Meeting the Challenges of Hybrid Work With Comcast Business Masergy’s Chris MacFarland

Author: Scott Kinka

On this episode of The Bridge, I’m joined by Chris MacFarland, CEO of Comcast Business-Masergy. We’re talking about SD-WAN deployment and so much more!

As a pioneer in software-defined networking, Masergy is a leading secure cloud networking platform for global businesses. Acquired by Comcast Business in 2021, Masergy leverages artificial intelligence to enable superior application performance, offering SD-WAN, Security, UCaaS, and CCaaS solutions.

During our conversation, we discussed rollercoaster career rides, the need for mid-market connectivity and security as equal partners in hybrid work, generative AI, and the future of energy abundance. And in a moment of transparency, we also talk about lessons learned during the pandemic and things that he and they could have done differently.

Topics covered in this episode:

  • The acquisition of Masergy by Comcast and its integration into Comcast Business.
  • The strategic fit between Masergy and Comcast Business, filling a gap in the upper market and mid-market around solutions.
  • The challenges and excitement of the 19-month journey after the acquisition.
  • The potential for Comcast Business to be recognized as a major player in enterprise services and solutions in the future.
  • The rationale behind Comcast’s decision to bring Masergy into the fold was driven by the changing landscape of work and the need for advanced solutions that enhance cyber posture and support the cloud journey.
  • Comcast’s aspirations with Masergy to become the leading global supplier of secure networking in the world.
  • The changing landscape of work, hybrid work environments, and the importance of connectivity in the new office setup.
  • Why the return to the office has been challenging for many companies, with some experiencing talent leaving when announcing the return.
  • Hybrid working is likely to continue, and companies are adjusting to this new reality.
  • How the pandemic led to increased demand for cloud communications, video conferencing, connectivity, and cybersecurity services.
  • Why the cultural challenges for fully virtual companies may outweigh the technical challenges.
  • The challenges and lessons learned from transitioning to a hybrid work environment during the pandemic.
  • How Comcast Business and Masergy are working on solutions to enhance security and resiliency for remote and small office users.
  • Predictions for significant advancements in AI and its impact on personalized medicine, leading to longer lifespans and improved quality of life.

The Bridge Podcast with Scott Kinka - Chris MacFarland of Comcast MasergyABOUT CHRIS MACFARLAND

In today’s episode, we have the pleasure of hosting Chris MacFarland, the CEO of Comcast Business | Masergy, a leading global private cloud networking and cybersecurity company. With an impressive career spanning notable organizations like BroadSoft and Allegiance Telecom, Chris is widely respected for his exceptional leadership skills, earning prestigious recognition such as Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Top CEO. Beyond his professional achievements, Chris is actively involved in community service, serves on the boards of Compass Data Centers, Linear Labs, International Student Foundation and Tech Titans. Tune in as Chris shares his insights and experiences. And without further ado, let’s dive into our conversation with this remarkable industry leader.

CONTACT CHRIS

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Scott Kinka (00:00):

Hi, welcome to The Bridge. My guest on this episode is Chris MscFarland. Chris is the CEO of Comcast Business Masergy. Chris and I have known each other for quite some time, hanging out at Broad Soft Conferences back in the day. We’ll get into that as we go. Chris, how are you? 

Chris MacFarland (00:21):

I’m good, Scott. Thanks for having me on. 

Scott Kinka (00:24):

Yeah. Thrilled to have you, and you’re taking this call right now from Plano, Texas, not a name, people generally, or a location, people generally attached to Comcast, but here you are. 

Chris MacFarland (00:36):

Yeah, no, I, it’s, it’s actually quite interesting the, you know, with, with the acquisition of Masergy there’s a pretty meaningful presence here in Plano. And then for those of you that are real familiar with Comcast, we’ve got a huge amount of presence in infrastructure in Houston. And then, within the last 90 days, we’ve announced a new Universal Studios in Frisco, Texas, which is about four miles north of where we’re at from here. So, you know, come five years from now, I think Texas will be a major, you know, presence for, for, for Comcast. Granted, there’s pretty much a major presence all over the country today. 

