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Road trip might get us in harmony.


In two recent columns we discussed licensing of telecomm professionals. The response was positive but hardly encouraging. This issue is important, and will affect most of you reading this column.

Changes are occurring in the business. These are no longer the halcyon days before divestiture or competition.

While I'm sure most of you are relatively secure in your present occupations do not ignore reality. The industry is going through some wrenching times.

Are you getting tired of gloom and doom? Enough of it. It is time for this industry to take a bold step forward. Telecomm must focus itself as a bona fide industry, not a scatter-shot collection of special interest groups. After all, when you hear the words "data processing" you know pretty much what to expect.

What does the word "telecommunications" imply? For those of us in the business over the last few decades, we've seen a vertically integrated industry become a collection of mini-industries, all well organized but with no real collective mission.

Data communications, a very successful industry, composed of numerous units moving in different directions. Modems arenot in synch with multiplexers, nor are they really talking with the bridge and router people. Yet each needs the other if business goals are to be achieved.

How about network management? A confusing industry, it is becoming even more frustrating with a proliferation of standards. Both SNMP and SMIP claim to be "the" specification to guarantee product compatibility across different vendors. But neither really works.

Taken individually, each mini-industry can be more or less understood. But as part of a multi-billion-dollar package the feeling many of us get--privately or publicly--is of an industry out of control.

Even education overwhelms us. Telecomm education today presents an excellent selection of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. But does our industry have even one universally accepted certification program, like engineers have with their PE designation, accountants with CPA, or insurance people with CPCU and CLU titles? No.

Academia describes its telecomm programs as "inter-disciplinary." This means nobody really wants to take responsibility for it. Even at my alma mater, Penn State, their "telecommunications" program is a hot potato tossed between the colleges of engineering, liberal arts, and business administration. One could get a degree in "telecommunications," but it was good only in broadcasting. No mention of PBXs, data networks, microwave, or cutover planning.

Currently PSU has an excellent two-year associate degree program comfortably hidden away in the hills of Pennsylvania. But it could be so much more.

Out Of The Swamp

Do you long for a way out of this swamp? Would you like to begin straightening this situation out before you, too, become a casualty? Do you want your industry to focus itself more instead of continually modifying the gene pool when re-cloning itself?

Perhaps the solution comes from the recording industry. What do major bands often do when they get tired of the studio? What usually gets the juices flowing again? Road trips, of course.

What this industry needs, so to speak, is a telecomm road trip.

The recent PE licensing articles uncovered a simmering desire, on the part of many individuals. What I heard was a desire for a meeting of the minds. The meeting's principal goals would be to address the licensing issue. A secondary goal would be to determine ways to educate the legislative community on telecomm. After all, when our careers are being legislated into oblivion, should we not reverse that trend?

Summit Time

"Summit" is a popular term for a meeting of this kind. The political and diplomatic communities use it regularly to describe high-level meetings with critical goals. Our industry deserves summit. We have reached critical mass. In fact, we are at a critical mass of critical masses. Before the industry unravels itself during this pivotal decade, it is time for action.

While one meeting cannot possibly correct our industry's situation overnight, perhaps it can move in the right direction. One goal must be to find ways to establish a certification program, or perhaps a series of certification programs in different areas of the business. These might include telecomm management, engineering (I'm sure most of you know what I mean by that), and general telecomm. Why can't we have our own equivalent of the Certified Data Processor (CDP) designation?

Without getting carried away with unbridled emotion, let's remember a few things. Times are getting tougher. Budgets are being trimmed, yet more is required of each of us. People tell me their staff evaporates, yet their workload bulges. Do more with less. And now here comes another "special conference" on something with "special interest" written all over it. Why bother with yet another conference?

Absolutely right on all counts.

None of us wants to sit in yet another conference to hear a lot of industry "experts" tell us things we already know. But if the conference focused on the long-term viability of the industry (meaning your careers), might not the brochure you're about to toss be worth a second look?

We talked a lot last year about entering the 1990s. The "real" information age is finally here, we said. Technology is ready to take its major step forward; intelligent networks will be the way of the '90s. But the industry must also re-focus its energies, or we are destined to have another decade of unrestrained progress with no real direction.

Try this: Use the idea of a "summit" to focus energy on the issues of licensing and certification. And more importantly, use it as the first step toward a reassessment and redirection of the entire industry for the 1990s and beyond.

We must have the support of government agencies. We must educate state lawmakers on telecommunications to prevent uninformed and misguided legislation.
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Title Annotation:Communications Management; on licensing of telecommunications professionals
Author:Kirvan, Paul
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:column
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Previous Article:A degree that means something.
Next Article:Best minds behind ISDN are users.

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