My NTS Journey: Will Lester
January 22, 2021
January 22, 2021
What drew you to NTS?
I met Dan Kunkel (our President and COO) on a technical install maybe eight or nine years ago. It was a difficult project that ended up being a formative experience for us from a relationship perspective.
I had previously worked with Duane Burpoe, our Chief Revenue Officer, and Louis Pacheco. I knew them both to be really standout people, so when the opportunity came up to join NTS, there was some excitement in knowing that I could work around some people that are super-highly competent.
When was that moment where you knew you’d made the right decisions to work at NTS?
I don’t think there was ever really the light bulb moment. Over the years, the positivity of that decision has been reinforced through daily interactions, the steady conversations with folks. Everybody on the team from the CEO down to every member of the engineering staff had been relentlessly committed to the customer and what they need.
There’s also this high level of trust across the board that’s just implicit. The leadership team trusts the team that’s doing the work to do the things that need to be done. They trust the team to handle the business and will back them up if things go wrong or if they go exactly to plan. Either way we still have their support.
Tell me a little about how your career has grown since working at NTS
I began my career as a project coordinator and developed into a project manager, then a senior project manager, then a program manager, and ultimately came to be the director of the program management organization at a previous company.
Coming to NTS was scary at first because I wasn’t coming to NTS as the PMO director, I was coming in as a technical programs person, to where I was using my technical knowledge and background in more of the IT side of the world and more of the engineering side, so that was a big pivot for me. When I first came on board, Dan put me on the Sales team, and I told Dan that I don’t know anything about sales. He assured me that for NTS at the time, that was the place to be. So, I agreed and that was the first scary moment for me was to report to the VP of Sales after being operationally focused for so long.
A few months in, I got a phone call from the VP of Sales saying, “Hey we’re going to start a new Business Development team and we’ve chosen you to be on the team.” And my response to that was I don’t know anything about BD either. It was incredibly challenging. Now, my Ops background helped a great deal as I’m finding ways to come up with creative solutions to every type of problem in a way that wasn’t as well understood in the BD world or the technology development world. The lesson I learned was how to say yes to things I wasn’t entirely sure about.
What position did you start in and what is your current position?
When I came on board, I believe my title was Technical Program Manager. I kind of bounced around in different roles as programs came and went and kind of took over more a business development/capture role where I was leading the charge on responding to large requests for proposals or information and white papers.
Around two years ago Biney approached me with the concept that would eventually become the Advanced Solutions group. He asked me to take on the leadership role of the new team, so I went from Technical PM to the Director of Advanced Solutions. Towards the end of the year Biney approached me to say, “Why don’t we take what you’ve built on the AS side, this culture of software development and development operations (DevOps or DevSecOps) and bring that into the overall fold.
In November 2020 I took oversight all of the engineering resources, all of the team members, and with that came the title of Vice President of Engineering.
What surprised you the most about NTS?
The easy answer is everything. One of the lessons that I’ve picked up over the last year in particular is if things need to be changed and issues need to be addressed, then that’s up to you. You see the issue; you know it better than anybody else because you’re living it. The question becomes, “How do you think we should fix it?”, not the bureaucracy of some of the other companies I’ve been at to say, well, that’s not my problem.
It’s empowering to hear if you want to fix it, let’s fix it. The NTS leadership has done a pretty good job of being able to paint that picture to help us imagine what the future should look like and then empowering the employees to make that happen.
Any final comments?
I initially came to NTS with career growth in mind and it has definitely not disappointed. It has exceeded my expectations in that regard. I’m very optimistic about where we’re headed. I think like anything, it’s a balancing act, but I’m very grateful to be here for all the opportunities that have been afforded to me, especially over the last couple of years. And I’m looking forward to great things.
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