Colleen Gallagher, First Communications

Colleen Gallagher, First TelecomColleen Gallagher's resume may show that she's been at Akron, Ohio-based First Communications for a little over three years as the Vice President, Business Development & Marketing of the Fiber Services Group (FSG), but she's far from a telecom novice.

Unlike our other honorees, Gallagher honed her business and engineering skills not in the traditional telecom industry but in the electric utility business at FirstEnergy Corp., the former parent of First Telecom.

During her almost 24 year tenure with the energy company, Gallagher served in a number of engineering, business development, project management, and sales management positions.

Gallagher is leveraging her experience to drive the messaging and business development at First Communications' Fiber Services Group (FSG), which sells wholesale services to other service providers and other large enterprise organizations, such as financial organizations, banks, health care organizations, higher education institutions.

While the telecom and utilities industries are certainly very different, First Energy's foray into telecom happened to provide internal services for the utility itself. Like other utilities that have entered the telecom business over the past 15 years, First Energy laid fiber throughout their electricity service footprint for internal communications and realized it could be used to sell wholesale bandwidth to other area service providers.    

Since 2008, First Communications' FSG has been, for one, focusing on lighting and expanding the capabilities of its network.

The competitive service provider, now serving businesses in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic United States, may have only been upping its PR and competitive business services offerings through organic growth and targeted acquisitions, including the acquisition of First Energy's telecom service FirstEnergy Telecom Services. This acquisition gave First Communications an additional 2,900 miles of dark fiber, bringing it to 5,400 fiber miles and reaching into 50 U.S. markets, including its new low latency route to Toronto.

One area where Gallagher's business development acumen is coming in handy is in seeking out new opportunities to grow its low latency network service offerings on key routes into not only Canada but also existing routes to Chicago and Washington, D.C./Ashburn.

And while providing low latency has become the latest craze in the fiber services industry, Gallagher is quick to point out that diversity is just as important to financial institutions that want low latency services.

"One of the interesting things on the Chicago to New York route is that besides those that are interested in the fastest route, diversity plays there because almost everyone that's interested in the fastest route, they all have two, three, or four separate routes," Gallagher said. "We start with the latency question, then the diversity and then pricing enters the discussion, but if you don't clear the one or two of the first hurdles then you find a short conversation."

With her experience in selling high bandwidth services and business savvy, Gallagher and her team are likely to find continued success in the low latency and traditional business services market.

Colleen Gallagher, First Communications