Marcie Anderson, vice president of business development at Cox Communications, is the 2003 Women in Technology award winner. She receives the honor in recognition of her commitment to innovative broadband services including high-speed Internet, high-definition TV and digital video recorders.
Marcie Anderson is truly a self-made woman. She began her technical career in 1991 as a field electronics technician in the U.S. Army stationed in Germany to maintain computer and radar systems. Upon leaving the Army, Marcie worked within the telco industry, and was excited to join Cox Communications in 1997 working on telephone and data installations. Her enthusiasm for new technologies and genuine commitment to customer satisfaction helped her rise from a team leader to a vice president in Cox’s prestigious Northern Virginia network in just five years.
Roots in voice and data
Marcie started as a team leader at Cox in Arizona and soon made her way to Atlanta working as a project manager for residential telephone service as part of Cox’s triple play (voice/video/data) offering. The position demanded attention to detail because, as Marcie learned, "Telephone is a business that you must play by the rules. Telephone provides 911 service, so there is no room to cut corners, and it has to work!"
Building on her past experiences, Marcie made her mark as director of data operations where she was responsible for the project management team in a companywide self-reliance initiative. The project was chartered with transitioning all of Cox’s high-speed Internet (HSI) customers from Excite@Home and RoadRunner services to Cox’s self-managed and branded service.
The cross-functional team was formed in 2001 with the objectives to "rely on ourselves to become self-reliant," and to "do the right thing for the customer." Rather than calling in outside consultants, Cox chose to draw on the existing talent pool within its 18 systems because, as Marcie explained, "Nobody cares about our customers more than we do."
As it turned out, this decision was key to the success of this technically challenging project. The transition quickly went from inception to implementation and culminated with around-the-clock conference calls as the new service was phased-in to each of Cox’s markets across the country. Marcie’s military training in stressful situations came in handy as the team went through a high-tech boot camp complete with a multivendor "war room" for resolving time-critical issues, sleeping cots scattered throughout the offices, and 24×7 food service.
"It was an exciting time at Cox, and was a memorable project because the entire team was committed to a clear goal that was critical to both the company and our subscribers," Marcie recalls.
To meet its objectives of minimal customer disruption and churn, the team instituted several new processes. These included separating the customers’ network conversion from the conversion of their services such as local content and email, routing all of Cox’s call centers together for the first time, and offering a virtual hold option that allowed customers to leave a phone number, hang up and receive a call back when a customer service representative (CSR) was free.
Jim Renken, vice president of operations support and Marcie’s former supervisor, had this to say of her role on the self reliance project: "Marcie is the epitome of project management—ensuring that the project is delivered on time and within budget. She’s always asking the tough questions, standing her ground, pushing the envelope and probing beyond when most would stop. But, I’m most impressed with her ability to succeed on a project of this scope while simultaneously finishing her college degree and being an active mom."
After completion of the HSI project, Marcie began looking for new challenges. Having spent much of her career focused on voice and data services, video seemed like the next logical step.
In mid-2002, she was promoted to her current position as vice president of business development for Cox’s northern Virginia (NOVA) system passing nearly 400,000 homes in the shadows of Capitol Hill and the Federal Communications Commission. Fairfax County, Va., boasts the highest median household income in the country, and contains a prime customer base including employees from leading technology and media companies as well many of the nation’s legislators. Given its unique demographics, the NOVA system is perfect for the introduction of early-adopter products.
Within weeks of joining the NOVA operation, Marcie began guiding the launch of high-definition TV (HDTV). While there was no shortage of technical hurdles, Marcie found training and education to be one of the greatest challenges. "There is often a misconception that HDTV is just digital cable, and we already know cable. However, HD demands a much more pristine plant with higher signal-to-noise ratios. Likewise, the complexity of HD consumer devices can often be overwhelming to new customers. But, once people see the benefits of the new technology, they realize why they need it."
With the HDTV launch under her belt, Marcie was right back at it with an all-staff project announcement: "Project team members wanted for the launch of digital video recorders (DVRs)."
Because the 1,000-home trial marked only the second Cox system to test DVRs, it would serve as a model for future deployments, and, therefore, detailed reporting was mandatory. Marcie recruited a data analyst to report on all aspects of the business including duration of support calls, reasons for sales success or failure, cannibalization of other services and so on.
Reflecting on her past accomplishments, Marcie feels her niche has been keeping all team members aligned, drawing on her program management background to foster collaboration and encouraging team members to "think outside their silo." She stressed the importance of identifying and involving all the stakeholders early within a project to encourage teamwork and instill a sense of ownership.
Making of a top performer
Marcie had all the makings of a top performer, finishing high school in Nashville, Tenn., as an honor student in the top 2 percent of her class. While most of her friends were heading to college, Marcie was intrigued by the military because of the opportunity to broaden her horizons and self-fund her education.
She spent her first year in training at Fort Gordon, and then two years maintaining communications and traffic control systems at Manheim Airfield in Europe, where she was recognized as Soldier of the Quarter at the Brigade level. When injury prevented her from pursuing her goal of flying Black Hawk helicopters, she returned stateside to Arizona where she was an instructor for telecommunications installations.
After her tour of duty was up, Marcie used her new skills to land a job as a broadband installation team leader with Nortel. While she loved the job, it demanded far too much travel, so she began looking for something that would keep her closer to home.
This led her to Cox, which eventually took her to Atlanta and then Virginia, where she lives today with her husband and two children. While at Cox, Marcie completed her B.S. in business management at Bellevue University and hopes to begin her MBA in the near future.
Guiding others’ futures
Marcie has been a member of Women in Cable and Telecommunications (WICT) since 1998 and is looking forward to taking advantage of the many benefits of her recent SCTE membership. She also has been a speaker on Supercomm panels, as well as a local CTAM event.
While she juggles many responsibilities, mentoring has been the most rewarding aspect of Marcie’s career. In addition to informally advising colleagues, she participates in Cox’s formal mentoring program, and is scheduled to lead an upcoming WICT career-planning seminar. Sharing her real-life experiences, Marcie illustrates how championing new technologies can create major opportunities for advancement.
"I meet people from all different backgrounds who have been doing the same job for many years, and now they must learn new products to stay competitive in the industry. This can be very scary, but it also can open doors they never knew were there. Helping others see and prepare for the future has really been rewarding."
It only took a brief conversion to sense Marcie’s passion and dedication to her customers, and it has been a pleasure getting to know her. Please join me in congratulating Marcie Anderson as the very deserving recipient of this year’s Women in Technology Award, sponsored by WICT, SCTE and Communications Technology.
Christy Martin is vice president of engineering for Canal+ Technologies, and the 2002 recipient of the Women in Technology award. Email her at [email protected].
Q&A with Marcie Anderson
What has been your greatest career challenge?
Learning how to motivate people toward common goals. Motivating people is a formidable challenge that has huge rewards.
What are you most proud of?
Building my career, while putting myself through college.
Which of your decisions has most influenced your career?
Never be afraid of hard work.
Do you believe your military training contributed to your success?
Absolutely. The military gave me a solid foundation in electronics and communications that enabled me to enter the telecommunications field. I know, through my military experience, that I can do anything I set my mind to. That confidence enables me to be an effective leader in today’s changing business environment.
If you had to do it over again, what would you change?
I have learned a lot from my mistakes, so I would not change a thing.
What do you think are the most exciting aspects of the cable industry today?
Delivering on the promise of new products and technology. Technology that is changing our lives.
What advice would you give women entering the industry in a technical position?
The way to succeed is never quit, take risks and work really hard. That’s it.
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." — T.S. Eliot