Scott Kinka (01:11):

Well, we love hearing that Bridgepoint has an office right on Cowboy Way. So, we’re, we’re neighbors in Texas as well as neighbors, here in Philadelphia, not that far, but those who listen know that I’m in Westchester, Pennsylvania, not so far outside of Philadelphia, and, and have, you know, spent most of my career in the Philadelphia area. So, but, you know, and I wanna jp into the Comcast Masergy thing, but before we do that, let’s just make sure people know who you are. Tell us a little bit about Chris, your current role, and then maybe a little bit about you personally, and how you arrived in your current position. 

Chris MacFarland (01:46):

Yeah, no thanks. Listen, you know, I’m just a little bit north of 50 years of age. I can’t believe that you know, I don’t, I don’t feel as old as I am, but I guess I am. I’ve got a little over 30 years in what I’d call it, you know, the broader industry per se. You kinda consider me as a, you know, a serial entrepreneur and started, you know, my first business back actually when I was in college. And what a lot of people don’t know is that during my junior year of engineering school, you know, I had to make a decision. The business I started, which was a computer parts company, was growing fast enough and breaks on it. And, you know, never, never had to look back. But I spent most of my life in the services realm. , it started out in, you know, going from Bill computer parts to building an ISP back at the very beginning of the commercialization of the internet in the early, you know, the 1990s. And then pivoted there to building, you know, what was called a competitive local exchange company in the late nineties with, with a company, you know, called Allegiance Telecom. And then it was a little bit burned out at telecom in the early two thousands. I dunno if 

Scott Kinka (03:05):

At that point, 

Chris MacFarland (03:07):

<laugh>, 

Scott Kinka (03:08):

I said, weren’t we all a little bit burned out telecom in the early two? I hear you. 

Chris MacFarland (03:13):

Yeah. So there was a software company that I had that advised and invest in that, which was super exciting. And that was how I think you and I met, which was during, you know,, my tenure at BroadSoft. But anyway, you fast forward and, you know, I, I had an opportunity to, to lead back in the late, you know, two thousands and it’s really been there ever since. And then about, it’s a little bit shy, two years ago, I think, 19 months, you know, we, we completed the sale of, of ma g to the Comcast and became a part of the, the Comcast business, you know, family. But, you know, it’s been an interesting journey, but one that has had its rollercoaster effects over, you know, multiple decades. But, you know, I’m still here, and I’m still excited. And I still think, you know, today is probably one of the most exciting new times. And, you know, if not the most interesting time in history, 

Scott Kinka (04:07):

I mean, it’s great that you can have a career that spans that many years and that many years, you know, attached if you will, inside of Masergy. But you, you still get to kind of play entrepreneur every day. It sounds like. 

Chris MacFarland (04:19):

That is fun. And, and the, you know, when you think about the strategic fit that, that we had inside of Comcast business, you know, they are, you know, the, the masters of the domain and the SB space principally around, you know, what you would expect connectivity, you think broadband internet and high speed, you know, ethernet derived internet. And then, well, as you managed services on top of robust enterprise business, not people think about. But then there was a bit of a gap in what we’d call the upper market or the broader mid-market around solutions. And so we felt we filled this really nice area. And so it’s been a, it’s been great, you know, it’s been a great 19-month journey, although it’s not a short journey as your well or integration is, is always a little bit of beating the head on the wall to make, you know, some hard decisions. 

Chris MacFarland (05:13):

But I think we’ve navigated it, you know, fairly well. And I think that the IT leaders that want to engage, you know, if I had to make a good prediction five years from now, I think people, when they think enterprise services and solutions, will think Comcast business. I don’t think we’re there today, per se, but, but I think we’re well on that journey, and it’s, you know, it’s, I’ve always been kind of the maverick challenger brand kind of guy, but now I’ve got, you know, the might of a Fortune 24 company, you know, behind us to, to bring that to be a reality. So it’s pretty exciting. 

From Connectivity to Cybersecurity

Scott Kinka (05:48):

That’s, that is really exciting. Tell me, for our listeners who maybe aren’t as familiar, I, I want to get into maybe some of the rationale on the Comcast side for bringing the two sides together and, and how that, I mean, you said you mentioned 19 months ago, which means we’re reacting on the backside of, you know, arguably the biggest change in the way we work. , is it fair to say that engaging with you all and bringing Masergy into the Comcast business fold may have had a little bit to do with, you know, kind of the way the changing landscape of work? I mean, you know, sort of the product need, or was it really just sort of missing that mid-market that was driving it? 

