As part of our ongoing series, “Meet the Chief,” Signals took the opportunity to sit down with the newly appointed Comtech Chief Legal Officer, Don Walther, to talk about his role at Comtech and how his legal strategy will drive Comtech’s cutting-edge developments in communications technology.
For Don Walter, Comtech’s “Fluent in the Future” tagline carries a double meaning as it relates to his position as Chief Legal Officer. As it happens, Don received his undergraduate degree in French and Political Science at Duke University. Striving toward fluency, Don spent summers and semesters in France, immersing himself in a rich culture that went well beyond the lists of vocabulary that he had committed to heart. Similarly, it became clear to Don early on that he would need to hone his business acumen before he could tailor a commercially effective legal strategy to support his business partners. At Comtech, that means Don is learning the language of some of the world’s top innovators and technology leaders as he works to position Comtech for the future.
For our first question, we asked Don what excites him the most about joining Comtech.
“Personally speaking, I derive a great sense of purpose and pride for the solutions and services we develop as well as the people we develop them for, especially our men and women in uniform and our first responders,” said Don. “I’ve not personally served in these service roles, but I have enormous respect for those who do. Being part of a company that serves our warfighters and first responders allows me the opportunity to do my part in support of these critical missions.”
From a more technical standpoint, Don is thrilled by the duality of Comtech’s defense and commercial solutions. Drawing on his prior experience at industry leading companies, Don notes that he has particularly enjoyed working for companies that have one foot firmly planted in the commercial segment and the other in defense. “By seeking opportunities in both the commercial and public sectors at Comtech, our customers get the benefit of agile thinking and rapid prototype development of our cutting-edge technologies. To me, it seems like an enhanced opportunity to leverage the best of our technologies in both segments to serve our customers.”
“Comtech is known for its industry-leading technology in both worlds,” continues Don. “That sort of internal collaboration is unique compared to our peers and unlocks a host of opportunities to develop industry-leading solutions and serve our customers better than ever before.”
Upon Don’s mention of “One Comtech,” we asked Don how he thinks One Comtech will apply to his role and improve operations overall at the company.
“I love that I arrived at Comtech when I did because the One Comtech initiative is already in flight,” says Don. “From a legal perspective, it creates opportunities to simplify and improve our interactions with internal and external customers, removing potential friction when it comes to finalizing sales and driving improved performance. For example, operating as One Comtech offers the opportunity to have a single source for truth with respect to our contracts and subcontracts, making them easily available and accessible to our internal stakeholders. This means our sales teams that are in the field can more easily consult prior agreements, operate from established best practices, and coordinate future visits, and that’s something our Legal Team can support through robust contract lifecycle management.”
“Stepping back, One Comtech offers a wonderful opportunity to streamline our processes. And, through consistent deployment of policy and procedure we can minimize the need for outside counsel in our day-to-day operations, using them instead to support our more complex strategic initiatives. It means we can get far greater value per legal dollar. These efforts were underway prior to my arrival, so we’re already seeing progress. The synergies are clear, and our mandate is to deploy as quickly as possible so we can see those advantages.”
Like any industry, however, there are challenges. For our next questions, we asked Don about some of the legal and regulatory challenges in the telecommunications industry he’s keeping top of mind.
“One of the biggest challenges for everyone in the industry right now is the extraordinary rate at which new technology is evolving,” says Don. “With initiatives such as EVOKE and others, I want to be sure that from a legal standpoint, we are both supporting innovation while protecting the fruits of that collaboration. As a business partner, I need to make sure that our teams understand the risk/reward of any undertaking. And while there’s not necessarily a playbook for what we’re doing, we can rely on first principles and sound judgement. We’ve been given this charge by our CEO, Ken Peterman, and we have an integral role to play in the evolution of our industry-leading technology.”
Don shares that at Comtech, he wants to be more than just a lawyer. “I’m committed to making sure our legal initiatives roll up to Enterprise-wide initiatives. For example, if the Enterprise sets a revenue goal or a gross margin goal, those metrics ultimately cascade down to the Legal Team and challenge us to find ways that we can contribute. This may include elimination of waste in our workflows, making sure that we’ve looked at spans of control within the group so that we’re efficiently collaborating with our business segments, and making sure that our business partners know where to go to get the support they need quickly.”
In Don’s mind, this approach eliminates a major barrier to innovation that many companies struggle with. “Together, this amounts to making legal and contracts competitive differentiators if we can reduce cycle time overall for our colleagues. We can increase the quality of the work product that we deliver, because under a consolidated model, legal and contracts are an Enterprise-wide function.”
At the time of this interview, Don had been at Comtech for one month (but has made huge strides!). To conclude our interview, we asked Don to reflect on his first month at the company.
“It doesn’t feel like four weeks – it feels like six months!” Don starts. “Developing relationships with my new colleagues has been a priority since arriving at Comtech. The time of my joining aligned with two strategic sessions with company leadership, which I had the pleasure of attending. Additionally, I’ve taken the opportunity to meet—in person or virtually—with every member of the Legal Team. Relationship building will be critical to working together and ensuring that our team is positioned well going forward.”
Don is a natural fit at Comtech and will be critical to our success. He has already added immediate value, which we know will only increase with time. Be sure to visit Signals to get acquainted with our whole leadership team, be the first to get the inside scoop on Company updates, and more.
Certain information in this blog post contains statements that are forward-looking in nature and involve certain significant risks and uncertainties. Actual results and performance could differ materially from such forward-looking information. The Company’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings identify many such risks and uncertainties. Any forward-looking information in this press release is qualified in its entirety by the risks and uncertainties described in such Securities and Exchange Commission filings.