Day in the life of
Director of Operations – Mark Rapley
My typical day is governed by two things: my email inbox and my to-do list. I intentionally schedule my to-do list so that the tasks for a given day will take up approximately 50% of my time. The unpredictable nature of working in telecom means that I have time to deal with whatever shows up in my email inbox on a given day.
The type of tasks that take up most of my time are as follows:
1. Project management, policy creation, and “leadership time” – i.e. time spent keeping up to date on a large number of parallel projects and developments.
Project management means reviewing every task in the project at least twice a week, adding high-level insights, and keeping things on course with reminders, corrections, conversation points, and market intelligence. For example, in a recent project, I managed, my team for the project comprised of five colleagues, four external contractors, and several representatives from the client. Each sub-set of stakeholders required regular progress meetings, and I was responsible for coordinating communication between internal and external stakeholders.
Policy creation is all about staying on top of current legislation, both for telecom and for workplace management/HR as a whole. Whenever there is a change to regulation, I review our policy, compare its objectives and aims against the changed objectives of the new/amended law, and update our policies. I circulate it among our senior team to verify that we have captured our intent and are meeting our obligations as employer/company, then push the policy out to the company, followed by at least two weeks of daily checks to ensure compliance company-wide.
Leadership time means identifying some time needed for understanding where the company is within the broad scope of the industry. It means identifying industry trends, analyzing our position’s strength (or weakness) in key market segments, and creating strategies and initiatives to put the company on a stronger footing.
Leadership time also involves creating connections with colleagues and team members. I make it a point to have at least one non-work conversation with each company employee every month. Once a month doesn’t sound like much, but creating a dialogue that isn’t just about KPIs and deliverables has a massive effect on the team’s health. I also try to identify “unspoken pain points” with the people I supervise – things they feel they could do better but aren’t voicing, situations they aren’t quite sure how to handle, and so on.
2. Outside stakeholder communication: phones calls and emails with important clients and industry contacts, both regulatory and suppliers
Clients are a needy bunch! I say this as a compliment because needy clients are those who recognize a great value in what you have to say. To this end, I think it’s a wonderful thing to put time into catching up with clients. Usually, I will schedule a quarterly call with our biggest clients – they have dedicated account managers, but I like to check in and make sure we’re doing the best job we can.
I also spend a lot of time ensuring we are up-to-date with regulatory requirements. Whether this is a simple form for the regulatory body in charge of our industry or a more complex set of registrations for a new product, I will usually interact with a regulatory body at least once a month.
I also make time to talk to our vendors to learn about their sales initiatives, new products they will start carrying and keep them updated on our upcoming projects and product needs. In the era of semiconductor scarcity, submitting orders six months ahead of time is the new normal. Having a good relationship with our vendors is crucial to retaining the flexibility to pivot if needed.
3. Product development
I talk to the technical minds that make our products work, then I put on my end-user hat and try to poke holes in it. I report issues, participate in design efforts, and catch the baton when it’s time to transition from development to deployment.
I have the final say on marketing campaigns, and I work closely with our customer service teams to make sure we all know how the product works, its benefits, and how to explain it to potential customers. In addition, I keep an eye on the back-end billing and customer management teams to ensure those processes flow smoothly.
The pros are that my job affords a fantastic opportunity to learn; being a leader and keeping up to date on many projects and developments means that I must be willing and able to learn and take in lots of information quickly, which helps keep the job fresh. I also participate in shaping new products and making a real difference in peoples’ digital lives by bringing products to markets that are simple, powerful, and affordable.
I am also involved in and help steer big decision-making moments for the company. I get to act as a mentor and sounding board for employees with a wide variety of experience levels. I have an active role in company recruitment, our overall vision, and the steps we take to shape and live out our values. On the good days, it’s incredibly satisfying to work.
The con of my job is the volume of work. On any given day, I have 30-35 to-do list items to get through (and these are the *real* items, not just quick fluff emails or 30-second check-ins), and I receive upwards of 500 emails, around 150 of which need an answer or I need to take some kind of action the same day.
This can lead to extended hours. When I’m working on a project proposal for funding or getting a major initiative, it’s not uncommon for me to start work at 6:00 AM from home, take a short break for breakfast at 8:00, then go to the office at 9:00 and continue working until 6:30 or 7:00 PM. 12 hour days make up approximately 40% of my work calendar, with the rest being more in the 9-10 hour range.
There’s another con: people depend on their telecom services more than ever, but outages still happen. Sometimes they are short and easily remedied, and sometimes they are long and complicated. Managing customer expectations, dealing with peoples’ anger at not having access to their services, and the sheer flood of notifications, emails, calls, and instant messages during outages or periods of the sustained malfunction is a definite con.
plan, direct, or coordinate the operations of public or private sector organizations, overseeing multiple departments or locations. Duties and responsibilities include formulating policies, managing daily operations, and planning the use of materials and human resources, but are too diverse and general in nature to be classified in any one functional area of management or administration, such as personnel, purchasing, or administrative services. Usually manage through subordinate supervisors.