Published October 21, 2003
Volume 11, Number 10

For Doug Engerman, Hard Work is the Key to Success

By George Walsh
Network Editor

Ask a business executive how they’ve managed to achieve accolades in their niche and the answer you’ll often get will range from luck, to being in the right place at the right time, to being innovative. A key part of the equation, however, is nearly always a solid work ethic—something that Doug Engerman, president of Broadband Management Solutions, demonstrates on a daily basis.

Doug EngermanBroadband Management Solutions is a company that provides “operations support systems” (OSS) for broadband communication network operators. BMS’s customers are typically large broadband cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Whether it’s broadcast cable services, on-demand services, telephony services, or high-speed data services, BMS provides software that allows these companies to operate their networks more efficiently. BMS is a division of C-COR, a provider of operations support software solutions and high-end technical services that enable cost-effective delivery of voice, video, and high-speed data over advanced broadband networks like cable and DSL. “We operate pretty independently in that we’re our own profit and loss center,” Engerman says. “We’re our own strategic business unit and we operate with a fair amount of autonomy.”

Doug Engerman was born in Omaha, Nebraska. Just after he was born, his family moved to Walnut Creek. However, from 1961 to 1999, Engerman lived in the Chicago area, attending grade school, high school, and college—finishing his studies at Northeastern Illinois University. Despite the fact that he actively manages BMS’s facility in Pleasanton, Engerman currently lives in the state of Washington, about 25 miles outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. “I travel extensively,” Engerman says. “I spend a lot of time with our customers and they’re all over the map. Most of our customer base is east of the Mississippi.” C-COR’s world headquarters is in State College, Penn., as is one of BMS’s development teams. Engerman also oversees a development group in Atlanta. “I swing a pretty wide loop at the moment,” he says. In all, Engerman supervises around 70 people.

Engerman’s first real job in life was a sales position working for a consumer electronics company. In 1985, he was offered a position in the marketing department of a startup computer software company in the Chicago area. “It was baptism by fire,” he says. “I was forced to learn a lot about the software industry and at that time the startup company was focused on an operating system environment called UNIX.” Unix was the first computer operating system (like Windows or MacOS or Linux) that could be improved or enhanced by anyone to suit their needs. “UNIX wasn’t widely understood or used commercially at the time,” Engerman says. “It was still pretty much confined to the depths of academia and Bell Labs.” That company, Lachman Associates, turned out to be at the cutting edge of the commercial use of UNIX.

From there, Engerman went on to start his own company with his brother in Chicago. “We started a company in 1989 called Alliance Systems,” he says. “In Chicago, you can’t help but rub elbows with Motorola, it being their world headquarters. By virtue of some contacts that I had made in Motorola while I was working for Lachman Associates and some of the work that my brother had done for Motorola in their mobile products sector, we decided to get this company under way to provide contract software development services. That was an interesting ride because we got an opportunity to be pioneers in developing mobile computing applications. We built a number of software products, primarily in the areas of workforce management software for wireless workers in the energy utilities, telecommunications, broadband cable, and public safety markets.”

Engerman and his brother sold Alliance Systems in 1997 to their largest competitor, whose headquarters are in Vancouver, British Columbia. “I moved to the Northwest with the acquisition,” Engerman says. “Then I left them two years and four months ago. It was just time for a change.” That change came when he was approached by C-COR CEO David Woodle, who was familiar with both Engerman and his work. “When we had things at Alliance going along pretty well in the mid 1990s, we were approached by a division of Raytheon,” Engerman says. “The director of business development was David Woodle. On behalf of Raytheon, David took a run at acquiring Alliance.” After moving to a position at C-COR, Woodle made the acquisitions that constitute BMS. When he did that, he needed someone to integrate the acquisitions and develop a strategy to make the division successful. “David sought me out and that’s how I ended up here,” Engerman says.

Engerman’s management approach has more to do with intuition than a specific strategy, though assembling the appropriate personnel can be also be hard work. “Everyone has their gift and mine is the ability to build strong teams,” he says. “You need to be sure that you have the right people on the bus and then make sure that the people on the bus are sitting in the right seats.” The success of BMS is rooted in Engerman’s ability to put the right people with the right talents in the appropriate positions. “When I came to BMS, we made some adjustments. We now have a clear strategy as a division. We’ve got clear objectives. I’ve got top-notch managers and top-notch people in this organization. There isn’t much we can’t do given the customer opportunity.”

Doug Engerman wasn’t just born with an entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to work hard at his endeavors, he was raised with examples of these traits as well. “In terms of giving me the courage and the confidence to do my own thing, I would say my biggest inspiration would be my father. He encouraged us and was a tremendous role model. He had the confidence and the business acumen to achieve great things in starting and selling his own businesses. He started everything from wholesale distribution businesses, to a business representing manufacturers in the consumer products space, to retail businesses. He made me understand that doing your own thing is a good thing.”

A number of factors come into play in becoming successful in business, including education, identifying mentors, and other factors that are beyond anyone’s control. “I consider myself to be pretty lucky,” Engerman says. “But I also subscribe to the notion that the harder you work, the luckier you get. Hard work is pretty much what it’s all about. The notion that you just have to be in the right place at the right time and that ideas are more important than output isn’t sustainable. There’s no substitute for perseverance, perspiration, and well-developed ideas.”

The ability to accept and adapt to change is also a very positive attribute to have in building a career and, in this area, Doug Engerman practices what he preaches. “If you’re trying to build a business, you have to be really flexible and you also have to be able to be very agile. I spend a lot of time in airports but I have an office here in Pleasanton, in State College, and in Washington state. I don’t have any set schedule. I go where I need to be based on what we have in motion.” That agility has had significant impact on both Broadband Management Solutions and its parent company C-COR, which is now celebrating half a century in business. In business as in physics, things in motion tend to remain in motion and hard work often reaps more than the satisfaction of a job well done.

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