On the Job – With Mumford & Pals

Next Tuesday, the 17th of December, marks the first anniversary of Greg Mumford’s ascension to the position of CTO at Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT).

Not a lot of people know that (as Michael Caine may or may not have said). Fortunately, however, this is exactly the kind of obscure factoid that Light Reading editors manage to retain – while at the same time totally forgetting the important stuff (pay mortgage, wife’s birthday, collect kids from day care, etc.).

Anyhoo, we thought the date would be a good excuse to venture to the frozen North of Canada for a status check on “things” with Greg, and Nortel in general.

As CTO, Mumford is playing a key role in Nortel’s attempts to rally from its current financial crisis. Of course, he’s had a significant influence on his company’s technology strategy for some time. Light Reading likes to think of him as Nortel’s “Optical Oppenheimer” – particularly when it comes to 10 gig. After all, Mumford was the man who helped give Nortel a huge headstart in developing the 10-gig technology that minted it a fortune at the height of the high-speed networking arms race.

As CTO he now has even more power (bwa-ha-haaaa!) but must wield it in a very different, environment – a depressing, post-bubble apocalypse characterized by cutbacks, layoffs, and lost fortunes.

How goes his battle? Pretty well – at least on a relative basis.

Relative to what? Well, archrival Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), for one. Whereas Lucent committed a huge faux pas recently by issuing big bonuses to executives in its time of crisis, a Nortel exec last week told Light Reading that equivalent bonuses are out of the question at Nortel until the company meets its goal of a return to profitability. Makes sense to us.

Meantime, the market (that fickle mistress) seems to think Nortel is a lot farther along the road to seeing off the threat of bankruptcy than Lucent (see Nortel’s Quarter Perking Up?): Nortel’s bond price has risen to 95 cents on the dollar (up from a low of 50 cents); its wireless division is gaining traction in new markets; it has $4.5 billion in cash; its stock price has been leaping (in the right direction; doubling in the last three months); and rumors are circulating that its next earnings announcement on January 23rd will exceed expectations – showing growth (remember that?).

Our trip to visit Greg turned into a series of surprises, starting with the fact that Nortel actually agreed to admit us to its giant Carling R&D Campus (a.k.a. “Canada's largest industrial park, eh?”). Relations between Light Reading and Nortel have not always been exactly – how shall we put this? – cordial. In fact, a couple of years back the dialog was as frosty as a moose’s antlers in February.

But with Mumford’s backing we were allowed in. And yes, we got our interview with Greg, in which we learned some new networking slang (apparently a “snow back” is a Canadian engineer hired by U.S. startups to impress customers, VCs etc.), as well as the story behind the iron ring worn by Canadian engineers, including Mumford.

But we got more – much more. In fact, we were given an all-access pass that got us a picture not just of Mumford’s progress in his new job, but of the situation inside Nortel as a whole.

To Ottawa, then, 'mid snow and ice! Read on for: Next page: The Grand Tour

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xos 12/4/2012 | 9:11:06 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals A quick question -

Does Nortel have a reseller arrangement for Juniper's routers ??

xos 12/4/2012 | 9:11:06 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals I will like to complement the guys at LR on a very interesting and well written article. Enjoyed reading it. A light hearted take on a company trying to ride out the telecom bust..

good work guys

MarauderNow 12/4/2012 | 9:10:55 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals Just to clear things up... That cop, the one from the buslane, was very likely an Ontario Provincial Police officer. Here in Ottawa we're lucky enough to be served by four different sets of police... the Ottawa-Carleton Police (municipal), the Ontario Provincial Police (provincial), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (national) and the Canadian Military Police (national). They've each got their own "jurisdictions" so to speak... and the that bus lane was in OPP territory... so of course the police officer wasn't on a horse... she was OPP... :)
opti 12/4/2012 | 9:10:52 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals First of all a very amusing article editor.

