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 Transforming Telecom

 
 
The rapidly evolving telecommunications sector changes the way people interact with the world, and each other.
 
 
When it comes to dazzling wizardry, J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts doesn’t have anything on telecommunications.
A single smartphone has the processing power of a 1985 Cray-2 supercomputer. That same smartphone is equivalent to all of NASA’s computing power in 1969. Of course, that computing power in 1969 placed the first men on the moon.
Rapid evolution and changes within the telecom and networking sector have become the norm, happening every day - especially in the last decade. That causes a continuous tidal wave of change, forcing all other sectors to adapt.
Want to surf this wave? Here are four telecommunications professionals who love their work and the companies for which they work: Comcast, Qualcomm, CenturyLink and FairPoint. They share not only why it’s such a great field, but also why you should join them in it.
 
Copy (3,300 with At a Glance boxes; 3,047 words without them):
Ransom Expands Horizons & Pushes Innovation at Comcast
When Mumin Ransom, a principal product engineer at Philadelphia, PA-based Comcast, was young, he had limited access to computers.
“I grew up in an underfunded inner city school system. We weren’t introduced to computers at school. The most interaction I had with computers was at the Philadelphia Public Library and video games,” recalls Ransom.
Lacking luck, he compensated with barrels of pluck.
“I wanted to know more, so I bought a computer. A neighbor gave me a book - the Windows 95 manual - and I read it cover to cover. It helped me to be more attractive in the job market. I continued to self-study to earn an A+ certification, Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP), while I gained my bachelor’s degree in information technology. I also attained an MBA in technology management through online study.”
And Ransom isn’t done. “I’ve always had a great passion for learning. I can never stop learning and reinventing myself. A profession in the technology sector requires that aptitude.”
Comcast has infrastructure to amplify Ransom’s curiosity. “There’s great opportunity at Comcast. I’m in the technology and product organization, and one of my favorite times is Lab Week. During three weeks, spread throughout the year, we use company time to bring our personal ideas to fruition. We can use the time to learn something new or introduce a new technology or product to the company. I’ve participated in many Lab Weeks.”
Lab Weeks are a great place to collaborate, the engineer notes. “I’ve recruited people to help me link music videos to programming soundtracks and to expose content meta-data as emojis. The most valuable thing you can give your company is an idea and, Lab Week gives employees an opportunity to explore and share them,” Ransom explains.
Collaboration and innovation are why Comcast has grown from a start-up to a Fortune 50 company with approximately 153,000 people around the world in little more than half a century. Comcast doesn’t just reach around the world. It also reaches into various sectors.
“Comcast Corporation is a global media and technology company with two primary businesses, Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal. Comcast Cable is one of the nation’s largest video, high-speed Internet and phone providers to residential customers under the XFINITY brand, and also provides these services to businesses,” explains Ransom.
“Comcast Cable operates in 39 states and Washington, DC. NBCUniversal operates news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures and Universal Parks and Resorts.”
However, despite its breadth, it’s a relaxed place to work. “Comcast is a company that offers employees great benefits and a casual environment,” he maintains.
However, “casual” doesn’t mean stodgy, which the curious Ransom quite likes, for change opens doors.
“Comcast is innovating at a pace that’s faster than ever before, and with that, comes change. I’ve found I have to change with it, leading to new opportunities. I’ve been employed at Comcast for 11 years. I started my career here as a network engineer. I was supporting product engineering by designing and installing VOIP solutions. During that time I developed a relationship with the product engineering team and eventually joined it. This was a huge change in my career. I found myself having to learn new processes and technologies,” shares Ransom.
Of course, change comes with some challenges. “There was a learning curve coming from a world of routers and IP addresses to a world of servers and APIs. Luckily, my network engineering skills proved valuable to my new team as there was a great need to interact with the network team to deliver products in a robust and secure environment.”
And Ransom keeps on changing, learning and growing. “Later, I worked a with a great team that was key to the implementation of Electronic Sell Through, which gives viewers the ability to purchase digital rights through X1 (Comcast’s cloud-enabled entertainment platform). I also had the pleasure of spending the last five years working with development teams as an Agile coach. Each change in my career had its challenges, but they gave me amazing opportunities to learn and grow with the company.”
Today, Ransom prioritizes the workflow of the channel subscriptions and content permissions teams that powers the business of cable television and video on demand at Comcast. In this and other roles, he’s had the opportunity to contribute to Comcast’s considerable growth, which is a proper point of pride.
“Comcast adopted Agile software practices, and I’m proud to say I helped with this transformation. I coached more than 10 Agile teams and three DevOps teams. Enabled by this versatility and its vast resources, Comcast is ready to meet future market demands,” Ransom point out.
With such an innovative, entrepreneurial culture, Comcast continues to expand. “We used to buy products from vendors to integrate into our systems. However, Comcast used its talent, experience and leadership to shift and become the company that shapes the future of media and technology. Our culture is still fueled by an entrepreneurial spirit,” he notes.
If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and want for this media and technology titan, then Ransom points to some doors.
“Candidates interested in a career with Comcast NBCUniversal should get to know us through our careers social channels by following and engaging with @ComcastCareers and @workatNBCU, and by reading employee reviews on Glassdoor. To have a deeper understanding of who we are and what we do, watch our library of ‘realistic job preview videos’ at vimeo.com/comcastcareers, where candidates can view a day-in-the-life of real employees across the organization - of varying levels and locations. Prospective employees can discover open opportunities at jobs.comcast.com and nbcunicareers.com.”
And if you’re hired, Ransom tenders sage advice on how to advance.
“You have to act as a corporate entrepreneur, discover and make opportunities that you can show will create value for the organization. Sometimes it’s a new product, but most often you will find ways to be more efficient. You can also develop a stand-out skill,” he counsels.
He relates his own experience, as well: “I was recruited by Comcast due to being a network load balancing subject matter expert (SME). At the time there weren’t many in the country and very few in the Philadelphia area. When Comcast took the steps towards Agility, I was asked to assume the role of ScrumMaster. This was a very new role for the company. I facilitated the Agile process and removed blocking issues for my software development department. Adapting to these niche roles, I was able to add a value that was in high demand, but low supply.”
Ransom also advises you to come equipped with a customer-centric, forward-thinking, curious, collaborative and solution-focused mindset, for that’s the way Comcast excels.
Visit corporate.comcast.com/careers to browse Comcast careers. Connect on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
 
