Getting into an industry at the ground floor has definite advantages. Advantages Jake MacLeod, executive vice president of Powerwave’s Government Solutions Business Unit, knows well. MacLeod’s experiences in the cellular industry have taken him across the country, through Russia and into Baghdad, leaving cell sites and enhanced communication systems in his wake. ExecutiveBiz recently spoke with MacLeod about his latest endeavor; a new position with Powerwave.
ExecutiveBiz: Tell us a little about your background. What brought you to Powerwave?
Jake MacLeod: I had been in the cellular industry for a long time and have designed networks for the past 35 years, even before the very first cellular system was put online in Chicago. I was on the very first cellular design team for San Antonio, Dallas and Austin for Southwestern Bell before Divestiture. That“™s been my career. I helped start the Hughes Network System“™s cellular division and did that for nine years. I then went to Bechtel Communications and became chief technology officer and principle vice president there. We built over 110,000 cell sites globally, established three wireless development laboratories to test new cellular technologies to ensure that our clients were getting the best bang for the buck. I also had the fortune to travel to Iraq back in 2003 right after the shooting slowed down and did a full analysis of the communications systems in Baghdad. We wound up replacing 12 wire centers in about four months. Until that time, that was unheard of. Typically, it takes four months to install one wire center, and we turned up 12 wire centers in four months. All in all, wireless network design has been my career for many, many years. I retired from Bechtel in December of 2009. Then a friend of mine, the CEO of Powerwave asked me to start a government division for Powerwave in January of 2010. I“™ve been onboard at Powerwave for just over a year as executive vice president in charge of the Government Solutions Business Unit, GSBU. We“™ve hired the staff and have developed and modified commercial products for military and public safety use. The verticals that we are going after are DoD, DHS and Public Safety on the local, state and federal levels.
ExecutiveBiz: Being on the bottom floor of a new department, what challenges did you find?
Jake MacLeod: Finding the right personnel to establish the business, and then to properly position the equipment and services that Powerwave supplies to the government sector. That“™s the real challenge. Also, opening doors to introduce our equipment and services to the government entities has been a challenge.
ExecutiveBiz: After a year, how are you doing? Are you finding that your products and services are well received?
Jake MacLeod: Yes, we are modifying the equipment, and we are finding, as expected, that the gestation period for contracts in the government sector is quite long. We have several very, positive potentials that we are working on and continuing to pursue.
ExecutiveBiz: You“™re in a market that is highly competitive. What makes Powerwave stand above?
Jake MacLeod: Powerwave is constantly developing new disruptive technologies in the wireless communications arena. We have some exceptional technologies that are unique to the industry right now. We are currently wrapping the intellectual property rights around the technologies and processes so that we can introduce them to the industry properly. We are working with three major government focused integrators, all of which are keenly excited about the technologies and see tremendous potential. Powerwave has significant distinguishing characteristics in the sense that we“™ve been a commercial company since 1985 so we are bringing the COTs equipment into the military space and government space.
ExecutiveBiz: Where would you like to see your company in five years?
Jake MacLeod: I“™d like to see the Government Solutions Business Unit being very successful, and comprising more than half of the revenues of the company.
ExecutiveBiz: Tell me a little bit about what personally what drives you. What makes you successful?
Jake MacLeod: I“™ve always been entrepreneurial at my core, and this opportunity with Powerwave is another opportunity to start a new business. That“™s what I“™ve been doing all of my life in the wireless industry. It“™s a very large challenge, but then that seems to be what I thrive on.
ExecutiveBiz: It“™s better than retiring, right?
Jake MacLeod: Yes. I had five days of retirement and my wife thought that was plenty. It“™s been an exciting career. I“™m very, very fortunate because I“™ve been able to travel all over the world. When I was at Hughes, I spent a lot of time in Russia and established new wireless systems there. With Bechtel, I had the tremendous opportunity to make a positive impact in Iraq. It“™s been a great career.