Leader insights: Scott McFeely – Inspired by and empowering network innovators at Ciena
Scott McFeely has been a driving force behind many of Ciena’s innovations. As Senior Vice President of Global Products and Services, he has led the development of network solutions that connect people across the globe by guiding teams as they create remarkable technologies. This drive to push the boundaries of innovation has been with him since he was a student.
Scott (pictured left) graduated from Carleton University in the inaugural class to earn a Computer Science degree, as it was a growing field at the time. During his undergraduate years, Scott gained valuable experience working as a summer student at Bell Northern Research, a company partly owned by Nortel Networks. After he graduated, he joined the team full-time and began working on network planning software tools.
“It was a good underpinning of what networks were and how they ran, and it allowed me to apply a bit of my computer science skills as well,” said Scott. “I was fortunate at that time because the company was very young, so there were always opportunities to grow laterally, and I took advantage of that. I worked on various networking technologies from digital cross connects to the early days of SONET, SDH, WDM, enterprise data products, service provider carrier data products to wireless gateways, network management software, and OSS software.”
In 2007, Scott rejoined Nortel’s Optical division where the team was working on developing the early commercial generations of coherent optical technology. Despite initial skepticism from a reputable consulting firm, which claimed there was no evidence of a coherent optical market existing, Ciena recognized the value and acquired the optical assets, and brought Scott and his team on board.
“One of my first experiences with Ciena was just before the transaction closed when Gary Smith, the company’s CEO, spent the entire day with our team,” said Scott. “He was willing to invest his time in us. That was quite foreign to me. Whenever someone asks why Ciena, I always say, ‘I didn’t come by choice, but I stayed by choice’”.
This people-first approach has kept Scott at Ciena since the acquisition. He has held the position of Vice President of Global Portfolio Management and Business Operations and currently serves as the Senior Vice President of Global Products and Services. Over the years, he has watched teams develop cutting-edge network technologies, including the WaveLogic coherent optics technology.
“I’ve had the pleasure of having a ringside seat for every generation of the WaveLogic technology. Sitting and listening to the team debate decisions has been very humbling. I try to add my two cents, but they’re some of the world’s smartest people in their field. That’s literally what we have, and I don’t count myself amongst them,” said Scott.
Scott McFeely (right) with Dino DiPerna (left) at Ciena's labs in Ottawa in the early 90s
One of Scott’s favorite things about working with engineers is their collaborative effort and drive to push through limits and create technologies that redefine network capabilities.
“You’ll hear teams say, ‘what’s the winning hand?’ and it’s the mentality of not being afraid to challenge the status quo,” said Scott. “With WaveLogic, it was a bunch of people from different disciplines that historically hadn’t been in the optical domain, but they needed a different approach. This sort of lateral thinking is a consistent theme with our teams. And then seeing their reaction to success is really rewarding to me,” said Scott.
Over the years, Scott has seen countless teams work together to bring their ideas to life, but it’s Ciena’s Vectors showcase event, where research and development and engineering teams get to share their technologies with customers at Ciena’s labs and offices in Ottawa, Canada, that he really enjoys seeing all the aspects of innovation come to life.
“Vectors is really unique. All the ingredients of innovation are sitting right there in those buildings. It’s a bunch of passionate people who come together to solve customers’ business problems and break boundaries to do so. And then, they show their results and success to customers. Their sheer pride brings the entire lifecycle of innovation to life. You can touch it and feel it in minutes,” said Scott.
Looking ahead, Scott sees environmental sustainability as a catalyst for future innovation.
“Going forward, one of the key drivers for innovation will be focused on the environmental impacts from the technology; things like power usage, size, weight, and materials,” said Scott. “We’ve been doing this for decades just by nature of what we do and how we do it and have had a positive impact on the planet, but now it will be at the forefront in our design requirements.”
From his early days working in network planning to becoming a leader in networking solutions, Scott has seen how collaboration and a relentless pursuit of technological advancement shape innovation. Now, he and his teams set out to align groundbreaking network solutions with a greener planet, creating a more sustainable world for us all.