ONI's Evans Hones the Message

Peter Evans, a former Nortel man, jumps on board in a mission to take the company to the next level

February 12, 2002

2 Min Read
ONI's Evans Hones the Message

ONI Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ONIS) is quietly morphing its image under a new marketing chief, former Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) executive Peter Evans. The goal: guide the company from its fresh IPO startup phase to become a grownup player courting RBOCs (ONI Pushes Toward RBOCs ).

Evans, named ONI's senior VP of marketing in late January, doesn't want to talk too much about his past at Nortel.

Evans was at Nortel for about 13 years. He most recently served as vice president of marketing for Nortel's metro optical and optical Ethernet division. He left in October 2001, the month Nortel switched CEOs, reported a $3.6 billion quarterly loss, and said it would reduce its headcount by another 20,000 employees (see Nortel Swings Axe, Switches CEOs and Nortel: Can This Company Be Saved?).

"I highly value my time there," says Evans. "But it was definitely time for a career move. There are always several factors that go into a decision like that, but I think I would have made the same decision regardless of what was going on at Nortel."

Evans says that when he started talking to ONI, he saw an opportunity to take their marketing out of the "speeds-and-feeds" mindset. "ONI is a company with a lot of very good engineers and a very solid sales team. But there was an opportunity for someone to come in and think about the pure art of marketing.

"They need someone to start thinking about where to go next with the business, if they want to scale from a $200 million [in sales, per year] company to a $2 billion company. How do you help the industry and your customers understand your value proposition and the impact it could have on their business?"

Evans held about six different positions at Nortel, everything from working in the legal department to product management and marketing. Prior to Nortel, Evans was with CNCP Communications (now AT&T Canada). He began his telecom career there in 1985 as a packet switching engineer where worked on frame relay and ATM services.

"I was doing everything from bolting seven-foot racks to the floor, to being a network architect, to writing RFP responses -- you name it."

Midway through his career with Nortel, Evans made the transition from engineering to marketing. "I really enjoyed the creativity involved in positioning a product in some other way than who's got the most bits in a box."

Evans also says ONI was a good fit for him because the company was the right size. It's not a Nortel-like entity that's shedding staff and slashing research-and-development costs. Neither is it a startup that lacks revenues and customers.

"ONI clearly has a steady state of business and a growing number of customers, and they're poised to be a leader when we see ILEC spending pick up. That really appealed to me."

— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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