TCA Stepping Up Its Efforts for Ongoing Education of Communications Managers.
To find out what TCA is up to and where it's headed as a major communications managers organization, CN Publisher Don Wiley recently met with Chairperson Randine Wilcox and President George Shriver just prior to a board meeting in Palo Alto, California. Both have extensive experience as communications managers, and both have been heavily involved in TCA activities--on its corporate board of directors, as well as at the chapter level. Randine Wilcox is communications systems manager for Motorola, based in Austin, Texas. Gorge Shriver is records inventory manager for the Network Services Group of Boeing Computer Services in Bellevue, Washington.
TCA was formed in 1961 by six Southern California, Greater San Diego, Arizona, TCA's boundaries stretch much farther, with members located coast to coast.
In the following interview, Randine Wilcox and George Shriver explain where TCA's at, how it's coping with growth and a changing industry, and where it's headed.
CN Let's look at some of the basics First. As far as TCA general is concerned, where's it at now in terms of members and member companies?
WILCOX The figures stand at more than 2,000 members and over 900 companies.
CN That's up considerably since last year. Do you have an active, ongoing program at the chapter level for increrasing membership, or are you more or less just letting people come to you?
WILCOX TCA is not seeking growth; however, with the trend toward a greater need for education, people are knocking on the doors and asking to come into organizations. I believe that in smaller chapters--Oregon, for example--that have become more prominent in the community, there is an encouragement to attach members; more so than there is in a place like Southern California, where the membership is as great as it is. But, to answer your question, no, we don't have a plan. We do have some allications pending for new chapters, so we're seeing growth from that perspective.
CN Ones we can talk about now?
WILCOX Yes, because we have an official application from Colorado, which will be voted on this year.
SHRIVER There's quite a bit of work involved yet to chapterize the Colorado Telecommunications Association. We received the application, and now we will send it out to our corporate board. Next, an ad hoe committee has to be formed to work with the people in Colorado. Then, once we have all the information required by the TCA operating practices and bylaws, the earliest vote would be in December. So if the application is approved, the earliest date for chapterization probably would be the first of next year.
CN What would be the advantage to TCA as a whole to have another chapter?
SHRIVER There are pros and cons to growth. One advantage is the experience of learning from others. In reading the bylaws of the Colorado group, it almost appears that they were patterned after TCA's. But they've added a few different things that I think TCA can benefit from, as there probably are things in our bylaws and operating practices that would benefit the Colorado organization.
That's one of the advantages of TCA--the chapterization, the bringing in of different viewpoints on a monthly basis.
CN How do you achieve and maintain a commonality of purpose and structure among the chapters? How do you avoid there becoming isolated local social clubs that are TCA chapters in name only?
WILCOX We've done a couple of different things this year that have come about because of the changes made in our bylaws a couple of years ago. Our directors used to be the presidents of the chapters, but it became almost impossible for one person to perform both functions, and do them well. So that has changed. It became apparent that not having the presidents represented, and instead having directors who are elected, was causing somewhat of a communications problem with the chapters, because the president was not having the opportunity to share with his or her peer group. The chapters were becoming units that were not as much a part of the whole as they had been.
This year, we started having a president's meeting, where they came together with us at the corporate board meeting in June. It was a very interesting experience, because we learned from that meeting that we should be doing this in December. Then they would be able to share with each other before they started their term of office in January, rather than five months down the pike. They had the feeling that, "Gee, if I had known that when I started out, I wouldn't be having all of these problems."
Now we're going to be having an educational forum at our December board meeting, where we bring in all of the chapter officers to go through a training class--more of a one-day tutorial. The primary thrust for that came out of Oregon, because it was the last chapter to come in. Its members pointed out the problem, telling us that they needed help and guidance for their officers. This is the type of thing that new people can bring to the party when they join.
CN Earlier, you said that a couple of new chapters were possibly.
WILCOX We have had some inquiries from some other locations, but they haven't formally applied for chapterization.
