A defining moment in Amy Tykeson’s fruitful career in cable and broadband was when her father Don Tykeson, then owner of BendBroadband and an icon of Oregon cable, taught her a lesson of expectations in a family business. “He literally turned the gavel over to me during a Bend Cable board meeting,” she recalls. “With the realization that I was now responsible for this important family asset, including building our company culture and advancing our community reputation, I retooled.” She completed her MBA, sought out an additional mentor, and joined the Young Presidents’ Organization for peer support. “The bar seems higher in a family business, and fear is an incredible motivator!”
The expectations came full circle, as she then set the bar high for her company. She led with the belief that “If you’re a small operator you don’t have to act small,” says President of Eagle Communications Gary Shorman, who served alongside Tykeson on the NCTA board. “It doesn’t mean that you can’t perform better, take care of customers better, do things better than the biggest guys in the country.” When approaching a project, she would always look for solutions that were good for customers. Whether in board meetings or technology sessions, “her leadership in those situations was really a challenge and an inspiration to the rest of us who are out there trying to fight those same battles,” Shorman says.
That tenacity led to a number of technological innovations at BendBroadband. Examples are the launch of high-speed Internet in ’97; the conversion to all digital video in ’08; and opening the Vault, a colocation data center, in ’11.
“In many cases Bend was one of the first companies to embrace new technologies, to deliver services more efficiently,” said Mike Dewey, executive director of the Oregon Cable Telecommunications Association. “I really find it amazing that they were kind of an incubator. Amy is a financial person, but she also understands technology.”
Tykeson also pulls a lot of inspiration from her father. “My dad has been a foundational mentor to me over many decades,” she says. “It is a delight to hear him now, sharing his advice and insights with my kids. He always took the long view in our business, provided me with the latitude and support to do the right thing and take risks.” Her favorite career memory? Top of the list was the day she and Brian Roberts received their Vanguard Awards from NCTA in 2007, which led to their fathers re-meeting and recounting their early connections in cable (see picture). Tykeson is also proud of unveiling BendBroadband’s “Local Dog” branding companywide. Burning the slogan “We’re the Local Dog, we better be good” into the company’s history was “a thrilling highlight.”
And lest we get lost in a sea of accomplishments, it must be stated that Tykeson is also known for giving back. She has sat on the boards of NCTA, WICT and OCTA. She and her family make ample contributions toward the Oregon community. And since leaving the industry in 2014, when Bend was sold to Telephone Data Systems, she has targeted her attention toward three areas: community service and volunteer boards, economic development including startups, and philanthropic endeavors. Perhaps Shorman puts it best: “She’s a very generous and kind person. Sometimes you don’t find that combination in business—but that’s her.”