Hmm, reminds me of the days when you could not own a phone. Only could lease it from Mountain Bell. I must of had 50 of them illegally. Taking them apart to see what made them tic. Hopefully this takeover will improve phone service in Colorado.
Abel Chavez and Pete Sardaczuk have seen a lot of changes during their 35 years at Colorado’s largest telecom.
But the biggest is expected to come today – the finalization of CenturyLink’s acquisition of Qwest Communications, which will end the 100-year reign of a Colorado corporate icon.
Both men started with Mountain Bell, a predecessor to Qwest, in 1975. Chavez joined the company right out of college and Sardaczuk out of high school.
“When you said you had a job at Mountain Bell, you stood 100 feet tall,” Sardaczuk said.
They moved to U S West after it spun off from AT&T in 1984 and survived that company’s marriage to a much smaller and younger Qwest in 2000.
Chavez helped smooth the adoption of the new 719 area code in 1988 and worked on the rollout of residential broadband in 2003.
Sardaczuk, as a senior database administrator, didn’t jump ship when tech workers were in high demand and helped the company tackle its Y2K conversion. Currently, he helps the company gather and interpret reams of customer data.
The two veterans plan to chart different courses in the months after the merger. Chavez, 59, wants to stay on as long as he can.
“I have had a fascinating and rewarding experience working for Qwest,” Chavez said. “I am excited about moving forward and making the transition.”
Sardaczuk, 53, following a financial plan he laid out years ago, hopes to exit in 2012.
“I call it our glide-path plan to retirement,” he said. “Live within your means and keep things paid off.”
For much of his career, Chavez’s work focused on southern Colorado and rural areas of the state.
“Back in 1975, there were many parts of Colorado that still had party lines. Part of my role was to help with the communication as we upgraded the network,” he said.
When U S West decided to sell 45 rural local exchanges in 1993 to Pacific Telecom, Chavez helped win regulatory and public approvals there as well.
Coming full circle, those areas will join up with the rest of Colorado once again.
More recently, Chavez has worked with the Qwest Foundation on programs that bring technology into the classroom and ease childhood poverty by providing kids with backpacks of food to get them through the weekend.
“Many students were not prepared to learn because they came to school on Mondays hungry,” he said.
It may sound cliche, but Sardaczuk started in the mail room at AT&T’s Zuni Data Center. In the early years, he put magnetic reels on computers and fed the beasts punch cards.
With the company’s help, he earned an undergraduate degree and then a master’s in computer science, leading to his current title of senior database administrator.
Among the things that stand out over the years were the separation from AT&T and the push to get the company prepared for Jan. 1, 2000.
“Mountain Bell separated from AT&T, and we had a big strip of tape down the hallways that we could not cross,” he said, describing a scene reminiscent of the film “War of the Roses.”
Chavez and Sardaczuk say they expect the CenturyLink acquisition will go much more smoothly than the Qwest takeover.
“The Qwest era had its challenges,” Sarda czuk said. “Leadership took us in a direction that wasn’t the best for the company.”
Chavez expects CenturyLink will push more decision-making and accountability down to the local level.
“We can be more responsive than we have in the past,” he said. “That will make us stronger and more successful.”
Sardaczuk said he counsels younger colleagues, including some in India, who are fearful of the changes to hold on and work hard.
“Don’t panic. The company wants to buy us. We have to be good,” he said.