Jennifer is a recognized financial leader in the telecommunications services, fiber and tower sectors. Jennifer has a stellar career record of success in providing thought leadership, strategic vision, and business insight leading to significant business growth and shareholder value. She is a frequent guest on CNBC, Bloomberg TV and widely quoted by numerous trade press including Wall Street Journal.
Can you tell us about your journey so far in the industry?
Originally, I’m from Chicago. I took up this job just after I graduated from business school. I had worked for two telecom senior analysts during the year 1995, when the market really started to move. In 1997, both of the two gentlemen worked for bulge bracket, commonly known as larger firms in New York. At the time my company was, unbeknownst to me, for sale. I took a lead to tell my boss, “You don’t have to give me a new title, a raise or even an office, but I think I can do the job.” His response? He gave me an office and a new title. While I didn’t get a raise, but I got the job. I jumped in feet first and tried to prove myself. Fast-forward 25 years later to this July, I’ve been in a senior role now since 1999. Over the years, our firm has gone through a series of acquisitions. To encapsulate it, I’ve had five different firm names, but the same phone number for 25 years.
With very few women analysts in this industry, do you face any challenges?
I believe challenges are what you make of them. I have to admit I never noticed a real kind of discrimination because I’m a woman. If anything, I use it to my advantage—it gives me a unique voice. I’m one of the only two female analysts to cover the telecom space. Interestingly, I was the only woman in the sector until two years ago. Being exclusive is a good thing; it brings in a different voice, different touchpoints and a different perspective. I think that has actually helped, not hurt me, throughout my career.
What’s your message for young women trying to make a foray in this industry?
My message would be that continue to learn, continue to educate and continue to prove that you’re smart. My advice to my son is to put your best foot forward. Your best quality is between your ears—your brain that you need to develop constantly. In some ways that could translate as speak softly and carry a very large stick. There’s no better way to display that than subtly showing, not in a ‘in your face’ way, just how smart you are. This quality needs to come through every day. Continue questioning, continue learning, continue taking feedback, good or bad. Even today, I thrive on receiving, what some people might call, constructive criticism because it propels me to be better. If anything, I don’t want people kissing my ring and telling me how great I am because you just don’t learn that way.
What keeps your passion for the data center industry alive?
The primary reason is majority of data is still at the enterprise level. As the public cloud continues to emerge and grow, we’re going to see that further develop into data centers. And I think the amount of data that we’re seeing is truly in its infancy stage. Speaking of 5G, big data, autonomous cars and more, we’ve hardly scratched the surface. So, the runway is extremely long as to where we see this all going.
Tell us your thoughts about the enterprise data centers going to the cloud.
What’s really at risk is if you have a server closet in your company. That’s an extremely vulnerable room right now because companies are finding ways to drive efficiency. One way to drive efficiency is to either use the public cloud or outsource in a hybrid cloud environment. But I think the way companies are learning and understanding about their business, clearly the CTO level has become increasingly important in the C-suite. Technology certainly is a driver of huge efficiency, and how to get that efficiency is top of mind to not only the CTO and the CFO but also to the CEO.
Going forward, what trends do you foresee?
Hybrid cloud, which has been a bridge between the public and private cloud, is a theme to watch for this year and in many years to come. We have companies like Wells Fargo, a large very secure bank that’s not going to just hand over their data to a cloud provider and hope that it all works out. Those who have resisted going to the cloud in a big way are now adhering to it because they’re worried about enterprise security and safety. The public cloud does that. I think that the public cloud, the low hanging fruit, is for smaller companies who have already made the decision. As more data comes online, companies such as Equinix, Digital Realty, who are going to be nimble in their approach and quick to adopt the changes in turn rapidly implement customer-centric solutions, will be at a huge advantage.
Do you think the bandwidth capacity is enough to keep up with the data growth?
No, I don’t actually. We really need to see more fiber in the U.S. I think the country has old infrastructure pipes, for the lack of a better word. Those pipes need to be more modernized, and the way to do that is by deploying new fiber. So, one theme I would watch for is infrastructure. Bring the infrastructure umbrella over the telecom and broadband world, and that is very well positioned for growth.