Luminaries in Telecom: "Godfather of Telecom" Jerry DeMartino

NJFX interviewed Godfather of Telecom at PTC’23 on the journey of a new yorker heading into telecom and delivers insight on how the industry was formed.

Kevin Ayerdis

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January 30, 2023

Happy New Year to all, and welcome back to Luminaries in Telecom!

We are kicking off our ‘Luminaries in Telecom’ series for 2023 featuring a man who has immersed himself in the industry for 50 years! I’m sure many of you readers have run into him at one of many trade shows including celebrating his 40th PTC in Hawaii. He has witnessed the evolution of the telecom industry beyond voice services to encompassing everything online. Without a doubt, he’s a longstanding trusted member and a pillar of the community, earning the title “The Godfather of Telecom,” AKA Mr. Jerry DeMartino!

The NJFX team grabbed the opportunity to interview the former President of MCI International and current CEO at Competitive Telecoms Group Inc. at PTC’23. We are eager to share all that we have learned from DeMartino, who has a special ability for international collaborations. We have a bit of history as well, he sharply believed in and was at the launch of NJFX! DeMartino is a man whom our very own CEO of NJFX, Gil Santaliz, has much admiration for, having worked together at MCI years ago. After learning more about Mr. DeMartino in this New Year edition of NJFX’s Luminaries, we are looking forward to you sharing your best stories about the “Godfather” DeMartino. 

Jerry DeMartino is a proud-born and bred New Yorker having graduated from CCNY in the Bronx, then returned home to attend the Graduate program at Brooklyn College. A warm and defining memory he shared with us was becoming the president of the college debate team. This is where he truly learned the gift of public speaking, the art of socializing, and discovering his love for travel. The team traveled cross-country all the while leading them to win numerous awards. DeMartino’s team was so triumphant they were granted more funding than the college basketball team! During our discussion he was asked to deliberate on a specific topic: telecom sales. His winning response he happily recited for us “If I can sell ideas, I can sell Telex!” This caught the ear of a recruiter in attendance who pulled him aside noting his raw talent. This interaction unbeknownst to him at the time would start a chain of events that would lead him to become the successful executive he is today. In DeMartino’s own words, “The Debate team played a critical role in getting my first job in telecoms. Straight out of college, I became a recruiter and took one of the jobs that came in for a Telex salesperson in NY, my debate team experience was what sold them on my ability to sell almost anything.”

Having become a recruiter himself, at 23 years old DeMartino transitioned to sales at WUI selling Telex (a spinoff of Western Union Telegraph and competitor to RCA & ITT), allowing him to gain skills that he would take with him throughout his career. He highlighted a key lesson: don’t be shy, approach peers and those around you with curiosity. This lack of timidness allowed him the chance to work alongside and learn from many leaders in the industry. In 1982, WUI was acquired by MCI and DeMartino quickly rose through the ranks becoming President of MCI International.

A bit of truly groundbreaking history he shared with us.

“My team broke the worldwide monopoly for international voice when it opened the first competitive voice service in the world with Belgium,” DeMartino said. “Over the next 5-10 years the monopolies around the world not only opened their markets to MCI and other US providers but began allowing new operators to compete in their countries. Swiftly, telephone monopolies were toppled allowing thousands of new entrants into the market in every country.

Having a place in the legacy of MCI in their breaking the domestic ATT monopoly along with the long-standing global monopoly as well. DeMartino said, “The telecom industry is what it is today because of MCI.” DeMartino’s work at MCI had quite the rippling effect and word of mouth spread across the company.

Among many advancements, he witnessed in technology, the precursor to all public email systems, MCI Mail. One of the first systems of its kind, allowing MCI to now communicate efficiently. To utilize this DeMartino mentioned, being rewarded with one of the first laptops, a bulky 40-pound Compaq. Further making his mark, DeMartino was involved in some of the biggest events in telecoms history including building the first subsea fiber optic cable that directly connected the United States to Latin America as the first CEO of Globenet. He built international partnerships for MCI with BT (British Telecom) and Telefónica, S.A. (out of Madrid, Spain and led acquisitions of Clear Coms (New Zealand), Avantel Limited (Mexico), and Embratel (Brazil) and managed MCI’s worldwide relationships with 60 offices globally.

A turning point, in October of 1998, WorldCom acquired MCI, and Jerry the lifelong New Yorker found himself with an offer he couldn’t refuse…” a great opportunity” to relocate to Jackson, Mississippi to work under a Bernie Ebbers. Not something he wanted for himself and his family, this event further cemented the vision he had been building for some time, Competitive Telcom Group. Unapologetic, he explains, “I left WorldCom on April fool’s day in ‘99 to announce CTG and WorldCom went bankrupt (soon after in 2002)”. The transition came naturally to him as informally he had been consulting and recruiting colleagues and peers into positions for years in doing so building bonds with global partners. During his time at MCI, his professional growth mirrored the ebb and flow, the evolution and expansion of the industry itself. With all this experience and knowledge, he would lead the newly founded CTG to decades of success.

