First CEO Blog

September 14, 1:00 pm

As the new President and CEO of UTC, I thought it would be good to start a blog that will enable our members and other interested folks to get to know me a bit better, while also learning about what UTC and the utility industry are up to. While sometimes an overused phrase, the title of my blog — The Bottom Line — is a reflection of the way I think. It is also a reference to UTC’s diverse members to whom the term “line” has multiple, daily meanings and applications. So, onward to the bottom line…

I just finished up a week that kicked off about two months of intense travel to UTC’s U.S. regional meetings and technical conferences, as well as a couple of international conferences where our global units in Canada and Europe gather. The week started with an intense, but productive meeting with UTC’s Global Advisory Council (GAC) — a group that includes representatives from each of UTC’s global units as well as U.S. leaders and UTC staff. The discussion focused on optimizing the global work that all of these units are undertaking and exchanging of information about what is a priority in each international region. UTC’s chairman, Matt Schnell, shared the progress of the restructured UTC Committees in the U.S. (and how to encourage cross-border involvement where appropriate), while an expert consultant, Terrance Barkan, spoke about how global associations are typically set up (UTC has a bit of a hybrid approach, it turns out).

The bottom line from this meeting, for me, is that the reason for setting up the international units remains valid and helpful to all concerned – the similarity of telecom issues facing utilities globally. The fiscal responsibility of UTC overall requires us to prioritize bolstering membership in every respect — across the U.S. and internationally. The need for a UTC strategic membership plan was reaffirmed by the GAC meeting. This plan has been in the works all summer and will be vetted by the Board of Directors in November.

On a 10:00 p.m. flight from D.C. after the GAC meeting, I headed to Portland, Maine, for the combined Region 1 (New England and part of New York) and Region 2 (the rest of New York and the mid-Atlantic) annual meeting. (Note to travelers, leaving that late was an excellent choice — I had both airports practically to myself.)   Of course, I realized once I got to the hotel that I forgot to pack an essential item for two of my three business outfits – a black shrug (of which I have maybe five at home, but what’s one more?).  The good news is the mall was just across from the hotel so I made a detour over there after eating at Cracker Barrel the next morning (love that place and the fall decorations on display).

Sporting my new shrug, I was able to focus on the meeting that afternoon.  Kevin Malloy of National Grid (Chairman of Region 1) partnered with Fred Janosky of PPL Infrastructure Services (Vice Chairman of Region 2) to put on an excellent conference that wrapped up midday Friday. The presenters and discussion centered around a few key areas: IP transition and how vendors are finding unique ways to help utilities manage that transition; the continued need for spectrum access, but how some recent developments might offer utilities additional possibilities for strategic partnerships in this area; cybersecurity (enough said); and policy developments in D.C. Matt Schnell also presented a UTC leadership overview and explanation of the improved committee structures.

As important and informative as these presentations were, much of the really important activity at the meeting was done via the trade show portion and the networking events.  Since we were in Maine, seafood – lobster in particular – was abundant and scrumptious, so we were well fed while keeping up these important relationships, and making new ones.  I have — so far in my four months as CEO at least! — found the atmosphere from both core utility members and vendor associates in these situations to be extremely collegial, helpful and professional. An impressive group of folks so far!

During those networking events, I heard some of the same things repeatedly: 1) UTC is a great group, but needs more engagement from its members utilities; 2) UTC’s “reason for being” is more important than ever, but that message is not being heard by some of the folks who need to hear it – C-suite and other “deciders;” 3) UTC should also focus on gaining additional members in Regions 1 and 2; 4) even for the utilities already engaged, utility telecom and technology professionals are overloaded and need help finding ways to engage at times when their workload is high and they just cannot come to a meeting; 5) there are other groups in the region that we should consider partnering with because of the crossover in members. The bottom line from this feedback is that we at UTC must ensure we are meeting the needs of our current members. We also must use our relationships to explain and promote the value of UTC to decision-makers at utilities. On the former, this piece will be captured in the strategic membership plan. On the latter, some of this work will also be incorporated in the plan, but some of the higher-level outreach is already being done as I engage with my colleagues at other key trade associations in Washington.  UTC sits at the nexus of crucial issues for utilities and we must step up to this role by providing better customer service to members and by enhancing our reputation and visibility in the industry and before policymakers.

Next stop for me is home for a few days, then onward to the Region 9 Technical Conference in Spokane, Washington. Until next time…