As Wayne Cannon, a Cerent software engineer, summarized, “Carl did a great job of communicating [the] changing priorities to us and the reasons why.”
On Carl’s renowned “all hands” meeting, initially held in the two-story atrium of Cerent’s corporate headquarters, Wayne adds, “Carl's ‘All Hands’ meetings . . . contained the kind of status (new customer wins, opportunities, test results, kudos, etc.) that helped to motivate us and specific direction for our focus in the coming period.”
Carl also loved spending time with customers.
Jeff Parow, one of Cerent’s early salesman, reiterates Carl’s love of being on the road, “Carl liked to be in the field with customers. I remember Terry Brown called [in April 1999] and said, ‘Aren’t you going to be in Alltel? If so, Carl will be joining you.’ I was just doing a product overview and training for the Alltel folks in Marshville, North Carolina and Carl came out to see what the customers had to say and understand how they were doing their business. [He was] so very much involved and wanting to understand what the customers were doing and how they were using the product.”
“This is one of my fine memories of Cerent,” Jeff mused, “having Carl come out and dig in. I thought it was outstanding. The customer thought it was outstanding.”
Not only did Carl want to understand how the Cerent 454 fit into customers’ networks, but he also sought to add value by helping his sales team close deals.
Dave Cesca recalls, “[Nextlink] brought the whole team out [to Petaluma]. It was a six-hour meeting. They asked us to leave the boardroom. We came back in and they said they’d evaluate us in their lab. I remember that vividly. Carl helped me there. Part of it was around we were new, we were young, and Carl made sure he talked to them about the management team, our goals, the direction of the company. He took away their concerns around the financial risk, the technological risk, and the corporate survivability [of Cerent].”
Carl was a solid leader who could effectively communicate to his audience whether it was a software engineer or the CEO of a service provider. Dave notes, “Carl just provided the comfort level. That’s what I needed a CEO for.”
Carl not only led his team and excelled at customer engagement, but he also dealt with others, from standards bodies, such as Telcordia, to Wall Street skeptics.
David Friedman, a Cerent product manager who was responsible for the Telcordia relationship, was impressed by Carl’s work ethic and charisma. “After acquisition, we’re going out to Telcordia and Carl already [owns a] plane. Carl gets a private driver to bring him out to Telcordia from Newark airport, so that he can keep working the whole time in the back seat. These are very influential people in the industry, such as Dennis Tinley , and I watched Carl dancing around . . . He’s talking to them and they’re just taking notes like mad about the state of the industry. I was watching an intellectual giant with a bunch of people writing down what he said.”
It was as if these guys were star struck, “And they got nothing they wanted. And it was very clear to me, ‘old dog, new dog.’ That was the last time I dealt with Carl.”
In terms of Wall Street, Terry Brown argues that Carl effectively juggled the Cerent exit strategy as Carl kept an open mind to “go public” or to be acquired. Terry observes, “Carl played to the street as we were going public. Carl was the guy who closed the deal.”
Terry adds, “He also did a tremendous job of management by walking around and having an affinity for the entry level engineer, the entry level sales guy, the entry level customer service guy. These guys were on a first name basis with Carl. He did the all-hands meetings. He did some things that created an esprit des corps. He had a force of personality that certainly transcended Mike’s personality. At the time, it was perfect.”
CEO communications, for a startup operation dealing with internal and external relationships, is a key factor for success, and it certainly was for Cerent!
 Dennis Tinley was a decade-plus employee with the standards body, Telcordia (referred to as Bellcore, prior to 1999). His tenure, from 1995 thru 2008, saw him evolve to assume a number of executive roles in defending the company’s operational support systems, including the infamous OSMINE (Operations Systems Modification of Intelligent Network Elements) system, used to verify compatibility with Telcordia-designed operating systems, primarily deployed by the Bell Operating Companies. Dennis held the role of Group President for almost two years until he left Telcordia (then known as SAIC).
One could infer a “slap in the face” towards one of its paying customers, Cisco, as Dennis left the standards-enforcement arena in 2008. That same year, Cisco’s David Friedman left the optical team for another role within the company, but he set up a meeting between Dennis and Cisco’s Tony Bates, a senior executive supporting Service Provider customers. David recalls, “Cisco was getting killed on OSMINE costs. Tinley walks in and Tony says, ‘We’ve got a problem with OSMINE costs and we’d like to talk about it.’ Dennis replies, ‘You need us, we’re not negotiating.’ Dennis then closed his notebook, said, ‘We’re done,’ and walked out.” Ouch . . . so much for communicating and negotiating.