Chris MacFarland (06:32):

So I think there’s, I think there’s a lot of, I think it’s a pretty long list. , but I think first and foremost, the changing landscape of, of this pivot from being more than just underlying connectivity services to more advanced, what I’m gonna call solutions that enhance the cyber posture and enhance the robustness of a, you know, of, of a cloud journey that every business in the world is on, was strategically, you know, probably number one reason why they, they looked at it. I think secondarily, you know, maybe she had a 20-year history of helping design solutions and then deliver those solutions and then keep those operationally integrated with the rest of the enterprises IT stack. And I don’t think you can discount, you know, that muscle memory that got built up with, you know, really, really high net promoter scores, right? 

Chris MacFarland (07:29):

Our customer, you know, satisfaction and weren’t like, they were not only best in class, you know, across the service provider community, but they’re best in class across any world class company, you know, arguably, you know, across the world. And so that was really, I think part of the, the reason for it is because there is this intense focus of how do you, how do you build relationships that, that that matter. And, and I do believe that, you know, Comcast business, you know, we serve more businesses than anybody else in North America, but, you know, major G you know, accelerates this journey, you know, to the upper market and to the enterprise space. And so again, it’s, and then we, you know, were a profit business, not a small business, you know, kind of a mid-cap size company, but we still always had to make decisions when you think about kind of your five year, roadmap where you couldn’t always really justify economically everything that you were doing because you still had, you know, a great private equity backer, you know, in the business. 

Chris MacFarland (08:30):

But at the same time, you know, their, their, their horizon to how long they were gonna be in the business was always shorter than what our customers and our management team was looking at. Yeah. And so there was always a little bit of friction there, and that’s gone away. And now, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re making the decisions now for not the next, you know, not only the next year but the next five years and even a decade from where we’re at today. And so us being able to meet where they want to be met and how they wanna be met, and then being able to do some things that haven’t, hasn’t been in the marketplace before, or the things that, you know, get me. And I think the broader Comcast team really jazzed up about the future. 

Scott Kinka (09:10):

So what, you know, I, I think people generally understand Comcast and, at least on the Comcast business side, think of it as a connectivity business, largely speaking and broadband, you know, and fiber services at the end of the day. So aside, aside from that mid-market focus, can you share a little bit of sort of what the superpower Masergy added from a product perspective into Comcast? 

Chris MacFarland (09:35):

Yeah. Ab, absolutely. Cause Major D has always been, I wouldn’t call it super narrowly focused, but took a little bit different perspective, which was when you think about the challenges, you know, a large enterprise or large mid-market business have, there’s basically a few things that that CIO is trying to figure out. One, you know, how do I protect the data and my business processes, whatever intellectual property that I’ve got mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then secondarily, what are the things that, you know, that I can outsource to either a managed service or to a platform that offers capabilities? And we all know about this pivot towards managed services over the last decade. We all know about the pivot more towards, you know, software as a service and than in certain places, infrastructure as a service versus owning your own infrastructure. And what we’ve seen through this whole time period is that, you know, the network, communication platform has become, you know, gone from being important to mission critical to now it’s probably arguably the most important thing that glues, you know, all of these cloud-based derived services together. 

Chris MacFarland (10:45):

Then when you mentioned covid and what happened with the acceleration of hybrid, you know, workplace, that changed kind of the, you know, where people are physically at and radically changed the way that these networks need to operate. But at the same time, thinking about, you know, how, how does the cybersecurity side of this really, really work? And so macg for, you know, greater than 15 years, we focus on, you know, how do we make that journey to the cloud easier from a communication standpoint. So I think network, secondarily, how do we enhance their cybersecurity posture? Meaning is this making them more secure, not less secure, and how does it integrate into their, you know, defense framework and their detection framework? And then lastly, how do we give them control over certain pieces of this that they’ve outsourced to us so that they can be, you know, agile and think very similar to kind of like DevOps and some of the things like how do you make your network an enablement and your cyber security on your network, an enablement component and not a roadblock? 

