What I learned in 20 years career developing internet products in telecommunication industry

Picture of Peter Vandenengel, Telecommunication Job

Peter is a telecommunication leader with over 20 years experience developing and managing world class internet products and operations.  Capitalizing on the growing home Wi-Fi market, Peter founded Netperian in 2015 to focus on Wi-Fi product development and testing.

Peter was head of home hardware product development and operations for Bell Canada.   His experience includes product development and supply chain management of a nation-wide deployment of over 10 million in-field routers and TV set top boxes.  Peter has a history of being on the leading edge of technology and has the product experience and operational know-how to help any organization with their hardware needs.

Peter has an undergraduate degree in Finance from Concordia University in Montreal and an MBA from York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto.

Why Did You Seek Out a Career in Telecommunications Field?

I started working in the internet business when dial-up was the prevailing technology, and things were changing fast.  I knew I wanted to be part of this industry, but my heart was in the numbers at first.  My first job at Bell Canada was in finance for the still very young internet business.  I loved the fast pace of the early days.  I built the original business cases that justified the millions of dollars of investment in broadband networks and its amazing to see those predictions come to life.  I knew early that I wanted to be at the front of this evolution. Finance was more of a supportive rather than driving roll, so I moved out of finance and into product development.

I feel its important to not only know which job you want, but also equally important is knowing when to leave a job to keep your career moving in the right direction and having the strength to make that move.  For me it was easy to make the switch to product development because my finance background provided me the basic business and strategic foundation needed to make the right product decisions. When a company and industry are rapidly growing, flexibility vs specialization is a vital asset and that played to my advantage.

My biggest career leap was when I quit my long tenured job at Bell Canada to start my own business.  The internet is still one of the most exciting fields around and it powers many of todays new technologies and there is no better place to be.  I have become a trusted advisor to many in the field and it is incredibly rewarding.

What was your first job or nuggets from jobs you had that helped you to get to where you are today?

As I progressed in my career the jobs and teams I managed got bigger and more complex.  No matter how big or small the job, communication was always the difference between success and failure.  I learned early to speak my mind but with respect for those above or below the chain of command. I also encourage everyone around me to do the same.  As a leader the buck starts and stops with you, but that doesn’t mean you do everything alone.  A lot of my success has come from working and communicating effectively with others.  Very few get to the top on their own.

Here is what I learned. Share your ideas, listen to others, be honest when you messed up and be proud when you succeed.  Don’t be afraid to praise others or to seek out some of your own.  Never sugar coat a difficult situation or over-sell your solution.  Nothing ruins your credibility faster than lying or withholding the truth.  Always communicate openly and encourage it from others.

Books that helped you?

I’m a firm believer in continual learning and exploring new ideas and picking just a few books from over my career is tough. There are a few books that stuck out for me.  I love anything from Michael Lewis. “Liar’s Poker” was an early favorite and “The Big Short” an amazing follow up.  Both books are centred on Wall-Street culture but at very different times.  A few lessons I learned from these books is to be wary of the source of data and to question the intelligence of groups.

The product developer in me learned a lot from “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman.  This book is not your traditional Ux book and covers a lot of ground in overall product design in fun and easy to understand terms.

Finally, “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams, while not a traditional business book has lots of life lessons.  The opening line “Don’t Panic!” is an awesome lesson for those dealing with difficult work or life challenges.  This book teaches you that life is a series of exciting events and to handle these events with a sense of adventure and experimentation and to enjoy the ride.

Advice for someone looking for a Telecommunication job?

I haven’t had to look for a job for decades, but I have hired scores of people.  It’s rare that a candidate’s skills perfectly fit a job description, so you should not be afraid to hit a bit above your weight class.  I always look for people who are honest, can communicate effectively and I avoid BS at all costs.   If you are applying for a job that is slightly above your credentials, don’t try to sell the employer that you have all the skills.  Sell them on your enthusiasm, ability to learn quickly and proven track record of taking on increasing levels of responsibilities throughout your career.  Your direct experience is only a part of your selling package, you are the rest.

Things are changing very fast in the industry, how do you keep yourself updated. Please list techniques or newsletter, podcasts, events etc

Keeping up to date with industry changes is best done by networking.  I find by talking to key customers and suppliers I learn a lot about what’s on the horizon and about to be launched.  People love to talk about what they are working on, and I love to listen.  I’m also willing to share what I learn, provided it does not break anyone’s confidence.  I then take that information and watch key players. My industry is largely governed by Big Teclo so I watch them and their suppliers closely.  I read press releases, news articles and social media posts from key executives.  I then use that information to circle back with my network and the cycle continues.

Finally I rely on Buzz Sumo and even Reddit to see what’s hot and trending.

Lessons from jobs that you couldn’t get.

Its hard not to take a lost job personally but you can’t let one or two defeats define you.  If it’s a promotion internally that you didn’t get don’t be afraid to ask why you lost out.  Take that information and decide if you can change to fit their mold to get the next promo or if you need to move on to another adventure.  If the job was with another company reach out to them and see if they will give you feedback.  Best case they give you feedback and or remember you for the future.  Worst case is they don’t respond, and you are no worse off.  I’ve suffered my share of defeats and success is never a straight line.  Career paths are a series of defeats and victories along the way.  The important part is learning and adapting from those defeats.

Summary 

Job hunting is not easy and finding the right fit is even harder.  Very rarely do people land that perfect job the first go around.  It takes time and effort in jobs that you hate but are perhaps helping you grow your skills, network and experience.   Learn from all of them, but most important….Don’t Panic!

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