Suddenlink CTO Terry Cordova was elected chairman of the SCTE Board of Directors at the end of 2013. We recently caught up with him for a Q&A.
CED: What technology and business challenges can SCTE best solve?
TC: With our chapter leaders last month, I talked about the inflection point happening in our industry – a large push on new residential and commercial products. Much of this push takes advantage of new business opportunities while some is a reaction to competitive pressures from Verizon FiOS, AT&T GigaPower, Google and OTT providers. Competitors like Google give the impression they’re turning up 1-Gig data everywhere, when actually it’s a very limited rollout. That impression, however, requires all of us, operators and vendors, to think through our product and equipment roadmap and strategy.
At the same time, we must be attuned to customer satisfaction. We have large, complex networks that have evolved from stand-alone systems to centralized platforms riding on highly capable, efficient networks. Customers have high expectations that we must meet and exceed.
The question becomes, how do I scale my business and ensure my people stay current on technology? How do I innovate faster, and quickly train technicians and engineers? SCTE is perfectly situated to answer these needs, augment existing programs, and help deliver on our customers’ expectations. SCTE’s 70 U.S. and Canadian chapters create perfect environments for field people to learn, collaborate and get a sense of belonging to something beyond doing their day-to-day jobs.
CED: How might SCTE expand/evolve/grow to meet some of those challenges?
TC: It’s a combined effort. Our standards program identifies mission critical areas to achieve growth. Our new Corporate Alliance Program enables operators to influence training programs and content to help MSO and vendor communities augment their needs.
I think the biggest challenge SCTE addresses is helping operators build and maintain a well-trained workforce, providing the skills needed for today’s services, as well as offering career paths and training to deliver new services down the road.
As operators, we can turn up a new service every month. It’s the delivery and support elements that are the biggest challenges – training and preparing people to install and support these services – that are keys to success. Good training and certification programs give employees a sense of confidence.
Yes, there’s a risk of employees “jumping ship,” taking all their new credentials with them, but that is a risk I’m willing to take. Hopefully, our efforts to train and provide them opportunities to get SCTE certifications will show them how much we value them and encourage them to stay.
CED: What plans does SCTE have to increase engineering fluency?
TC: Together, our Corporate Alliance Program and existing chapter model strengthen our ability to create and scale new training and certification. I’ll take a page from Suddenlink’s own playbook to show you how SCTE resources can fit into a corporate plan.
We lay out career paths our technicians can follow to self-progress through the first severaltechnical ranks with self-initiated training and certification, allowing them to make more money and position themselves for larger roles in the company as positions become available. This approach also creates opportunities for recognition and the possibility of selection for leadership training in programs like SCTE-Georgia Tech and SCTE-Tuck. We’ve also encouraged our management personnel to become SCTE certified, as well, so they stay current with new technology and terminology.
In the longer term, I think we also need to be looking at how to train and certify customer-care personnel. The better understanding they have of our networks, the better they can represent us in their dealings with our customers.
CED: SCTE has helped to expand diversity. Is there more work to be done?
TC: I think we all recognize that we need a more diverse workforce, especially as our hiring needs move beyond simply fieldbased positions to application and software developers and to routing and switching experts. We’ve really strengthened our relationship with WICT, and through the SCTE Foundation are making more dollars available for women and minorities to pursue careers in technology with a hope that they consider pursuing technology positions in our industry.
CED: Where does the SCTE go next?
TC: As I said earlier, we’re at an inflection point, and we’re upping our game. We’ve got to. Think of all we can deliver – multi-room DVR, Wi-Fi in the home, Wi-Fi hotspots, home automation and security services, fiberto- the-home, 1-Gig data services, IP content delivery, multi-screen viewing and more.
While the beauty is they’re all delivered over one network, the challenge is there’s one tech who is supposed to install all of them and one call center agent who’s supposed to support them. Our teams need to have the skills to solve these problems efficiently and communicate clearly and succinctly with customers, whether explaining the work they’ve done or how to use newly installed services.