SHRIVER I think we have to take it one step at a time. Since our reorganization in 1982, we have learned a lot about continuity. Under the old bylaws, it was a problem because the board would meet for the year, then dissolve, and a whole new board would start up the following year. Today, we carry things over and have been able to accomplish tasks that were started one year and perhaps took two years to complete.
CN You're also shortened the succession through the chairs as ICA has done, haven't p you? It used to be a longer term as an officer.
SHRIVER Yes, and the directors now serve three years on the corporate board. The number of directors is based on the size of the chapter; the smaller chapters with fewer than 100 members have one directors, those with between 100 and 200 members have two directors, and for more than 200 there are three. So we really have some nice continuity there. In Northern California, for example, they have a new director coming on every year and that person serves for three years. So the information going back to the chapter is there on a continual basis.
CN So that's worked out as well as or better than when someone would serve four or five or whatever number of years coming up through the chairs?
SHRIVER That's right.
WILCOX As far as the chapters go, the only chapter encouraging movement through the chairs is the Southern California chapter. For them, it's still a six to seven-year term of office.
SHRIVER An interesting situation has happened in Oregon; they have elected to have their chapter officers remain on a two-year term. The comment has been made that by the time they learn their job it's time to leave. So they decided to stay on for two years, and that has worked out very well.
CN How about some of the new things TCA is doing?
WILCOX There are several things we're starting this year. One of them is a vendor council. We have appointed a chairman, Roger Bruhn from Mervyn's, who is responsible for organizing the council, which is comprised of upper-management members of 10 major suppliers. We started with 10 to see how this progresses. The intent and purpose of the group is for the council to meet with the TCA president and chairman annually, or more frequently if needed. The council will discuss issues of interest to the industry in both the vendor and user communities. There's certification, for example, and we've been looking into the feasibility of setting up an educational foundation.
Additionally, we need to resolve within our organization the classes of membership. It's interesting, as you talk to other associations, that the problems don't change.
CN So essentially this will be a way to get additional input from vendors more formally. So how do you pick 10 from so many vendors?
WILCOX That was an interesting exercise that took us about six months, because we couldn't come to an agreement on how to set it up. Each time a recommendation was made, someone would have a problem with it. Consequently, it kept extending the time to have the meeting. We eventually decided to take the 10 companies that are represented on the conference vendor liaison committee and asked the upper-management-level executives or president of those companies to meet with us.
CN What prompted the need for this vendor council?
WILCOX The idea was first conceived last year during the annual conference. We were meeting with different suppliers and there were several discussions relating to the education of their people. I think that anybody in the business recognizes that in the past, when a supplier came in to see you, he was the expert and you relied upon him. Now, many times, they've new to the industry or have been schooled in only one discipline. Today's supplier should know more than one discipline or one specific product. Consequently, the user is helping the vendors and spending a lot of time educating them. This is an issue the industry has to stand up to and acknowledge, and do something to educate everyone, not just the user.
SHRIVER Eveh though we don't build and sell telecommunications products, in really, as telecommunicators, we're part of the industry, so we have to start looking from the vendors' standpoint as far as education, and how we can help each other.
WILCOX And we als have the business community out there that may not be large or is unaware of associations. The trade show is one of the ways we're trying to help, by providing a vehicle for the local business people to see the products and have an opportunity to attend an educational seminar.
CN With this greater relationship withthe vendors this year, does that mean they'll play a more-active part in the conference program? Such as participation in the programs?
WILCOX What we're looking for from them in our discussions is a more-active part in putting on programs, but not at the conference. To give you an example, AT&T, through its school in Cincinnati, has come to Southern California on different occasions at the request of the Southern California chapter and conducted classes for TCA members at a reduced rate. We'll probably see more of that type of program, or vendors who have internal training calsses that could be conducted in several geographic areas. How we address the other side of the issue, as far as helping the vendor representative get trained, is another item, and we're still discussing it.
CN How about things like short courses, or whatever you want to call them, interim seminars and the like, to what ICA has?
