When you think of CenturyLink, you may think of your internet provider – or perhaps the Seattle Seahawks stadium. But you should also think about an industry leader in telecommunications and technical solutions, with hundreds of job opportunities and a growing mission to support the federal government.
“We are probably one of the biggest unknowns out there as a brand, but we provide tons and tons of IT services to the federal government and others,” said Brian Kale, Senior Director, Federal Program Management at CenturyLink during a recent podcast interview with ClearanceJobs. “We’re actually one of the largest communications and technologies companies in the United States And we carry a major portion of the world’s internet traffic. Our global IP backbone is one of the most deeply peered and well-connected networks in the world. And most people don’t realize that.”
The recent merger of Level 3 Communications and CenturyLink increased the company’s broadband portfolio – and fiber – and enables CenturyLink to deliver technology solutions to federal customers fast, and with a well-built bench of talented people and partners.
“They come to us and say, here’s our big picture. Here’s what success looks like for us. How do we get there?” said Kale. “And we bring our folks who have tons of experience to the game and say, ‘no problem.’ We’re known for sitting down with them and talking through what’s your problem? What are the nuances? What are the variables?”
Sean English came to CenturyLink from Level 3, where he had been since 1999. Prior to that, he served with the U.S. Navy for nearly 10 years. Now he works as a Senior Director, Federal Program Management at CenturyLink. English describes CenturyLink as like a home, where hard work equals good luck.
“It really comes down to the people,” said English. “And if I look at couple of the larger programs that I have in my shop, those programs are largely self-contained, meaning all of the skill sets necessary to run a program of that size and dedicated to a customer like that reside within the team. So we have all the skill sets from network architecture, analysts, developers, engineers, project managers, business analysts, team managers – all of these skillsets are all on the same team.”
English says the way they develop business units at CenturyLink builds mentors and constant reviews into the team structure. Managers are always looking for opportunities for high performers – even if the best opportunity is outside of their own team.
“And I think one of the things that’s really unique about us is that we’re willing to open those doors, even if that means that person leaving the team to move on to bigger and better things,” said English.
Rewarding top performers relates to CenturyLink’s philosophy toward driving high performance and innovative solutions.
“CenturyLink has always been a company that rewards ownership,” said Kale. “Part of that is ownership of the solution or strategy. We’re encouraging folks to come to us with their innovation. A lot of companies say that, but there aren’t a series of off-ramps every mile to say ‘hey, we could do this.’”
Similar to its culture of innovation, CenturyLink is also a company that values upward mobility and creates those opportunities for employees. Like the networks they build, CenturyLink offers a ladder of career options, which makes it easier for employees to find their next opportunity.
“It’s not just a conga line where you have to wait for this person to get promoted or moved out or leave the company,” said Kale. “All you have to do is look around and say ‘what do I want to be when I grow up?’ And there it is.”
Kale noted he has some programs he has been managing for 20 years, which is highly unusual in the government contracting space. That longevity allows people to look out across their career with a bigger picture in mind. That facilitates the innovation that allows employees to ‘develop along the edges’ rather than staying in their lanes.
“We want people to see not only their lane, but across the lanes so that they understand what they’re doing and what the next person’s doing,” Kale said.
That outward focus helps with understanding and serving agencies missions and career progression, but it also helps with team unity.
“I have not worked in many organizations where people are so humanly connected, where they know a lot about each other,” said Kale. “They know about their families. They know about their children. They know about their hobbies. It’s a true caring between the people and what’s going on. Let’s face it. If you really care and really trust the people you’re working with, the people who are your leaders: the work is easy.”
That’s facilitated through the team and through company benefits. Kale emphasized the company will look ahead to see where they can provide valuable benefits, whether it’s a parental benefit or a professional development opportunity.
“We are incredibly collaborative,” said English. “Everyone’s opinion is incredibly important and it’s heard, and that’s really, really special.”
CenturyLink has recently been involved with two high-profile projects with the U.S. government – providing the connectivity to get the U.S. Naval Hospital Ship Mercy to get it up and running within 48 hours during the pandemic, as well as supporting the mission of the U.S. Census Bureau by providing secure bcloud connectivity.
“It’s not unique for us,” said Kale. “We have tons of programs that are concerned with continuation of operations and disaster recovery, even in our normal enterprise and local services… We support the United States and the people within the country and the world for that matter. Our job is to make sure that we are providing all the IT infrastructure necessary for people to do their job and to make things better.
“And we do this quite often with a lot of different focuses. COVID has provided a lot of heightened moments where we’re bringing in connectivity for temporary hospitals, or we’re bringing in connectivity for more rural areas who need to be able to handle more virtualization, virtual learning, etc.”
CenturyLink’s diverse portfolio also includes an award under the GSA’s $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract. The contract is one example of how – big and small – CenturyLink is doing it all.
“As we have a diverse contract and product portfolio, the ability for an employee to try new skill, a different role, be exposed to some type of new mission, learn a new process, be trained in a different area – it’s limitless, just because of the fact that almost every single new opportunity that comes our way you almost have to unpack it and figure out, ‘okay, what’s the common and what’s the new?’” said Kale. “It prevents the risk-averse attitude that often comes with companies that are living only in one tiny little role, with all your eggs in one basket. We’re not that way. We’ve got a ton of opportunities going on.”