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MATRIX Consultant Spotlight: Jim Toth

This month's MATRIX Consultant spotlight is on Jim Toth, a telecom consultant working on behalf of a major telecommunications company from his home office located outside Cleveland, Ohio.

Tell me about yourself.

I was married in 1975 to my wife, Carol, and we have two sons, Jim and Jack. Both boys are married and Jim has two boys. After graduating from high school in 1969, I worked in a factory making $1.80 hour. That wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I got a job at a chain grocery store working in the produce department. One day, I was talking to a friend who was working at Ohio Bell [part of the AT&T Bell operating system] and he said, “Why don’t you go down there and apply for a job? You won’t make a million dollars but you won’t die poor.”

What was your first experience working in telecommunications?

I started with Ohio Bell on Feb. 6, 1970, and retired on Dec. 30, 2013.I started as an apparatus man (central office technician) and worked in that role for five years. I later moved to a call center focused on large carrier provider transmission failures. I supervised central offices, and was assigned to the central office in downtown Cleveland when Jacobs Field (home of the Cleveland Indians) was being built in the early 1990s. As a supervisor, I was to make sure that as fiber lines were being moved no services went down, and if it did, we’d work with splicers to ensure the restoration took place right away. I worked on copper, asynchronous transfer mode technology, SONET and Internet Protocol. When I was promoted, a colleague told me, “Never forget where you came from.”

How has telecom evolved over time?

When I started, AT&T had a short motto: universal service. That meant that everyone got phone service regardless of where they lived. We provided telephone service, and became a telephone provider that also provided data services. Then we became a data company that provided telephone service. Eventually, we became a data only company. As wireless grew, we went from being data based to Internet based, and that’s where the industry is headed – wireless and the Internet. Everyone in the future will be on the Internet.

MATRIX Consultant Spotlight: Jim Toth

Has the industry’s transition been hard for you?

No. I credit a lot of my peers and the culture of the [AT&T Bell System] where the transition wasn’t an overnight sensation. I was able to transition into each aspect of technology over time. I received a lot of hands-on training from vendors like Alcatel and was allowed to grow with the company.

What advice to you have for people to stay current with their industry of choice?

Don’t fight change. Be a champion for change.

What did telecom used to be like in practical terms as an employee?

It was always about the customer, whether it was a residential or business customer. We were always on call, and that looked different as time went on. I remember in the mid-1970s when we got beepers. When the beeper went off, you’d call the central office. Thanks to technology, we all later got two-tone beepers and your boss or the central office staff could call you. Then we got pagers, then text pagers and then cell phones. Today, if people lose their cell phone it’s a disaster.

What are you working on today as a MATRIX consultant?

I was hired by MATRIX to join a team that provides the voice path for 911 special circuits to public safety answering points (PSAPs) and automatic location identification (ALIs) which are databases that house the information about the addresses of callers to 911. When you call 911, that call goes to the PSAP but it’s momentarily routed to an ALI center and brings the information back to the PSAP. A derecho (major storm) hit the Mid-Atlantic in June 2012, just before I retired from the AT&T system and the FCC initiated a number of changes. In 2014, making sure telecommunications systems could withstand such storms became a priority for all the large carriers. After retiring, I was fortunate to have my name given to MATRIX and felt comfortable stepping right into things.

The work I do for MATRIX is computer-based. I log onto systems and work with a database where all the circuits are housed. The database comes back and tells me what PSAPs had violations and what they were. It tells me how many communication trunks the PSAP had and helps me to ensure I can provide a diverse path to be used.

Why did you select MATRIX?

When Kenny Edgerton (President of Telecom Services) called me, I felt comfortable right away during the interview. I felt a level of respect and trust. After being hired, I was sent MATRIX assets, a laptop and computer monitors to allow me to work from home. Once the project started there were team guidelines, and within those guidelines, I was allowed the latitude to perform the job based on my past experience.

What’s the most rewarding part of your career?

Very seldom does a day go by when I don’t hear something about 911 on the news. It’s rewarding to me that I’m involved in transforming a network where people can get the help they need to protect lives and property. As long as I don’t see that someone picked up the phone and couldn’t reach 911 because the circuit was down, I am happy. I always try to have a passion for what I’m doing. Being asked to be on this team and provide diverse paths for 911 trunks speaks to my passion.


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