5 Questions with Dick Franklin

Hometown: Asheville, NC

Graduating Class: BSIE 1971

Career Overview: Kenneth D. Franklin retired from AT&T/Bellsouth in 2008. He worked for AT&T/BellSouth for 37 years. At AT&T/BellSouth, Franklin filled many roles, including Outside Plant Engineer, Senior Director and Network Vice President. After retirement, Dick formed his executive consulting firm focusing on end-to-end process redesign. He and his wife Wanda endowed the Alpha Pi Mu Outstanding Sophomore Award for NC State ISE students.

  1. What is the single most important experience or understanding you gained in the ISE Department? Thanks to Dr. Dick Bernhard, I learned how to evaluate the merits of competing projects. Most importantly, I learned the magic of compound interest. I recall his quoting Albert Einstein: “The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” He referred to it as one of the greatest “miracles” known to man. This insight was a powerful lesson for a 19-year-old sophomore.
  2. What is society’s most pressing issue that engineers should work harder to solve? Food production and distribution to ensure no one goes to bed hungry rank is high on my list. Still, I have often said that an individual alone cannot solve world hunger, but they can focus on the top 20 percent of the things they can accomplish that will yield an 80 percent improvement. The Pareto Principle always works as long as you look at systems end-to-end. 
  3. What had you hoped to accomplish in your career? What are you most proud of so far? My most valuable accomplishments were improving customer service (J.D. Power) while reducing costs. I used sampling to identify where processes were broken and what are the five doable changes to get 80 percent of the desired improvements. Some people have credited me with saving several billion dollars over my career as an employee for 37 years with Southern Bell, BellSouth and AT&T. 
  4. What would you likely be doing if you were not in the engineering field?  A lawyer or consumer advocate. The opportunity to help people is endless.
  5. What advice do you have for ISE students and graduates? First and foremost, open a Roth account and save 15 percent of your salary. I would also learn leadership skills and appreciate the value of everyone. Finally, I suggest reading books and articles to grow your thinking. Here are some of my favorites:
    • Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
    • Who’s Got the Monkey? by David Onckey, Jr. & Donald Wass
    • Swim With Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive by Harvey B. Mackay
    • Leadership is an Art by Max Depree
    • The Go-Getter by Peter B. Kyne
    • The Dog Poop Initiative by Kirk Weisler
    • Good to Great by Jim Collins.