WILCOX The majority of TCA's emphasis in that area has been at the chapter level, participating with the local colleges. Each chapter is supporting either a local juniro college or four-year college, and members sit on college advisory boards.
SHRIVER As far as interim seminars, each chapter holds about four or five seminars per year for members, such as noe or two-day seminars on TI carrier, voice/data, introduction to data. They're pretty active in that area.
WILCOX As an entire association, the answer is no. At the chapter level, there's a monthly program that runs from 45 minutes to an hour. And, as George said, most of the chapters are putting on quarterly seminars. We even have chapters that are holding annual trade shows with exhibits--Arizona, Northwest and Oregon. Colorado also has a trade show, so next year there could possibly be four chapter trade shows.
CN Is there much interaction among the chapters, such when one is putting on a seminar, do the members of another chapter attend?
WILCOX We see it more at the trade show level, because a large company can't send everyone to the annual conference. If the trade shows are scheduled throughout the year, a large company with several professional communicators can send some to each of the trade shows.
SHRIVER The chapters do share their minutes of programs on a monthly basis.
CN So chapter members are made aware of the existence of these other seminars?
WILCOX Yes, and in the case of AT&T classes that came to Southern California, we did a mass mailing to the entire membership. There was a significant cost reduction, as opposed to traveling to Cincinnati.
CN If you had a sum up what TCA's mission in life is, what would you say?
WILCOX In my option, there are two major goals and objectives. The first is the exchange of information, the second is education. I put them in that priority because the exchange of information seems to occur on a day-to-day basis as you're doing your job. In the TCA membership roster, you have at your fingertips a glossary of peer-group professionals who may have done things that you haven't. As you're starting into a project or need help with the qualification of a supplier, or a product comes up that you're not familiar with, you may call someone to gain immediatee input.
SHRIVER TCA gives the individual member a chance to find out about not only products, but also organizational structure, such as how others handle working for a corporate or finance side of the house. In fact, not too long ago, a member of the Southern California chapter was at our company for a two-day visit. Through TCA, on a day-to-day type problem, you can get the information just by calling another member.
CN Do you see any indication of people starting to pull back from this free exchange of information? I'm thinking in terms of some industries, whether aerospace or financial or whatever, where telecommunications is becoming more of a strategic business tool. Could that become a problem, where you'd be less inclined to share information with a peer at a competitive company?
SHRIVER I don't think so, even among members who are competitors. They're using the information to move ahead.
WILCOX I believe we're more concerned with providing service for our company and understanding what's going on in our own industry. Because of the chapter concept and the coming together on a monthly basis, people get to know each other very well. You become professional friends. There's camaraderie out there, especially with the new people.
SHRIVER I think there's more of an exchange now than in the past. As companies expand and move into different geographic areas, their existing member makes sure that the company in the new location becomes a member of TCA.
CN As far as the greater need to know, how much can be attributed to our friends in Washington, and to divestiture, and to deregulation as a whole? Obviously, that's complicated your lives. More so than new technology?
WILCOX Divestiture has presented some interesting opportunities. Divestiture has made communications organizations recognize their shortcomings--the need to manage the organization, manage your own destiny, by taking away the ability to depend upon someone else to solve problems, and to be staffed properly to do the things that need to be done. I think it brought most organizations up short, realizing that they either didn't have enough staff or the proper management or project-control techniques. It made us take a really close look at ourselves.
SHRIVER Smaller companies, and some medium-sized companies, don't have a telecommunications department. They heavily relied on the Bell operating companies to do they consulting. So they followed suit with recommendations and lived a happy life. When BOC consultants disappeared, they were left on their own. Suddenly, there were companies that had to start their own telecommunications departments. I ran across one company where one gentleman handled everything. It's grown to quite a few people now, because he has had to bring in his own consultants to do the work that was provided to him before.
CN By consultants, you mean on staff, rather than hiring outside consultants?
SHRIVER Yes, on staff; he had to create a telecommunications department that didn't exist before.
