Tellabs and Personnel: One in Particular

Yesterday I posted about a lot of people that left Tellabs after the takeover of AFC. Today, I want to focus on one person in particular. That person is Jorge Valdes. Jorge was AFC’s VP of Engineering. I want to talk about our relationship and a bit about his exit.

Jorge and I first worked together in 1994. We were both working inside of Racal-Datacom. Jorge was a Manager in the Digital Access Products Group and I was a Supervisor in the Multiplexer Group. I had a falling out with my boss over some personnel changes. We had to lay off or find a new home for someone in the group. I had a recommendation and this boss had another. For some reason, he told the person that I recommended laying off about our conversation. It made my position untenable and I looked for another. I ended up with a job working for Jorge.

Our relationship was very good and I helped him solve a big project problem with a product called the ISX 5300 (which was a T-1 DSU). Jorge and I became peer later when I took over a crash program that was blowing up. He was a Director running all the Digital Access Products and I was a Director working this large scale Dial-Up Remote Access System. I left that project and joined AFC in 1997. I did so because I saw Racal-Datacom was going to collapse.

AFC was growing and we were having trouble growing headcount in Petaluma. It is a hard place to recruit Engineers for lots of reasons. We decided to open another office and I knew where I would be able to get a bunch of talent which was at Racal-Datacom. AFC had some other remote offices (Fremont for example) but I wanted to have a leader in the office and made sure we hired Jorge to run it.

Jorge eventually became the VP of Engineering to replace Catherine Millet. Jorge will remember that he and Tim Flood and I met at my house to come up with a new Engineering Structure post-Catherine. Once John Schofield came on board, I eventually entered the role of CTO. This meant Jorge and I were peers again and in a position where we had to work a lot together.

Because of our history, trust was never an issue. But we are very different people. It made joint decisions very hard. What eventually fixed it for us was a Meyers-Briggs assessment which helped us each understand how the other worked even better. Now, I use DISC assessments and would work with anyone who needs them to help. They might help people think about how to communicate with each other more effectively, which is what Jorge and I got out of that exercise.

Now, our relationship was never perfect and I disagreed with him on many issues. Turns out that I am imperfect as well, so there is that. What got him booted was some overlooked planning in the FiOS program. I recall a program call where Carl was reviewing the testing plan. We were short some piece of equipment and were told that we had not ordered it. When Carl asked when it was known that it was needed, we were told months ago. Now Jorge was not directly responsible, but eventually took the hit for issues like that. In my mind, it came from one of his weaknesses – hiring only people he knew.

Once Jorge was gone, a guy named Brian Gawick took over. Brian was also a compatriot of Carl’s and would shortly be moved to take over Vivace. But things were never the same, that’s for sure!

Jim Sackman
FocalPoint Business Coaching
http://www.jimsackman.focalpointcoaching.com/
We Focus On Your Business – Time, Team, Money, Exit
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3 thoughts on “Tellabs and Personnel: One in Particular

  1. I knew Jorge Valdes and worked with him on many projects. I was a software engineering who wrote network management applications (for the CMS 400 system) that supported the ISX 5300. I had a lot of respect for Jorge and enjoyed working with him way back then, Hey Jim if you knew Racal-Datacom was going to collapse back in 1997 I sure wish you would have told me. I stuck it out until late 1999 and it was miserable those last few years watching a great company go down the tubes and watching all of the talented engineers that I had worked with and respected over a 17 year career leave.

    1. Hey Steve. Jorge is now the CTO of Dexcom in San Diego and seems to be doing well.

      I knew Datacom was going down when I sat in a meeting with Jim Finnegan and the rest of his staff. He read off the revenue numbers per product line for the year and I wrote my numbers next to his. I came up over $100M short of his numbers. I had already interviewed with AFC and found that Tom Giunta and Dave Arnold were both there (not sure if you remember them from CMS development). In fact, Dave was the VP that hired me. Small world!

      1. Hi Jim, I too sat in on some Jim F. project status meetings. He was tough and to the point and held people accountable which was good however, I never cared for his people skills or lack thereof. He never walked around engineering and mingled with the engineers. I really feel it is important for executives to make themselves known and to help make the people who report to them feel comfortable in their presence. I would have not been privy to the numbers you mention about revenues at my level. Jim F. continued to send out emails telling us to be patient and that good things were coming our way during the sale and ultimate purchase of Racal-Datacom by Platinum Equity Holdings right up to the day he left. I guess he had to do what he had to do. I knew Tom Giunta and Dave Arnold from the CMS 4000 days (another terrible project for Racal). They likely would not remember me very fondly as I worked in network management technical support at the time and we had responsibility for providing feedback on the CMS 4000 including conducting Alpha and Beta testing. We ran a Beta out at TransAmerica in Los Angeles and our feedback was not very encouraging for the product. I remember Tom as a very smart engineer and very politically savvy. I am glad to hear that Jorge is doing well.

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