The following transcript has been edited for length and readability. Listen to the entire discussion here on The Broadband Bunch. The Broadband Bunch is sponsored by ETI Software.
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Broadband Bunch. This is Pete Pizzutillo at the Calix Connections 2022. I am joined by Adam Ross Hill. He’s the partner alliance manager for GLDS. Adam, thanks for joining.
Adam Ross Hill:
Ah, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Yeah, no, I’ve heard a lot about what you all have been doing with Calix and I know you guys won an award, so congratulations. But before we get into that, I know you have had a pretty interesting journey to where you are today. Maybe just unpack a little bit about who you are and how you got here.
Adam Ross Hill:
Yeah. As a kid, I always wanted to work on the internet. I was really fortunate that my parents grew up very middle class, both retail. They saw a skill that I had as a young child. And they were able to take out loans and invest in computers in the mid-’90s. And you got to remember, it was $5,000. They didn’t have the money for that. They borrowed because they wanted to grow my skills and they saw that I was able to teach adults how to use that. When DOS was a thing and Windows 3.1.
And I wanted to get on the internet upstairs, in my room. My mother allowed me to design this out on a piece of paper saying, “Hey, we’re going to sketch together into a little network. You tell me the components for your own needs so you can proxy out the internet through your house.” This is like, I don’t know, I’m 11 years old, and I’m running wires with my dad.
They extended themselves because of the skills that they saw that the investment I can make in my community. It was a town of about 3,000 people in Clinton, Ontario. Dad was a butcher. Mom worked at a furniture store. And latchkey kid, classic home after school. Mom worked part-time. Dad worked full-time, two jobs. Got to clean churches with him on the weekend, that kind of thing.
And really it was, I didn’t know till much later in life how that was a big extension for them. And I still get choked up thinking about it a little bit more as an adult, how your parents can really help you through that kind of stuff and grow you. But I always wanted to be on the internet. My parents made just enough money that I didn’t qualify for OSAP loans in Canada, so at school assistance. They had to sign a line of credit. They extended their house to let me borrow against that to help me send to school.
Just super grateful for who they were, and that they saw the skills that I had. And I went to school and we did a couple of years of school and it was right in the middle of the .com crash. And I thought that my teachers are getting laid off, and this industry was going to go bust. This is not going to be a thing. I dropped out and then I did seven different jobs in a bunch of years because my opportunities in that rural town were as a farmer, and trades guy. And it just wasn’t who I was. I bounced around and I did work as a wine cook, all that kind of different stuff.
And I’m like, this is who I am. This is 100% who I need to be in my life. Went back again and graduated in 2005 from college at Computer Systems Technology Program. And wanted to finish the fourth year of school. Ran out of money. It’s totally extended, not able to go any further. And at that point, I’m like, “What am I going to do?”
Saw an ad for a local cable company that was wanting to look for a system administrator. Yeah, I think 2005 is back in the years of Doxis 2.0 is just really taken off on the internet. It’s the explosive grant, all that kind of stuff. I also was an industry candidate kid that got to teach adults the library programs, and how to use the internet when eBay was new. I really had skills that I was building on at a really early age in my life that made it unique that I had an opportunity to do all this and it changed my life completely.
I went and this company was called Bluewater TVX as X in Cable Vision. And the boss says to me, he’s like, “I don’t want to interrupt your schooling, but we’d love to have you. We know who you are, you’re part of the community. And can we have you in?” And I’m like, “Well, I’m not going back to school. I want to get married. I don’t have a dime in my name, I got to pay off some debts.”
And he’s like, “Well, you’re so green I don’t have this position for you. But if you want to come in, you can come in and swap 700 digital set-top boxes.” I’m like, “Okay, this is my foot in my door. I’m going to say yes.” Literally learned from climbing the pole up. It’s like a little shanty, an office between Homeville and Clinton, Ontario. And my office had, when I eventually moved inside, there was a toilet, there’s a bathroom that was shared. It was the partial head end, partial office.
And we were able to launch cable telephony. Everyone was getting into it. The cable companies wanted to reduce the costs of what the telephone companies had at the time. It was brand new and we found a vendor called Clearcable and that’s where I ended up meeting GLDS back in 2006. Because we wanted to have a fully integrated system to launch cable telephony and import the records from the CDR transactions, as well as do auto-provisioning because I’m a one-man network shop at that point by the time I’m graduating.
It was my first conference, it was my first everything in this industry. And I just fell in love with the team because they treated people like family and they were able to see the vision of what they were doing and they invested in them. And I’m like, “This is exactly what I wanted to do.”
And we had a team of CSRs, and TSRs. And we wanted to make it easy for them to turn stuff on and off and do billing and for recurring billing and integrations to do that because I didn’t want to be spent all day swilling in a different system. We did that part with a company called Clearcable and watched a product called Nomad.
And things were going well. I’d go sell services around the community, door knocked on the internet, and do a bunch of internet upgrades. They were a consulting firm at that point in time. And we continued to grow the business and of course, you’re a victim of your own success, private industry. Sold it out, and went to another company. I’m like, “Ah, I’m not going to align with that kind of big corporate mentality, being young.”
We ended up starting a startup and going from there. But that startup, to be short, it was a business continuity, a company called Continue IT, and they’re still around today. But the long and short of it was a really early foray into the business. And I didn’t have enough cash flow and we took an extra person on way too early.
I’m like, “Guys if I leave, we’re solving. Everyone has an opportunity.” Called a few people and ended up calling my friends, including Cable. They had me come on and really bailed me out of a really crappy situation. And I said yes to that on a Friday. By Sunday, our town had been ravaged by a tornado.
