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Charles Hughes

Charles Hughes: Reinventing Technical Services with Agile Workforce Strategies

A Visionary Journey of Cost Optimization, Customer-Centricity, and Transformative Leadership!

In the ever-evolving landscape of modern life, the keys to success have transformed. Today, it is not only expertise and experience that drive progress, but innovation and forward-thinking leadership have emerged as the catalysts for unlocking unparalleled achievements.

The world we inhabit is dynamic and fast-paced, demanding adaptability and creative solutions to navigate its complexities. As traditional norms give way to disruptive advancements, organizations and individuals alike must embrace innovation to stay ahead of the curve.

Amidst the winds of change, one individual stands out as an exemplar of forward-thinking adaptation—Charles Hughes, the esteemed COO of High Wire Networks.

His journey to the realm of operations and leadership began with a career in the U.S. Army. As a First Sergeant, his passion for service delivery and field operations resonated deeply with the sense of purpose he had felt during his military days. Eager to carry forward this dedication to excellence, Charles transitioned to the corporate world, where he found a new battlefield to conquer – the world of telecommunications.

Joining Williams Communications Group as a field service supervisor, Charles found himself on familiar ground – leading teams to develop and execute missions, just as he had done in the Army. Solving problems in delivery, turning around underperforming teams, and charting new directions with innovative strategies became his method of procedure.

The challenges were immense, but Charles embraced them with unyielding determination. Regardless of the hurdles he faced, he found excitement and joy in the journey, reveling in the process of delivering results and surpassing expectations.

As Charles rose through the ranks, his leadership style evolved, reflecting the lessons he learned from his military and corporate experiences. Not content with merely managing delivery, he took it upon himself to lead and mentor his teams in all aspects of their roles, including training, quality, and performance management. Under his guidance, teams found inspiration to grow and excel, unlocking their true potential and achieving unprecedented success.

Let us unravel the remarkable story of a leader who thrives on turning challenges into triumphs!

Could you please tell us about your company and its inception story?

High Wire Networks offers a diverse array of IT/Telecom managed and professional services alongside a robust managed cybersecurity services proposition. Our capability spans from comprehensive turnkey solutions to providing partial services that complement our partners’ existing offerings. We excel in data center hardware installation, managed data center services, managed NOC, and managed SOC with our 100% onshore security analysts. Additionally, we specialize in network infrastructure support, wireless networks, structured cabling, solutions engineering, and project management. Our customers can avail of our services for ad hoc projects, lifecycle programs, managed services, or break-fix maintenance support.

What sets us apart and brings real value to our partners is not just the WHAT of our services but rather the HOW. Our website proudly declares that “We take the complexity out of service,” and we achieve this by ensuring an easy-to-engage process, providing tiered subject matter expertise, and delivering effective, cost-efficient solutions. Our approach is consultative, seeking to fully comprehend the desired outcome and offering quality alternatives that enhance the overall customer experience.

Recently, High Wire Networks unveiled Overwatch CyberLab, an incubator aimed at building a security module within the browser to safeguard users at the edge of networks, wherever the hybrid workforce is located. This innovative module offers protection to the universal enterprise browser, which represents the largest targeted attack surface. This novel approach is poised to disrupt the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) domain, introduce a new dimension to Identity and Access Management (IAM), and revolutionize enterprise security practices.

Can you tell us about your role as a COO in the tech industry and the specific challenges you face in this position, and what strategies have you implemented to drive growth and success within your organization?

I get the opportunity to meet with many customers, whether it is for business development, a strategic project kickoff, or an introduction of a new service offering. During introductions, I always describe my role as doing whatever the team needs me to do to ensure their success. In military vernacular, that means I am responsible for beans, billets, and bullets. Beans- not just sustenance, but the necessary support and services to operate healthily and effectively. Billets- a clean, healthy workplace environment they are comfortable and feel supported. Bullets- the tools to get the job done, whether that be systems, processes, policies, or equipment.

The challenges for a COO are on multiple fronts. I started with High Wire Networks in January 2020, right before the pandemic. The first challenge was to develop a strategy to survive the impacts of the pandemic while at the same time coming out stronger and able to take advantage of growth opportunities on the other side. We were faced with the needs of customers for lower prices and the labor market expecting higher wages. Logistics were more complicated than ever, and the traditional annual business cycles were now unpredictable.

Our strategy focused on clear alignment and communication from top to bottom. We restructured our business development and delivery teams to support a new way of engaging our customers. We worked with our customers to become engaged earlier in developing solutions to increase our value-add and drive efficiency. We developed new pricing strategies to help close better-quality opportunities and improve financial performance.

Internally we increased our review of team composition, or what is known as Right Person, Right Seat. It allows everyone the opportunity to develop individually while providing the best possible value to the company and our customers. We overlayed this with very strong collaboration with our finance team to ensure we also drove the proper business outcomes.

Can you share an example of a significant project or initiative that you led, highlighting the impact it had on your company’s success?

More of a strategy, but over the past two years, we have been working on processes and procedures around our project implementation services. We work closely with our partner to develop a delivery model that focuses on iterative large-scale deployments with our partner and the end customer. Our solution addresses the near-term objectives of the immediate project but also establishes the basis for the ongoing lifecycle management of the end customer. This allows us to drive efficiency with the partner and customer, better manage our fixed costs without burdening the customer and increase the average deal size. Under this strategy, we are also able to create a managed services delivery model to provide predictable, steady support costs for the customer compared to the peaks and valleys of typical implementation work. The end customer can then better utilize CAPex or OPex, depending on their financial strategy.

As a leader, how do you prioritize and delegate tasks to ensure effective resource allocation and maximize productivity, and how do you approach talent acquisition and development to build a high-performing team?

Prioritization is based on contribution to the strategic plan versus the tactical plan. We all must deal with the day-to-day needs of the business and the inevitable emergencies that come up. We still need to focus on the long-term strategic priorities as well. I always try to align those priorities and requirements with people who have responsibility and accountability for the outcomes based on their roles. But as leaders, we are also teachers, so I like to provide opportunities to stretch their limits to help with their development. The key is to provide the right amount of mentoring and direction. For talent acquisition, I don’t just focus on their qualifications for the current role; I look for potential and, even more importantly, assess if they are a good cultural fit for the team they are joining. Having the right chemistry among team members is key.

What advice would you give to aspiring COOs in the tech industry who want to make a meaningful impact in their organizations?

Understand who you are as a leader and how you became that leader. You will be faced with many challenges- personnel, business development, financial, and customer delivery. Be consistent in how you respond in those situations. You must continue to grow and develop, but your core beliefs and values are what will build trust and confidence in the organization. Strive to be a servant leader; when the team understands your primary role is to support them and make them successful, they will accomplish great things.

Please give us a few testimonials from your clients and awards or recognition that accurately highlight your achievements in the corporate niche.

Several years ago, I won the Worldwide Business Research Field Service Award for Innovation. I am a sought-after guest speaker at Service Industry forums and have also written blogs for CompTIA.