CN It must have taken some skillful juggling to all of a sudden adapt to the new circumstances created by divestiture. What were the most immediate problems?
WILCOX I think the entire divestiture issue was a shock when it actually happened and things were as confused as they were. You would call into an operating company and have to explain to them who it was you needed to speak with to resolve an issue, or who they needed to talk to. There was just mass confusion for the first three months. We're out of that mode now, so the initial shock has worn off, but we're having to deal with much more basic issues on writing our own destiny.
SHRIVER The problems are still there; it's just that we have grown to live with them. There are still billing problems. There's a situation where, because of divestiture, the telephone operating companies and other large vendors are reducing their staffs.
CN On balance, was divestiture a positive step? Are you better off today because of it?
CN Did users have enough input?
WILCOX Probably not. The basis was financial in nature. It's very expensive to provide input. You provide as much as you can, based on what you can afford.
SHRIVER We're still at the beginning of divestiture, and it will be a few year before it's worked out to the point where people are as comfortable as they were prior to it. It was an easy way of life for many people at that time. You knew exactly what you were going to do every day, and how you were going to do it. It was easier before, but now you have many more choices. You have to spend more time now before making a selection; if you don't, you could be in trouble down the road. And, of course, there's the question that if you buy something today, will it still be the product in three years?
CN So obviously, with all these changes, this gets back to what we were talking about earlier: the need for continuing education. We also have the new people coming into the business, both fresh out of school an from other disciplines such as data processing. What about the role of schools? It's obvious, with the greatly expanding role of the communications department, that there are nowhere near enough schools offering programs leading to telecommuncations degrees. How and where are we going to get all of the new professionals that are required?
WILCOX The subject of training people in telecommunications is interesting because the field is changing so fast and because there are so many disciplines involved--engineering, financial, managerial, regulatory, and many others.
CN So we're going to see more specialization?
WILCOX One person can't know everything.
CN Of course, there has to be a person who pulls it all together at the top. SHRIVER Where the larger companies had the specialization in the past, again the smaller ones are going to have to go more to that area, because it would be very difficult for a manager to handle all those items. Today the telecommunications manager is many things--a finance manager, an education and training person, a consultant, and sometimes an attorney, especially on the regulatory side--but the trend is more and more to specialization. TCA has been able to provide education to member companies through the corporate government regulatory committee and the chapter regulatory committees, and also with various seminars on voice and data. TCA has been serving as that tool.
WILCOX This education problem that we're talking about is the same problem that we run into when we start talking about certification. It's the ongoing, continuing-education process that a person has to go through.
CN So you're still seriously looking into certification? ICA, of course, decided not to pursue it, based on a Coopers & Lybrand study.
WILCOX The board will be voting on this issue during the conference. We have several schools of thought within the organization on how certification should be handled, and it has taken a long time to resolve. The Coopers & Lybrand report has been taken into consideration, and the vote has gone back to the chapters.
CN Have you taken any kind of a member poll yet?
WILCOX Yes, we did originally, and there was a high level of interest, just as there was within ICA. The interesting part is that the poll came first, and then people got into discussions about what certification is, and how it's funded, created and managed. The basic question was: What is it? The questions were all asked after the poll was taken. Then the opinions started to shift and to change, and we've taken it back to the chapters twice now.
SHRIVER WE've had some of the most interest chapter meetings on the subject. I have heard some comments saying, "Gee, what we need to do is bring up certification again; that will get everybody excited."
WILCOX I remember a comment that came from one chapter member: "I think I'm for it--but what is it?"
SHRIVER Again, it seems that the chapters come back with the statement that education is paramount over certification. And out of education, you can receive certification.
WILCOX There are two major opinions that we have right now. First, if certification is to occur, it must occur industry-wide. Second, if it is deicded that certification is the way to go, TCA wants to be there to provide input. There has been concern that any one organization or vendor might start a certification effort and not get everyone's input. We'd have major concerns if that were to happen.
CN Isn't TAC (the Telecommunications Associations Council) coordinating all of this?
