The Unsung Heroes of the Year

Today is a day that people associate with the giving and receiving of gifts. However, there are some marvelous telecoms risk and assurance professionals who contribute to our community but do not receive all the thanks they deserve. To show them some appreciation, here is my brief list of the unsung heroes of the year.

For Unassuming Toil: Michael Lazarou

The hard work that goes into providing a service may not always be apparent to its beneficiaries. Michael Lazarou is the volunteer administrator for RAG Learning, the free online education platform that was launched this year, and which is already being used by telecoms risk and assurance practitioners around the world. It was Michael who selected the type of learning management system (LMS), who found the right web host for the LMS, who uploads the content and who manages queries from users. Michael is making it possible to bring a high quality of professional education to people who would not otherwise receive it.

For Leading by Example: Bernice DeMarco

Plenty of people know Bernice DeMarco, not only because of her high-profile role as Director of BT Group Business Assurance, but also as a three-time host of RAG conferences. Her fellow professionals are right to take notice of the work done by BT’s team. They may be less aware of the contribution she makes by gifting time, advice and resources to the Risk & Assurance Group. Since Bernice joined the RAG Steering Committee she has been pivotal to RAG’s transformation from a modest British success into a global phenomenon.

For Unexpected Brilliance: Grant Merrill

Grant Merrill represents the worst mistake I made this year. Not knowing much about his telco, I placed CenturyLink’s Director of Revenue Assurance towards the end of the agenda for the RAG Kansas conference. Grant blew the audience away when he started telling them about the ambitious projects his team had undertaken. Just as importantly, Grant’s passion for his work was as palpable at the close of the two-day event as it had been from the beginning. Our community can only benefit by learning more about Grant’s methods and results.

For Community Spirit: Tony Sani

It is easier to pull a tooth from a man’s head than to persuade a telco to donate its intellectual property. RAFM executive Anthony Sani of MTN Group has shown how one of Africa’s most important businesses can set a vital precedent for others worldwide. Licensing MTN content to be used on the RAG Learning platform has already benefited professionals around the globe, and is encouraging other telcos to think seriously about pooling resources to better educate their risk and assurance staff.

For Unwavering Support: Steffen Öftring

Our community cannot thrive without the help and engagement of vendors. Steffen Öftring of SIGOS epitomizes the virtues of a business that looks beyond competitive objectives and believes that we can grow this market if we collaborate for mutual gain. Steffen is not the type to hog the stage; he is a team player who always supports the initiatives that most empower our community.

For Infectious Enthusiasm: Penny Matloga and Tevita Fainga

This year I have been gifted the opportunity to meet some wonderful telecoms risk and assurance practitioners who work in countries far from me. It was a joy to hear so much excitement in the voice of Penelope Matloga when she spoke at the RAG Nairobi conference. Afterwards she told me this was the first time she had given a presentation at an event, but I hope she will be encouraged to keep sharing her ideas and enthusiasm with fellow professionals in South Africa and beyond.

Tevita Fainga was not scheduled to give a presentation at RAG Sydney but he reminded me that quiet contributions are also important. When we chatted at the event, Tevita told me about his journey from Tonga, where he works as a Fraud and RA Officer. Some members of our community need to make a big investment of time and effort in order to connect with their peers. I get a big boost just by thinking about the energy and commitment of Penny and Tevita.

For Generosity: Joseph Nderitu

It is when things go wrong that you learn who your friends are. Joseph Nderitu is a familiar name to readers of this website, but there is always more to learn about this quietly-spoken Kenyan. He was instrumental in making RAG Nairobi an enormous success, coming up with solutions whenever I presented him with problems. Joseph is a top-notch professional; immediately after the conference he demonstrated his expertise to the world by giving a television interview about the risks surrounding mobile money. But what the world does not know is that Joseph then donated the TV appearance fee to his old high school, helping them to educate needy children.

These are the members of our professional community who most inspired me over the course of 2018. If we strive to be like them we can achieve even more next year.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.