David Tashjian knows what it’s like to be the new guy in town. His return to Northern California is a homecoming for the area native who has crisscrossed the country, living in 18 different cities during his lifetime. The new regional senior vice president for Comcast had a goal of leading one of the largest markets in the country and now he’s doing just that. This includes overseeing about 3,500 employees and 3.5 million customers. His key objectives are the expansion of the Xfinity 10G Network, increasing digital equity through Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, and implementing Project UP.
Project UP is Comcast’s $1 billion commitment to bridge the “digital divide” by reaching tens of millions of people nationwide over the next 10 years with the tools, resources, and skills needed to succeed in a digital world.
Tashjian’s path to Comcast wasn’t exactly linear, but once he arrived in 2005, he has never looked back.
“I’ve been with the company for 18 years and have served in a variety of roles,” says Tashjian. “Before that, I grew up working in restaurants and bars. My father had a variety of businesses, and I ultimately went into restaurants. I was a line cook in several places and a head chef at a little restaurant in Sacramento. Then I went into retail management for several years in the ’90s. I eventually went to Dish Network, where I stayed for eight years and that’s how I got into the telecommunications industry.”
Tashjian was living in Chicago when he landed an interview for Comcast. But with another offer on the table, he wasn’t planning to take it. Meeting the Comcast team changed all that.
“I met the most amazing people when I was interviewing,” he says. “The gentleman who hired me – he’s long since retired – became a friend and mentor. We’re still friends today. The quality of people I interacted with early on told me this was a place I wanted to spend my career.”
He started on the East Coast and moved all over with the company – moving four or five times in his first five years – mostly in the Mid-Atlantic states. After 15 years, he transitioned to California from the Pacific Northwest Region which includes Oregon and Southwest Washington where he was also regional senior vice president.
“Most of my experience has been on the sales and marketing and operations side of things,” he says. “About four years ago, I made my way to Portland, where I was the regional senior vice president. I think of it as a CEO for the region. That’s where I was during the pandemic, but I’ve been in California for a year now. I remember meeting another Comcast executive back east and saying, ‘That’s a job I’d love to have one day, and wouldn’t it be great if it was in California?’ And here I am after leaving the state 27 years ago. It’s great to be near family – my mom, two brothers and a niece live in Elk Grove, and I’m able to see them more than I have in years.”
Taking over a market as large as California – especially during this time of aggressive broadband expansion being spurred by California’s Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative and the federal government’s $45 billion Internet for All initiative – can be seen as ideal and challenging at the same time.
“California is a key driver for our Internet Essentials program, which has helped connect more than 10 million low-income people to high-speed internet at home,” he says. “This includes more than 1.4 million residents across California, which is the number one state in terms of overall participation in the Internet Essentials program.”
Comcast’s territory in California spans the area roughly between northern Santa Barbara and Fort Bragg, including the interior parts of the state such as Sacramento and Fresno and the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s a $6 billion operation and is the largest region for Comcast’s Cable division. It’s an enormous responsibility for a leader.
“I have numerous goals for growth in California, including doing even more to support our communities,” he says. “One of the reasons that I’ve stayed with Comcast for 18 years – and I plan to stay another 18 – is that we believe in connecting people. That is what’s most important and that’s what we do.”
Tashjian is proud that not only do Comcast’s products and services help connect people, but the company also connects with the community. He believes in serving and sits on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Clubs. “I want my teams always to be focused on how we can be better members of the communities where we live and work,” he says.
To do that, Tashjian believes his teams and leaders need to reflect the communities they serve. He wants the makeup of his organization to mirror the communities where Comcast is present.
“I’m better as a leader when I’ve got people with diverse backgrounds and varied experiences sharing those viewpoints,” he says. “California is a wonderful, incredibly diverse place and we work hard to make sure our hiring reflects this. Those perspectives make all of us better.”
He is also highly focused on culture and how building organizational health creates an environment that drives results. Tashjian promotes having a growth mindset and focusing on being a disruptor in the business to achieve more. Bridging the digital divide is one area the team is laser-focused on creating impact.
“Increasing digital equity is a priority for California and a major initiative is to close the digital divide as much as possible,” he says. “We have been doing this important work for years – long before the pandemic or when the term ‘digital equity’ became mainstream.”
Since 2011 the company’s Internet Essentials program has provided affordable ($9.95) high-speed internet at home for income-constrained households. Customers also have an opportunity to buy a low-price ($149.99) laptop so that they are ready to get online when service starts. Today, the company also participates in the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program which offers these same households up to $30/month toward internet and mobile services further getting people connected.
Most will agree that broadband connectivity is becoming an essential service and those who do not have access become more isolated and left out of jobs and educational opportunities. “We want people to have the same access to opportunities in today’s world,” he says. “As we approach our 60th anniversary as a company, we will continue to invest in our network, our people and our communities to equip the next generations.”
Copyright © 2023 California Business Journal. All Rights Reserved.