“After leaving MCI 27 years later, my recruiting experience helped me set up Competitive Telecoms Group doing both recruiting and consulting.”

DeMartino quickly went from traveling the world, working 60-hour weeks to deciding his primary goal was to build his own business. Having naturally established connections reinforced his sights of expanding his own budding global partnerships to flourish. With DeMartino at the helm, his two sons soon joined CTG each bringing their own skills and experiences in telecom and recruiting. Dominick and Matthew’s contributions helped to build CTG to mainstream prominence, solidifying their place in the industry. Having amassed an expansive clientele list of 100+ companies in the industry, they have consulted for some heavy hitters’ names such as Cerberus Capital, Carlyle Group, Telefonica and Bell Canada, and of course, NJFX to name a few. This list will surely double within the coming years, on his career indefatigability, “CTG has been doing this for the last 23 years, so this is now my 50th year in the telecom industry!”

Over the course of his career, hundreds of thousands in the industry have felt the rippling effects and benefit from DeMartino’s endeavors and accomplishments. CTG is renowned industry-wide in the consulting and “headhunting” space. In DeMartino’s words, “As a specialist recruiter in the telecom space, we are regularly competing with (and is preferred) over big-time recruiters. 50 years in the industry and a lifetime of friends help.”

The post-Covid, the remote-work force has put a new twist in the streaming digital age, increasing the importance of the “last mile” of telecommunications to individuals’ homes. The ongoing tech explosion of adaptive AI automation, data analytics, and social media shape a large part of the increasingly competitive landscape CTG occupies. When asked about predictions and advice for the future of the industry, he noted he was delighted to see NJFX hosting events catered to inclusivity in welcoming the new industry leaders at the Pacific Telecommunications Council (PTC). Millennials, gen Z, and gen alpha are now rapidly entering the workforce. COVID-19 obviously makes this a challenge to those aiming to rise and close the talent gap left behind by those exiting the industry.” I am happy to see Gil and NJFX taking a leadership role in getting new blood into the industry.”

DeMartino emphasizes the importance of interpersonal socialization, AKA face-to-face interactions. Attending events such as the upcoming ITW, PTC, Capacity Europe, and Metro Connect has been essential to their success. He reminds us that something as simple as sitting next to someone over dinner or chatting over drinks in a small but relaxed setting has led to some of his most successful meetings. He worries that a hands-on approach is lost in the zoom calls/remote work and is not a balanced replacement for building long-lasting bonds with partners and colleagues for the new class of industry professionals.

Always looking towards the future, he says the primary players to watch that continue to push the industry forward are the data centers, sub-sea cable providers, and especially now satellites with Space-X and other firms increasingly providing delivery.

When asked about retiring completely and passing on the mantle, “What Mantle!! My sons already have me envisioning “Weekend at Bernie’s” They will be rolling me out when needed. Honestly, with Dominick having a background in telecoms at Sprint Canada before joining CTG and Matt having recruiting experience at Kforce before joining, they are the perfect pair to continue the legacy. Hope they pass it down to their kids.”

DeMartino says things got easier and a lot more fun and enjoyable when he started working alongside his sons. His one regret is not having more kids to help him in his goal of dominating the space! With no plans of stopping, ideations towards expanding their yearly conference run with reported plans to visit Monaco, Brazil, and beyond. In the next five years, his sons will be taking over more of the business allowing time for travel to smaller growing events/conferences and a golf course visit or two.

When asked for closing remarks, he cited, “Bill McGowan, The founder of MCI, once said, “You need to borrow so much money that the banks can’t afford to have you go bankrupt and will lend you more” That may be the single thing that kept MCI going through the early years. His final remark: See you at the next 10 PTCs!”


And of course, there is so much more to the “Godfather of Telecom”, Jerry DeMartino, that we didn’t cover in his ongoing legacy that we may revisit in the future. A young debating bambino from Brooklyn ,and light heavyweight Golden Gloves fighter in 1976 becoming the CEO of Competitive Telecom Group. A trusted leading purveyor of talent in the industry and for now, this concludes this month’s feature of Luminaries in Telecom. Please feel free to add to the conversation! Like a Where’s Waldo book, how many times have you encountered Jerry DeMartino before? What do you take away from his wealth of experience and his ability to collaborate and provide solutions? Sound off in the comments below with any fun facts/specifics that may have been missed, special thanks to his son Matt for his help on this feature! Any suggestions about any movers and shakers in telecom history you think deserve a feature send a message to We at NJFX hope you’ve gleaned a bit of inspiration to take with you through the rest of your week and again Happy new year!

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