Chris MacFarland (11:51):

Because when you look back in time over the last 50 years, if you look at like, surveys to CIOs and network leaders and IT leaders, the network was the nber one reason why people said no to new projects in the pre-cloud era. Yeah. And so we felt like there was this unique moment in time, you know, circuit 2010 to where we’re at today, and probably for at least another decade, if not another 15 years, where, you know, this should be a strategic component. You’re just like, if you want to use infrastructure of service for elastic, compute and storage, you know, that is a strategic thing that you have in your business day, then your business demands that, or your network should never be the reason why you say no to something. It should be the reason why you can go make that next acquisition of another company. 

Chris MacFarland (12:38):

I would tell you that 80% of our customers historically have had an m and a transaction occur in the last, you know, seven years. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, well, our platform allows for that m and a process to, to occur at a much rapid pace on the integration side because of the modularity that we built back into this platform. But in today, you know, we’re seeing things called secure wan and, you know, unified coms and component solutions of for us to, to help. I dunno if that makes complete sense, Scott, but it’s kinda the domain that we play. 

Building Global Networks

Scott Kinka (13:11):

It totally does. , I mean, you, you know, I always saw Masergy let’s, we’ll come, we’ll tie back to Comcast in a minute. I always saw Masergy as a sort of boutique network builders. And I mean that I hope you take that for what it’s meant, meaning, you know, you solved particularly hard problems, right? You’d leverage other people’s networks. You had your own network, you had pops globally, you’d, you’d make, you’d creatively build networks, however, you’d get there. , and then you’d build managed services around it, right? Automation monitoring, you know, building it into a single network frame framework, dealing with security. So I wonder when I think about that, and I equate it back to Comcast, this is gonna seem like a counterintuitive question for people who were thinking about Comcast kind of as a ubiquitous network provider, depending on where they are. But in a lot of ways, didn’t Masergy expand Comcast’s reach to be able to build global networks for customers? 

Chris MacFarland (14:11):

Yeah. The answer to that is a definitive yes. Probably might make sense for me to give you a little more insight about, you know, that career trajectory of mine and what it meant at main G. Because early in my career, ISP days was mostly focused on residential users. Granted it was a small geography in, in north Texas. And then right after that, I did an, you know, I was part of a team that did an IP rollup, you know, across the country and then even parts of the world. And that was mostly focused on SMB and then the sea, like days that was still mostly, you know, SMB, and midmarket. And then, as I pivoted away from that into the mainstream, we started looking at the opportunity. And I agree with you, it was very, you know, in the early days it was pretty niche. 

Chris MacFarland (15:00):

You know, we were really focused on, you know, multinational, preferably global mm-hmm. <affirmative>, customers. You know, one of our marketing things was, you know, we’ll, we’ll deliver ethernet to you anywhere in the world. And, you know, we’ve proven that over time, you know, we deliver services in over a hundred countries. And so we also said, well, what are the hardest things we’re trying to solve? And we made a decision strategically, and I’m sure you, you probably read the book around, you know, blue, blue oceans as I literally went to a couple of the enterprise services websites and said, we’re gonna do everything they say they won’t do or they’ll wanna do. , and part of that was how do you tackle an area that we thought was u underserved, which is a small enterprise and how you define it, maybe upper midmarket, and, and, and those that are growing because they’ve got global aspirations or they’re truly global in, in, in nature. 

Chris MacFarland (15:53):

And so we decided that if we could solve the most complex problems in the world, you know, there was probably a business that could evolve from that. So we went from being, you know, boutique or niche like at it, you know, early on I had several of my friends at much larger companies that were remaining would call us ankle biters, <laugh>. But over time we built a reputation for, you know, not only delivering on our promises but being able to do things that nobody else, would want do. Because they always said, you know, it’s all about, you know, trying to sweat more profit out of the fiber I put into the ground. And we’re like, well, really, shouldn’t it be about the applications if you take a customer lens? And so when you fast forward to today, yeah. You know, there’s several components that we gave Comcast one true global reach. 

Chris MacFarland (16:41):

Comcast before was mostly focused up until about six years ago, just their own MSAs, where they had dense fiber mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then about five years ago, they started focused on what we historically in the industry would call off net meaning locations anywhere, at least in North America. And then with the acquisition mentioning now it’s truly a global footprint. And so I think our aspirations when you double click into, you know, Comcast, you know, business is to be the leading global supplier of secure networking in the world. Yeah. , and, and I think plays a major role in that story, you know, as it continues to unfold. 