It shouldn't come as a surprise the attitude of the people at Nortel. They are focused, determined and very enjoyable to work with. I worked as a student and it was a very worthwhile experience to work with such a dedicated group of individuals who take pride in what they do.
silenceofthelambdas 12/4/2012 | 9:10:51 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals Regarding the fine chronicle [1] of your day in the life of NortelG«÷s CTO and LR Ambassador:

I congratulate you on this engaging and informative piece of investigative journalism. At a time when telecom investors have been left aghast after peering into the terrifying well of company valuation metrics, along comes an exposition that re-ignites ones faith that NT will return to being a G«ˇblue-chipG«÷ property (as opposed to its recent G«ˇbrown chipG«÷ [2] hue). The wild Rav4 drive confirms that this company is again aggressively on the move (albeit in the bus lane), re-defining the rules of the new economy. If it is road-based, NT looks well-positioned, provided they can fix their poorly-timed policing devices (sorry, couldnG«÷t resist).

More striking however, was the articleG«÷s superb combination of technological disclosure, personality profiling, cultural study, informative sidebars and erudite conclusions, to make this the G«ˇlandmark articleG«÷ of the LR holiday season, and a G«ˇmust-readG«÷ (feedback welcome [3]). I hope that thereG«÷s a coffee-table hardback on the way. A cup-stain around MarcoG«÷s dome may be his only chance to look like a saint (his penance being incomplete following the OPC/Avici/Bay adventure).

IG«÷ll come clean G«Ű I find most articles on technology a bit dry [4] and their perspectives indefinite, leaving no long-term impression behind to enrich my life [5]. Often, I have to wait until someone with greater perspicacity [6] interprets the article so that I can gain a deeper appreciation for its subtle truths.
Not so with this piece!

Since the dawn of time [7], mankind has struggled in vain to understand what creates the spark of creative genius that can lead to a landmark invention [8], a medical miracle [9], a record-destroying athletic performance [10], a brilliant musical opus [11], or masterpiece of literature [12].
After reading and re-reading your captivating G«ˇtour de forceG«÷ on Mumford [13] and Nortel [14], I think the inspiration must be something in the water up there that is agreeable to LR [15].
Convinced of this conclusion, IG«÷m hopping on the next dogsled to Ottawa.
Keep smiling.

[1] http://www.lightreading.com/do...
[2] http://dictionary.reference.co...
[3] http://www.pulitzer.org/Entry_...
[4] http://www.fragapalooza.com/ph...
[5] http://www.capitalsearch.net/f...
[6] http://www.lightreading.com/do...
[7] http://home.discoversandiego.c...
[8] http://school.discovery.com/cl...
[9] http://www.keithrichards.com/
[10] http://www.hoophall.com/exhibi...
[11] http://www.spinaltap.com/mp3s....
[12] http://www.lightreading.com/bo...
[13] http://www.rottentomatoes.com/...
[14] http://www.nortelnetworks.com/...
[15] http://www.counterpunch.org/pi...
MrLight 12/4/2012 | 9:10:46 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals Entertaining maybe, but a little bit more informative material would have made for a safer read. I almost fell out of my chair reading this article. Who knows how many readers actually did, and as a result were mildly injured in the fall.

I hope LR will do pieces on visits with the Lucentonian, Alcatelian, and Cisconian CTOs in the same humorous vein.

On the statement - "apparently a G«£snow backG«• is a Canadian engineer hired by U.S. startups to impress customers". Is that for real?

And in regards to " a Nortel exec last week told Light Reading that equivalent bonuses are out of the question at Nortel until the company meets its goal of a return to profitability. Makes sense to us." I hope so.

MrLight ;-]]]
testdude 12/4/2012 | 9:10:45 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals Yes Nortel does still resell the Juniper. This was apparently a stop gap measure back in the hey day when OPC was being developed. But when it got canned, the Juniper stop gap became a long term reseller agreement.

If you go into the nortel webpage and search for juniper it comes up.

zhadum 12/4/2012 | 9:10:37 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals Good job. Hilarious sidebars on the accompanying links (and some informative info on the engineering rings!).

Cant wait to read similar articles on Lucent (can only hope Janet Davison has some time to spare) and Cisco (ditto with Jayshree)!!

slayer666 12/4/2012 | 9:10:32 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals nenene66

Take a pill...3500 is a metro box and has 16 lambdas...that is DWDM no ?...going to 32. At least LR still cover your industry, which is more than most press, which believes the industry has disappeared completely...MSP...thas a TLA...you must be from Nortel. Grow Up! HAHAHAHAHA
boston beans 12/4/2012 | 9:10:30 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals Just curious...

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