Title: Video engineering supervisor, Cox
Broadband Background: Bob Weaver is the SCTE’s newly elected director for Region 1, representing California, Hawaii and Nevada. In his "day job," he is a video engineering supervisor for Cox.
What are the biggest challenges that you face in your day-to-day work?
By far the single most taxing work demand for the team I partner with today is maneuvering through a multiple headend and associated system-wide distribution bandwidth upgrade. The added pressure and workload required to perform a bandwidth upgrade (while attempting to maintain customer expectations, both internal and external) is more than challenging.
In today’s accelerating competitive business atmosphere, strategic posturing continues to be a driver for business decisions more than ever – and justifiably so. As we have seen over the years, it is again time to perform another metamorphosis to our distribution infrastructure, hence bandwidth expansion. The need to engage bandwidth expansion has been so frequent over the past 30 years it is beginning to feel like a "business as usual" item rather than a final exercise to complete an optimal distribution network. During my tour of duty, bandwidth expansion initiatives have occurred on average every five years, although not a linear progression – more a logarithmic experience.
My first exposure to upgrade occurred in the early ’70s (when I began my career) involving an increase from 220 MHz to 270 MHz. Seems very trivial compared with today’s challenges, doesn’t it? The rest of the leaps in bandwidth across time for me occurred in the following steps: 270 to 300; 300 to 400; 400 to 550; 550 to 750; 750 to 860; and currently settling at 1GHz.
The challenge it seems with all upgrades is maintaining the stability of the matured network throughout the process. Why is this important? Service interruption or impaired product quality directly relates to our customers’ experience and in turn affects confidence and buying decisions. Long-term customers have been exposed to several upgrades and have little patience during the process. Reliability and value are key to retaining our customers, and frankly many are not sympathetic to the side affects of our need to progress to platforms necessary to meet current customer product demands and expectations. If the customer experience is unaffected by our activity, the objective has been met.
However, in today’s 24-hour product offering, the reality is that (impact to customer’s experience) just isn’t the case. Performing a system-wide upgrade is like changing all four tires on a car while it is moving down the road. So how do you change all four tires on a car while it is accelerating down an onramp to merge on to a highly congested freeway during rush hour? The answer is "very carefully." Being alert to your surroundings with your eyes wide open is a must! Emphasis must be given to entertaining every conceivable innovative work-around possible while performing the majority of your activities at times when the mainstream of your consumer product use is at a minimum.
Although the state of the equipment, monitoring tools and capital investment are critical to our networks, none are more importance than the workforce, the human factor, our teams. People make all of this a reality. It is clear to me that people who are objective listeners and possess solution mindsets are paramount.
What are your current duties (at your day job)?
I am involved with supervision and leadership for a staff of central system technicians – what used to be called headend techs. We have nine facilities here in Cox San Diego operating at the edge (distribution and receive points) as well as one standalone headend feeding an extreme remote site of the county, which is anxiously awaiting fiber connectivity. In that nearly all products and services pass through our MTCs’ (Master Telecommunications Centers’) transportation devices, we are extremely sensitive to the quality and operational efficiency necessary to deliver high-quality analog and digital signals by way of optical and IP transport links to more than 1,100 node distribution points.
My team also provides activation and sustaining support for specific video programming transports for Cox Business Services as well as live production links, origination from PetCo Park, Cox Arena and several other sites as needed. In addition, maintenance of backup headend systems involving TVRO satellite, EAS, fiber transport, signal processing, and remote antenna site management are also under our umbrella. Now throw in ongoing node splits, and the previously mentioned bandwidth expansion initiative – which, by the way, requires major reconfiguration work in the Master Telecommunications Centers – and you can visualize the need to maintain an effective, motivated and inspired team.
How did you first get involved in cable and the SCTE?
1974 was the year when the "cable guy" journey began for me, roughly a year following my marriage. I had been left out in the dark without a job because of the "energy crisis." In a search for a new career opportunity, I had the extraordinary fortune to attend a specialized training program. The classroom course also included an intensive companion field lab and local cable company sponsorship support. The core curriculum covered academics pertaining to CATV theories, duties of an installer/ lineman, equipment, materials, as well as certification in pole climbing. Immediately on completion, I landed a "ground floor" position with ATC in San Diego. I began in the trenches literally as an underground cable construction crew member.