Scott Kinka (17:19):

Yeah. I, I, I think that’s, that’s a huge takeaway for me. I think a lot of our listeners, you know, probably think of Comcast delivering services on Comcast, you know, wires in the ground or on the pulse, you know what I mean? And the reality of it is you guys are basically saying yes and right. And then wrapping all of that in managed services and, you know, building an, you know, a, a ubiquitous if you will, network regardless of whether that’s Comcast territory or not. And, and, you know, providing it at a level that meets these more stringent requirements of a mid-market, you know, a smaller enterprise business. , well, that’s, I mean, it’s, listen, that’s super interesting. And given what’s going on in hybrid work, you know, the office has changed pretty significantly. <laugh>, right? <laugh>, so we’re talking about connectivity, and I think, you know, so much of the connectivity game over most of your history has been about what’s the smartest way to connect shiny buildings together. 

Navigating the Shift to Hybrid Work

Scott Kinka (18:14):

And those technologies have changed over time, but the principal tenant of wiring up buildings is still, you know, has historically still been there. , and obviously, you mentioned a couple of times that that’s changed. , let’s read back a little bit on that if you wouldn’t mind. How has, you know, what are the things in the Comcast portfolio now that you would say are, you know, have more focus just given the fact that maybe not everybody’s in a big shiny building every day, you know, is there anything that you guys are working on to tie in the rest of what you’re doing to really get the home user, you know, onto the network as well? 

Chris MacFarland (18:52):

Yeah, no, Scott, I think you, I think we live, we live in, you know, interesting times to say, right? , when you go back to early 2020, when you think about the beginning of the pandemic, listen, we have, we’ve always had road warriors, right? We’ve always had executives that were, you know, in every industry flying around doing, you know, business deals all over the globe. But what we didn’t have was, you know, you may had people with second or third homes that were doing a little bit of, you know, remote work, but not, not, not, you know, two or three days a week or during covid in many cases, you know, 24 by seven from their house. , and so we saw a couple of interesting things, right? And Comcast was the beneficiary of, it was the beneficiary of it as well, which was, the second, you know, people needed to truly try to work as efficiently, in some cases, more efficiently from home. 

Chris MacFarland (19:47):

Their networking demands inside of the house dramatically grew, but so does kinda like, how do they get into the corporate network? Most companies have, you know, VPN clients or SSL VPN clients. , most of them were, I would say, politely not built for a hundred percent of the workforce to be at home. Yeah. And so we saw, you know, our VPN platforms grow, you know, by five to 10 x in geographies within 14 days, when the, when the pandemic, I think Comcast and this is all public information, they saw significant growth in demand, you know, for bandwidth house of people upgrading or connecting, you know, new services, which, which, you know, kind of what you would expect. , and then I think we all, every leader in the world, especially North America, we’re all trying to figure out, well, how do we, how do we, how do we make our daily meetings, you know, all the stuff that’s kind of serendipitous in the hallways, how do you, how do you restructure and organize, you know, for this, you know, work from home, you know, environment? 

Chris MacFarland (20:56):

And I think we all struggled, you know, I, I can tell you for me personally, early on, I was sitting here in front of a video camera eight to 10 hours a day, not moving, probably being about as unhealthy as you can be when you think about how we’re, we’re supposed to, you know, live our lives. And it only took me about a month. And I’m like, I’m not unless it’s, maybe it’s cause I’m older, you know, with my cell phone so I can at least walk around, you know, my house, my yard while I’m trying to <laugh>, you know, do business with it’s internal externally. And so I think we all kinda figure out like, how do we, how do we make things, you know, thrive? And then as the, you know, I think we’re still in it, we’re kind of in the pandemic hang hangover years right now. 

Chris MacFarland (21:41):

You know, we still, we’re in this world today, we’re in hybrid workforce, right? Even when you think about Comcast, we’re, you know, unless for most groups and employees, you know, we’ve got kind of this three day in the office Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then Monday and Fridays are optional. I’m in town. I usually to come into the office, mostly because I have really big dogs. Not, not, not anything, because, you know, I’ve got pretty good research at the house too. , but I also like being around people. And I think that’s the other thing is that, you know, I’m slightly introverted if you do the extrovert introvert scale, but I prefer to be around people to collaborate, to spend time to socialize a little bit too above and beyond, beyond beyond work. But I think every leader that I’ve worked with, you know, both as customers, you know, I met some peer to peer organizations with, you know, YPO and, and other things. 

