligned to the value of SCTE, but what role can we play together?

“What is important to me is that while I certainly want to push the barriers of SCTE relative to the needs of the business, I don’t want to be self-limiting. There are a lot of areas that I want to make sure that I run by the constituents. I have a lot of respect for the history, but also a lot of respect for the need to develop the resources and skills for new technologies that haven’t been deployed before.”

Dzuban said he put a formula together with CableLabs, whereby the SCTE is the “arms and legs” for execution and best practices when it comes to education and developing the expertise that will be needed to operate the new, complex networks.

“You have the immediate needs of the existing organization that says, ‘Here’s where we’re operating today, and we have great assets to help the existing operation, but let’s look out over time to see how we can plan for the next wave of technology,’” Dzuban said. “I’ll be putting together a three-year-plus plan over the next few months on how we turn these visions into definitive action items.”

Dzuban cited wireless components and technologies such as IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) as examples of how strategic networks could evolve in existing cable networks.

Dzuban and the SCTE are also looking at additional forums to shows and conferences, such as the SCTE’s Cable-Tec Expo and Emerging Technologies, as a means of bringing vendors, operators and organizations together to define the needed tools and technologies.

Another area of immediate focus for Dzuban is the SCTE Foundation, which helps members further their educational goals through seminars, conferences and certification.

“The Foundation is important to us because it’s an organization that really supports some of the fiber of our institution,” he said. “You’ll hear more about it as we put together a program in the next month or two for a pretty aggressive and very sensible approach to fundraising in order to really accelerate what we can do that is meaningful and impacting for the folks who support SCTE and the membership.”

Dzuban spent his first day on the job flying to the SCTE Canadian Summit in Toronto on Feb. 2. While his first month has been a whirlwind of activity, he seems to be enjoying his new role after leaving Cedar Point Communications.

“It’s an honor for me to have been selected to do this job because this is one of those jobs that when you’re a kid, you think about,” he said. “I’m deeply indebted to the folks that elected me because this is something I’ve always wanted to do. Now I have the opportunity to bring what I believe is the asset of forward-looking thinking, and some other things that I think we can do, to help bring the Society to the next level.”

Explosive engineering
Watch those toes if you happen to visit Mark Dzuban’s SCTE office in Exton, Pa.; you might just stub them on one of the cannonballs in his office.

Currently, Dzuban has a cannonball from the Civil War battle of Vicksburg, a naval cannonball from the Revolutionary War and a grape shot from the Civil War in his office.

“You better be undercover when you come here; you don’t want a cannonball going over your head,” joked Deb Swann, the SCTE’s vice president of marketing and business development.

Dzuban has a passion for not only cannonballs, but also ballistics and “anything that blows up,” including historic ammunition.

“Ballistics is a form of engineering around powder, projectiles and launchers,” he said. “The science and history of that has always been very interesting to me.”

Like his varied background, Dzuban has a broad palette for hobbies, as well. He also collects Geiger counters, which dates back to the radiological monitoring class he took while living near the Oyster Creek power plant in New Jersey, as well as Korean War memorabilia from his time serving in the Army in the dematerialized zone (DMZ).

“It was made very clear to me that while my post looked into North Korea, this was a cease fire and not an armistice,” he said. “I was very bright-eyed and bushy-tailed throughout my tour of the DMZ.”

As was the case for many early cable operator employees, Dzuban also has a background in radio frequency (RF) applications, and he’s also a ham radio operator. Dzuban is hoping to honor the RF and ham radio operator elements of the SCTE’s membership during its 40th-anniversary celebration this year.

Dzuban also collects stamps and coins, and he went to high school with actress Susan Sarandon.

“She was actually my coach because I was the introvert in our speech and drama course in high school,” he said.


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