Lighting Out From Telecom Town

Given the all-time low in the telecom market, it's not surprising to see folk turning to more reliable sources of revenue. Telecom skills are being reallocated on the personal as well as the corporate level.

Take the case of Doug Finke, who left his post as COO of Corning IntelliSense Corp. to become VP of product marketing and business development at ChipWrights Inc., which makes "systems-on-a-chip" for consumer applications (see ChipWrights Hires Finke).

"I have to say it is quite exciting working again in an area that is rapidly growing, after being in the gloom and doom of optical telecommunications," Finke writes in an email to Light Reading. While Intellisense has always made MEMS for a range of industries, the majority of its revenues are telecom-related.

In changing jobs, Finke opted to return to his semiconductor roots. In that space, consumer products and biomedical engineering offer better opportunities right now than telecom, though he doesn't have a biotech background.

Finke's not alone in ditching traditional telecom: James Smith, former VP of R&D at Transparent Networks Inc., left that startup this past summer to join L-3 Communications Corp., which makes systems and components for a range of markets, with a heavy emphasis on telemetry gear for the national defense market. He says its strong customer base and "cash positive" position were "absolutely" factors in his decision to join a new industry.

In another example, Michael Ward, former VP of North American sales at Corvis Corp. (Nasdaq: CORV), became VP of worldwide sales and service at more staid but steady Paradyne Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: PDYN) in January 2002. Ward started his career with engineering jobs at General DataComm as well as sales gigs at Ascend and later Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU).

Ward didn't respond to requests for comments on his move. But his case -- like Finke's and Smith's -- illustrates that, while many folk who work in the telecom sector are forced to find work in other industries against their will (see Laid Off, and Leaving Telecom ), others appear to be seeking greener pastures on their own.

In Finke's case, semiconductor experience helped buy a ticket out of telecom. And his experience isn't unique, according to Craig Millard, cofounder and managing director of the Millard Group, a recuitment firm. He says folk with enterprise experience, particularly in the sales and marketing areas, who left their posts for the glitz of optical telecom in the glory days, are now looking backward, despite mixed reviews about the reality of growth in enterprise spending (see In Search of... Enterprise Rebound). "Candidates who came from infrastructure companies that make LAN equipment or enterprise switches are absolutely returning to selling into the enterprise," he maintains.

Millard says it's a bit harder to place those who've been in telecom all along. People who worked for long-haul optical startups, for instance, were often recruited for their telecom skills, and now that business is bad, they can't fall back on 15 years of selling to enterprise customers.

Many folk with specialized skills also face metamorphoses in their fields of origin. It's not a given, for instance, that optical switch engineers, many of whom hailed from companies that made optical displays, can successfully return to their original business, or that network processor experts can go back to computer graphics.

"Graphics is dead. There are only a couple of companies left," writes Linley Gwennap, principal analyst at The Linley Group, a research firm. But he says "significant opportunities" exist for network processor experts in data center and enterprise applications, where vendors are looking to put the technology to use in Web switches, firewalls, enterprise routers, and the like.

Some workers may find they don't have to move -- their companies will take the initiative in new markets. This week, for example, Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. (FNC) announced plans to extend its manufacturing capability to making other kinds of systems than telecom ones. The company's launched its new direction by making ATM machines (the banking kind) for sister company Fujitsu Transaction Solutions (see Fujitsu to Build ATMs).

Other companies are looking to opportunities with Uncle Sam, which is building out a series of new networks related to Homeland Security and other projects. Among them is Firstwave Secure Intelligent Optical Networks Inc., which boasts of having made a smart move in addressing the government market early on (see Firstwave Follows the Feds).

"The federal government is starting to be a very interesting spot for companies in optical and communications," Millard says. He cites Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) as having started federal initiatives.

Light Reading is conducting a reader poll on the issue of leaving telecom for other fields of endeavor. To take a look, click here — Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
<<   <   Page 2 / 11   >   >>
captain kennedy 12/4/2012 | 9:23:06 PM
re: Lighting Out From Telecom Town During the bouble the industry experienced "growing numbers of disappointing workers", a bit of attrition is not all bad.
manoflalambda 12/4/2012 | 9:23:04 PM
re: Lighting Out From Telecom Town lastofthebohicans:
VP and COO ectypes that have 'lighted out' were prominently featured in this article. Yawn.

