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FCW : September 15, 2014
30 September 15, 2014 FCW.COM July 4 was a personal Independence Day for Diana Gowen as she started her retirement after a 30-plus-year career in government contracting. The former senior vice president and general manager of Century- Link’s public-sector business has chased and won some of the biggest telecommunications contracts in the government market, includ- ing FTS 2001, Networx Universal and Enterprise, and the Defense Research and Engineering Network (DREN). She has also worked for some of the largest telecom compa- nies, including MCI and AT&T. Gowen spoke with Washington Technology Editor-in-Chief Nick Wakeman about the changes she’s seen in the market, the next gen- eration of federal telecom and the challenges her successors at Centu- ryLink will face. Why is now the right time for you to retire? I was really ready to hang up the shield two years ago, but we had just won DREN and Social Security [a large Networx task order for manag- ing data networking services], and I felt I needed to see those two things through implementation. We completed [DREN] in late June, and we aren’t done [with SSA], but we will be by the end of the gov- ernment fiscal year, and it’s on the right path. The customer is happy. Plus, 60-plus hours a week gets old after a while. I also want to take a serious look at a business with tutoring and math. I think that math and science are great weaknesses in this country. I haven’t figured it out yet, but with time I will. I’ll also do some consulting but not as a job. What are the biggest challenges your successors will face? We are in an environment of change, and the change is happening at many levels. Traditional telecom providers are making a pivot to cyber, managed services and the cloud. But you don’t want to forget your big base in tradi- tional telecom. NS2020 [the follow-on contract to Networx] is coming, and you have to maintain those relation- ships with those buyers. But at the same time, you have to pivot to very different relationships with different buyers. That’s a big challenge. Plus, NS2020 isn’t going to be uncontested by some nontraditional players. I expect the Googles and the Microsofts to be in there trying to win some of that business as well, so that’s another challenge. A lot of people said systems inte- grators would bid on Networx, but they didn’t. Why will NS2020 be different? The General Services Administration is saying they want lots of competi- tion. But while they say that, you look at the [requests for informa- tion] and the list of services, and it is pretty traditional telecom stuff. So you scratch your head and say, “OK, you want a systems integra- tor to be a broker of these services, but the requirements for depth and breadth box them out of the deal.” I think there will be a lot of chang- es between now and when NS2020 is a real [request for proposals], so we’ll see. What advice would you give your successor as the company makes this pivot? We are making the pivot now. But the biggest challenge will be the internal challenge. How do you remove the obstacles so your sales force, pro- gram managers and sales engineers can be successful? Anyone who comes in will have the government and industry rela- tionships, so the challenge will be internal. Who do you go to to get things done? What are the relation- ships internally that you need to cultivate? When you look back at your career, what are you most proud of? Diana Gowen: The big telecom pivot FirstPerson CenturyLink’s longtime public-sector leader discusses the changing market and what to expect with NS2020
September 30, 2014
August 30, 2014