Mike Heller: Bell Head Turned Net Head
After 41 years in the telecommunications industry, Mike retired from Cisco Systems in 2004. He worked
for the old Bell Telephone System ("Ma Bell"), for a computer company now part of HP, and Internet
pioneer Cisco. His career provided the opportunity to live in the Los Angeles area, the San Francisco area,
the New York City area, and in London, England, and for business travel to over 30 countries.
Mike is now spending lots of time building houses for Habitat for Humanity, activities at church, and traveling with Sandy.
Mike started out as a "telephone man," and was that for many years, starting work in L.A. for the old Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company right after his college graduation. He worked in Network Engineering, became a Repair Foreman in the small town of Venture (his first opportunity supervising union-represented craftsmen). Having passed that challenge, it was back into engineering for another couple of years, and then he was transferred to headquaraters in San Francisco, managing network engineering activities throughout the state. Next stop was New York City for 4 years at AT&T Headquarters, with an office right across the street from the then under construction World Trade Center towers.
Returning to California, Mike went into operations, this time managing a group running the long distance network for the San Francisco area. Part of this assignment was the the installation of new equipment that reduced the size of his group from over 200 to about 50 - lots of interesting times dealing with displaced workers, the union, etc.
When the government decided AT&T was too big and split it up, Mike went with the newly-formed international division, and became the company's first employee to work in England. That was a great assignment, and provided opportunities for both professional growth as well as lots of travel around Europe (both business and "holidays" with Sandy).
Upon returning home, expecting to resume work at the telephone company, Mike found the company had become "leaner and meaner," and were busy down-sizing their staff. So he found a job with a computer company in Silicon Valley, and worked there for 9 years. (That company, called Tandem Computers, later became part of HP.)
Later, he joined the network service provider segment of Internet pioneer Cisco Systems. Much of Mike's work at Tandem and at Cisco involved frequent travel to Asia Pacific, and sometimes to Latin America. It was all great fun, but 10 years later, he was ready to devote much more time to Habitat and to travel with Sandy, so he "hung it up" and retired.
In the course of his work in the telecom industry, Mike has written many white papers, magazine articles, and chapters for books. Some were published in the telecommunications trade press, and others in professional and conference proceedings.
Mike is so busy in retirement, he often wonders how he ever found time to hold down a (often more than) full-time job!