Early on, I recognized the opportunity that the cable industry offered. Observing the competitive nature for promotional opportunity, I implemented a strategy of study and preparation. Indeed, opportunities came knocking, and my path progressed through all field technical positions ranging from installation through headend and microwave technician. Attending classes at night, I soon earned an Associate of Science degree, as well as FCC certifications eventually resulting in the 1st Class Radio Telephony Operators License in 1978. (At the time, a 1st class license was a requirement for all terrestrial television broadcast engineers).
In 1978 I officially became a member of the SCTE. This is also the year when I crossed over to a supervisor role. As a leader, I realized that I now was no longer just responsible for my own development and success, but now I must be intensely engaged in focusing my efforts towards the development of my team and ultimately their success.
SCTE did not have a local chapter in San Diego at this time. However, I desired a deeper exposure to the roots of our business as well as a connection to nationwide thoughts and visions regarding the future of the business. Membership and association with the SCTE was a clear opportunity for this need and ultimate dialog with others in the industry. This in turn broadened my knowledge and by association my team as well. The San Diego Chapter became a fully qualified chapter in 1991.
My involvement as a member of the SCTE San Diego Chapter Board of Directors started in 2000. I was recruited to fill a vacancy and have been re-elected to the board each consecutive term thereafter. During my first 5 years on the Board, I held the position of Treasurer, sustaining a chapter compliance rating of 100 percent for each year. I will leave a voting position on the San Diego Board to fully engage the needs of the region after having been privileged this past year to be San Diego Chapter President. During my term, I have strived to perform my best and advocate service to our membership as well as promote professional development.
What prompted you to run for a seat on the national board?
After receiving encouragement from several members as well as leadership folks from my company, I graciously accepted the nomination. Honestly, I really didn’t give much prior thought to a position on the national board. I say this because I wasn’t looking for things to do, and considering the current day job duties, I’m definitely not bored nor have free time on my hands. With that said, I am very grateful for the opportunities that the cable industry has allowed me during my career. Participating at the SCTE chapter level and now on the national board is a way for me to give back to an industry that has been very good for me. I will participate to the best of my ability while keeping an open mind for valuable discussion and input from my constituents. I will be a faithful advocate of promoting an evolving culture that inspires innovation, collaboration and perhaps a bit of good times with a few laughs along the way.
What do you see as the key issues in your region?
At this point I am in discovery mode and open to objective discussions with chapter leaders and our membership to develop the priorities of our region. With that said, maintaining consistency throughout the region, elevating communication and collaboration, and maintaining all chapters in good standing with regard to compliance requirements are always solid focus areas.
What do you see as the key issues for the SCTE and the industry as a whole?
My opinion is our industry is required to continue collaboration and uncover advantages to leverage our current platforms while strategically projecting our future demands well into the future. Deployment of fiber deeper into our networks while reducing amplifier cascades may be a quick fix, albeit no easy solution. Development of technological solutions is and will always be required to reveal solutions both short- and long-term. Whatever the course is, we will be faced with business intervention needs on both our customers’ experience as well as the compromise necessary to manage the financial health of each business perspective.
Where do you see the industry going in the next three years, and what does that mean for the SCTE?
I see the industry continuing to inspire innovation in technology as well as adapting high tech products necessary to enrich the end customer experience. The SCTE is driven to participate in the facilitation of professional development for all willing participants in our industry.
Can you share any memorable experiences from your time in the industry?
The most significant thing that comes to mind is the emergence of two-way system architecture. This to me opened an unimaginable pathway (two-way, of course) to desired and sophisticated future product offerings and led the way to exceeding our business expectations. Of course, nothing worthwhile ever comes easily. Launching and maintaining an optimized two-way telecommunications network is demanding, and one can never let their proactive guard down.
What are your plans for Expo?
My inaugural national Board meeting is scheduled for one day prior the Expo. Therefore, I will be arriving at the Expo for this scheduled day for my first opportunity to dialog with SCTE committees and national Board members. For the remainder of the week, I will be attending technical sessions and strolling through the vendor’s floor meeting with SCTE members and leaders in an effort to share information and discover what paramount SCTE issues are priorities in their locations.