In this installment of Senior Member Insights, OPN talks with Timothy Munks, senior principal analyst with a focus on optical network technologies and high-speed optics at Omdia. After completing his B.S. in physics and math, Munks started his career designing high-resolution laser printers for Siemens Medical Systems. His next position was as a laser engineer, working on diode-pumped solid-state lasers, fiber lasers and erbium-doped fiber amplifiers for Amoco Laser, now part of Cisco. While working full time at Amoco, Munks obtained his MSEE with an emphasis on electromagnetics and optics at the University of Illinois, USA.
His next position was as a senior design engineer with JDSU, now Lumentum. Over his 12 years there, he worked on distributed-feedback and tunable lasers, electro-optic modulators, micro-optics for wavelength monitoring and stabilization. This was at the beginning of the dense wavelength-division multiplexing era. During the technical portion of Munks’ career, he was awarded 14 US and eight international patents for lasers, modulators, micro-optics, wavelength stabilization and monitoring.
After JDSU, he went to work for tunable laser startup Santur, where he was the product line manager and sales director. Munks transitioned the tunable laser products to NeoPhotonics after it acquired Santur. After that, he worked for six years as a product line manager and sales director for coherent modems, digital signal processors and silicon photonics for Acacia Communications, now part of Cisco, before starting his role at Omdia.
What first interested you in pursuing science?
My first interest in science was in high school chemistry. I found chemical reactions very interesting, producing new materials through the mixing of different elements. Then understanding the theory of how elements bind into molecules. I started college as a business major. I took geology, which was the science class that I selected to meet a requirement for business majors. I liked it and did very well in this class, so I decided to pursue science as a major.
What aspect of your current work do you find the most interesting or exciting?
I am working as a senior principal analyst, and I most enjoy working with clients to better understand technology and markets for fiber optic networks, network equipment and components. I publish a quarterly database of coherent modems used in optical transport networks and data center interconnects. Our team meets with all of the major network equipment suppliers quarterly to gather the data and receive their updates. Pulling these data together and providing meaningful analysis is interesting and rewarding. It provides insights for product managers and business leaders to help them direct and manage their businesses.
“ Socialize after work with other professionals. This results in deeper relationships that are both personal and professional. ”
What tips for successful networking do you have for early-career professionals?
Use professional social media, such as LinkedIn, to connect with people who share your professional interests. Join professional societies like Optica or IEEE and use their resources to help you enhance your network. Attend conferences to network with professionals in your areas of interest. Socialize after work with other professionals. This results in deeper relationships that are both personal and professional. Don’t leave a job on bad terms.
What professional resources do you rely on to stay active and engaged with your field?
I attend OFC and ECOC every year. In the fiber optic communications industry, this is where important product and technology announcements are made. I work with clients to put on webinars and also attend webinars. In my current position, quarterly meetings with customers allow me to stay current with what is happening in these markets.
What skills do you think are most important for someone interested in a career like yours?
Analytical skills, because being able to draw conclusions from large data sets helps to find trends or other interesting information. Performing and presenting analysis to help form opinions and drive decisions. Communication skills are important, so that you are able to communicate effectively with clients and others in your area of interest. I host webinars and also give talks at trade shows. Being able to communicate is required. Technical expertise is also key; stay curious and continue to learn. Over time you will increase your technical expertise.
“ I always wanted to work with lasers, and deciding to apply that desire to optical communications was the best career decision I made. ”
What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made, and why?
I always wanted to work with lasers, and deciding to apply that desire to optical communications was the best career decision I made. Optical communications are an ever-changing technology driven by continuously higher data rates and lower cost per bit.
What advice do you have for young scientists who are discouraged about their current work or career path?
Try to find what you’re passionate about.
What is one piece of advice that you wish you were given as a student/early in your career?
Changing companies and jobs early in your career is okay; it will give you a better understanding of what you enjoy as a young professional and broaden your network. You should not change too often, but early in your career, stay at each company for two to three years and then try something else if you are not satisfied.
What habits do you frequently rely on that help you to succeed?
I have been working from home since 2007. One thing that has helped is setting up a separate office. I treat the home office like I am going to the company office. When I’m finished for the day, the office is closed. This gives some separation between work and home life. Keeping the work calendar updated and being on time for meetings.
If you weren’t in the sciences, what would be your dream career?
A fishing guide.