WILCOX TAC is a means by which all of the organizations come together to talk about issues and concerns. TAC is not responsible for any coordination.
CN Obviously, it wouldn't make much sense if one group endorsed some form of it and others didn't.
SHRIVER You could go off within each state and have certification, but it wouldn't mean anything.
CN Looking at this issue of what it is and what it all means, who are you certifying for? What good would it be for the communications manager to be "certified"? Would it help with top management?
WILCOX It would be interesting for each person to take that question back to his or her management.
CN So the question, then, is: Is it worth it to go through the process? Is it going to get you something more at the end of all this?
SHRIVER Once you've been through it, you need to re-certify every year to two for it to be valid. With the changing industry, you could be left behind in no time at all.
WILCOX From the observations that I've made, when the major organizations are going out to hire new employees, they're looking for degreed professionals. Years ago, that wasn't the case. So you now have this middle strata of people who are not degreed and may need to be certified. Many of them are moving toward retirement, and some have been in the industry so long that there would be little to be gained by going through a certification program.
CN What do you look for when you hire telecommunications professionals at your two companies?
SHRIVER At my company, the majority of newcomers in the telecommunications department are all experienced telecommunicators; either analysts or managers who are out of the industry itself.
WILCOX It depends on what you're looking for, of course. A prime example of a problem area when hiring is a network manager, because there are not that many of them around. I'm talking about a large telecommunications or data communications network. The ideal is to get someone who has previously managed a network. Perhaps only the top five percent of the corporations have a large network, so there's a lot competition out there to get someone.
It concerns me somewhat for the graduate coming out of the telecommunications school, because I equate it to what happened years ago for a person graduating with a finance degree. They want to start at $30,000 or $40,000 a year in the communications industry. Reality says that you have to have experience. Without the experience, it would be difficult to say what the starting salary would be.
CN So how does someone prepare to be a telecommunications manager today?
WILCOX One step associations can take, and what TCA has recently done, is to establish a class of membership called a student member. This allows a student majoring in telecommunications or a related field to participate in the organization--the educational opportunities and the sharing of experiences with persons who are in the business. Through participation in the organization, they may have an opportunity to fill a part-time or entry-level position.
That's the last half of the answer, actually. The first half is to go to school. It's important for a person to get a college degree, preferably in engineering, telecommunications or data processing, because the disciplines are so intertwined.
SHRIVER As with most entry-level jobs, you can start out while going to school part time and get basic knowledge of what's involved in telecommunications, and then go into a full-time college or university program. And there's the other side of the fence, where people have gone back and received a graduate degree in telecommuncations. Then they faill back into the industry at a lower level, and stick with it because that's what they want to do.
WILCOX Many major corporations offer summer employment for students, which is an excellent opportunity to spend the summer months working in a communications department. After graduation, they can say that they've had experience. I think that makes the person who is doing the hiring a little more tolerant, due to the fact this person has a working background. Bringing student membership into TCA allows the participating members to get to know the students and their qualifications. It's different than just looking at a resume.
SHRIVER It also offers the manager contact with the instructor at the college or university, to find out whether a particular person would be good in that organization or not.
CN OK, now what about the person who's been in the field for five, 10 or 15 years? What do they do to keep pace?
WILCOX The first thing that should happen is that today's professional needs to accept where the industry is going, understand the disciplines, and recognize the boundaries that no longer exist--as far as their own organization is concerned. Voice people are going to have to learn data, the data people are going to have to learn voice. With the digitization of the voice network, the communications world will soon be only data. The professional will have to take classes, attend seminars. But a seminar is concentrated into a very short period of time. On many occasions, I've found myself going to learn something and, although the information was excellent, there was no reinforcement. So I really think that the college-level classroom environment is best. Seminars are excellent for introducting what's out there, making us aware of what's avaiable.
Another thing people tent to overlook is the founation of information that's available in their own company, if they'll take the time to seek out those people who are interested in sharing. I am housed in an engineering environment, for example, and engineers love to share information.