I agree... Each week it seems another couple hundred engineers are spat out into the realm of unemployment... where they end up is more important than some fellow repacking his golden parachute for a new jump...

TheChief 12/4/2012 | 9:23:04 PM
re: Lighting Out From Telecom Town For example, Dr.Oppenheimer, a distinguished scientist was working for some army officer with no educational credential. This soldier was even credited with the production of the atomic bomb.

Bobby every time you post, you prove just how ignorant you are! General Leslie Groves was a very talented officer that moved to the manhattan project after he suppervised the building of the pentagon. Gen. Groves supervised not only the New Mexico effort of Dr. Oppenheimer, but also efforts in Tenn and Washington State to produce the raw material for the bombs. The raw material production is even more impressive than the bombs themself's.
DoTheMath 12/4/2012 | 9:23:03 PM
re: Lighting Out From Telecom Town I have come across many people who have made this
move recently. All of them are senior or staff
engineer level people, almost all in software. Software
engineers are very fungible: I know people who have
moved out of telecom start-ups to write code for casino
gambling systems etc.

People have gone from the likes of Lucent & Nortel
to the likes of Home Depot, Merck, GM, Wells Fargo
... By the way the non-telecom companies are doing OK
- not real good, but not real bad either. They are
not *buying* a lot of IT, but they do seem to be
selectively hiring IT talent.

There is another reason for it: during the boom,
most top-notch talent shunned enteprrise IT shops,
for the stock option promise of the vendors. This
left many IT shops in desparate need for good talent.
Now that the score is even, they are glad to get the

TheChief 12/4/2012 | 9:23:02 PM
re: Lighting Out From Telecom Town This myth comes from the US military that may declare an officer to be outstanding regardless of his/her education. For example, Dr.Oppenheimer, a distinguished scientist was working for some army officer with no educational credential.


Two years at MIT and a graduate of West Point. Bobby, can you match these educational credentials.
lightFleeting 12/4/2012 | 9:23:02 PM
re: Lighting Out From Telecom Town The "soldier" to whom you are referring, General Leslie R. Groves, was the director of the Manhattan Project and the one who hired Oppenheimer to lead the Los Alamos team. What was important here wasn't his education but his ability to manage an extremely large project. Groves not only had responsibilty for Los Alamos, but the gas diffusion plant at Oak Ridge and the Hanford plutonium production facility as well. He did an excellent job.

BTW, I lit out back to Los Alamos.


lr2002 12/4/2012 | 9:23:01 PM
re: Lighting Out From Telecom Town A great many graduates from those elite schools are foreigners.
lights_out 12/4/2012 | 9:22:58 PM
re: Lighting Out From Telecom Town FX wrote:
"If my memory serves me fine, there was a serious lack of skilled workers in the telecom industry and the only way to sustain growth was to import these brains. Remember all those phone calls from head hunters? well, I do..."

We all can remember that time not too long ago when our phones were ringing off the hook from recruiters looking to place us in the next big "thing". However, I don't think that was necessarily tied to any lack of skilled workers. It was more likely tied to a lack of low-paid workers.

At the height of the "bubble" an engineer in any of the telecom companies was being paid a right handsome salary. My own opinion is that the telecom companies wanted to try and get salaries down and used the boom of the dot-com era to declare that there was a shortage of good engineering talent. They lobbied Congress and the White House, convinced them the shortage existed, and got them to open up the borders to just-as-experienced-yet-lower-paid imported talent.

Just an observation.
lights_out 12/4/2012 | 9:22:56 PM
re: Lighting Out From Telecom Town
Snape wrote:
"Most got the job right out of school and have never actually "done" anything but think deep thoughts."

Isn't that what they do at Bell Labs? Sounds like research training.

Snape 12/4/2012 | 9:22:56 PM
re: Lighting Out From Telecom Town
Except for researchers, most of the Bell Labs people I've met overall were some of the most clueless I've seen.

Most got the job right out of school and have never actually "done" anything but think deep thoughts.

Even some of the recent graduates I've run into are among the most pompous, least skilled, yet have the highest opinion of their worth.

Overall, I've enjoyed working with the H1B people.
Their perspective is refreshing.
<<   <   Page 2 / 11   >   >>
Sign In