The temptation is to say that all eyes at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo this week will be on Dean Kamen. Having one of this generation’s most prolific entrepreneurs and inventors as a keynoter can have that effect. But while Dean Kamen is a fabulous headliner for our speaker lineup, what’s really important this week is what he represents:  Imagination. A willingness to take technology in new directions. And a commitment to foster similar thinking among those who follow him.

In the end, after Dean Kamen and Time Warner Cable EVP and CTO Mike LaJoie have finished their keynote conversation, after our panels with Technology and Operations, Small-to-Mid-Size MSO and Industry Association leaders, after the myriad technical workshops and demonstrations and other activities, what’s important about SCTE Cable-Tec Expo this year will be how well it has focused our attention on the need to develop the nest-generation workforce that can move our industry forward.

Our workforce has ridden the waves of great change in cable telecommunications with inspired thinking. We’re testing the flexibility of our HFC networks like never before. We’re rolling out advanced services to residential and business customers.  We’re juggling the multiple balls of power availability, power conservation and power affordability.

But each day’s headlines bring news of challenges that lurk around the corner, as well as opportunities that await those who are ready to capitalize on the capabilities of new technology. As we train the next generation of cable engineering and operations professionals, we need to have our sights set squarely on what’s at and over the horizon.

You can bet your Segway that Dean Kamen has a few thoughts about how to address the issues ahead. That’s why he’s here: to share the thought processes that have helped his DeKa Consulting thrive as a hothouse of innovation, and to talk about his own experiences with stimulating engineering careers through his FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) program.

What’s just as important, however, is that our entire Cable-Tec Expo program has been developed to reinforce the themes that will be articulated in the keynote conversation. After Dean and Mike are finished, we’ll hear how thought leaders at MSOs of every size are facing the challenges of new consumer expectations, new competitors and new service delivery, and I’ll join the new president and CEO of CableLabs, Phil McKinney, and NCTA chief of staff Dane Snowden to discuss visions of where our industry is headed and how we’re getting there.

If you attended our Digital Home Symposium on Tuesday, stick around:  Time Warner Cable’s Jim Ludington and the Program Committee have done a great job of creating a content-rich lineup of workshops on Business Services, Capacity Management, Engineering, Network and Technical Operations, Smart Energy Management and Wireless/WiFi. I’d recommend Thursday’s DOCSIS 3.1 session, among others. Study the innovations that are being demonstrated on the show floor. And spend time learning from – and sharing your own knowledge with – your peers in the industry.

The pace of our industry is faster than ever. Technologies that were on the leading edge of innovation just a few years ago are becoming commonplace today, new ones have taken their place on the road to tomorrow and still others are just over the horizon. 

For the workforce of today, that means there are two challenges:  The first and most pressing is to maximize the value of current and future technology. The second – no less important – is to help mold a workforce for tomorrow that can continue the success of cable well into the future.

(Editor’s note: the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo officially opens Oct. 17 and runs through Oct. 19 in Orlando. For more information, click here.)

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