In Blog, PTC Member Profiles

Kristian Nielsen
Quality Manager, WFN Strategies

Kristian Nielsen is a quality manager at WFN Strategies, a Project Management Professional (PMP™), and an ISO 9001: 2015 specialist with more than 10 years’ experience and knowledge in submarine cable systems, including polar and offshore oil and gas submarine fiber systems. In his role, he reviews contracts; and monitors the prime contractor, supplier, and quality assurance process and management. He is responsible for the company Quality Assurance Program and contract administration, as well as financial monitoring and in-field logistics. He possesses client representative experience in submarine cable load-out, installation, and landing stations; and provides extensive project logistics and engineering support; extensive background in administrative and commercial support; and is an expert in due diligence.

How can telecommunication technologies help humanity?

Communication is a core tenant to the human experience. Without even basic communication or collaboration, we as a species would never have gotten off the ground. As a member of the submarine cable industry, we are responsible for installing and maintaining the literal backbone of the world’s communications network – without what we do, the world as we know it would not exist. So how do telecoms actually help humanity? When we install a new cable to a place that has never had one, the local economy explodes and business and educational opportunities pour in. Telecommunications offers opportunities at a speed our ancestors only dreamed of, communicating in real time with a team of experts across international time zones is not only possible, it’s commonplace. I cannot even think where we would be in today’s world without submarine cables already operating in place!

How can corporations and researchers best serve the next generation?

Like any longstanding or generational industry, the current generation of companies and professionals need to be good stewards for the next. This August, the submarine cable industry will turn 162 years old and it is our privilege to continue the traditions our forebearers have passed to us. Priming the next generation remains one of WFN Strategies’ core missions – by not only fostering project teams with senior and junior team members but also promoting enrichment exercises and giving rising engineers and technicians the opportunity to learn directly from established experts. The submarine cable industry lacks a distinct accessible degree program. In fact, most people wind up in our industry either by apprentice programs or as a legacy. Education is imperative. Companies in our industry must safeguard the expertise of the past and current generation for the next. In our mind, it is not only a good business practice to foster young talent but absolutely necessary for the continued success of our industry.

Is it important for companies to continue to innovate their organization or offerings, and why?

WFN Strategies was founded in 2001, almost 20 years ago. If you had asked me then what we would be doing in 2020, I would have told you I was more worried about closing out the year. We as an organization have lived many lives, gone through many projects and product reinventions. We were founded with a few key tenets in mind, not the least of which was to remain an agile and responsive business. Having the ability to evaluate client business processes, products, or even personnel, is essential to the health of a company, from small one-man shops to massive corporations. WFN Strategies has and always will be a consultancy; however, our services and delivery methods have changed drastically over the years. Recently, we reimagined our customer management system – instead of delivering PDF after PDF of reports, our customers receive a link to our brand-new PM 2.0 Operations Dashboard, a place they can log in and see every detail of their project. While our offerings have remained largely the same, the types of projects, customers, and delivery methods of our findings have evolved since 2001. Continued innovation is essential. If you do not have the bright idea first, your competition will.

What would you share with those interested in becoming a PTC Member?

The value presented by PTC, both at the Annual Conference and the resources available to members, go well beyond the price of membership. The Annual Conference in Honolulu is an absolute must-attend event, one I have personally had the opportunity to recommend to entrants to our industry, many of whom have become regular attendees. Education and networking opportunities are held throughout the year in various locations, as the Secretariat gives an honest effort to hold events that are convenient to all their members. This year WFN Strategies’ sister company, Submarine Telecoms Forum, has the privilege to work alongside the PTC Academy to provide the industry’s first accredited continuing education program, which is no small feat. There are more PTC Member benefits to list out, but it is sufficient to say that the resources made available go well beyond the price of admission.

What important piece of information should people know about PTC?

With the risk of sounding cliché, PTC operates like a family – they strive to do the most good for the benefit of their members. PTC is an organization that operates with a strong ethical standard, which is reflected in their employees and management. WFN Strategies is a small business, family owned and operated, and we place great value in organizations that place high stock in ethics and relationship building. While we may have been members for almost 20 years, our relationship goes back to the 1980s. It may be a simple point, but PTC will treat you well. They will sincerely value your membership, regardless of your company size.

What advice would you share with current and future graduates interested in this field?

Submarine cables are the backbone of the world’s communications – what we do is important work, but it is also cool. Where else can you be called responsible for bringing the world to a small island nation? Or have a small part in higher education to a remote tribe? We are one of the world’s best kept secrets; few people are even aware of our networks or the work we do, and to make matters worse, we have an aging population in the industry that’s becoming hard to ignore. My advice to you is in two parts – first, be bold! Do not be afraid to ask questions or walk up to an executive and introduce yourself. The submarine cable industry is tightly knit but far from unapproachable. My second piece of advice is to learn our history. Our industry is over 160 years old – in all that time, the process of laying cable has not changed significantly. Our history is rich, exciting, and treasured. Get to know some of the engineers that were around for the introduction of fiber – some of them are still around – and their stories are incredible.

What is something that not that many people know about you?

I have been around this industry longer than just my professional career! Most people wind up in submarine cables through either an apprenticeship program or as a legacy. I am the latter. One of my earliest childhood memories is walking around with my father on cableships in Southampton, England. While this was not my first career, I have been around submarine cables my entire life – I like to say I have fiber in my blood. I am fiercely proud of the work that we do in this industry. To me it is more than a career, it is my passion.

About WFN Strategies:
Headquartered in Virginia, United States, WFN Strategies designs, engineers, and implements submarine optical cable systems for commercial, governmental, and oil and gas clients – utilizing repeatered and unrepeatered technologies; systems have been transoceanic, regional, or festoon in scope. WFN Strategies has been involved with all aspects of implementing telecommunications systems and information and communications technologies (ICT) – from feasibility studies through capital budgeting – to engineering, purchasing, and installation – to commissioning and testing. WFN Strategies possesses an ISO 9001: 2015 accredited management system for design and implementation of submarine fiber cable systems throughout the world and is a recipient of the President’s “E” Award for Exports.

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