SCTE member since 1995
Title: Midwest account manager, Times Fiber/Amphenol
Broadband Background: Rick Sullivan is the SCTE’s newly elected Region 5 director, representing Iowa, Illinois, Kansa, Missouri, and Nebraska. In his "day job," he is a midwest account manager at Times Fiber/Amphenol.
How did you first get involved in cable and the SCTE?
I got involved in cable in 1981 when I returned home from the Marine Corps. I was in communications in the Marine Corps, splicing phone wires and climbing poles. The new cable industry seemed like a good fit. I was hired as a technician for Douglas County Cablevision (Metrovision) in Omaha in November of 1981. We chased contract installers and contract splicers around for a couple of years working ding to dong.
As for when I first became involved with the SCTE, my boss when I was with Douglas County Cablevision in Omaha, Jennifer Hayes, was one of the founding members of the Great Plains Chapter. She directed all the technicians to attend local SCTE seminars. Times have certainly changed; we used to attend meetings on Saturdays. This was a great opportunity to learn about the industry from the vendors and the technicians from other systems. We were no longer isolated in our own system. These training sessions were a real eye-opener.
What prompted you to run for a seat on the board?
In the end, it is not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years. Being involved in the Society has taught me many lessons in life. This is the community that that brings the industry together to learn and improve ourselves. Running for the Region seat was the next logical progression and gives me an opportunity to help mold the Society. When I help a Chapter and then see people in the Chapter reaching out to help others to get involved or helping them determine their career path, then it makes me feel good about what I have done. We all learn from each other, and I am looking forward to my next learning experience on the Board.
What do you see as the key issues in your region?
All the chapters in Region 5 are very strong and have great leadership. My goals as the director for the Region are to take the networking that occurs on a Chapter level to a Region level.
What do you see as the key issues for the SCTE and the industry as a whole?
The Society is a strong, vibrant being. The passion I see from chapter leaders is contagious. Our challenges will be to keep that passion going. The chapters are and will remain the core of the Society. I feel the two key issues facing the Society are showing value to the industry on an individual level and an operator level.
My experience as the chair of the NCLB sub-committee has shown me that if the business managers of the prominent operator in the chapter area do not support the SCTE, then the chapter struggles. We must convince these leaders of the value the Society brings to the table. There are too many instances where the operator depends too heavily only on internal training programs. The value of letting a technician attend an SCTE-sponsored event where he can network with other companies, learn existing technology and new technological advances from vendors and participate in open discussions, is invaluable to the learning process and enhancement of his or her career.
On an individual level, the chapter leaders are challenged with making those who do attend events welcome. We need to show them that being involved helps them along their career path. We need to engage the participants and get them involved and show them what great advantages there is being part of the Society.
Can you share any memorable experiences from your time in the industry?
Do you mean the time when I got frostbite fixing a suck-out at 1 in the morning, or the time I was changing a power supply module on a pole in a severe thunderstorm with a co-worker holding an umbrella over my head on a ladder, or possibly the time I almost fell down laughing when I saw another co-worker put a dead squirrel in a co-worker’s work pouch as he started to climb a pole?
I will defer to a civil story. I was a supervisor in a small system in Nebraska, and we were going through an upgrade. My VP of engineering decided to use wrecked out 550 MHz passive devices from another system. Unfortunately, they all came to us with connectors and cable still attached. I explained to him that these needed to be removed and the devices needed to be inspected and swept, and this was going to take overtime for my people. He suggested I hire a couple of temporary people to complete this task. Within a week I had found two people to do this task and asked the office manager to process the paper work. When the paperwork made it to HR, the jig was up. I had no authority to hire these workers! From what I understand, my VP was in a little hot water. That meant I was in very hot water. I took a tongue lashing in the hallway. The engineer was only thinking out loud, and we were to have further conversations before I took the steps to hire the temporary employees. I knew this, but saw a need to get the project started, so took the initiative. There were many lessons in this story for me, but the biggest is, "When you go out on a limb and the limb breaks, catch another limb on the way down, hang on and start climbing back up the tree." By the way, the temporary folks were hired and worked for me for many months trying to keep up with the splicers.