Marsha Haskell knows what it's like to look down from a telephone pole. In her early days with Southwestern Bell, the company that would later become SBC, Haskell had a job traditionally held by men: installation foreman.
She went from site to site with a crew of about a dozen gruff men installing telephones. Sometimes, that meant climbing the telephone poles to check the quality of work.
"It was unheard of for a woman to do that," Haskell said. "It raised some eyebrows."
Why not raise a few eyebrows? Working for SBC is in her blood. The Cape Girardeau native is a second-generation Southwestern Bell employee -- both of her parents retired from what would become SBC.
Her first job after college was in a clerical position. Two years later, she asked to work in the field. Later, she was promoted to repair foreman in Chaffee, Mo. She then went to Springfield, Mo., where she took a staff job working on procedures related to handling calls from customers.
Eventually, that led to her being sent back home to help start a call center in Cape Girardeau.
Finally, she became regional director for external affairs. It's a job that entails responsibilities for community, legislative and regulatory issues in Southeast Missouri.
"In every job that I've ever had, I never had the training or background for it," Haskell said. "So I had to learn as I went along."
Haskell recently spoke about big issues in the telecommunications industry and what to expect in the future of the telecommunications giant.
Haskell: I think it's a really good thing for customers everywhere because we can take the strengths of both companies and combine them in order to bring services and products to the customer faster than either companies could have done alone.
Haskell: Right now, we have some major legislation -- SB237. What that legislation is designed to do is to reform the telecommunications regulation. The last time major legislation was enacted to overhaul the telecommunications industry was in 1996. The Internet was in its infancy 10 years ago and now look at it. The rules that applied almost 10 years ago just don't apply in today's competitive environment.
(Editor's note: The Senate bill would declare services competitive in any area where three companies provide services, whether they are wired, wireless or computer-based voice-over-Internet-protocol services. SBC competes with cable system operators and wireless companies for customers, but those industries aren't regulated, which SBC says puts it at a disadvantage.)
Are everyday people here concerned about regulation and wireless competition?
Haskell: It's interesting you say that. When I talk to people about regulation and how it impacts the industry, they think, "Why should I be concerned with that and why should I care about that?" They should care, because the way we're currently regulated, sometimes it takes six to 11 months for us to deliver these products and services because of the regulatory red tape we have to go through. That's why if the market drives the industry, we can serve those customer needs in real time and not regulatory time.
Haskell: I think there's the possibility you can one day get your cable TV from SBC. I'm looking forward to the time we have advanced broadband services that will make DSL look like dial-up. Those kinds of things are on the horizon. They are all designed to help people be more productive and enjoy their Internet experience more and also to keep and attract businesses to this area. That's one of the No. 1 things economic development people get asked: Who's your telephone provider, and what kind of services do they provide?