Adam Ross Hill:
When you’re focusing on business continuity, you got to think, what’s the first thing you’re going to call after a tornado in 2011 runs through? It’s like, “Hey, I got to make an insurance claim.” Well, I had been working the insurance space and had told all these companies that, in the event of a disaster and your server goes down, we can have you back on in 24 hours. I got tested as I’m switching between. They extended it and let me put them on. And we had them taking it. It was the early days of cloud and virtualization.
And then I got to work there for eight and a half years. And learned a lot and touch a lot with about 100 different ISPs. And GLDS was a partner there so I was familiar with the platform and we did integration across the Doxa space. I got into fiber around 2012, doing my CALC certifications, which was my first foray into Calix.
And I knew long-term where they were going to go as a company. And we work with a bunch of different vendors at GLDS. Calix is one of them right in the service delivery module space. But it’s really cool to see what they’re doing for our customers today. And I got to be a network operation manager again around 2019.
But my wife wanted me home, stay at home. Be at home at six o’clock every night. And got a really good opportunity to go and just help this team out and help grow all the different integrations as a partner alliance manager, just make our customers successful. Now it’s not about me, it’s making all of the different GLDS customers successful with all the different partners. Over day to day, I maintain relationships with all the different vendors, like Calix, and work on innovations with our partners.
Yeah, thank you for sharing all that by the way. I mean you can tell that your family instilled a work ethic that is pretty, I think rare these days. Kudos to your family to be able to A, feed your curiosity.
Adam Ross Hill:
And tolerate the tinkering. I don’t know if my parents would let me do that.
Adam Ross Hill:
Rip apart the computer at seven years old. Dad said, “Just put it back together.” The thing cost 5,000 bucks.
Yeah. Yeah. I used to take these apart, but I could never get them back together. But I wanted to talk to you about your sense of community and that belongingness that I think you’re attracted to. Right. Because I do sense that within the Calix ethos here. I mean there are a lot of folks, even the theme of this event, be the giant. Where they’re investing corporate dollars into helping communities, small mom-and-pop, and privately owned co-ops to compete and stave off the corporate competition. But also, really change the definition of how they serve their community.
Adam Ross Hill:
If you think about what a healthy community is, it’s a bunch of people helping each other out. And this is really one of those conferences where you see that in practice, in person. And Calix has done a really good job of empowering all the different operators to fulfill a mission, to deliver connectivity to every last subscriber that’s out there.
And all the government programs that are out there throughout North America right now do that. I always, my motivation when I get up is that, hey, I was that kid once that had that economic benefit of being in a really rural town that I wouldn’t have had an opportunity otherwise. This is where I’m personally aligned with the goals of anyone that’s trying to fulfill that mission.
And it’s the mission of our customers. It’s a mission of electric cooperatives. It’s the mission of every single internet company that’s in tier two, tier three space. Because they’re pillars of their communities that are providing a good economic return for every job that’s created that’s a well-paying job. And the community has such a huge downstream effect on all the other personal services businesses that are in that region.
This is the benefit that I see with broadband that is going to create this massive opportunity for children that aren’t connected, and adults that aren’t connected to participate. The digital divide is something that’s thrown around a lot. But it’s true if you didn’t have that, if you’re still not connected in 2022, you can’t bank, you can’t do your homework.
Can’t find a job. You can’t find the doctor.
Adam Ross Hill:
You can’t manage your kids’ appointments. You really are at a disadvantage and it’s not fair. this is where GLDS has really done a really great job of integrating with all our different partners in Calix. And we’ve done a lot of great work at integrations to make it really easy to do it quickly because we have to do it quickly. And we have to be able to empower our customers to do it quickly and make them champions in their own community.
We give them the tools through BroadHub and SuperController, to automate turning on and off Calix equipment, support cloud, marketing cloud, and SMX provisioning for their own use. Turning on the digital divide, crushing it, delivering it, slicing and dicing it. So that they can then go out and focus on what matters, which is supporting that and changing the customer experience.
We look after the back office, we look after the billing for them. We look after the customer care and API integrations that do that. It’s a whole holistic approach where I look at that. It’s not just one component, it’s all of that. And that’s where we have a philosophy that we treat our customers like family. And when we’re solving problems.
And we democratize how we build software where we ask our user group, “Who wants this feature X?” And we plan it out and we build it that way. It really is a huge community and we do that in association and partnership with all of our partners. And particularly, we work pretty closely with Calix and we did our first integrations with them back in 2012 at that point in time.
That’s what I think about the community of Calix in a short version. And we’re really honored to work with them. And we’re really honored to be the partner of the year with them this year to be able to deliver on the mission for our mutual customers.
Yeah, no congratulations on that. Just looking ahead and we’re sitting here next year. How will GLDS be different and how will Calix be different?
Adam Ross Hill:
My hope is, of course, that we’re helping more cooperatives, more companies that need to build the customer experience that they need and empower their teams to do that. That’s going to transform us together. It’s also going to transform the industry together.
By the same token, I look at that holistically across the technology that’s there. It’s really, it’s an opportunity with all of the funding that’s out there to help each other build healthy communities and build opportunity with them. What will be different, if I could make a prediction from next year, is that we’re going to use more network insights to build really cool technology to help make it easier for Joe Blogg off the street.
I was lucky. I was growing up at a time when this stuff was all new. You had to learn the protocol level if you really wanted to know it. And now, you have to make sure that the tools are simple enough for anyone to come off the street. And Calix delivers on those tools and GLDS delivers on those tools to make it easy for them.
Yeah, no, it’s interesting and I think you’re right. The vision that they have and the platform and the ecosystem and the desire to build those partnerships is pretty unique. I look forward to coming back next year and hearing more about how you guys are evolving. And hopefully, get another partner award. Thanks for sharing your story.
Adam Ross Hill:
Thank you so much for having me.