Nortel – End of an Era?

Today Nortel announced they are filing for bankruptcy protection. 180px-ne1951logo_nationalservice

Everyone in Ottawa has at least one Nortel story. I have three.

The first is about personal connections. Before she was married, my mom worked for Northern Electric. I work at QNX. The two founders of QNX, Dan Dodge and Gordon Bell, both worked at Bell Northern Research before they started QNX. In fact, when you think about it, BNR provided “seed” money indirectly to get QNX Software Systems off the ground. BNR and Northern Electric both became part of what is Nortel today.

The second is that I lost a lot of money in my retirement savings portfolio. Under poor advisement, I chose to invest in Nortel when they were trading high, well over $120 per share. Needless to say, I said goodbye to that money (and my financial advisor). And luckily I’m young enough to recover. There are an equal number of stories about people, much older than myself, who invested significantly and it had a dramatic negative impact on their retirement plans.

Thirdly, QNX had an interesting experience at Nortel about 8 or 9 years ago. We had been selected by at least 4 projects based on technical merit and had negotiated development and support agreements accordingly with teams here in Ottawa as well as Boston. But in an unexpected turn of events, the CTO’s office stepped in and declared that all new programs had to go with Linux and reversed all these design wins for us, even though the teams had invested significantly in QNX and had already started development and in a few cases, were months away from production. We tried many times over the years to get back in, but the only-Linux strategy blocked us every time. We know that a lot of the guys who initially picked QNX never changed their minds about us.

Those are my Nortel stories. Like many Canadians, I am in mourning about the demise of a Canadian icon. I always wanted to believe they could bounce back. Maybe they will?

Linda Campbell

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