Cablefax The Magazine - July 2018 - 27

201 8 TOP OPS AWARDS
INDEPENDENT TECHNOLOGY
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
Jeffrey DeSarno
Westman
Communications Group
When Westman Communications Group
president and CEO Dave Baxter was
interviewing candidates for the CTO
job some 10 years ago, he wasn't
shy about acknowledging considerable
challenges in a rapidly evolving
industry. Some candidates responded
with fear, Baxter recalls, but Jeffrey
DeSarno responded with gusto.
" The underlying personality trait that
stands out is Jeffrey's enthusiasm, " Baxter says about this year's Independent
Technology Executive of the Year. " It's infectious, so people
want to work with him. Our organization, culturally, is one where you
really have to relish change to be successful. Jeffrey was prepared to
drive change. "
The change DeSarno has driven over the past decade at the
Brandon, Manitoba-based provider is extensive. He shepherded
the launch of TiVo, led the deployment of the managed home WiFi
solution, orchestrated adroit bandwidth capacity planning to ensure
speed and reliability advantages and has worked closely with numerous
vendors, including Evolution Digital, to ensure that Westman
remains an industry leader.
" Vendors want to work with us because we have become known as
the guinea pigs in the industry, " Baxter says, noting that DeSarno
FAST FACTS
uWestman Communications Group was established by
volunteers in 1977 as Westman Media Co-operative, and it
still invests each customer's equity back into its operations.
The company provides service to more than 26,000 homes
in western Manitoba today.
uAs CTO of an independent operator, DeSarno is required
to understand the business from the customer service,
marketing and financial perspectives as well as from the
technological perspective. He reads the balance sheets,
performs economic analyses and also runs the helpdesk.
uDeSarno currently serves as co-chair of the Campaign
Committee for the United Way of Brandon & District, and he
is director of Rocking the Fields, Canada's annual classic
rock music festival in Mennedosa, Manitoba.
Cablefax: The Magazine
July 2018
played a key role in establishing this reputation. " He's always first to
put himself and his family as initial testers, much to the chagrin of
his family. He certainly takes his work home with him. He's always a
good sport. "
DeSarno's passion for innovation shows up not only in testing new
technologies, but also in building his team and harnessing their
best work, Baxter says. " As an executive, he not only finds innovative
technological ways to achieve Westman's goals, but he also
is very aware of the business case required. We don't have the
economies of scale [of larger providers], so that way of thinking is
important. "
Coming of age in the '90s, DeSarno was effortlessly drawn to technology.
" I grew up in the dot-com days-what else was I going to do? "
he quips. Looking for some job stability, he " lucked out " and landed a
job with a telco, moving quickly into the R&D side of the business. " I
loved being on the cutting edge of that stuff. That's what drew me to
the telecom industry-it was always reinventing itself. "
His next bout of luck came when he moved to the cable industry, where
he discovered a culture of collaboration and mutual support. " In the
telco world, I was just a number, " he muses. " I'd go to shows and it
felt like someone was going to stab you in the back later. " Working in
cable, he says, has felt like a " brotherhood and sisterhood... an industry
where everyone is just trying to help everyone work. "
Working at an independent cable company for a boss who allows
him to take bold steps gives DeSarno the freedom he needs to innovate.
" Things are done here with an entrepreneurial, independent
spirit, " he says, adding that the same spirit underpins Westman's
successful partnership with vendors. " Dave Baxter gives us just
enough rope to get into a little bit of trouble. "
DeSarno, who is the first Canadian to be named Independent Tech
Executive of the Year, is known for being generous with his time,
networking across borders and building mutually beneficial relationships.
Asked to reveal the vision in his crystal ball, DeSarno cautions
that future success in the industry will not be defined by any single
technology. " What we really need to focus on is quality of experience,
and customers don't see it as a wireless or wired thing. Today
it may be about WiFi, tomorrow it may be about LiFi. "
In addition to his enthusiasm, DeSarno's humility and gratitude stand
out. " I've been blessed to work with some of the best tech people
and business people, who have taught me that it takes a team, " he
says. " How grateful I am to the NCTC, to the ACA, to my brothers and
sisters [in the industry] who allow me to speak, and to my team here
at Westman. I'm also grateful to Cablefax for making me look good
in front of my wife. " n
cablefaxmag.com
- Caron Carlson
27
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Cablefax The Magazine - July 2018

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