Chris MacFarland (22:36):

We’ve all struggled. , we all struggled returning back to the office. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like we saw more talent leave, when we announced return to office than I think any of us expected. And we had a lot more people threatened, but didn’t. , but I think everybody’s, you know, been challenging. I know you, you’ve seen some financial institutions take a hard line, and, and other, but the reality is, is that I don’t think hybrid working’s going to go away. I think we’ve proven that people, you know, for, you know, more professional type jobs and roles are, are more efficient doing work from home than not, it has expanded, you know, what they need from a communications standpoint. So if you’re a cloud communications company, I think it’s been net big positive for you if you’re in video conversation positive if you’re in connectivity, which we are. 

Chris MacFarland (23:23):

It’s been a big net positive. And I think for cyber VPN and other services, I think it’s been a bit a big net, a net positive. And I don’t think it’s going to necessarily go away. You and I, you know, being in this industry for, you know, decades, we’ve always figured out a way to work from wherever we’re at, right? Yeah. And so, I think we had a little bit of a, an, although it was nicer when it was optional, not dictated on you. Sure. , and I think now, I think the big question for a bunch of us is like, okay, well we’re gonna stay three and two, or we gonna do four and one. I think there are some industries where it makes sense to go back five days a week. , and then I think as you know, there’s plenty of, you know, newer startups that are a hundred percent virtual now. 

Chris MacFarland (24:08):

Yeah. And I think, you know, those companies are, are dealing with how do you build a culture, I think the cultural challenges far outweigh the broader challenges is can you build a culture that can really, you know, achieve what it’s trying to do for its customers and for its product development and, and those other things. But, you know, I think we got a couple more years to figure some of these things out. It will be interesting to see what takes place. , but for those of us that are IT leaders, the challenges are like, how do you make the right pivots? And how do you make sure you’ve got the agility in your cyber communications and networking components so that no matter which way that business goes, you know, you’re set up for success?

 

Shaping the Future: AI, Personalized Medicine, and Energy Breakthroughs

Scott Kinka (24:56):

Completely. And there were really, there were two primary topics in there. One was cultural and one was sort of it stance. I’ll, I’ll ask a quick question on each one and then we’ll get to some fun, you know, on the cultural side. And, and you can, you can say no to the question. I’m just, I’m gonna preface that, you know, are there, are there any mistakes you think that you ran into, whether it was Masergy before the acquisition or maybe Masergy and Comcast or Comcast Sense kind of things that you’d maybe unwind or at least lessons learned from your experiences in trying hybrid work from a cultural perspective? 

Chris MacFarland (25:33):

Yes, a couple of massive mistakes. And I think that I wasn’t the only one that this occurred with. I think when we went to a virtual environment where people were working, yeah, almost exclusively from home, we didn’t set expectations properly at the beginning of that process that we’re doing this just because of covid. As soon as we’re, you know, past the pandemic, the expectation will be to come back to the return to office in some form or fashion. And I think the, the timeline that it took for that to come, how we had to incentivize people to return, and then, you know, I, it’s pretty interesting cause han nature, right? By by, you know, unless you’re a, an inventor and somebody who’s always wanting to change to be more efficient or to build something new that the market wants, which, you know, I lean more into that category than the latter category, which is you like to do things a certain way and you get into a certain rhythm and habits and those habits are hard to break. 

Chris MacFarland (26:37):

Well, I think when we forced people to work from home, not only did they see the upsides to their day jobs, but I think they also saw dramatic changes to their personal lives. Yeah. I think one, you know, they were with their families a whole lot more. Two, they either had pets or they got new pets, how they were, you know, during this environment because they wanted more, you know, you know, more social interaction around them. Thirdly, I think in densely populated areas, we saw a lot of people move a little bit more into suburban and in some cases, rural areas. It’s just to lower their cost of, you know, their household expenses. And so when we started having people, you know, initially, obviously come back, return to the office, and then mandated you, we started seeing all these HR issues pop up, you know, where you’re like, wait a minute, how did we get to this point to where we had, you know, I’ll just keep a, a uber generic. Still, I think every business in North America, 5% of their workforce move to a different spot. In some cases different states. And you’re like, oh, well, you know, that works in a whole hundred percent virtual world, but when you’re trying to get people, you know, three or four days in the office, that doesn’t, that doesn’t work. And so I think if we’d have set expectations better upfront that this was temporary, please don’t think this is the natural course. Cause we saw way too many of the workforce just expect the world to stay this way. 

