Keeping the Bells happy
In the race to meet the growing demand for multiple phone lines and more bandwidth, PairGain offers a way to maximize capacity for the existing network of copper wires used by telephone companies. PairGain uses a technology called HDSL (high-speed digital subscriber line), which was developed by researchers from the Bell companies (which it now serves). Using digital signal processing chips, HDSL doubles the capacity of the copper wiring and makes data transfer fast and reliable. With this solution, regional phone companies can avoid or postpone the costly conversion to higher-capacity fiber optic technology. These companies have been especially reluctant to make the switch in light of the new challenge posed by cable companies, which now offer high-speed modem access through television coaxial cables; companies like AT&T and Time Warner could very likely have a stronghold in this market before most phone companies are able to install a network of fiber lines.
Making all the right moves...
Since it was founded in 1988, PairGain has positioned itself through a number of acquisitions; and through investments in several other companies, including two California-based network solutions makers. In 1997, PairGain acquired AVIDIA Systems, a developer of new networking technology that acts like a high-tech funnel, bundling data into aggregate units that can be transmitted at rapid speeds. In 1998, the company agreed on a licensing deal and joint development project with Rockwell Semiconductor.
Until recently, PairGain was one of the fastest growing high-tech companies in the country - sales nearly doubled between 1996 and 1997, and net income grew from $1.1 million to $36.6 million over the same period. The company's success was largely related to the fact that it was the first to offer HDSL technology and because of PairGain's strong relationships with the telephone companies.
But things began to sour in 1998 when the company lost Bell Atlantic as a major client. Smelling profit, more and more competitors entered PairGain's market and drove prices down. One of those companies was Adtran, which gained market share through a bitter price war with PairGain. In late 1998, when the company announced shockingly low fourth-quarter earnings, Michael Pascoe became CEO, replacing former CEO Chuck Strauch and co-founder Howard Flagg. The company announced that most of its manufacturing operations would be moved to Mexico, and consequently, that nearly 100 California workers would lose their jobs. Takeover rumors spread quickly during this time, and investors succumbed to a hoax press release announcing the company's takeover that an employee had posted on the Internet. In the same year, the company also was fined for poor record keeping. In January 2000, PairGain sold off its microelectronics group to GlobeSpan Inc.
A new hope?
PairGain, faced with falling profits and shrinking revenue, had been stomaching high operating expenses while it was developing its next-generation switching systems, the HiGain Solitaire HDSL2. The new access system won PairGain new converts, however - in 1999 the company secured new deals with local exchange carrier @link Networks and China Telecom.
Additional PairGain dealings have attempted to right the ship. In early 2000, the company agreed to be acquired by ADC Telecommunications Inc.; subsequent first quarter results exhibited gains in income and revenue. Later in the year, PairGain also made strategic agreements with ABL Canada Inc., Ramp Networks, Inc., and European distributor PanDacom GmbH.
Look for job descriptions and current openings on the employment page located on the PairGain web site. Resumes, cover letters and salary history may be posted, faxed, or e-mailed to the human resources department.
PairGain does hire college students, especially those who work during the year as co-op students. Those people often get full time positions when they graduate. Interviews last two or more hours, "depending on how interested they are," insiders say.
Employees at PairGain say they work with the "best of the best," and like the fact that everyone "has an open door policy." They say higher-ups are "very approachable, from the CEO to first-level managers." "We don't have fancy offices or a lot of politics," remarks one insider, "teams and teamwork are emphasized." One adds: "you'll do well here if you are intelligent, have common sense, are customer service oriented and don't mind working hard."
And stellar benefits
While salaries at PairGain are "excellent," some employees seem peeved that "we only get two weeks vacation (annually) for the first four years." However, they do get a break for the week between Christmas and New Years and 25 cent sodas year-round (it adds up for frazzled engineers, so don't knock it). In any case, most of insiders enjoy all that time spent in the office. They happily report "a great sense of teamwork and camaraderie" in each group, and say their jobs are "challenging and fulfilling." In addition to the basics, workers benefit from "generous" profit sharing and stock purchase plans. To keep employees up to date on the latest developments in the industry, the company provides on-site classes and a tuition reimbursement program. It also foots the bills for annual industry conferences. One fun perk: PairGain sends stellar employees on all-expense-paid vacations, most recently to the British Virgin Islands.
Relaxed attire...for those long hours
The dress code is "anything from business casual to suits," though "our engineers wear jeans a lot." Posted work hours are 8 to 5. While "overtime is not required," employees say: "To do well you need to work at least 50 hours a week." "The main thing is that your project is done on time," explains one source, "and that sometimes does require putting in a lot of extra hours." In addition, the company has a good reputation for promotions and pay raises, as long as employees "put in the hours and work hard to live up to the 'PairGain Quality Commitment.'"
Establishing a boys & girls club
Sources say the company is "very multicultural," and note that the women at PairGain are "definitely making their place," and "many women are in positions of authority." But "the communications industry has been a boys club for a long time," says one honest employee, so "it helps if you're not too easily offended."
Human Resources Manager
High-bit-rate Digital Subscriber Line (HDSL and HDSL2); Single-pair High-bit-rate Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL/S-HDSL); Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL); Rate-adaptive ADSL (RADSL) systems; HiGain T1/E1 access systems; PG-Flex, PG-Plus carrier systems; Avidia systems; Megabit Modem campus systems
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