Leading Telecom Companies Through Difficult Transitions

Rose Hauser aligns IT and business goals to help companies in crisis come out on top

Aha! Moment: “I put a halt to all the work and decided we needed to collaborate with my business partners to support the company’s strategic business plan.” PHOTO: John Gauvin/Studio One Photography

Rose Hauser has developed a knack for aiding telecommunication companies in crisis. In the past five years, she helped both Hawaiian Telcom and FairPoint Communications, Inc. separate from Verizon. By helping the two companies reassess, refocus, and reenergize their business plans, the IT officer brings practical expertise to each challenge. Today, Hauser is the senior vice president and chief information officer of FairPoint. Profile caught up with her to discuss her passion for strategic and effective change.

I started out as an accounting major and I received a master’s in finance. I started at Wang Labs, and despite being in a business role at the time, I was very astute at systems analysis. Because I knew the systems so well, IT offered to teach me programming. I thought that was intriguing, because I really didn’t know anything about programming, other than a Fortran college class. It was a whole new world; there was a lot to learn and I have always thrived in very challenging environments.

I’ve worked in telecom companies for many years, which are tech centric by their very nature, but there was a short period of time when I was not. That’s when my eyes were really opened and I realized how far behind some companies were with technology and the security of their networks. They had the environment locked down. You couldn’t do anything because they didn’t know how to monitor and protect the environment from the bad things that can happen every day.

Verizon was selling off the wire-line properties in their rural areas. In the westernmost region [of Hawaii], they sold to Hawaiian Telcom. They sold to FairPoint in the northeastern region. It was a decision Verizon made to not invest capital in the network infrastructure to the degree required to be competitive. I went to Hawaiian Telcom in 2008, and they had already completed the cutover—it didn’t go well, so I arrived at a very difficult time. One could anticipate that it wouldn’t go well because they had an impossible mission and only had nine months to come up with completely new systems. They conveyed a few network systems from Verizon, but most of the systems were new. They didn’t coordinate the data conversion between the systems and the business ordering system didn’t work, so that was abandoned prior to cutover. By the time I arrived, 18 months post-cutover, they had already done a significant remediation effort and the systems stabilized.

The Hawaiian Telcom team was continuing to spend significant dollars applying small band-aids all over the place. I put a halt to all the work and decided we needed to collaborate with my business partners to support the company’s strategic business plan. We started executing on the plan, hand in hand with the business teams, to enable the business with IT automation. It was very empowering and a real success story.

I was involved in something similar with FairPoint. I’m not a glutton for punishment; I just like transformational activity. For me, it’s about change leadership. I do enjoy that. My experience was very helpful; I had seen this movie before. I could say, we’ve solved this problem and this is how we did it. Everything is not the same, although many issues are. The difference with FairPoint is that they did not go through a remediation process, so their data is even more problematic and the architecture is in worse shape, but in general it’s a similar challenge. All it takes is a good team aligned with a plan in collaboration with the business. At FairPoint, we have a great team, and I do believe we are working closely with the business on the right items that will bring the business value we envisioned.

I’ve been at FairPoint as the CIO since September 2011. I’ve retooled the leadership team as necessary and believe we have a powerhouse delivery team. We have a great plan, and it’s linked to the business. We are on our way, and, although we have a lot of work to do, it’s going well. Not to say we don’t have bumps along the way; that is the nature of the beast when you are creating significant change. The key is to keep moving forward and continuously learn and improve. The FairPoint people are a great company asset and will deliver.