Monday, February 2, 2015

My Career Part 5

By this time in my career, I am turning 50 and no longer have the burning ambition to climb the corporate hierarchy.  My career turns towards interesting work, good colleagues, work-life balance, and maybe a transition into something other than telecoms.

Part 5A A New Company and A New Location

I get a new job as a VP of Emerging Technologies reporting to the CTO at NII Holdings in Reston Virginia, they need a new technology to replace Iden in their Latin American networks and WIMAX interests them. It is clear that there is no upward movement in the company beyond my level, the senior execs are all from Nextel and tend to hire former Nextel execs, but this is fine with me. We quickly decide that the right new technology is UMTS not Wimax, and the group grows as the company makes the transition to UMTS 3G. My previous work on UMTS at Nortel comes in handy.  The most satisfying part of the work is developing the people within the group and watching them progress in their technical and management skills.  I also find it much easier to deal with people when I am not ambitious, as I do not have to play politics or worry about my image.  It is also a lot less stressful being the customer, a telecom operator, than when I was at Nortel and selling to the operators.

Nextel Mexico Fashion Show
NII Holdings is quite successful and their stock rises from $50 to around $90 before the great recession.  Many people at the company have made millions from their stock options and bonuses.  The Latin American Nextel marketing is also quite interesting - using sexy women to sell mobile phones is a legitimate marketing strategy in Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina.

Meanwhile, Nortel has not really changed its strategy and declares bankruptcy in 2009, and eventually decides to liquidate itself.  Towards the end of the liquidation process, Nortel's patents are sold for $4.5B which would have paid off almost all of the company's debt.  Why did they have to liquidate?

Part 5B Too Many Changes

While the work at NII is enjoyable as we design and implement new 3G networks in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Peru along with new Push to Talk functionality, the company is having problems.  NII has taken on a lot of debt to finance the 3G network, the engineering and Information Technology work is outsourced, new vendors are brought in to deliver technology (Huawei, Qualcomm, Ericsson..), new back office systems are commissioned, new execs are hired, new markets are entered like 3G Chile, and competition is fierce in Latin America.  All the changes and challenges hurt the financial results, reduce the stock price, and force the company to cut back.

Joe Btfsplk
Since I am looking for something new to do and am tired of telecom, I am luckily laid off in January 2014.  By mid-2014 almost the whole engineering group is let go, over 50 people, and by the end of the year, NII goes bankrupt.  Am I the Joe Btfsplk of telecom, with two of my employers going bankrupt?

Photo Credit: Flickr

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