CN What are your backgrounds? How did you two get into telecommunications?
SHRIVER I started out in the radio industry as a broadcaster. Drafted into the US Army, I wound up in the Seattle area. I originally as from the East Coast, but preferred to stay in Seattle, so I applied at Boeing in 1961. One of the jobs that was open at the time was for an entry telecommunications analyst.
It was an education process between me and my fellow employees. Actually, it was a self-education process within the department. I remember months of following this one gentleman around, through the various plants, moving 5,000 people on a weekend, making sure that all the telephone service was moved with them. We would have a swarm of telephone installers come in to make all these moves, and over the years, as most people do in a telecommunications department, I moved from one area to another.
By chance, I got into fasimile in 1972. We had a program going on that involved New Orleans, Huntsville and many other locations, where we used fassimile machines to tie everything together.
I moved back to the telephone side in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Right now, I'm into the records area, which is a real challenge these days. It was all mechanized prior to divestiture, and we had a data base and a tape from the telephone company to update the data base monthly. To take care of the data base required only a programmer and a communications analyst. That was for some 40,000 instruments and about 30,000 lines. After divestiture, it disappeared.
Now I have a staff of 10 people to go through all of the service orders to update the inventory. There's a real future there if we can figure out a new way of doing it. So during these 24 or 25 years, it's been an education process in which TCA has sure helped.
CN And how long have you been involved in TCA, George?
SHRIVER Since 1977. That's the year in which the Northwest chapter became a member of TCA.
CN Randi, your turn.
WILCOX I worked for Boeing for eight years, but not in the field of telecommunications. In 1973, I moved to Los Angeles and went to work for a division of Baker International, later called Baker Packers. As administrative assistant to the manager responsible for telecommunications, I became the supervisor in Los Angeles when there was an unexpected job opening. Interestingly enough, it was at the same time that a new telephone switch was installed in the plant, and we were the first customer of one of the common carriers in Los Angeles--all of this happening during the same month--one month before I became the supervisor. The telephone switch had some pretty significant problems; in fact, it crashed every day, whether it needed to or not! And the environment included a specialized common carrier. What was causing the problem: the switch or the tie lines?
One day I received a telephone call from a TCA member who had learned of the problem. I was invited to attend a TCA meeting to get some help. The vendor liaison from the company supplying the switch was going to be the guest speaker at the meeting that evening. What a small world! Here I wasn't even a member of TCA and someone knew that I was having a problem.
So I went to the meeting, spoke up, and the next day there were so many repair people on site, including a district-level manager, thay my boss though i had done absolute wonders. I immediately decided that TCA was the vehicle I needed to enhance my professionalism. That was in 1974. In 1978 I joined Motorola Communications Systems as a regional manager and have worked in San Diego, Phoenix, and now Austin.
SHRIVER I think you'll find that a lot of people got into the professional by chance.
CN In another area, what's up at the Town & Country? What's the plan for expanding the annual conference?
WILCOX TCA has a space problem at the Town & Country. One of the issues is how large we want the conference to become. It's safe to assume that we don't want it to be any smaller than it is right now.
We will be at the Town & Country through 1987. The options being researched by the vice president of conferences, Nick Long (C.F. Braun), include extending our stay at the Town & Country if its convention center is expanded, moving to the San Diego Convention Center if it is finished, or if neither of those is appropriate, then we seriouly need to consider moving out of the San Diego area. We have asked Nick to bring his recommendation to the board meeting in September, so we'll have it to set a direction for 1988.
CN Are you looking at it as more of a problem for exhibit space, or for accommodations, or both?
WILCOX Both. For example, this year two representatives from each exhibitor may attend the seminars. The reason for limiting the number is the lack of space. We can't accomodate any more because the rooms are too croweded. And there's no more room for tables at the evening meal functions. It's just a general, overall problem. The TCA conference fills up the hotels in Hotel Circle, so now we must expand to the harbor area.
