For this year's International Women's Day, Light Reading's Women in Comms Mentor Spotlight features Patricia Martin, SVP of service assurance at Cox Communications. Martin has worked for Cox for more than 15 years, rising from a senior manager to a director of network services, to VP and later senior vice president.
While at Cox, Martin has revamped the cable company's Network Operations Centers (NOCs), improved the process of monitoring and responding to network events or incidents, and led the charge in creating the first national team of virtual construction estimators and Cox's first-generation Video Back Office National COE (Center of Excellence).
In part one of this Mentor Spotlight, Women In Comms speaks with Martin about some potential growth areas for the industry this year, why every employee needs to take responsibility for cybersecurity, how the cable industry is addressing the digital divide and what progress is being made in closing the gender gap in cable.
Women in Comms: What are some exciting growth areas for the cable industry this year?
Patricia Martin: You have so many people staying at home who are really investing in their homes and the smart home is really coming to fruition. I think smart homes is just going to continue to expand, and smart communities will continue to expand now that people see the value of it. And we're going to continue to see cooler and cooler things such as smart parking.
Security is another growth area. My two oldest children are interested in cybersecurity, so the world is definitely making its mark on them and they're very hyperaware. But that doesn't mean that any of our jobs are going to get easier with our needs to continue to be secure.
Other trends that are going to stay here for a while are school and work from home. I don't know that all companies had fully embraced work from home before the pandemic hit. And now that it's hit and we've been working from home for almost a year, and schooling from home, those things are here to stay. Watching that continue to evolve will be very, very interesting.
WiC: Are your customers looking at security a little differently now that so many people are accessing business applications on their home networks?
PM: Absolutely – you've had so many high-profile events and security breaches. And then you have people that are realizing that security is all of our jobs, not just the CISO's job anymore. You have people at home and you wonder what they're putting on and taking off their laptops. Companies are more hyper aware than ever before. I am responsible for service assurance on our residential network as well as for our Cox business customers. For the business customers that I interface with, security is one of their most top of mind items.
WiC: What are some ways that Cox and the cable industry at large are focusing on addressing the digital divide?
PM: How Cox has gone about approaching the digital divide is one of the reasons I'm very proud to work for this company. They started a plan on how to address it about 20 years ago, and it got even more robust and aggressive during the pandemic. We have a program called Connect2Compete and that's for anyone who has a child in school that is getting at government assistance gets low cost internet service for $9.99 a month. In the midst of the pandemic, I think we made it free for the first 60 days for new subscribers, and we waived the late fees, and we doubled speeds. We took it dead serious and we partnered with schools to try to get people signed up easier and faster. I think we have over 140,000 people on the program, and 60,000 of those came since COVID-19 hit.
WiC: It just seems like it's been a big issue. Especially with COVID-19 since so many people are trying to work and study from home.
PM: I have four kids, they're all in this house online right now. If a child doesn't have access to the Internet, I don't know how they're going to be able to keep up right now. The cable community's commitment to those types of programs is instrumental in just helping lead people through this pandemic.
WiC: Switching gears, what are your thoughts on how the cable industry measures up in responding to both gender disparity and diversity? Have you noticed things changing at all since you started in the industry?
PM: I've been doing this for more than 20 years now. When I came into the industry, there weren't a lot of conversations about needing to get more women, it was more of "Hey, we just need to get good people, and if they happen to be female, great."
I've watched that evolve over the last couple of years – it's probably been evolving over the last ten to 15 years of realizing that we need diverse teams, we need females and lets home-grow them if we have to. I like to joke that I'm a really good example of homegrown talent. Cox made an investment in me when they hired me 15 years ago as a manager. Fifteen years later, I'm sitting here as a senior vice president. They made a lot of opportunities available to me and I took them, but I think they kind of home-grew their own female talent.
— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading