The following is a copy of the article published in the August/September issue of Diversity/Careers in Engineering and Information Technology magazine.
Pitney Bowes VP Vernon T. Veira Leads a Digital Mailstream Team.
The team works on application software development to help the company process hundreds of millions of transactions for clients around the world
Six years ago, Vernon T. Veira was hired by Pitney Bowes Inc to develop and organize a new digital operating group for the mailstream technology company.
Today, Veira is VP of the new operating group, Internet & PC software development, and reports to the CTO. He's in charge of one of Pitney Bowes' global mailstream solutions engineering teams.
Veira, one of the company's first African American VPs in engineering, came on board in 2001.
Mailstream is a $250 billion global industry. It includes mail and documents both physical and digital, and packages that flow into and out of organizations and homes. Pitney Bowes has more than 35,000 employees in 130 countries taking care of its share of this huge business. The company earned $5.8 billion last year.
Leveraging the Web
"We leveraged the Web to bring to market a set of the sophisticated products and services that Pitney Bowes is accustomed to provide for its customer segments," Veira says.
Traditionally, Pitney Bowes had been an electromechanical equipment company. "Taking the services and capabilities and software and enabling them for distribution via the Web was clearly a challenge," Veira says. "There were groups in the company doing bits and pieces of it, but now we're selling that type of product on a much larger scale."
Take, for example, the millions of shipping transactions Pitney Bowes handles for eBay, like labels generated by Pitney Bowes servers. "In the last two years we've done about 180 million transactions. That's three quarters of a billion dollars worth of postage," Veira says.
Plenty of meetings
So what does this VP do? Takes part in a lot of meetings, for one thing. Once a month, leaders of each of the company's seven business units and other functional groups meet for two full days to review all their projects in great detail. Veira also meets weekly with his five direct reports for an hour or two each.
His job requires travel to Minnesota, France and India at least three times a year. Several times a year he'll bring most of the organization together for a mammoth communal meeting.
Growing up with numbers
Veira's abilities are rooted in his childhood. "I was the middle child of twelve, so naturally I developed skills in negotiating," he says with a laugh.
He was born in Trinidad and Tobago. His parents owned a supermarket, and he worked there on weekends. "We didn't have a cash register. I learned to do the numbers in my head," he says.
In 1968, when he was thirteen, he moved to Brooklyn, NY. After high school he worked at Chemical Bank while studying accounting at Kingsborough Community College (Brooklyn, NY).
In 1976 the bank picked him and eleven others from 5,000 applicants to train as programmers on IBM mainframes. He finished his AA in accounting in 1978.
Into the Air Force
In 1979 he joined the U.S. Air Force. He worked on avionic instrumentation and automatic flight control systems at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. In the evenings, he studied for his 1983 BBA in MIS at Florida International University.
In 1984 Veira's military service took him to Spokane, WA. Soon afterward he left the military and went to work as a programmer at Itron Inc, a company that made menu-driven electronic meter reading systems for the electric, gas and water utility industry. "I worked on IBM Series 1 computers and learned the EDL language," he notes. By the time he left in 1990 he was a departmental software development manager.
Telecom: the mobile workforce solution
Then he moved back East. He started as a member of technical staff at Nynex Science and Technology, Inc, an R"D organization that's now part of Verizon Communications. By 1994 he had become the company's first black technical director, leading a team of about forty-five engineers.
Their task was to build a mobile workforce solution for field technicians; they came up with a handheld, middleware and gateway services product platform. The handheld computers gave the technicians a dial-up network, wireless and landline communications. The devices were some of the first PDAs.
Veira became a mobile workforce solutions expert and advisor to manufacturers and software providers.
He continued to move that initiative forward until 1997, when Nynex was acquired by Bell Atlantic and Veira was appointed executive director in the Bell Atlantic Network System advanced technology group, based in White Plains, NY.
"The solution we built for Nynex needed to be scaled to satisfy the requirements of the new Bell Atlantic," he explains. "When Bell Atlantic took over GTE and became Verizon Communications we continued to scale to satisfy."
At Verizon Comunications, Veira was promoted to senior e-business exec. He was responsible for the supply chain integration/management for Verizon's network "factory." His job was to work with the engineering/planning and sourcing organizations on a framework to support better network capacity creation and ensure that network facilities were ready when customers ordered new service.
The Pitney Bowes pull-together
In 2001 Veira went to work at Pitney Bowes. The work appealed to him because of its new challenge.
"At Verizon, I built an organization from the ground up. At Pitney Bowes the organization already existed, but it was in different places and I had to pull it together. That was a cool difference and a real challenge," he says.
In addition to his regular work, Veira has organized a yearly visit to Pitney Bowes' technology center by students and teachers from Teachers Prep, a public school in Brooklyn. More than a hundred students come for a day out, and to learn about the technical work and jobs at Pitney Bowes. "We show the kids around to get them excited about a possible future in engineering," he says.
Veira is also a member of the Information Technology Senior Management Forum (ITSMF,www.itsmfonline.org), which assists minorities in their technical careers. And he's active with the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), which provides scholarships for minority students. He also works with the local chapter of the Urban League and supports the local Boys' and Girls' Club.
Closest to his heart of all this good work is the Credo Veira Memorial Foundation (www.mentallinkinc.com), honoring his mother, who died in an auto accident in 2004. The foundation awards scholarships, and provides books and medical equipment for Caribbean countries.
"I will say I am definitely busy, but it's never a chore," Veira says. "People say, 'That takes a lot of time,' but I don't feel it."
"When I get to retirement, I'm hoping to run my foundation hands-on. That's my eventual career goal."