Tyson Johnston is the head of development for Toptana Technologies, where he leads the enterprise development of Toptana and its subsea and terrestrial network solutions, while serving as president on its board of directors. He is also the policy representative and former vice president of the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN), serving in elected office for the past decade. Tyson is an alumnus of University of Washington where he studied American Indian studies and political science. Tyson is a life-long resident of Taholah, WA, the headquarters of the Quinault Indian Nation’s government.
How can telecommunications technologies help humanity?
Today we rely on the Internet to support education, research, healthcare, and emergency response systems and provide opportunities for personal, professional, and economic development. Some might go as far as to argue it’s now as essential as electricity, and high-speed broadband access is a basic necessity to participate in our modern world. Those without it risk getting left increasingly far behind. This inequality is the digital divide that affects the quality of life and opportunities for some people – particularly those in tribal nations.
That is why Toptana is excited to create the first Washington State cable landing station in over 20 years and engineer a connectivity solution for the QIN community and others like it that have been left behind.
Bridging the gap in the digital divide will not be solved overnight nor by any singular entity. We encourage our industry peers to join us in serving the digitally underserved, and be part of the solution to help rural and Indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
How can corporations and researchers best serve the next generation?
We must recognize that not every career requires a traditional four-year degree, and that some of the most critical industry jobs for telecommunications are in the trades. Therefore, corporations must help advance and support a pipeline of students into training programs so the workforce remains dynamic and able to meet the telecommunications needs of the next generation. We will never move away from the ability to communicate across continents, distribute, share and store data, and connect a global society. While it certainly will evolve, telecoms is an industry that will be critical for every generation to come.
Toptana is positioned to provide the growing technology and telecoms-related industry an additional resource: talent. We have detailed plans to create opportunities for expanded STEAM education and local career development, equipping more people with the skills needed to fill in demand jobs, such as data center technicians and software engineers, as the technology market expands.
Is it important for companies to continue to innovate their organization or offerings, and why?
Absolutely. Toptana Technologies, an enterprise of the QIN, is an example of our community recognizing a need for innovation and an opportunity to create a profitable business. We originated from a combination of demand and opportunity: the regional need for new subsea cable in the Pacific Northwest, and our own unique circumstances – sovereignty and adjudicated ocean rights on Washington State’s coast.
Toptana’s launch and ongoing success will be thanks in part to the years of hard work from a talented coalition of specialized experts that worked together to bring QIN’s vision to life – and embrace an innovative model for the industry anchored in sustainability and sovereignty.
What value does PTC hold for you/your company?
PTC will be an incredible networking and educational resource for Toptana Technologies, and we are thrilled to be part of this community.
As I mentioned before, the Quinaults are fairly new to the telecom industry, building on just a few years of research, development, and planning. Yet, we have exceptional partners at our side, and we are eager to further dive into the industry and strengthen our direct relationships, connections, and opportunities through forums like PTC.
We believe we can both learn from this community, while sharing with it the value of building a backhaul network and cable landing station with an ESG perspective front and center.
How does PTC fit your company’s goals or career purpose?
PTC is part of our goal to reach the telecommunications industry in meaningful ways. We are not going to market with flashy advertisements or big paid campaigns. We are introducing and marketing Toptana Technologies as Quinault has always built enterprises – anchored in trust and relationships. PTC provides one of these trusted forums to do this. In fact, many of our initial conversations with our partners began at PTC’s Annual Conference several years ago.
What advice would you share with current and future graduates interested in this field?
The most important thing a student or recent graduate can do is seek out real, in-the-field experience. Many high school students think a four-year degree is necessary for top earning jobs, but the reality is that many career paths require more technical experience and training. While a traditional graduate degree can serve you well, that real experience in the telecoms field can serve you even better.
Beyond that, hands-on experience and building a network is important. Start by following industry leaders, read what they are reading, and begin building awareness of the key industry players. From there, seek out opportunities for informational interviews, internships, or participation in trade shows. Network, keep in touch, and stay on top of the trends impacting this dynamic industry.
What is something that not that many people know about you?
Helping people has always been a passion of mine. When I was younger, I thought I’d end up in healthcare. Over time, I realized that my path to helping people was by advocating for our community and putting my efforts into making meaningful changes to impact our economy, our environment, and our overall quality of life. This passion is what eventually led me to my role at Toptana, and I’m excited for what’s ahead.
About Toptana Technologies
Toptana is driven by a vision of a truly connected world. We’re an Indigenous-owned Internet infrastructure and technology company focused on bringing connectivity to unserved and underserved communities. Our mission is to connect the digitally disconnected so that all people can fully participate in the digital economy.
Our Washington State cable landing station offers subsea transpacific connectivity from the U.S. to Asia-Pacific markets. The backhaul network offers terrestrial connectivity along the I-5 corridor to Seattle, WA and Hillsboro, OR. We offer businesses the opportunity to get their traffic where it needs to go, while protecting our precious resources and improving the lives of those in need.