Scott Kinka (27:57):

Yeah. 

Chris MacFarland (27:58):

I don’t believe that. Yeah. And so I think that’s just a big challenge. I think everybody had to deal with it. And now we’re dealing with the, with the, the, the artifacts. You know, I do think people have different roles; different jobs take different things. I forgot the second. 

Scott Kinka (28:13):

Well, it’s funny because that’s a, it’s, you handed me the direct tie-in to the next question, right? Which is on the network side, I mean, you know, you guys are in a three and two right now, or a three in required, two optional. And I, you know, I constantly, I’m out with customers all the time. We’re talking about planning all of their tech, whether it’s the network or, like you said, the collaboration and communication side. I think what’s been interesting is that, you know, I often ask the question of IT people, has your chief executive officer, board of directors, or executive leadership team made a decision on what hybrid work actually is right now? And I, I always ask that question because, you know, I’ll say, I’m trying to accomplish this, or I’m trying to accomplish that. I don’t know how you accomplish the job on the IT side until you really know what you’re building for. I mean, effectively, you are in a stance right now, you know, you, you’re in three, two in terms of days, but you’re in a hundred and a hundred in terms of the percent that people you’re building for being remote and being in the office, right? I mean, effectively, you have two completely different, largely speaking, network and security stances for the business right? Now. Is that a fair way of stating that 

Chris MacFarland (29:25):

It’s not only is it a fair way, of stating it, but I can also tell you that, you know, we started building a solution that we just now are bringing to the market cause of covid in this new environment, which has, you know, we built, and Mercedes’s had this for a long time, is how do we, how do we really harden, you know, a large enterprise so that they’re networking. And right now, it’s called, you know, secure software-defined way. But one of the things that Comcast, the acquisition of Comcast allowed us to do is how do we think about the different services and solutions that we have for different size customers? And then, you know, we just launched a, a, a service culture, true network edge. It’s aimed at, you know, small offices, single locations, or it could be the residential, business user where it’s just a more secure way to connect to the internet and to that business. 

Chris MacFarland (30:24):

And then secondarily, it gives them resiliency. Whereas today it could be, you know, open your cable company with broadband internet, and we can give you a 4G or 5G card, or you can have ethernet and broadband or, and still have wireless, fixed wireless backup. But we think that enhancing your security posture and enhancing your resiliency kind of relegates, you know, business center, and not only about you but I can’t, I can remember how many times I was on a conference, video conference call and it would pause, or it would stutter. Yeah. Or, you know, I’m on a really important, you know, prospect or existing customer, and they would just go away. Yeah. Right. I think the broadband infrastructure held up really, really well, but there were still points of time. So where it wasn’t the same business experience that we all expected when we’re in offices communicating with each other. 

Chris MacFarland (31:18):

Yeah. So being able to really enhance that capability for, you know, professional users at home, small businesses, and what I’d call the lower end of the mid-market is something that, you know, I’m super excited about that we’re, you know, with, with, as being a part of Comcast business, we’re able to bring, you know, this, this service solution to the lowest end. And it’s built off of technology that we’ve been using for enterprises for years. So it’s not like introducing something new. We’re just able to make it affordable enough and package it enough to where, you know, a home user can use it. 

Scott Kinka (31:50):

That’s amazing. , Chris is, I could keep going <laugh> you, and you and I have had a lot of these conversations over the years. , but in the interest of our listenership, we, we try and get ’em off in about a half hour to 40 minutes. I’m gonna jp into some fun, if that’s okay. 

Chris MacFarland (32:04):

Sounds good to me. 

Scott Kinka (32:05):

All right. So maybe this is the bridge to the fun, but can you gimme a shameless prediction for the next 18 to 24 months? It doesn’t need to be, it could be business related or industry related or technology related, but it could be sports-related or political. Wherever you want to go, 18 to 24 months, what’s gonna happen? 

Chris MacFarland (32:24):

I will stay away from politics because I think we’re in a sad space, no matter what. 

