Northeastern University

Dodd on the line

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As I sit down to write this post about a great woman I met over tea this morning, I am surprised to be hearing the apropos sound of a “modem” doing it’s beeping and hissing as if it were 1994 and I were trying to sign on to the World Wide Web so I could go into an AOL chat room and talk about the color of my shoe laces just for the novelty of it. I don’t know where it’s coming from, but it’s bringing back memories!

Anyway, my new friend Annabel Dodd was a history major in college. Fast forward to a few decades later and her book, “The Essential Guide to Telecommunications,” is just hitting the shelves in its fifth edition. She teaches masters students informatics in the College of Professional Studies at Northeastern and consults with businesses across the country, helping people in the telecommunications industry communicate with each other.
Seems like something of an oxymoron, perhaps, but it turns out that those involved in cybersecurity, for example, may not speak the language of those in the wireless industry, despite the many benefits the two may achieve by working together.

So, how did a history major end up teaching people the ins and outs of the technical communications industry? When her kids were entering elementary school, Dodd decided she wanted a change of pace. She wanted to “do something.” So she enrolled in the second MBA class ever offered at Simmons college. The two-year program “opened a whole new world” for her, she said. She realized that, despite thinking she couldn’t do math, that she in fact loved it and was good at it, to boot.

She left school and ended up at a phone company (now Verizon) where she honed the foundations of her expertise in telecommunications. After that she moved to Dennison, (now Avery Dennison), a Fortune 500 manufacturing company, where she managed their worldwide telecommunications facilities.

By 1988 Dodd realized she wanted to manage her own business and not be an employee anymore. So she took on a few teaching gigs at Northeastern, where she focused on teaching “technology in the non-technical,” and began a consulting company called Dodd on the Line.

In the mid-1990s the publishing company Prentice Hall noticed her course in the Northeastern catalog and contacted her about writing a book. Just like math, she thought she couldn’t write (a book). But it turned out she’d been doing it all along: Dodd had been sending newsletters to her clients about the current state of technology for nearly a decade. Those newsletters ended up being the foundation for her book, which is now used as a textbook in classrooms across the country, has been translated into 9 languages, and serves as a resource for people working in phone companies and other organizations that sell to or support mobile and broadband carriers.

In the two decades since her first edition, the industry has obviously changed significantly, said Dodd. The newest edition includes chapters on international mobile carriers and the different challenges someone faces working in Africa versus Ireland. An industry update focuses on the various carrier networks, new regulations, and assorted mergers and acquisitions. “Everything has gotten faster, there are new players, new technologies that were just being talked about before are now being implemented,” she said.

For instance, she noted that the original cell phones and the infrastructures that supported them were not designed to transmit the advanced data and video technologies carried by today’s cell phones. As a result, a new kind of network has emerged, called Long Term Evolution, or LTE. Commonly known as 4G, the network “uses the critical mobile airwaves and infrastructure more efficiently,” she said.

Despite a few initial hesitations, Dodd said her current success is directly attributable to being open and taking on new opportunities. “


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