Vivek Ragavan is the president and CEO of Siara. He has over 20 years of high-tech experience primarily in telecommunications. Prior to Siara he was president of the Residential Broadband Group of ADC Telecommunications, where he was responsible for $300 million telecommunication equipment businesses. He also led development of General Instrument’s leading digital video transport system, which powered the growth of cable TV’s video and data penetration.
SM: Where do you come from? What environment bred your persona and the seeds of your career?
VR: I have always been interested in technology from the time I was young. I grew up in Bombay, India. When I was ten I decided I wanted to get involved with telecommunications. I planned on attending IIT until my parents moved to the US when I was 17. As a result I started my undergraduate in EE at Northwestern and then went on to Cornell for my master’s in EE.
I contemplated getting a PhD but decided that since my focus was on the practical application of technology I should just go out and join the industry. I quickly moved into telecommunications and data communication networking. I joined Communication Satellite Corporation in Washington, DC. I spent about 12 years there, which is where I learned that I enjoyed building complex systems that consist of a combination of hardware and software architectures.
In the early 1908s the data networking industry was emerging, and this coincided with the deregulation of the telecommunications industry. There were alternative ways of providing services, and many companies created their own private networks. We created a business to build technology for data networking over satellites. In the space of 10 years I was involved in the design and implementation of five different commercial systems.
SM: What year does that bring us to?
VR: Around 1992, just before the Internet started. We were building alternative networks to phone networks, and they handled both data and voice communications. That required us to have pretty diverse teams, and I quickly learned that I was a natural leader. I took responsibility for projects and really enjoyed putting teams together. I became VP of Engineering very quickly.
During that period the economics of the industry were changing dramatically. There was a lot of experimentation around alternative services to the telephone industry. Some were more successful than others. Fiber began to supplant satellites, and commercial models were never settled.
SM: Did you also work with fiber during that time?
VR: No, up to that point it was just satellite. When I moved to the next job I started looking at fiber. Back then fiber was for long-haul. Today we can see that it has been very successful and it is even being rolled out to the curb. It will still take several more decades to have fiber completely deployed. It has been a technology that has been continually emerging since its initial emergence, and I don’t think anyone knows when it will reach its full potential.
SM: So you started fiber after you left Communication Satellite Corporation?
VR: Yes. I moved to General Instrumentation Corporation, which was the precursor of today’s Motorola Home Networking Division. At GI we built cable based communications networks which were based on fiber and coaxial. We built complex systems which included set-tops and access control systems.