Optical/IP Networks

Execs Cast a Wide Net

Former telecom and optical networking executives are being forced to look into other industries for work.

With companies like Corning Inc. (NYSE: GLW), JDS Uniphase Inc. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON), and WorldCom Inc. (OTC: WCOEQ) all cutting back, along with the hundreds of equipment startups and CLECs struggling to get funding, positions in telecom or optical networking are hard to come by.

Job hunting experts say that with the industry in shambles, job seekers need to cast a wide net when looking for a new position.

Seth Harris, managing director at Christian & Timbers, an executive recruiting firm, has even been encouraging executive candidates to leave the industry altogether, as many middle managers and lower-level employees have already done (see Laid Off, and Leaving Telecom ).

“People in telecom have to be creative and move out of their comfort zone into other industries, because that’s where the jobs are,” says Harris. “I talk to executive candidates all day, and the biggest thing is that they don’t realize they can leave telecom. Most of them have an enormous set of operational and budgetary skills that they can leverage in other industries.”

He's been telling CEO types to target enterprise software or Internet-enabled companies. He says many firms -- such as Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) and SAP AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: SAP) -- have divisions dedicated to telecom service providers and equipment companies.

Another popular route for the burned-out executive is venture capital. As these firms investigate companies to invest in, they can use consultants to help them evaluate the technology. VCs are also interested in tapping former CEOs to serve as interim CEOs of portfolio companies that have run into trouble.

Carl Showalter, former vice president of marketing for Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), had been in the communications industry for 12 years before throwing in the towel and joining Light Speed Venture Partners back in April (see Lightspeed Drafts Former Juniper VP). Sharad Mehrotra, a founder of Procket Networks Inc., also left his post to become a VC at a venture firm, New Enterprise Associates (NEA) (see Is Procket Heading Toward the Edge?).

Doug Green, former vice president of marketing for Ocular Networks, which was bought by Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) last December, is now an independent consultant providing expertise in telecommunications marketing, communications, and investment due diligence to startups and VCs (see Tellabs Nabs Ocular). Occasionally, Green, who has been involved with a number of successful startups that eventually hit it big -- like Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Ocular, and Chromatis (bought by Lucent for $4.5 billion) -- moonlights as a columnist on Light Reading (see Can Startups Sell to Carriers?).

Companies like Gillette, General Electric, or Raytheon are all manufacturers that could use the skills of former optical networking chief information officers, chief operational officers, or chief financial officers, says Harris, noting that supply-chain expertise lends itself to many industries.

These execs could also try targeting the life sciences industry, which includes biotech and pharmaceuticals. While these industries have little to do with telecom, they are hot right now and receiving a lot of funding.

“There are a lot of biotech companies out there looking for someone who has been through the process of raising money in the venture community and has helped take a company public,” says Harris. “A lot of the guys I see in the optical space have already been there.”

Operations management is also needed in these growing companies. Anyone who has had experience implementing a mission-critical application in an optical equipment or components company may be well suited for the same kind of role in a biotech or pharmaceutical company, because the supply chain issues that need to be automated are very similar.

But making the switch to another industry isn’t always easy. Michael Centrella, former CEO of Merlot Communications Inc., ended up staying in telecom after he left his struggling startup over a year ago. But it came at a price. After an intensive three-month search, he landed a job at a small service provider called Vonage DigitalVoice as VP of sales. Although the move was a step down both in title and salary, Centrella says he is happy he stayed in telecom.

“My expertise is in telecom and networking, and I still have a lot to contribute to the industry,” he says. “It’s a good company and I know the funding is secure. That was a big factor in my decision.”

He admits that the search wasn’t easy, but he used a technique that Harris says is a good strategy. He targeted a set of specific companies he was interested in and marketed himself directly to the top officials and VCs of those companies. By the end of the three months, he had three promising offers. Two were in telecom and one was in enterprise software.

“I really was very proactive about my search,” says Centrella. “I sought out different avenues where my skills were transportable, but in the end I stayed with telecom.”

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Seldon 12/4/2012 | 9:57:56 PM
re: Execs Cast a Wide Net sharad left procket to be a VC or was he forced out.. u decide
deadwood 12/4/2012 | 9:57:51 PM
re: Execs Cast a Wide Net It deos not matter what happened to Sharad! And I do not know, him, of him and have never met him. What is one going to get by going into one's such nitty gritty details? It only speaks for the one who is trying to find a fault or two of Sharad. The fact remains that he had the vision and the courage and put in the efforts to start a company.

