The award will go to the CEO or senior executive who has demonstrated the greatest qualities of leadership, technology vision, and financial acumen when guiding his or her public company through the telecommunications recession.
The winner will be announced at an awards dinner following The Light Reading Telecom Investment Conference in New York City on December 14.
Here are the five execs our judges nominated, in alphabetical order:
Bross has got a long history in the industry -- and just like many of us -- he's ridden quite a roller coaster. Back in 2001, we added Matt Bross, who was then CTO of Williams Communications (remember them?), to our Top Ten Movers and Shakers list. (See The Top Ten Movers and Shakers in Optical Networking.) Later, Bross was dropped due to his controversial practice of accepting pre-IPO shares in the startups whose technology he was "evaluating" -- as well as a general slump in Williams's business.
But hey, we can move on... and apparently so can Bross. Now BT's chief technology officer, Matt Bross has been highly visible this year, promoting the benefits of next-generation networks and Ethernet services as a keynote speaker at a number of major industry gatherings. He's become an industry evangelist for IP convergence. (See Bross: More to Come on 21CN and BT Puts Ethernet at Heart of 21CN.)
Bross's energetic speaking role and technical leadership has had a major impact on the perception of BT both internally and externally as an entrepreneurial, globally visible carrier. His vision for its next-generation IP network, 21CN, is beginning to come together as the carrier puts its first metro nodes in place in Wales and aims to switch off its first circuit switches in the coming 12 to 18 months. (See Wales to Get 21CN First.)
Don't be fooled by the name of this category -- it includes stateswomen as well as statesmen. As the SBC executive in charge of Project Lightspeed, Champion has had plenty of critics to contend with -- ranging from those who say SBC's fiber to the node (FTTN) strategy is the wrong approach, to others who say IPTV can't scale and that SBC is doomed to be behind schedule. Despite such naysaying, Champion's been out there all year talking up the carrier's ambitious fiber buildout. IPTV emerged this year as an idea whose time has come, and SBC (now AT&T) has been at the center of attention with its plans to offer a quadruple play of IPTV, VOIP, high-speed data, and wireless services.
Champion has led the company's efforts to prove the initiative's still on track to reach 18 million households by 2008 despite murmurs of technical challenges, and she's kept SBC in the public's eye as an IPTV leader despite all of the challenges. (See SBC Stretches Lightspeed Timeline and Inside SBC's IPTV Factory.)
Who knew DeNuccio? Back in 2002, Redback's balance sheet was bleeding red, products were behind schedule, and the market was falling apart.
Many CEOs would have been shown the door... or quit. DeNuccio gets credit for sticking it out, and seeing to the company's turnaround on both the financial and technical fronts. First there was Chapter 11 and a restructuring of the debt. (See Redback Goes Chapter 11 and Redback's Ready to Rise Again). Then there was a repositioning of Redback's edge routing products around triple-play services, specifically, video. (See Redback Sharpens SmartEdge, Redback Raises Reliability, and Rethinking B-RAS in an IPTV World?.)
The timing couldn't have been better. DeNuccio has got the vendor on the right track with its repositioned edge routing product, SmartEdge, just as the major carriers are starting to invest in broadband deployments that support advanced services like IPTV. Having led the company out of Chapter 11, he's about to take it to profitability for the first time in its history. (See Redback's DeNuccio: We Can Go It Alone.) The vendor is once again generating buzz, with news of big contract wins and further investment from one of its big shareholders. (See Redback Shares Rock: What's Up? and Redback Boosted by TCV, Verizon Talk.)
Here's another stateswoman finalist in the statesman category (hmm, maybe it's time to change the name of the category?). Pat Russo wins big points for seeing an opportunity to make a mark -- and following through. Lucent has been undergoing years of layoffs and product cuts, and it was time to pick something for the future. By plugging Lucent's vision for IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem), Russo picked a story and stuck to it. It's a message that was also instrumental in making Lucent a public marketing finalist. (See LR Names Public Marketing Finalists.) It's now clear that Lucent was early in the game and was one of the first to identify the market for offering carriers the tools they need to move to an IMS architecture and the path to fixed/mobile convergence.
But the most important thing here is that it's turned into more than just talk -- Russo's strategy has helped the vendor reel in 14 IMS customers and 50 trials, including deals with major North American carriers like (NYSE: BLS) and SBC. (See Lucent Lands BellSouth IMS Deal, Cingular Picks Lucent for IMS, SBC Jumps on Lucent IMS Bandwagon, Lucent in the Lead for Verizon IMS?, Lucent Wins New Contracts, and Lucent Takes IMS to China.)
It would have been easy for Russo to buckle down and focus exclusively on cost-cutting and downsizing. But it's clear that at the same time, she understood the need to pick an area for technical and marketing leadership -- and she took personal ownership of the project.
Volpi, no stranger to this list (he was also a finalist last year), is the man behind the aggressive IP Next-Generation strategy (IP NGN) that has Cisco at the forefront of the migration to IP. As head of the service provider technology group, he's driven the vendor's involvement in a number of major carrier deployments from Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) to BT as they move to all-IP networks. (See Cisco, Sprint Renew Vows and Cisco Picked for BT's 21CN.)
Volpi has also been instrumental in Cisco's high-profile acquisition and integration strategy, which of course now includes the $6.9 billion purchase of set-top box maker Scientific-Atlanta Inc. (NYSE: SFA). When the transaction is complete, SFA will become a division of Volpi's group, giving it more more muscle to take on competitors like (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) in the IPTV space. (See Cisco to Acquire Scientific-Atlanta.)
— The Staff, Light Reading