SHRIVER In fact, we're providing bus service between all the hotels and the Town & Country on a scheduled basis. The logistics are getting pretty tough. It would be nicer to have it all in one area. We do have to look to the future.
CN Obviously, you're pretty well boxed in, but somehow it seems that the association manages to find a few more booth spaces each year.
SHRIVER This year, we have about 50 vendors on a waiting list for booth spaces. Some exhibitors even have had their exhibit on a truck in the parking lot, waiting to see if an exhibitor doesn't show up. By the time of the conference, we should know what the Town & Country is going to do, and what's happening with the convention center. We simply have to make a decision.
CN Looking a little long-term, what's TCA going to be like in five years?
WILCOX TCA, by definition, is a regional organization, and we really have no desire to be anything else. The interesting thing, however, is that when you go through the roster, TCA is a national organization that's regional in structure.
Because we are a chapter-based organization, there are many considerations connected with growth. The growth needs to be slow, and we need the time to prepare for it. We are doing that now on an ongoing basis. We have set up the appropriate operating practices to allow chapters to come into the organization. We are open to those who come to us and want to be part of TCA.
CN You've pointed out that TCA is a regional organization, yet it seems that you continue to expand its geographic base. Several years ago, when interviewing Donnal Jean Parker of Macy's California, she pointed to a significant number of members located est of the Mississippi. Has that changed?
WILCOX I recently did a comparison of the Fortune 500 companies to see how many are members of TCA. Out of the Fortune 50 companies, 44 percent are TCA members, and only four of those are West Coast-based companies.
SHRIVER The majority of your industrial states back East have membership in TCA, so it's sometimes surprising to look at theroster. Many of those people might not attend the monthly business meetings, but they do get the newsletters from the chapters.
CN Just to clear it up for some, if TCA is a chapterized organization, how does someone in, say Delaware, become a TCA member?
SHRIVER Anbyone who would like to apply for membersship can contact our TCA corporate office for an application form and other details. They can join any chapter they wish.
CN But you don't necessarily have to have a corporate location in that chapter's area? There's no specific geographic requirement for membership?
SHRIVER That's right. A member company doesn't have to be located in the Western states.
CN So could you summarize TCA's requirements for membership?
SHRIVER According to our bylaws, "An eligible member firm shall be any company, corporation, sole proprietorship or association not exclusively engaged in the consultation, production, sale, rental or maintenance of telecommunications service and equipment. Member companies shall not derive a major portion of their income from a telecommuniations common carrier status as described by the FCC and state regulatory agencies . . ."
WILCOX Our primary thrust is to assure that there is a vehicle to help educate people. Groups should exist in every state. And if the can serve the needs of that community without affiliating or becoming a chapter of a large organization, that's fine.
CN What are you doing in the TCA office to help manage growth?
WILCOX Three years ago, when Donna Jean Parker was TCA's corporate chairperson, the association contracted with Kinder Association Managers to handle our administrative functions. At that point in time, Joe Trovini (Arizona) Chapter, retired) was chief financial officer and I was secretary, and we were overwhelmed with the time commitment-in the neighborhood of 25 to 30 hours a week. TCA determined the need to progress from being a totally volunteer association. We then contracted with Kinder Assocation Managers for three years. During that experience, we learned professional association management. Then it became apparent that to contract the administration was not enough; we needed to hvae an office that we could manage ourselves.
Last year we decided to bite the bullet and start our own office. As you know, we've had the conference office for some time, with June Long as the conference office manager. Now it was time to take care of the corporate side of the house, so TCA set up a corporate office in January of this year. The first step was to appoint a vice president of office services, Frank Jurian of Stanford University. Frank was selected because of his experience as conference director and directing the conference office. After that, we came up with a schematic for how many people were needed--five. Charles Dobruck was hired as the administrative services manager. The staff consists of an adminstrative assistant for conference, June Long; an administrative assistant for corporate, Gail Torres; and two office assistants, Ann Carreon and Joanne Melendez.
