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Stream going strong as it celebrates 10th anniversary in Watertown

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A steady stream of jobs has flowed into Watertown over the past decade.

Stream Global Services, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, had bold expectations when it set up shop in the renovated former F.W. Woolworth department store in January 2003. It received a 10-year tax break from the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency to move here and said it would employ 700 people within three years.

It made good on that claim, with a peak of more than 800 full- and part-time employees at the 146 Arsenal St. center in winter 2005. The U.S. company has about 50 call centers around the globe and serves numerous Fortune 1000 clients.

Today, Stream in Watertown has about 500 employees and seven active projects with clients. Working in cubicles at the 76,000-square-foot facility, employees provide round-the-clock technical assistance for customers on behalf of national companies in a diverse mix of industries: telecommunications, entertainment, software networking, insurance and business-to-business cloud computing.

Employees — who answer a collective 30,000 calls in the course of each day — help customers solve problems relating to movie rentals, haircuts, GPS units, satellite radio and life insurance.

Stream’s contracts for projects usually are for about three years but vary widely, which is why employment at the center fluctuates.

Though the average length of employment at Stream is two years, Human Resources Manager Michael J. Hill said, employees often stay longer to be promoted within the company. Stream promoted 306 employees last year through Nov. 30, and the company hired about 200 employees this fall to meet its hefty workload.

“We secured five new projects this year across all of our lines of business and only had two leave us,” Mr. Hill said.

Many employees use their time at Stream as a stepping stone to build career skills. Stream caters to those employees by offering paid workshops to hone their skills. For example, resume-building workshops are hosted for those looking for jobs.

“Some people come here just to improve their skills, while others are looking for long-term employment,” Mr. Hill said. “About one-third of our work force has associations with the military at Fort Drum, and they leave us to relocate.”

The abundance of jobs at the call center spurred Stream to invest in a capital improvement project. The first leg of the project will renovate a 25,000-square-foot area to make more space available. Upgraded office cubicles will enable 125 additional seats for the call center, expanding its current capacity of 700.

After additional improvements are made this year, the center will house seats for roughly 1,000 employees.

One of the most popular positions at the call center is providing technical assistance to cloud-computing companies that host services over the Internet, said Bryan M. Black, site director. In the past two years, about 40 employees who have worked in the field at Stream have gone on to salaried positions.

“They’ve chosen to move on to work for companies that specialize in cloud computing, and they make a good amount of money with their skills,” Mr. Black said. “They’re making anywhere from $60,000 to $90,000.”

Wendy E. Cornell, 33, has made her living as a specialist in the cloud-computing field at Stream. After being hired in January 2010, she completed two advanced-training courses in six months, enabling her to provide more technical service to customers. Promoted last month to become a quality representative for cloud computing, she uses her experience in the field to lead a team of 15 employees. She said she enjoys developing leadership skills in her new role.

“I like coaching the employees as a team manager,” Mrs. Cornell said. “A month ago, I was doing the work, but now I’m helping them. We have fun here and will sometimes go out and do things to bond as group, like bowling.”

Laura G. Maylone, 27, also manages a team of workers. Eventually, she said, she hopes to develop leadership skills at the company that will help her set out on her own as an entrepreneur. Her parents, who owned a Mexican restaurant in Texas, have inspired her.

“I grew up in a management-based lifestyle with my parents owning a restaurant,” she said. “As a leader, I’ve learned to coach and mentor people from different backgrounds. We have a mixed group of people with different ethnicities who are ages 18 to 40. We have a lot of fun together.”

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