Telecom is tough these days and God knows when it will change. Left or forced out, Sharad is on move, and you are my friend, stuck.
Seldon 12/4/2012 | 9:57:50 PM
re: Execs Cast a Wide Net Assumptions....

Not in telecom Hence i presume me not stuck :) .

Point was, did sharad move up , or was he forced out , ie become a VC, Not because he wanted to but because he *had* to.

Get your head outta u know where deadwood.
light-headed 12/4/2012 | 9:57:49 PM
re: Execs Cast a Wide Net >Assumptions....

>Not in telecom Hence i presume me not stuck :) .

so if you are not in Telecom why are you reading and posting at this site? so you can tell everyone how lucky you are? and how all the execs are bad people who were forced out? i don't really care about what happened to sharad but this whole thread seems really strange.

Seldon 12/4/2012 | 9:57:47 PM
re: Execs Cast a Wide Net Next argument please.

You read the paper everyday and skim the sports section. You are not *in* sports, so why read the sports section?.

As I said, Next argument please.
deadwood 12/4/2012 | 9:57:45 PM
re: Execs Cast a Wide Net Assumptions....

Not in telecom Hence i presume me not stuck :) .

Point was, did sharad move up , or was he forced out , ie become a VC, Not because he wanted to but because he *had* to.

Get your head outta u know where deadwood.

Seldon, if you are not in telecom, your head is stuck where it cannot see daylight s o you cannot think. Perhaps, you do not know what think means, sheldon. If Sharad moved up or down or sideways, it is none of your business. Your head moved to utter darkness so you do not know what it means to start a company or be a VC after starting a company. IF you became a VC after getting lucky form JDSU then it is a different story GÇ˙cause then folks like you can be VC with head in utter darkness. A dumb head to begin with and then stuck where no daylight reaches unless you stand on your head, that is you Seldon.
wilecoyote 12/4/2012 | 9:57:44 PM
re: Execs Cast a Wide Net This is a pretty lame post. Very childish. Yet I'll indulge you. Sharad did what a lot of Founders failed to do: he hired his own replacement. In this case Randall Kruep, their CEO. He also hired guys to build products, market and sell them. So in the end, what was he there to do? He engineered himself out of a job.

You'll see all kinds of posts here if people pick up on this thread, some complementary, some critical, of what Sharad did. Here's what I saw him do: figured out how to recruit Tony Li, for better or for worse, recruited what at the time looked to be a very big fish: Randall K, coming off a hit at RBAK and right before the thing tanked, raised $270M at a very high valuation, etc. What's happened since Sharad built the place from nothing is the subject of a lot of controversy. Maybe some of it was his fault, maybe not. My version is, he engineered himself out of a job. He's a class act in my experiences with him, very bright too.

So, specifically answering your question: he went into NEA, a major investor in Procket, as an EIR which tells you a lot. He will probably start his own company. We haven't heard the last of Sharad Mehrotra.
abacus 12/4/2012 | 9:57:40 PM
re: Execs Cast a Wide Net Seeking to elevate the level of intellectual discourse -

I wasn't a CEO or VP, but I was a director at a Telecom company - since "downsized" - but I wish it all success and good luck - no hard feelings, really.

But I realized that there was life before telecom, so there had to be life after. I consider my field "optics" so I could as easily work in Star Wars, robotics, and - now - in medical equipment, as a director.

Everyone has laundry in various states of cleanliness, so it's best we all move on and work on improving ourselves, rather than trying to sound good by making others sound bad. Sometimes the market is just too big and bad for us to fight the trend.

I defined myself as best I could - and found another interesting job. I suggest my esteemed colleagues not define each other, but get on with defining themselves. No resume ever listed a place where the sun don't shine.
sigint 12/4/2012 | 9:57:37 PM
re: Execs Cast a Wide Net "But I realized that there was life before telecom, so there had to be life after. I consider my field "optics" so I could as easily work in Star Wars, robotics, and - now - in medical equipment, as a director."

For folks that had lives before telcom, i guess the field is open. For those of us "born" into telecom, things are different.

When I got laid off from a start-up, Telecom was all I knew. Good luck prevailed, found a job almost immediately in the enterprise (networking) industry. I really do have to unlearn a lot of stuff before I get get used to the ordinariness of work in this space.

I do hope to get back to telecom some day. Will it be the same? Will I be treated as a deserter ?
farmboy 12/4/2012 | 9:57:34 PM
re: Execs Cast a Wide Net What other industries does everyone think are best candidates for Non-Execs looking to leave the optical industry? Pharmaceuticals?
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Sign In