The FierceTelecom editorial team is proud to announce our second annual Rising Stars series, in which we’re profiling up-and-coming executives in the telecom industry. We’ve selected a slate of executives whom we think are on the rise in 2020. We’ll be doling out the names of our winners, two per day, so that our readers have the time to enjoy reading their profiles. And next week, we’ll post a Rising Stars poll, giving everyone the opportunity to vote for their favorite top executive to watch in the FierceTelecom ecosystem. We hope you enjoy the series!
Kunle Ekundare remembers exactly what he was wearing on his first day with Comcast 18 years ago: black slacks, a crimson shirt and grey tie with crimson diamonds. "I was just so excited to be able to say I worked for Comcast," he remembers.
As a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, Ekundare was committed to Comcast from the start. He made up his mind to learn as much as he could about the company. Seven years after he was hired, his manager asked him what he wanted to do next. His answer: "I want to learn as much about the business as possible."
That goal sent Ekundare on a journey through several parts of the nation's largest cable operator. "I started in engineering and was able to move from engineering into procurement, and was able to understand how we buy, sell and do all that ... then I migrated back into operations, where I helped put processes in place for the business. Ultimately, I ended back up on the product side which allows me to tie everything together," Ekundare said.
Currently, Ekundare is a senior director of product management for Comcast Cable, and his primary responsibility is residential broadband devices. He said he has two sets of customers: the end users, and the call center workers and technicians who support the products. "It is important to my team and me to deliver for both," he said.
Ekundare said his nuanced understanding of Comcast's business has helped him succeed in his current role. His other big asset is his ability to assimilate the perspectives of multiple stakeholders. "One of my biggest strengths is I listen to people," he said. "I don't have all the answers. I don't pretend to, I don't try to. I rely on hundreds of people, but the key is being able to listen because everybody's got a different perspective and when you're building products it's important that you understand all the different perspectives that are coming into play."
Of course when Ekundare takes his listening skills out into the world at large he sometimes gets an earful -- people love to complain about their cable service. Ekundare takes none of it personally, and he actually foresees a time when instead of complaining, customers will be excited to learn about new products coming from Comcast. He said one big reason for that is the FCC's April decision to open the 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi. "It's the single biggest innovation in the Wi-Fi space in the last 30 years," Ekundare said.
Ekundare has a long list of reasons he likes working at Comcast. "I like free cable," he joked, adding that cable and internet is about much more than entertainment, especially now. "We're helping people stay connected to their family, friends, to their jobs, school. So that's the big thing for me," he said. Another thing he values is the company culture. "One of the big things I love about Comcast is really the innovation," he said. "I've sort of grown with the company."