Opinion

The man from Mitel says goodbye

"For one brought up in a pub in Suffolk, Mitel CEO Don Smith has come a long way. While he describes himself as a 'reformed engineer' he is also something of an industry veteran," wrote MicroScope in 2008.

Don Smith today announced his intention to step down from his position and retire, having overseen the firm's transition from a legacy digital PBX vendor to a bright prospect in the world of UC, mobility and networking software.

Don started his career with BT Labs back in the 1970s before moving to Canada towards the end of the decade.

There he joined Mitel for the first of two stints with the company, and ended up as executive veep of worldwide sales and marketing.

In 1986, he moved to AIT Corporation, where he steered the company to gain a 90% share of the worldwide automated border control market before taking the firm public in 1993.

In 1996 he founded Cambrian Systems Corporation, the first company to identify the potential inherent in the metro dense wavelength division multiplexing market. The firm was bought by Nortel in December 1998 and Smith became vice president and general manager of its OPTera Solutions unit.

In January 2000 Nortel punted him upstairs to become president of the Optical Internet Solutions, where he had global marketing responsibility for Nortel's high-bandwidth optical solutions.

Don spent a year in this post, before rejoining Mitel as CEO a year after chairman and founder Terry Matthews bought the company back from BT.

Over the past nine years, Don has grown company sales by nearly 50%, as well as masterminding its reinvention, steering the tricky acquisition of Inter-Tel in 2007, and most recently, taking Mitel public.

And I'll take the opportunity now to wish him the best of luck in the future, as I'm sure you will, too.

This was first published in September 2010

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