SHRIVER TCA is a volunteer organization. We've had people doing work out of their garages, out of their homes, out of their offices, for many years. We can't expect that to continue. So this is where we're looking to the future, where the office will handle those items that in the past were done by volunteers.
CN Obviously, all associations have their doers, and TCA seems to have had more than its share. Are you still getting the newer association people to become that committed?
SHRIVER I've seen a lot of new people in the last three years who are active. They generally start out on the chapter level for two or three years.
WILCOX I think we're still getting the people, but it's more difficult. First of all, member companies cannot afford to have a person spend excessive time. It's incumbent upon us to make the time they have to volunteer more realistic. Because new people see the amount of time required, it frightens them; they are already working 40 to 50 hours a week at their job. There are a lot of new people coming in, but, interestingly enough, there also are a lot of the same people here. that tells me that we're still not doing what we have to do to get the new blood active.
CN So you're sayig that the newer people coming in can expect a lesser time commitment in getting involved?
WILCOX We're trying to make it easier for them. We have to, or we won't survive.
CN Obviously, it's a major commitment for an employer as well. What do the employers get out of it? Why should they be so understanding?
SHRIVER The prime value is the common sharing of mutual problems, ideas and solutions.
WILCOX One of the larger benefits to a company is the experience that we derive from managing people. It's one thing to manage an employer organization; it's something else to manage a peer group of volunteers, who may be equal to or higher than you in their own management structure, and be able to be effective. I guess I would attribute much of my own career growth to my involvement in TCA.
CN Looking at the broader picture again, such as divestiture, other changes, the need for growth and so on, obviously these events in recent years have put the communications manager in the spotlight as far as top management is concerned. Is it a plus to be more visible? Or has it created m ore problems? Are you asked why you don't have this system or that?
WILCOX It's been a very positive step. One of the larger negatives that a communications manager faced in the past, and some still do, was wasting valuable time convincing management that the communications department should exist. There was a lot of lost productivity. It's very positive to have recognition from corporate management. There is a risk, but to succeed, you have to be a risk-taker, a salesperson, and be willing to lose.
In the last two years, vendors began circumventing the telecommunications department and going directly out to the offices. In many large companies, there are many small offices. Now, for example, if there are 50 small offices, there are 50 office managers who are telecommunications "experts" because the local vendor has explained to them what they need and why. That's where the
pressure comes regarding a particular type of telephone system. Corporate CEO's don't do that. You don't get pushed from the top. But we have all of these "expert" telecommunicators out there.
CN Does your department retain control? Do they have to clear everything through you?
CN Similar situation for you, George?
SHRIVer Yes. The voice side and the network side were consolidated in 1979. The network side had been broken off in 1971, when Boeing Computer Services Company was formed. They more or less handled our voice network, which was als used during off hours for computer transmission time. In 1979, the voice side became part of Boeing Computer Services in the Network Services Group, which provices the communications for the total Boeing company, for the network side of the house. The two exceptons are for voice only at our plant in Philadelphia and in wichita. We do act as a consultant and advisor to these two locations. So in a situation where a vendor might go to the CEO, they immediately would end up back in Network Services. Most of the vendors know there's one organization to go to for services for Boeing.
CN What's your biggest problem or concern as a professional communications manager?
SHRIVER Trying to give the people you service at your company the best service that you can, with what's available, in a timely manner. Divestiture, of course, has given us a few more challenges.
WILCOX Last year at Motorola, the telecommunications and data communications organizations merged under direction of the director of communications systems. This type of merging of disciplines affects the culture we may be most comfortable with. Although I don't view it as a problem, keeping up with the organizational and technological changes to better serve the needs of a company is probably our biggest challenge.
CN It's obvious from these past few hours that both of you are faced with some major challenges--and opportunities--and we could go on for several more hours. Since you're on the way to the corporate board meeting to resolve some of these association and industry issues, why don't we wrap it up for now? No doublt you'll have many more questions to answer from TCA members at the annual conference. Thanks for your time.
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|Date:||Oct 1, 1985|
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