Networks are designed by people.

SCTE's Mark DzubanWe spend a lot of time in this column talking about the products, the solutions and the innovations that will move cable forward. We’ve discussed standards, energy management, capacity management, and other issues and approaches that are helping cable to maintain its competitive edge.

What I’d like to speak about this month is the very foundation of our success. While DOCSIS 3.0, the transition to IP networks and multi-platform content delivery capture the imagination, it is the members of the cable workforce who make a difference to the industry and its customers.

Cable’s engineering, operations and support professionals are the links between two diverse constituencies: customers who rarely know what’s under the hood of their cable bundle and executive teams who are responsible for planning the evolution of the networks of today to deliver the services of tomorrow.

Day in and day out, cable technicians are on the front lines of issues that are fundamental to the industry. Whether they’re walking first-time high-speed data subscribers through the intricacies of their connections, implementing new technologies in the field or are immersed in planning discussions with senior management, engineers play a significant role in shaping the services and the relationships that bond cable with the subscriber.

At SCTE, our job is to help cable's workforce to be the best that they can be. We’ve placed tremendous emphasis on the tools, the training and other programs that have been designed to advance the transfer of knowledge that is essential to ensuring the ongoing development of the industry.

Technical training is only part of the picture, however. It’s essential that we also ensure that cable professionals have access to the communications, leadership and presentation skills that can help them enhance their value to their customers, their employers and themselves.

I speak from experience: As a teenager, I was nudged into extracurricular speech and drama activities by the faculty and staff at Edison High School in New Jersey. The lessons I learned from Susan Tomlin – now Susan Sarandon – and the other members of the program paid huge dividends for me when I became involved with cable franchising and planning activities for cable system operators.

In the years since, I’ve been fortunate to have worked for companies that have placed great importance on training. I’d like to think that those emphases have increased my ability to lead successful exchanges of ideas and plans and have materially benefitted the companies with which I’ve been associated.

Over the past three years, my team at SCTE has worked diligently to create programs that are designed to yield similar results for engineering and operations professionals and their employers. Working with well-regarded institutions – the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and the Georgia Tech College of Management and Fort Hays State University – we’ve created opportunities for representatives of cable system operators, programmers and vendors to enhance their management, communications and leadership abilities in collaborative settings.

At the same time, we’re developing additional relationships that are designed to advance the careers of field engineers and network technicians. Among them: We’re finalizing plans that will enable SCTE members to earn college credit for SCTE certifications as part of a broader curriculum that’s intended to provide them with tools that will help them move forward in their careers. And additional resources are on the horizon, as well.

So as we move into the second half of another year, here are some action items for the months ahead:

  • First, make sure that your good ideas bubble to the surface. The most successful people in our industry are the ones who take risks and learn what’s right from what went wrong. Good ideas sometimes take some time to rise to the top, but they’re usually worth the wait.
  • Work with your management team to take advantage of existing programs that enable you to advance your career. Whether it’s our SCTE-Tuck and SCTE-Georgia Tech programs at the higher levels, attending SCTE Cable-Tec Expo this October, SCTE Chapter meetings, or a completely separate activity, it’s in their interest – and yours – to increase your knowledge so that you can succeed together.
  • And, finally, find ways to practice your presentation skills. Nobody knows the nuts and bolts of cable better than the technicians who spend every day immersed in our networks. Mastering the art of communication can help you to sell ideas within your company, and it can also help you to make those all-important connections with your customers.

As I said at the beginning, we spend a lot of time talking about products, solutions and innovations, but in the end, technology is just a tool that our workforce uses. Cable networks are designed by people, for people. We’re blessed with an abundance of good folks in this industry. Our ability to make them better will pay dividends for cable in general, and for our customers.