Georgia Peach: Cable-Tec 2018 Taking Atlanta By Storm
By Sara Winegardner
Over the years, SCTE-ISBE Cable Tec-Expo has transformed from a destination for plant engineers and the like to the largest cable telecom event in North America today. But for those worried that the show will begin to drift from its focus on the applied sciences, there’s nothing to fear. There are in fact more technical sessions this year than ever before, and on a wider range of subject matters. Rather than shifting in identity, Expo is expanding to allow for all operators great and small to share knowledge and exchange ideas.
“We’re becoming more inclusive about the diversity of interests in our market because we have also served ACA, NCTC—and other rural associations still come to us for technological solutions and training in the workforce,” SCTE-ISBE pres/CEO Mark Dzuban said, noting that as many of the larger companies continue to develop internal training modules for the latest technologies, smaller players are relying on SCTE more and more for those resources. “Collaboration is a good place for us.”
Georgia’s capital city of Atlanta will serve as the home of this year’s Expo, and as the hub for that collaboration. And just as the cable industry has changed and is changing due to technological advancements, so too is Atlanta.
“Atlanta is becoming quite the tech hub and tech center. Many Fortune 500 companies have moved their headquarters and/or tech teams to Atlanta,” Cox Communications evp and chief product & technology officer Kevin Hart said. Hart, who is serving as this year’s program chair, knows plenty about the city. Cox Communications calls the city home, and Hart served as a program chair in 2013 when Expo last came to Atlanta.
Heading into this year’s Expo, attendees will receive a heavy dose of information surrounding access networks and connectivity. “Probably 90% of the homes we pass by the end of 2018 will have accessibility to 1 Gigabit speeds through our DOCSIS 3.1 efforts,” Hart said, adding that all of the companies that have been hard at work on the standard, equipment and related access networks will have a presence at the show. “Additionally, as we think about the next generation of DOCSIS, full duplex DOCSIS, content-enabled 10 Gigabit upstream and downstream… you’ll see that in full display,” Hart added. Other topics to be explored will be the convergence between wireline and wireless and how the industry is leveraging its access points to provide small-cell connectivity.
This year’s Expo will also see the introduction of a Smart City Experience. By 2030, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities, the urban population in developing countries is set to double and the areas covered by cities could triple. Cities choosing to invest in getting “smarter” have already begun to improve safety and general quality of life for their citizens, according to SCTE.
Those interested in learning more about Smart City applications and what it takes to make them operate effectively can visit a display area hosted by Arris’s Ruckus Networks, Tektelic, LG-MRI, AXIS Communications and Signify. The exhibit will include an internet kiosk, IoT sensing solutions, smart street furniture and wireless camera systems. All of the devices will utilize WiFi, telemetry and sensor technology to relay and receive data from centralized monitoring hubs.
Dzuban and Hart have a rockstar lineup of thought leaders to cover as many topic areas as possible. Cox Communications pres Pat Esser is teed up to serve as the general session keynote speaker. Other featured speakers include CableLabs pres/CEO Phil McKinney, Charter Communications svp, operations, and last year’s WIT honoree Deborah Picciolo, Cable Center pres/CEO Jana Henthorn and NCTA pres/CEO Michael Powell. Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, the US’s first African American female combat pilot, also will be on hand to deliver her inspirational message at the Annual Awards Luncheon on Wednesday.
While there’s certainly going to be plenty to explore on the show floor, the program committee organized the technical workshops into eight tracks that will allow every attendee, from the newcomer to the technical whiz, to customize their experience.
For example, Cisco svp/gm Yvette Kanouff, who’s helping to lead the Virtualization and Cloud track, said that attendees can go all the way from the 101 session “Virtualization and Software Defined Networks: Demystified” on Monday to one that examines what is being virtualized and those services themselves, such as “The SD-WAN Caravan: Expanding Beyond the Enterprise & SMB Sectors” on Wednesday.
Kanouff, who has previously served on the planning committee and as chmn of the SCTE board of directors, highlighted this end-to-end perspective as something that has her especially excited for this year’s Expo.
“Kevin’s done a really good job of breaking things apart into categories and then within the categories to make them flow well,” Kanouff said.
Acknowledging that Expo now has so many topics to cover due to its size and the rate at which the cable industry is revolutionizing, Kanouff said that translating those topics into today’s world is the real “secret sauce” of the show.
“You can go to a conference and it’s hard to put that together and relate it to how it specifically relates to cable,” she said. “We’ve gone through great lengths to take this concept of hybrid cloud or edge networks and put the examples in for a cable network just so people can relate to it.”
Although other shows have disappeared over the years, there’s something about Expo that has Kanouff believing it has a long life ahead.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re an outside plant manager, an inside plant manager, a senior executive, a next-generation network person—it has a place for everybody,” Kanouff said. “It’s very broad that way on the engineering and technology side.”
Expo is taking the first steps toward that future this year, thanks to Dzuban and Hart’s vision of helping to communicate and train others regarding the next-gen technology on the horizon.
2018 WIT Winner
The annual Women in Technology Award, presented jointly by WICT, SCTE-ISBE and Cablefax, is given to a women whose professional achievements have extended beyond her company to impact and advance the cable telecommunications industry as a whole. This year’s recipient, Noopur Davis of Comcast, is breaking new ground every day. As Comcast’s svp, chief product and information security officer, Davis’ responsibilities include product security and privacy, cybersecurity risk management, security architecture and engineering and identity management. Her teams are pushing into the future, investigating the use of blockchain for IoT security, in building streaming security data integration platforms and in machine learning to build models for early threat detection.
