Alumnus John Toccalino has the Internet and cable provider industry on its heels as he pushes forward one of the most disruptive technological advances in telecommunications today.
Toccalino MBA 98 is managing the build-out of Google Fiber’s high-speed broadband systems in several cities nationwide. Google’s venture has more established providers such as Comcast, Time-Warner, AT&T and Verizon playing catch up to follow suit.
Why? Because fiber optic cable brings wicked-fast, one-gigabit-per-second downloads to residential subscribers for about $70-$130 a month. That’s about 25 times faster than the average 36 Mpbs Internet speed in the U.S., according to the Ookla Household Download Index.
Google Fiber says its service allows for the download of a full movie in less than two minutes. This 1,000 Mpbs speed is fueling consumer demand as a new standard and already has been a focal point for new start-ups and talent as the new connectivity ignites new business development.
Toccalino headed up Google Fiber’s first city-wide foray into fiber optics when he oversaw the build-out of Google’s network in Kansas City, Kansas, three years ago. Since then, Google Fiber has expanded into Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah, and will soon build networks in Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Atlanta, Georgia; and others.
The upside potential is huge for both the cities and Google. Some analysts predict Google Fiber will connect 8 million homes by 2022 generating annual revenues of $7 billion.
How did Toccalino land as an outside plant manager with Google Fiber? With the help of his UC Davis MBA, he found a sweet spot in telecom just as the industry started to take off. He worked his way up at Black and Veatch for 25 years, culminating as director of integrated networks. He then moved on to become CEO of Atlantic Engineering Group, a design/build telecommunications infrastructure company in Georgia. Google spotted his talent and hired him to start the Google Fiber project in Kansas City.
Toccalino is a game changer by anyone’s definition. We recently caught up with Toccalino to ask him a few questions. Spoiler alert: He views his UC Davis MBA as “making all the difference” in helping him get to where he is today.
How is Google Fiber going to “change the game” in terms of the Internet?
Increasing speeds will lead to the next chapter of the Internet. When we had dial-up Internet, images loaded line-by-line, and simple web pages like Google.com took more than 10 seconds to load. Back then, we never could have imagined being able to use Google Hangouts or watch HD movies.
What is the most unique aspect of your job?
As a member of the Google Fiber team, I have the opportunity to influence the next-generation network architecture that supports Google Fiber services. As Google Fiber pushes the service envelope, we influence the Internet industry. From day one, Google Fiber’s service offering represented a significant shift in the Internet speeds people could access. It’s exciting to work on a product that’s making a difference in the industry, across the U.S., and most importantly, for Internet users.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Building a new fiber network involves laying thousands of miles of cable across every city where we offer service, which is an ambitious undertaking. With large ambitions come many moving parts. Figuring out how to best coordinate those moving parts from obtaining city permits, utility infrastructure access rights; communicating our standards to multiple engineering vendors, reviewing design prior to construction and, finally, to network as-built verification and incorporation into our fiber management system is an ongoing challenge in my position.
What are the top two skills that you learned at UC Davis that you use most frequently in your job today? Why are they important?
The Graduate School of Management gave me the fundamental skills to lead in a fast-paced, quickly changing environment. Thanks to the School, I have an appreciation of the financial implications of the choices made, an understanding of how to analyze a market for our product and the confidence to work within a diverse high caliber team and pursue audacious goals.
Share two qualities that you look for in a new hire?
Enthusiasm and analytical thinking. I’m interested in how a candidate approaches, dissects and prepares a plan to resolve a complex problem and, of course, they need to be excited in our industry and what Google is doing.
What lessons did you learn on your career path before coming to Google that helped to shape your management style and/or goals?
The value you bring to any significant project is to provide a rock-solid effort and to present honest results whether they are good or bad. As a manager, I rely on people meeting commitments and giving me straight honest data. As an employee, my managers have the same requirements. The second lesson is to keep your eye on the long view. If you think you’ve found your passion, stick with it and let the opportunities present themselves.
What are your top three favorite books?
Moby Dick by Herman Melville; The Holy Man by Susan Trott; The Godfather by Mario Puzo
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken in your career? Was it worth it?
I left my career as a project manager to finish my MBA. I had three kids and a promising future with Black & Veatch. But earning my MBA made all the difference in my current career path. When I re-entered the workforce, telecom was sexy and I had the opportunity to switch industries. Soon after entering the telecom industry, fiber networks became feasible and I decided I wanted my career to involve this cutting-edge technology. If I hadn’t paused my previous employment to earn my MBA, I may not have found myself in my current position. I find my career deeply satisfying—I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.
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