Remembering Rob Pullen

1:20 PM -- The news that Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) CEO Rob Pullen had died hit me very hard. Like everyone else, I knew Rob had been diagnosed with colon cancer and that he had recently stepped aside as CEO because of his health. But I had assumed he would survive this challenge because Rob seemed to be that guy who always kept going.

I started covering telecom in 1985, the same year Rob joined Tellabs. I don't remember exactly when I first interviewed him, but I have a very clear memory of Rob once explaining to me -- a former sports writer who had never even taken high school physics -- how a digital cross-connect worked and why it was needed.

Over the next two decades, he explained many other things to me, often using whatever paper was handy to draw a picture -- whether it was the back of press release, a page from my reporter's notebook or, on at least one occasion, a press room napkin. He didn't mind answering what were often stupid questions as I would attempt to understand a technology development and he enjoyed debating other issues, such how telephone companies would survive in the Internet era.

We also managed to talk sports and kids, and we always managed to find things to laugh about -- sometimes Rob had to be reminded to get back to whatever Tellabs story he was supposed to be delivering.

Rob was an easy guy to like, but he wasn't hung up on being likable. If you asked him a tough question, particularly about Tellabs' financials or future product direction, he didn't try to hide behind a friendly relationship to avoid answering. In other words, he wasn't one to duck the tough stuff. Over the years, he also voluntarily assumed other tough jobs, such as chairing the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) .

And he certainly has had his fair share of tough stuff to address since becoming the CEO of Tellabs. Tellabs had turned in many directions for leadership in the years before the company turned to Rob -- to me, he seemed like the natural CEO for the company's future because of his intelligence, his understanding of the industry and his close ties to Tellabs' past.

Unfortunately, we won't know how that part of Rob's story would have ended. But more importantly, his family, his many Tellabs colleagues and the telecom industry folks who've known him as I have, have lost a truly good guy. He will be greatly missed.

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— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:28:41 PM
re: Remembering Rob Pullen

Well put, Carol. I can't say I knew Rob well, but he did seem like a good guy, and I always enjoyed the conversations I had with him.

Jean Medina 12/5/2012 | 5:28:38 PM
re: Remembering Rob Pullen

What a beautiful tribute, Carol. Well done.

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