Jeremy Ferkin, vice president of operations at CenturyLink, oversees the company’s operations in Utah, Nevada and California. His efforts in bringing fiber-to-the-home internet to communities in these states helped CenturyLink earn the Chairman’s Award from the national Fiber to the Home (FTTH) Organization.
What factors have enabled your success?
That’s easy—a great family. Also, an absolute foundation of ethics, principals and morals. That’s what’s been really important to me as I have traveled and worked all over the U.S.
My father also played a big part in my success. My dad started the first computer lab for school systems in the country back in 1980. When he retired, he was personally thanked by [Steve] Jobs for helping him to get an education. My mindset is to keep learning—it’s part of my DNA and who I am. It’s who I want to be.
Where did your long career in technology start?
In the early ‘90s, I was at school in Bozeman, Montana. I started helping a company that specialized in long-distance retail. During my time there, we raised money, built the company up to be successful, and sold it to a company in Texas.
Later, I did the same thing with another small startup. The team I was a part of took the company from basically nothing and in just 18 months, helped it reach a worth of over $2 million. I loved this. I enjoyed the startup mindset. I realized that success wasn’t dependent on anyone else; it’s up to you and on your shoulders to figure it out and make money and a living for yourself.
During my time at CenturyLink, I’ve taken that passion and really worked to develop and grow teams. I want to look back and say “That was fun!” It’s a lot about being a part of a team and building relationships to help a company grow from the bottom up. Right now, we are building that future and expanding.
Explain the new “gig economy” we are in.
The internet is transforming everything, even how we get a cab. It used to be an engine for research. Now you can stream HD video with Netflix and Hulu and you have access to trillions of files. The rate of change coming from the internet is happening faster than anyone could have thought.
Utah is quickly becoming a full-fledged gig economy. And it’s not just residential or just businesses. We are leveraging the idea, working with schools to make the gigabit internet available to the students. We want to help every single aspect of people’s lives and not worry about the bandwidth.
Our network carries more than a full terabit of bandwidth across 1,412 schools and educational locations across the state. This means schools don’t have to have the nicest equipment available to run the fastest internet available. They can send packets of HD video, music and other files in seconds. We want to change how you use and interface with technology.
What is special about your culture at CenturyLink?
The company is entrusting us to get things done. They want a return, to see how our teams respond. We have whole teams who are adaptable and continue to figure this all out—and it’s fun. The most exciting thing is to continue to invest in our people who want to keep learning.
And really, it’s about pioneering. Everyone wants to replicate that human relationship. We are trying to make everything more personal. We entrust our technicians, who weren’t comfortable talking to customers 18 months ago, to go door to door because our customers trust the technician more than anyone else to tell them the truth.
That human presence gives people the trust they are looking for in a world that has technology in every aspect of it.