Preserving the Best of The Past

This year marks my 38th year in telecommunications and networking. I often reflect on those years and the changes I’ve witnessed in our industry, the good, the bad and the ugly.

When I started with MCI in 1985, we lived in an IBM world. Businesses mostly ran mainframe computers with 5250 terminals attached via coaxial cable. Distributed intelligence on the desktop was yet to come. The voice world was dominated by three PBX vendors, AT&T, Northern Telecom and ROLM and the phone and data networks were entirely separate networks typically managed by different people.

There weren’t any viruses, because the mainframes and terminals weren’t connected to the Internet. That of course would all come later.

Slowly but surely, we gravitated to the world of distributed networks thanks to IBM’s Token Ring, Microsoft, Apple and Novell, and the world changed forever. New industries were born and new players like Cisco that would come to dominate the new industry.

But some changes weren’t so great, and this is the point where I start to sound like a grumpy old man screaming, “GET OFF MY LAWN!”

We wore suits in those days. I worked for a ROLM distributor in the late 1980’s, and the IBM look was de rigueur. Blue suit, white shirt and a red tie. Nicely tailored suits and good shoes with a fresh shine mattered. We had Hartmann briefcases. Now everyone has a backpack slung over their shoulders.

To show our commitment to the company, we came in early. It was always good to beat the boss in. And none of us showed up acting like we were owed something. The attitude in those days was prove yourself and work your way upward via performance.

We were clean cut and had big, nice offices where we’d do elaborate presentations and entertain clients. It wasn’t unlike the presentations you’d see in the television show Mad Men.

These days, customers rarely visit you. They prefer to get PDF documents via email. And while that may be easier, I regret it, because I believe it’s made our vendor-client relationships less meaningful and more tenuous. We just don’t seem to know one another as well.

Since Covid, many companies have closed offices, are 100% virtual and do most communications via tools like Webex. Webex is a phenomenal collaboration tool, but when you no longer gather, you lose team spirit and comradery. There’s no water cooler talk. Walking to lunch together. Gathering for birthdays. Things I believe are important if you want to build a tight, cohesive team. And the character of your team will always be reflected in the type of service a company gives its clients.

People actually answered the phone in the old days. You spoke to live human beings, and while there were automated attendants and voicemail, you only got an automated greeting after hours. You spoke to people in your community, not someone 3000 miles away that had no idea who you were or what made your business tick. Service was much more personalized.

I’m proud of the fact we’ve resisted many of these trends at iConvergence. People answer the phone and talk to you. They listen and respond. And while we do allow some virtual work, we have offices and gather frequently. We know one another. The suits, however, may be gone forever. I recall wearing a suit one day to the office, but with an open shirt, no tie. Everyone else was in polo shirts and khakis (the official pant of the SEC) and someone said, “Are you going to a funeral?”

We approach service the old-fashioned way at iConvergence. Our clients get to know their engineers well. We work hard to really understand our customers businesses so we can appropriately tailor our approach to fit each client’s unique needs. But we do this while also learning and mastering the latest ways to protect and service our clients. I think that’s the secret sauce at iConvergence. Blending the best of the past with the best of the present. Having access to the best tools in the industry and combining those tools with the best people. People that care and that are your neighbors and even your friends.

That approach will never go away at iConvergence.