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Alumnus/Trustee Warren Mickens Finds Success in Ever-Changing Telecommunications World
July 20, 2011
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology alumnus Warren Mickens was
featured in the spring issue of Minority Engineer magazine, sharing
his wisdom about his career success in the telecommunications
industry. He also discussed the importance of education, more
importantly his mechanical engineering degree from Rose-Hulman, and
the important need for more minority students to join him in the
Mickens, a member of Rose-Hulman's Board of Trustees, is vice
president of wholesale operations for Monroe, LA-based CenturyLink,
the third largest telecommunications company in the United States.
He has also served as vice president of network planning and
engineering for AT&T/Ameritech; vice president of strategy and
interconnection with SBC Telecom; vice president for operations for
Ameritech Information Industry Services; and worked for Cummins
Engine. He earned a master's of business administration
degree from Harvard University.
Read Mickens' story below:
CenturyLink-Managing Changing Demands
By Lorraine A. DarConte
Minority Engineer Magazine
Warren Mickens' father died when Warren was only eight years
old, but not before he gave his son some solid career advice.
"Dad was a steelworker at Inland Steel who didn't finish high
school. He saw that all the managers who ran the business
were engineers by trade, and so he said to me, 'Go get an
engineering degree and you'll get a good job,'" he remembers.
Mickens says he'd like to say his decision to become an engineer
was more complex than that, but it wasn't. "There's a
stereotype that African-American inner-city kids without fathers
don't do well," states Mickens, who in fact, maintained good grades
and excelled at math and science throughout high school. He
didn't have a lot of male authority figures in his life to help him
with life's decisions, as his grandfather died two years after his
father. However, like others in his situation, he had both a strong
mother and grandmother who kept him on the straight and narrow.
When it came time for college, Mickens chose Indiana's
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He not only got a
first-class education, he also found a few professors who were
almost surrogate fathers to him. When he attended Rose, the
school had 1,000 male students, all of whom were studying
engineering and science. "Rose-Hulman is a small polytechnic
school with very high academic standards. It is a very tough
school to get into," comments Mickens.
The school, which offers undergraduate and master's degrees, has
maintained a number-one ranking from U.S News and World Report for
the last 12 consecutive years. "It is a small, intense
engineering school and you work hard for four years. But
afterwards," notes Mickens, "you find you can hold your own
intellectually and academically anywhere."
When Mickens attended Rose-Hulman for mechanical engineering and
economics, he was one of only a handful of African-American
students on campus. "I was a little surprised because I grew
up in a school system that was essentially segregated and had
little time in the classroom with people of other races," he
After graduation, Mickens worked for three years at Cummins
Engine before earning a master's of business administration degree
from Harvard University. He also served as vice president of
network planning and engineering for AT&T/Ameritech; vice
president of strategy and interconnection with SBC Telecom; and
vice president for operations for Ameritech Information Industry
In addition, Mickens was vice president for Alcatel in
Wellington, New Zealand, where he supervised engineering and
operations for Telecom New Zealand on an outsourced basis.
"It was a great assignment," reports Mickens, who relocated
his family to the small country for a year. "I learned a lot
about outsourcing and living internationally. I had traveled
and worked internationally, but never lived outside of the United
Today, Mickens is vice president of wholesale operations for
Monroe, LA-based CenturyLink, where he manages a team that provides
a broad range of support and service functions that are vital to
the division's daily operations, including customer support,
service delivery, process management, project management, and
collections. On April 1 of this year, CenturyLink completed
its acquisition of Qwest Communications, where Mickens served in
the same role.
Perfecting his customers' experience is something he thrives on.
"I'm responsible for operations for wholesale markets, which
includes service centers where we process orders for the wholesale
side of the business," explains Mickens. "My customers are
other telecommunications companies. In addition to service
orders, I'm also responsible for functions such as billing and
collections and information technology for all the operation
support systems that the wholesale part of the business uses."
One of the most rewarding parts of his job is to manage the
customers' changing demands. He is focused on meeting his
customer's needs, which embody a broad spectrum, given that the
companies vary greatly in size. "We have the commitment and
expertise to serve all of our customers, whether they are small or
large companies," states Mickens.
In his spare time, Mickens helps make a difference by advising
students interested in telecommunications to make math and science
their foundation because without those disciplines you can't be an
engineer. From there, he suggests students study either
electrical engineering, which is the dominant engineering degree
for the telecommunications business, or industrial, civil, and/or
"One of those engineering disciplines from a good school," says
Mickens, is essential, "because the quality of degree does matter."
Mickens also advises students to search out intern
opportunities while still students so they can participate in the
business and make sure they like the work. "I spent my
summers predominantly at Inland Steel. I'm grateful for those
experiences; they taught me how to work in industry," he
He's also outspoken about the need for more minority engineers.
"While progress has been made, there is still a lack of
diversity in the engineering profession. That's continually
been a struggle, and it's one of the things I've been working on as
a trustee with my undergraduate school," he explains. "The
good thing is we're up to around 4% African Americans and 2%
Hispanics in the student body. That's a big improvement from
the 1% levels of just a few years ago. The bad thing is that
that we celebrate such low numbers."
Telecommunications, says Mickens, is a fun and interesting
industry that deals in a high level of technology. It's a
business that everyone touches and uses, and, he notes, those who
work in the field recognize it's changed all of our lives. "I
enjoy what I do," Mickens concludes, "and that's the most important
thing to do something you enjoy, to make a contribution, and to
ultimately make a difference."
Currently, Mickens has two sons in college; one is a senior
studying pre-med and biology and plans to attend graduate school
next year to pursue a master's degree in public health. The
other is a freshman-engineering student. Both attend
Indiana's Valparaiso University.
CenturyLink is the third largest telecommunications company in
the United States. The company provides broadband, voice, and
wireless services to consumers and businesses across the country.
It also offers advanced entertainment services under the
CenturyLink, Prism TV, and DIRECTV brands. In addition, the
company provides data, voice, and managed services to business,
government, and wholesale customers in local, national, and select
international markets through its advanced fiber optic network and
multiple data centers. For more information, visit www.centurylink.com.
Learn more about opportunities for minority engineers at
Minority Engineering magazine's website at http://www.eop.com/mags-ME.php.