Davis has been a steadfast supporter of women in technology. She is the executive sponsor of Comcast/NBCUniversal TechWomen, is on the steering committee of the Comcast Technology, Product, eXperience Diversity Council and is an executive sponsor of the Comcast Asian Pacific Americans Employee Resource Group. Davis joined Comcast from Intel, and previously served as a visiting scientist and senior member of technical staff at the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute. The 2017 winner, Charter’s Deborah Picciolo, will present the award during SCTE-ISBE Cable-Tec Expo. We spoke with Davis about her career path and how it has led to her becoming one of the most highly regarded professionals in cable technology.
What does this award mean to you?
I’m really honored. I was just looking at the previous women who have won this and… what a fabulous bunch of ladies that is. I am a technical woman and we’re in the minority. It’s anywhere from 20-25% of the technical workforce. The particular field that I’m in is just 7% women. I’m really happy and proud to represent technical women. It means a lot to be part of that select group and then to really be representing technical women, and women in cyber in particular.
What kept you driven when you began your career as a woman in tech? Is there a specific point in your career that stands out?
I’ve always been interested in science and technology and math and physics, but also loved literature and music and art. I’m also a first-generation immigrant’s daughter and when it came time to pick a career, I was definitely encouraged to go the technical route. My parents always wanted to make sure that I was being trained in a way that I could also earn a good living. That’s how I picked this field in college. I have an undergrad bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Electrical engineering is okay, but then I started to write code and I absolutely loved that. That was my passion. I got my masters in computer science and absolutely loved the zen experience that you go into when you’re writing code. I love how beautiful code can be and how challenging and fun. It never really seemed like work from then on. It was always more fun than anything else. It’s like you spend your whole day solving puzzles and the challenge then becomes how can I do it in the most elegant, efficient and high-quality way.
You’ve been a champion for other women in technology. What advice would you give to women interested in entering the field today?
As women, we’ve all been discouraged in so many ways, but we have to just fight past it as much as possible. I mentor younger women and my guidance is to just consider a career in technology. A lot of girls are discouraged, I was discouraged. I had a math teacher tell me once, “You’re so good at math, it’s a shame you’re a girl.” There are lots of ways that girls are discouraged, I hope less now than they were when I was growing up. What I would always tell young women is give it a chance. You will love it, some of you, but you have to give it a chance. Hopefully you decide that this is what you want to do. In so many ways, there’s so much more awareness now. Not to say that the path is clean and the road is easy—it isn’t—but it’s really a matter of giving it a chance and then giving it your all if that is what you want to do. Technology, and especially software, is a great career for women. It pays well, which is very important because we all have families and ourselves to support, but it is also one of the most flexible jobs that you can do. You can code from anywhere. For young women especially, as we’re starting our families, flexibility is important. It takes on a special importance in a certain part of our career. I always encourage young women to look at the field.
What sorts of myths surround fields in technology?
I think that one of the myths is that you can’t be creative in a technical field. Speaking from a coding perspective, there is a beauty and elegance in writing beautiful code. There’s user experience and creating products. Look at Apple products. Look at a well-designed app. It is beautiful. It’s a work of art. It’s creative, the way that people design the interaction of the product, the feel of the product. There is so much need for and use for creativity. I’ve met some of the most creative people who have developed some of the most creative products. And the other myth is that it’s a loner job. It’s not a social activity. You think of a guy, usually, in a hoodie sitting in a basement coding. That is just not true. It’s a team sport, nobody creates products on their own. It’s an extremely collaborative field. All those little things that are myths, we just have to get past them. The myths saying girls can’t do technical stuff, our brains are different, that it’s not creative enough, it’s not collaborative enough… the reality is just not true.
How do you handle privacy and security concerns in your day-to-day operations? What are your goals as we continue moving into the future?
The definition of security is confidentiality, integrity and availability. Privacy is really the definition of security, it’s one of the three pillars. We do focus on all three of those areas, the confidentiality or privacy of our employees’, our partners’ and most importantly our customers’ information. The integrity, which means that when I do use my information that I am assured that it was modified only in acceptable ways by authorized people, then the availability which means that we are protecting our systems from attacks and other issues, and that those systems are always available. Cybersecurity is about confidentiality or privacy of data, so making sure that only authenticated people are accessing the data in an authorized way. The second is integrity—that means I trust that my data has been changed only in authorized ways by authorized people. And the third is availability, that my data is available to me when I need it. That is what we do. We look at those three pillars for everything that we do, all of our products, all of our infrastructure and our enterprise.
Is there a technological advancement that you’re keeping your eye on for the future that’s just now developing?
It’s not as much a particular technology or a particular silver bullet. It’s as we move more and more into the digital world, there are these big changes happening: the move to the cloud, the proliferation of IoT devices. Our typical home now has about a dozen devices and that’s soon to grow to 50 if you just start counting all of your laptops, phones and TVs. Those changes are fundamental changes to our industry and the way that we access information. Those changes then drive the need for where you have to use different technologies. For example, as this number of devices proliferate and we have more and more data and information that’s coming from the new devices, applications and capabilities, you really have to figure out how to process that information. That’s when you start looking at tools like machine learning, AI and data science. From a security point of view, in the past I may have had to detect an event in “x” amount of data, I now have to detect that event in 100 times the amount of data. So my techniques have to change. That is what’s driving the change. It’s those fundamental shifts that are happening. It’s not really technology for technology’s sake. It’s technology to solve problems.