Industry veteran Mark Dzuban has been at work on his latest challenge--running the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers--for the last 18 months, during which time he's taken steps to refocus the organization by working more closely with trade groups like NCTA and industry standards bodies and by getting out ahead of the training needed by field personnel to deal with emerging technology trends.
FierceCable grabbed Dzuban to get a little insight into his priorities for the organization, where he thinks he's making progress and where he wishes he could do more.
FierceCable: OK, you've been there a year and a half. What do you like, what don't you like?
Mark Dzuban: I'm not completely satisfied with what we are but some things take time. While building a foundation is important, you can't build it on sand; you need to build it on granite. At the same time, I'm very conscious about the fiscal responsibility and what we need to grow to.
FC: You've said that you have a five-year plan. What are some of the elements?
MD: One is the energy management forum, making an impact on whatever savings we can on the $1 billion to $1.2 billion in (cable) energy consumption over the next five years. We're going to launch an operations forum at the end of this year for net operations like SLAs, business services, capacity management, disaster recovery, workforce protection and net mobility products. We'll also develop reference material to support remedial education for increasing the field's technological skills. I'm walking into a budget season now that's going to start to flesh out what we can do and how much additional revenue we can generate.
FC: Drilling down a little bit, SCTE has always been the industry's teacher in getting field personnel up to speed on the latest technologies. Isn't this becoming more difficult with as fast as the industry is advancing and what can you do about it?
MD: Virtual training. We have 13,000 members and maybe 350 or so vendors and we've seen a significant improvement in the turnout for virtual training. There's a lot of push on our part to create the kind of content that's going to get ahead of rollouts.
FC: Ahead of the rollouts? How can you develop materials to teach the field organizations when the top executives aren't even talking among themselves about what's next on the cable agenda?
MD: When you roll out IMS or IPTV or MoCa or IPv6, having to train people while you're doing that negatively impacts the customer experience. We're trying to get into that game and yes, the recognition is there from our industry partners like Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, the whole shooting match of being able to help them with this educational material.
FC: Where's this directive coming from? It's just so unusual for anyone in the cable industry to take a proactive stance that would reveal any direction to the competition.
MD: It comes from both sides: The suit side is pushing down to keep the field educated and the boot side is pushing up to learn more before they go out into the field. The upside of our industry is huge but the technology required is not linear; it's very rapidly growing more complex so the business piece and the education piece need to cooperate.
FC: You've just hired a new CTO--Daniel Howard. How did that process work?
MD: We have a CTO advisory council (from among MSOs) that very actively provided guidanceto me. Daniel, as CTO will bring value as a problem solver so those guys need to be part of that filter process.
FC: Speaking of CTOs, you had something of a scare recently when Scott Hatfield stepped down as CTO at Cox since he was the chairman of this year's Cable Tec Expo in New Orleans. You since have said Cox EVP Jay Rolls will fill the void and things are moving along smoothly. What's the early agenda look like for Cable Tec?
MD: First off, my hat is off to Cox. Once Hatfield left, Cox stepped right in and said, 'We understand the difficulty you may have with the situation' and jumped right in to close the gap.
As for the event, I'm trying to dispel the notion that it's just a social event; it is not. It's where the problem solvers and the folks with the problems meet and the applied scientists put together the options that fit the portfolio. We're going to be approaching things from a workforce perspective; the applied science perspective of helping resolve problems. Expo is becoming more focused on problem-solvers.
FC: The other big SCTE Event, Emerging Technologies, has been somewhat sublimated. Why is that and where does ET go from here?
MD: This is part of our cooperation with other industry groups. We understand the industry's decision to have a spring week and a fall week. In the spring we relinquished the term ET and joined NCTA as part of that process. There is an internal study group to determine how ET may manifest itself. It very well might be in an international domain or venue. We have 1200 international members with a huge interest in international growth.
FC: OK, last question. Membership. SCTE has been known--fairly or not--as a pole climber's organization for the guys in the trenches to meet, greet and work out how best to handle the day's labor. While the increasingly professional performance of cable's field technicians is a feather in your hat, do you want to continue this image or bring in more engineering management types?
MD: We're looking at what constitutes the business of engineering. Engineers and operations folks build and spend two-thirds of capital and operations budgets are instrumental in driving costs. SCTE is an individual membership organization. A good portion of our funding is through vendor relationships in the form of sponsorships; about 20 percent is MSO support through membership that the MSOs may pay and about 10 percent is from standards. At this point in time, the focus is on the community that we're best aligned to serve: the cable community. The cable industry is sponsoring us because they believe that investment is going to be giving them the skills and development and support they need to move forward.
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