Insider Insights With Ken Paker, CTO and SVP of Information and Network Technologies, TDS Telecom

Aug. 1, 2018
A Q&A With One of Our ISE EXPO 2018 Tech Talk Presenters — OVERLOOKED ISSUES What should all of us be talking about that we are not? What is the […]

A Q&A With One of Our ISE EXPO 2018 Tech Talk Presenters —

What should all of us be talking about that we are not? What is the network side of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry missing?
Ken Paker: We must spend more time discussing the impact big data and digital transformation will have on our business. We have witnessed a huge transformation of our business as we have converted networks to providing broadband products and services. Digital transformation represents an even larger change, since it involves all aspects of the business. Continuing to improve the customer’s experience while simultaneously taking costs out of the business will be fundamental to our ongoing success as an industry.

What is the most stellar accomplishment in your career? What is a mistake you learned the most from in your many years of experience in this industry?
KP: I’ve learned to be more patient with technology and to project customer benefit over technical benefit. Customers generally don’t care about our technology — it’s all about how to leverage technology toward improving customer experiences.

More than ever, consumer habits are fueling the growth of mobile video, data, IoT, and AI. As a result, there is no stopping the strain on the fixed and mobile networks. And with 5G networks being rolled out by AT&T and Verizon in select cities, the challenges will build exponentially. That means more fiber in more places across varied topologies. It means field challenges, cost challenges, and even people challenges.
Why is that not happening faster? What is needed for fiber densification, fiber to rural areas, and fiber to meet the needs of 5G sooner than later?
KP: From a technology perspective, fiber is really the only thing TDS is working on that has any notion of being considered "future-proof." From an economics perspective, however, it’s a much tougher sell. The business case ROI is pretty far out, compared with other investments. In addition, outside plant construction does not follow Moore’s Law like the rest of our business. In other words, the build speed is largely dictated by economics, which is why TDS is such a strong advocate for state and federal broadband grant programs. They help bring the costs down, while improving the overall ROI timeline, which leads to faster fiber build-outs in rural areas.

What is your approach to leading your teams, and how is it different than that of other leaders? Is there a "secret sauce" to your method? What advice would you give to readers who want to be on your executive team one day?
KP: Similar to other good leaders, my approach includes being transparent, competent, and empathetic, with every employee. We need to be appreciative of external rewards, but we shouldn’t be driven by them nor expect them. To me, the true reward is the internal reward that comes from succeeding at challenging work. My advice: enjoy the people you work with, the company you are a part of, and the journey that you are on.

What is unique about your Tech Talk presentation, and why should attendees come to the Tech Talk Panel Discussion at ISE EXPO 2018?
KP: The title of my presentation is "Network Engineering in the Age of Digital Transformation". It’s the single largest determinant of future success in any functional area, and my presentation will, at a minimum, describe what TDS is doing and has done in the area of data analytics.

Share a quote from someone who inspires you.
When we live out of our memory, we’re tied to the past and to that which is finite. When we live out of our imagination, we’re tied to that which is infinite.   -Stephen Covey
KP: This quote is very important for our industry right now.

Read more about Ken Paker on page 36 of the August print issue. Click here to read it in the August Digital Edition.

Ken joined TDS Telecom in 1996. He was named Vice President of Network Services in 2006 and CTO in 2014. In 2018, he was appointed SVP.
About the Author

Sharon Vollman | Editor-in-Chief, ISE Magazine

Sharon Vollman is Editor-in-Chief of ISE Magazine. She oversees the strategic direction and content for ISE Magazine. She also leads the educational content development for ISE EXPO. Vollman has created educational partnerships with the major communications and entertainment providers including AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Frontier Communications and Cincinnati Bell. She has covered the telecom industry since 1996. Prior to that, she worked in advertising with Ogilvy & Mather and CME. Vollman has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Advertising from the University of Iowa.