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Al Feaster steps in

Al Feaster has moved in to take over for Jay Warmke as executive director of BICSI -- and he will certainly have some large shoes to fill.

July 1, 2002  

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They’ve changed guards at BICSI’s not-for-profit telecom palace. Out went executive director Jay Warmke to work in Europe at the beginning of 2002, and in rushed Al Feaster to rule at the helm.

And though it will take some rather large feet to fill Mr. Warmke’s big shoes (as he did some very progressive work since taking the reigns in 1992), Mr. Feaster — while we don’t know his actual shoe size — is certainly looming large and ready for the job at hand.

“It has been a challenge,” says Mr. Feaster, 56, in a phone interview from the BICSI office in Tampa, Florida. “Jay and I are very opposite in our management styles. I’m more of a business perspective, while Jay was very intelligent in how he put together words and wrote. I’m more of a black and white technical person. I’m approaching things from a different perspective.”

An RCDD with 30 plus years of experience in the business, Mr. Feaster came to the position in February, 2002 from his job as program manager at ADC in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It’s a long climb from his beginnings in the air force, through his design work for an architecture firm, through his telecom work at an insurance company and his many years spent in the design and engineering end at several different manufacturers.

But, Mr. Feaster is excited about his new position and all that it entails — managing the training, education, publications and funds — basically all of the day-to-day operations of BICSI. And having been a BICSI member since the late 1970s and having served as BICSI secretary and Region 3 Director in the past just might smooth his transition to director.

“I think having been a member for a while gives you a leg up,” says Mr. Feaster. “I look at things for a member’s perspective. I’ve been there and done that. Maybe that makes it easier.”

But aside from the challenge of becoming executive director, and moving from Minneapolis to Florida with his family, other challenges have been hitting him full force. For he stepped in to take over after the events of September 11th, at a time when the economy was poor and the industry taking a beating.

“The biggest disappointment is that I’d like to move forward, but a lot of people are in recovery mode,” he notes. “Things I want to do will take much longer because of that.” He says it wasn’t the best time when he started the job: “If it were three years ago, we would have been moving 90 miles per hour in different directions,” he says. “Now we are just moving more slowly off of the on ramp.”

Yet, despite the obstacles, Mr. Feaster has some rather large plans for the organization in the short term. “I will be thinking out of the box in how we do and approach things,” he says. “With the events of the last year and the downturn in the telecom sector, people are looking at how to spend their money. I want to keep raising the bar and improving BICSI. Focus will be on education, technical publications, and working with different associations. I want to make it bigger and better.”

And he has some long-term plans as well: “As the industry changes, we will see changes in the Master Format that will have a drastic effect on our members,” he says.

And he notes that there are a variety of associations out there — for example the EIA, CSI, and the architectural community — that he is determined to bring together in various ways. “We have long stayed in our own little corner telling people not to bother us,” he says. “We will now have to work together with others.”

But, he notes, the BICSI staff is ready to roll with the punches, and has been very welcoming to him and his ideas. “The BICSI staff are great. You couldn’t ask for a better staff if you hand-picked them yourself,” he says.

He has no qualms about moving forward, whether that is accomplished quickly, or takes more time.

“We’re just moving ahead, taking it a day at a time,” says Mr. Feaster. “It’s very challenging, but very very good.”

Janine Strom is Editor of Cabling Systems magazine.

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