Comcast at a Glance
Video, high-speed Internet and phone provider Comcast Cable and news, entertainment and sports cable network operator NBCUniversal are the two main businesses of global media and tech firm Comcast Corporation, which is also known as Comcast NBCUniversal. At any given time, Comcast has about 2,000 positions open across the company, and has approximately 170 recruiters working to identify candidates.
 
Qualcomm’s Kumar Advances Today’s Wireless World
Today, Vanitha Kumar is vice president of engineering at San Diego, CA-based Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., but not that long ago, she was a student with two weeks room and board stepping into a brave, new world.
“When I decided leave India to go to Boston to pursue my master’s degree in electrical engineering at Northeastern University. I had absolutely nothing in the U.S., except for a scholarship and $400 in my pocket,” Kumar reveals.
The degree of novelty almost had her purchasing a return ticket, she recalls. “Everything was new: the culture, education system and living arrangements. It was very overwhelming, and I came very close to packing up and going home.”
However, Kumar didn’t bolt by taking small steps. “Eventually everything came together. Now, here I am, 20 years later. This was a very powerful lesson in taking things ‘one day at a time,’ especially when it gets tough. It’s one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned.”
Kumar has advanced from the immigrant to the vice president, and student to teacher.
“Focus on the fundamentals, and strive to understand how your individual contribution fits into the big picture; this helps develop depth and breadth right from the get-go. I’d also encourage everyone to be brave and to ask silly, small questions, because often deep understanding lies in their answers,” she says.
Kumar leads the group that develops software that enables cellular wireless connectivity (2G to 5G) in Qualcomm chipsets, and oversees approximately 300 people. What does this vice president seek in her employees?
“At Qualcomm we look for people with strong technology background, ‘do what it takes’ attitude and a willingness to push the boundaries of what’s possible.”
If hired, then you’ll likely enjoy the work, just as Kumar does. “I love the fast-paced environment and the endless opportunities to work on cutting-edge technologies.”
The pace is fast because of Qualcomm’s entrepreneurial attitude. “While Qualcomm has thousands of employees globally, there’s always a start-up mentality with high energy and motivated people driven to do the best possible job they can. The strength of Qualcomm is its people!” Kumar enthuses.
Qualcomm’s people have helped power the wireless revolution. “I’ve always been enamored with the wireless world. I joined Qualcomm for its ingenuity in wireless; however, I had no idea how much of a revolution would happen in the wireless industry when I started my career. Just 25 years ago, wireless meant a ‘cordless’ phone. Today, we’re dealing with a fully digitized, wireless world where no one can consider existence without a cellphone. I’m excited to be a part of a company that’s pioneering these technologies,” Kumar explains.
If hired by Qualcomm, then the telecom executive has advice for thriving: “Understand beyond your small piece or role; look at the whole system you’re working on and how that fits into the company’s goals and the industry. As you grow, get a deeper understanding of other subsystems around you, too. Ask many questions, ask for a bigger scope of responsibilities and ask what problem you can help solve. Look for the right opportunities, and career growth will come with them.”
 And if you aspire to also rise to vice president, then take heart. Kumar believes leaders aren’t born, but made.
“That a key trademark of a great leader is ‘the commitment to wanting to be a great leader.’ This was an eye-opener for me when I first heard it several years back. I’d always thought leadership skills were something you either have or don’t, but this taught me that as long as there’s willingness, one can develop the skills.”
 
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