Scott Kinka (32:28):

Yeah, I agree with you there. 

Chris MacFarland (32:30):

, but I think on the more exciting, there’s two huge things occurring right now I think are incredible, that we’re gonna see this, you know, next couple years and definitely the remainder of this decade. One, I know it’s everybody’s talking about an AI right now with chat GBT and large language models and generative ai. I think the impact it’s gonna make on what they call personalized medicine, where we’re gonna start to see this shift from, you know, generic meds to things that are aimed at like your DNA or my DNA mm-hmm. <affirmative> is gonna change lifespan longevity in ways that we could never imagine. , and that, that really, really gets me excited, especially somebody who’s, you know, a little bit over the age of 50, you know, I, I not only do I wanna live for, you know, many decades to come, but I want the quality of life to, to be, you know, incredibly high. 

Chris MacFarland (33:17):

And I think, you know, if you read a little bit about Tony Robbins with Peter Dema, just put it out a book called Lifespan. I think it’s an incredible read. I think there’s doctors like David Sinclair that’s, you know, really working on, you know, how how do we slow down our biological clocks? And I think they’ve made some major breakthroughs that are gonna get announced in the next 18 months. And those things, those are things that I think are super, you know, super exciting. And then I think the other one is there’s gonna be a big energy breakthrough of some sort. I’m not, there’s a few different areas, but I think that, I think we’re on the precipice in the next two to four years that there’s gonna be, you know, and I’ll steal Peter Diamandis’ view, there’s gonna be this age of abundance on energy that’s coming that has such a huge impact on underlying economics in our world that, you know, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll begin that true shift from the feeling of scarcity to this feeling of abundance. And, you know, again, I think, I think, you know, as exciting as the last 10 years have been for me, I think the next 10 years are for all of us are gonna be even more exciting. 

Scott Kinka (34:27):

That was an incredible and super hopeful answer, which I like. <laugh>. You also, by the way, answered my two questions from now. I was gonna ask you, what’s on your end table? What are you reading right now? And I think you just told me that the book Lifespan, you said who, who, who’s the author there? 

Chris MacFarland (34:45):

It’s Tony Robbins and, Peter Dimandis. But I think Peter had a, a, a bigger, a, a bigger set of inputs to that book. Not that Tony Robbins isn’t great, but, I get it. But I think his fingerprints are all over that one. 

Scott Kinka (35:00):

Understood. All right. Well then we’re gonna, I’m gonna leave you with one fun question. , and it’s a little bit of an odd question given your hopeful answer just now, but let’s just asse that the <laugh> future doesn’t go the way that you expect. And, we hit the next dystopian event, whatever that is. , and there’s one app that’s still functioning on your phone. What’s your, what’s your end of the world app, Chris? What do, what can you not live without on your mobile? 

Chris MacFarland (35:26):

I mean, it’s gotta be the same for everyone in today’s age, especially if you’ve got kids. Yeah. I mean, you need iMessage, right? <laugh>. So that’s, that’s the one app. I don’t think any of us, or at least not me, I couldn’t live without it. 

Scott Kinka (35:38):

Yeah, I’m with you. Okay, well, that makes sense. And we, we got the, the nightstand, reading answer in the middle of that. I love it. Personalized medicine and energy breakthrough. Well, excited about both. And it’s funny, too, because you mentioned ai. I mean, I’ve, we just, I just did a talk couple of weeks ago on ai, and one of the questions that I got asked, it happened to be, by the way, in Dallas, one of the questions I got, why now? And we were talking about, you know, computing power and processing, getting to the point, but also energy. Like I just, you know, you know, there, it takes an awful lot of energy to power the generative models that are powering the things that are happening right now, right? I mean, you know, these, these are GPUs, not CPUs we’re powering, you know, to be able to do this stuff. So it was just a really interesting question. I mean, it’s like when all this stuff comes together, the future is really bright and certainly the future bright and, and, Comcast business and Masergy Land, with, you know, a collection of some really awesome companies and some really incredible talent. Chris, happy to have you on the show today and, best of luck in everything in the future for Comcast Business and Masergy 

Chris MacFarland (36:41):

Thank you very much. It’s always great chatting with you too as well, Scott. 

Scott Kinka (36:45):

Thanks so much.




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