Despite spending most of his life in the United States, Ed Kennedy feels a strong connection to his neighbours to the north.
The longtime tech executive had a six-year stint as vice-president of marketing at Newbridge Networks from 1989-95. A couple of those years were spent in Ottawa, where he learned first-hand what it took to be a successful businessperson from a master of the craft, Newbridge founder Terry Matthews. His wife is also from here, making his bond with the city even more personal.
So when the 62-year-old was offered the role of chief executive at fast-growing software firm CENX – a company with a significant presence in the National Capital Region – it just felt right. Mr. Kennedy takes over for chief financial officer Kim Butler, who’d served as interim CEO since former chief executive Ed Ogonek retired last July.
“It’s kind of like coming back home.”
“It’s kind of like coming back home,” he told OBJ in an interview after officially assuming the job earlier this week. “It couldn’t be a more exciting time to join the company.”
CENX has become a major player in the field of lifecycle service orchestration, helping mobile, wireline and cloud data service providers manage reams of big data to provide more reliable services more quickly to their customers. Based in New Jersey, the firm now employs more than 250 people in North America, Europe and Asia – 210 of them at its main R&D facility in downtown Ottawa.
Before joining CENX, Mr. Kennedy was CEO of Tollgrade Communications, a Pennsylvania-based smart-grid solutions company. He will continue to live at his current home in Fairfax, Va., but plans to spend several days a week in Ottawa when he’s not travelling in an effort to drum up new business.
“We are very excited to welcome Ed as the new president and CEO of CENX,” Sean Dalton, chairman of the board at CENX, said in a statement. “Having spent more than 30 years building global networks, Ed has an extensive understanding of the service provider landscape and appreciates the importance of having real-time actionable network intelligence. His experience gives him the unique industry insight that CENX was looking for in order to further reinforce its leadership position in the telecommunications software market.”
'We’ve got a lead against our competitors'
A graduate of Virginia Tech with a degree in electrical and electronics engineering, Mr. Kennedy comes to the job with an extensive background in marketing that includes stints with multinationals such as Alcatel-Lucent. He said a big part of his role will be to build on a strong core of customers and channel partners that already includes communications giants such as Ericsson.
“We’ve got a lot of good accounts that we’re working with globally,” said Mr. Kennedy. “We’ve got a lead against our competitors, so I think we’re in a pretty good spot. The focus now will be to get the product out and just scale organically, scale with partnerships.”
Europe and the United States will continue to be major markets of focus for CENX, he said. But the company is also casting its net farther afield to South America and Asia.
“The population down there is a young population; there’s a lot more Internet traffic, a lot of mobile traffic, which causes a lot more back pressure on the networks,” Mr. Kennedy said of South America, adding that the Asian market offers an abundance of growth opportunities for the firm as well.
“We’ll just have to figure out what’s the best way to go attack it.”
CENX executives are also spending a good chunk of the summer meeting with major communications carriers around the globe in a bid to strengthen customer relationships and gain more insight into the network problems clients want solved.
“That gives us a tremendous leg up, and that’s an investment that’ll pay for itself time and time again,” Mr. Kennedy said.
A successful entrepreneur as well as executive, Mr. Kennedy co-founded Ocular Networks, an optical networking technology provider that was acquired by Tellabs in 2002. He said many of the lessons he learned from his old Ottawa mentor, Mr. Matthews, proved invaluable as his business career progressed.
“I learned a lot from Terry,” Mr. Kennedy said. “He was probably one of the greatest influences in my professional career. I spent a year travelling around with him (as head of Newbridge’s telco strategy group), so I got to spend a lot of time one on one with him. Just seeing the way he thinks and the way he analyzes things and just dealing with someone of that calibre was great. When I did my startups, I emulated a lot of the things that he did, and they worked for me as well.”