On the Job – With Mumford & Pals
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:The Grand Tour