Network architecture isn’t always the easiest job to explain.
That’s why Comcast‘s VP of Enterprise Services Derek Brown keeps a response preloaded and ready to fire away whenever someone asks him what he does for a living.
“Think of me as a master plumber,” said Brown. “If your plumbing is working, everything is quiet. You never hear from me, I never hear from you. But the moment there’s a backup, all hell breaks loose.”
In other words, Brown’s team makes everything work for Comcast’s 88,000-plus employees, from their emails and internet to their phone lines. It’s not the sexiest tech job at a media giant, but without it, there would be no sexy tech jobs — or any jobs, for that matter — at Comcast.
“People don’t necessarily call you back and say, ‘Hey, my email is working today, thank you very much.’ If you get a call, it’s because it’s not working,” said Brown. “You have to be thick skinned and know you’re providing a service for the greater cause.”
Today, Brown mans corporate technology infrastructure from a desk. Thirty years ago, he was calling artillery fire as a Fire Support Specialist in the U.S. Army.
He knows a thing or two about service for a greater cause.
A veteran of the Gulf War, Brown served on the U.S. Army‘s Fire Support Team (FiST) and was actively deployed to Desert Storm from December 1990 to May 1991. He was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for his achievements and completed his military service in 1996 after nine years of active and reserve duty. He went from a private to a sergeant within the first three.
“The military teaches you to be tough, physically and mentally. Going through boot camp is 90 percent mental in my mind, and it’s the same thing in the business world,” said Brown. “You need to learn how to win and lose as a team. You never ask your team to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.”
Leadership and management skills are something the military prides itself on fostering, said Brown. Those skill sets can transfer well to jobs in the corporate world.
"The digital transformation of our workforce means putting more control into your hands."
But there needs to be more jobs for veterans in the corporate world. Approximately 495,000 U.S. veterans are unemployed as of 2015, per the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Comcast is looking to hire 10,000 members of the military community – not just Veterans, but also National Guard and Reserve members that are still serving, as well as military spouses – by the end of 2017. It’s part of the company’s commitment to the military community, echoed by Comcast’s support of the Bunker Labs incubator for veteran-founded companies.
“We have opportunities on the communications side, desktop support and help desk side. Those are the areas I normally look at the most for veterans,” said Brown. “They’re great to start in and continue to build your career from without having to have all these certifications or degrees.”
The jobs Comcast is looking to fill aren’t just in IT, though there are those too. There are a bevy of roles available for veterans, from full stack developers to marketing and beyond.
Don’t expect “get the enemy” to be on any job descriptions, Brown joked. But applicants should come motivated and ready to learn something new.
“I can teach you the technology,” he said. “You just have to come through the door with a fire beneath you.”
That fire shouldn’t be too difficult: it’s an exciting time to be at Comcast in Philadelphia, said Brown, especially considering the construction of the Comcast Technology Center in Center City.
“The technology we’re looking to put in there is bleeding edge: open floor plan, unified communications, all the bells and whistles,” he said.
Brown is especially excited about the “top-notch gym” Comcast will be putting in on the top floor.
“Some people like to have a glass of wine after work,” he said. “What I did in the military, and what I continue to do here, is get into a weekly workout cadence.”
Brown likes to get his coworkers to accompany him. It’s one way the veteran kills stress and keeps from burning out on the job. Comcast’s veteran employee resource group VetNET is another.
“It’s a group of people who are either prior service or have family that has been in the military and just has an interest in helping to progress veterans’ lives through Comcast,” said Brown.
Through VetNET, Brown has created a network of veteran coworkers who race dragon boats together and do more charitable work, such as cleanups at veteran housing facilities.
“Comcast is run like a small, close-knit family, where the individual is respected and views and inputs are received and listened to,” said Brown. “You’re not just a number. You’re a person here and you’re valued.”