09 Apr 2019
Keith Friedman joined Transit Wireless (a majority-owned BAI Communications company) in August 2015. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Rutgers, Keith worked his way up through finance and accounting roles at firms including Deloitte & Touche, Avaya, and CSC (now DXC). We sat down with Keith to get his views on subways, technology, and how his role as CFO involves so much more than just number-crunching.
What attracted you to working at Transit Wireless?
I was attracted to it being a nimble organisation focused on a very complex challenge. Coming in from a company of over 70,000 people and being employee 50 was quite a change. But what I love about it is that with an organisation of this size you can touch so many different elements of the business. My title says ‘Finance’, but I get to be across a lot of the business.
What’s been the biggest change at Transit Wireless since you started?
Growth drives change. We’ve grown over time as our network has grown, and we stay focused on continuing to do the things we do well.
We started with just one project – designing, building, financing and operating high-speed communications infrastructure for every underground station in New York City’s subway system.
Our current focus is continuous optimisation to make sure that infrastructure continues to support existing and future customer needs, while also evolving our organisation to be able to support a variety of projects at once.
It’s been a big switch in our orientation, handling multiple projects at different stages of completion, but it’s a challenge the team has risen to – and one we’re all enjoying.
What’s next for Transit Wireless?
There’s so much going on. Let me mention just a couple of projects and priorities.
It was a sprint to build the network, but we completed the initial rollout under budget and nearly two years ahead of schedule. Now we need to make sure our network will sustain all current uses while we’re leveraging it for new purposes.
Working with wireless carriers to meet their needs
All four major U.S. wireless carriers [AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon] use our network, but there’s an ongoing need for more and more capacity and enhanced coverage. Their needs continue to expand and evolve, and we need to grow and scale our network to continue to support their needs.
Riders and other users of our networks aren’t just in the stations – they’re also on the trains, in the tunnels and in the areas surrounding the subway system. Our network currently provides coverage on the platforms in the underground subway stations, but customers want continuous connectivity. We’re looking at how we can connect the entire subway system and extend our network into new environments to meet the needs of riders, transit agencies, and others who can use connectivity to enable communication, safety and security, and other services.
Enabling smart cities
Currently we’re working with the transit authorities and the four major carriers but there’s a ‘digital divide’ – a lack of connectivity in other environments. Network densification is important here because people will continue to expect ubiquitous and seamless connectivity, wherever they may be.
There are lots of opportunities around the ‘internet of things’ and ‘smart cities’– and the backbone for both is a scalable network. That gives us the ability to support new partners, new applications and new customers, above and below ground.
What’s your job’s biggest challenge and how do you overcome it?
The best part of my job is that I’m involved in everything. The most challenging part of my job can be … that I’m involved in everything.
What’s made Transit Wireless successful is always maintaining focus on our customers and their needs. It can be challenging at times because the work we do is complex and requires innovative thinking. But staying focused on the outcome, the customer needs we’re meeting and how best to achieve it, keeps us on track.
What motivates and excites you about your job?
Working every day with smart, talented, innovative people known for not accepting that something can’t be done.
I’m surrounded by people who I can learn something from every day. When you’re working with that kind of team, it’s hard not to be excited about what you do and the possibilities that lie ahead.