Thursday, December 18th 2014


AT&T’s Networks Guru Talks Cloud Technology and Wireless

April 3rd, 2014 in Business by

RinneKrisAT&T

Kris Rinne is Senior Vice President of Network Technologies at AT&T Labs. AT&T has more than 90,000 women working in various capacities all across the globe. But few, if any, are as influential as Rinne. She is responsible for AT&T’s vast network architecture, platforms and performance, plus its radio access roadmap, wireless device requirements, and vendor selection. Previously, she served as Chief Technology Officer for Cingular, the wireless juggernaut created through a joint venture by AT&T and Bell South. Over all, she has more than 30 years experience in the telecom industry, which started when she switched her career aspirations from teaching math to a job working at Bell South.

At heart, Rinne is a down-to-earth Midwestern girl who remains as refreshingly approachable as any big-time exec could be. I was at the ceremony last Fall in San Jose, for instance, where the Wireless History Foundation inducted her into the Wireless Hall of Fame. With AT&T Mobility’s CEO Ralph de la Vega present and a host of other industry stalwarts, Rinne, the only woman among four inductees, was exceedingly humble when accepting her recognition. She might not like to say it, but if you want to know what’s new and cutting edge at AT&T and across the wireless industry, ask Kris Rinne.

It was also late last year that AT&T announced it would begin remodeling its network, tossing out old legacy telecom gear and replacing it with a plethora of smaller but powerful software-driven servers. The goal, dubbed Domain 2.0, is to transform AT&T’s network into a spiffy new data center.

To accomplish that, AT&T plans to open up its network to new software vendors and new ideas from the likes of Silicon Valley engineers and even University researchers. Traditional telecom networks aren’t adaptable, they’re hard to scale up and they aren’t as cost-effective as they could be. Rinne acknowledges that such a network revamp won’t be easy for AT&T, but she and the company are committed to the rebuild in order to remain relevant in the future.

Here are edited excerpts from Rinne’s answers to five questions about AT&T’s business and the wireless world in general. (more…)

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Wireless Technology of the Future is Smart and Wearable

April 2nd, 2014 in Business by

IronMan Suit

We are on the cusp of a new technology tipping point. The smartphone era will soon give way to a “wearables” world. We’ll depend on wearable smart-watches, eye glasses, rings, pins, badges (and who knows what other kinds of Iron-Man-esque gear) more than the phones we habitually slide into our pockets and purses today.

After all, despite its intelligence and convenience, the smartphone still causes us some in-convenience: the act of retrieving it from our pocket, swiping and tapping the screen to unveil a desired app, the need to look at the screen to absorb the information. These things pull us away from whatever else we’re doing — in the car, in business meetings, at restaurants. Wearables, however, offer a more seamless digital experience. They allow us to absorb information without being distracted from what we’re focusing on at the time.

According to former Georgia Institute of Technology professor Thad Starner, who is now the director of Google’s Contextual Computing Group and a Technical Lead on Project Glass, if you can’t get to a tool within two seconds your use for it goes down exponentially. Smartphones, often packed away as they are, have trouble meeting that two-second standard. But wearables offer instant access. (more…)

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Gear Up With The Coolest New Wireless Devices

March 27th, 2014 in Business by

gadgets

 

We are nothing if we aren’t wireless these days. Our mobile phones serve as mini computers, jukeboxes, bank tellers … you name it. We can’t do much, personally or professionally, without our mobile technology. Here’s a glimpse at some of the coolest stuff coming to market — by Samsung, Apple, Google and Motorola Solutions — to help you live and work more efficiently:

Samsung Galaxy S5
Move over Apple, Samsung’s handsets have become the hottest and most innovative mobile phones on the market. The Galaxy S5, expected in a few months, updates an already way-cool product. Much of the improvement is packed into the camera. It boasts a 16-megapixel sensor, a step up from the Galaxy S4’s 13-megapixel version. Furthermore, it features a 0.3-second shot speed — finger-snap fast. Another cool addition is what Samsung calls “Selective Focus”, which lets you snap a shot and then re-select a focal point later. Also, an HDR Live mode is included, which conveniently allows you to see how HDR could alter a shot before you take it. Meanwhile, the video capabilities have been improved to allow 4K quality. And, as if to not let Apple get any momentum on the creativity front, Samsung added a fingerprint scanner and embedded it in the Home key, much like Apple iPhone 5s’ fingerprint feature.

iPhone 6
The folks at Apple don’t intend to eat Samsung’s dust for long.  According to analysts in China, the upcoming iPhone 6 will catapult the iPhone into the big screen space. Expect the 6 to have at least a 4.7-inch, scintillating 1,136-pixel-by-640 pixel display — up from the current 4-inch screen size. Some insiders are predicting a screen anywhere from 5.7 inches to 6 inches in size, and boasting a 1920 pixel-by-1080 pixel display. Youza! The overall size of the phone will be bigger, but it will also be considerably sleeker. Among other goodies, the 6 should include an improved 13-16 megapixel camera that rivals Samsung’s. Look for Apple to debut its latest iPhone this Fall. (more…)

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Leadership: 10 Tenets for Creating Billions in Value

March 21st, 2014 in Leadership by

By Shawn D. Baldwin

carlos-slim-leadershipThe prolific growth and subsequent value creation of the companies launched by Carlos Slim Helu (left) catapulted him to being named the world’s richest man (surpassing Bill Gates) according to Forbes in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. This is an incredible feat, as most people had believed surpassing Bill Gates in net worth to be a fantasy. It is all the more notable because Carlos Slim (as he’s called) is from a developing country, Mexico. He comes from very humble beginnings, but he began his investing career at the early age of 12. He initially made his first fortune in real estate, becoming a millionaire in his early 20′s, and he has since created a net worth of over $73 billion dollars through his companies. Slim’s holdings are diverse, ranging from securities and banking to insurance and real estate. However, he is most well known for his success in the telecommunications industry. His core holding is America Movil SAB (AMXL) which operates in 18 countries, takes in revenues of over $59 billion, and has over 150,000 employees.

telmexThe telecommunications industry is well-suited for outlining Value Creation (a series this author, Baldwin, writes for Fast Company). The telecom sector, driven by wireless technology and innovation, has been a dominant generator of wealth and jobs. As a point of reference, the telecom sector was up last year over 21% and has a total market capitalization of over $93 billion. The capital markets believe the sector has tremendous upside, as we saw Verizon close the largest bond transaction in history — a $50 billion bond deal last year. Slim sees more potential opportunities in telecom and for American Movil. He says the industry will invest over $9 billion over the next four years, citing greater speed and services for small business as the particular growth engines.

Despite his immense wealth, the first most notable thing about Slim is his extreme humility. Despite being a multi-billionaire, Slim resides in a relatively modest six-bedroom house that is less than a mile away from his office. He personally doesn’t ascribe to the concept of conspicuous consumption, and doesn’t have a super yacht or multiple mansions around the world. He doesn’t have a fleet of high-performance, exotic cars, and he still prefers to drive himself. (more…)

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Executive Leaders Talk Diversity and Driving Change

February 27th, 2014 in Diversity by

I like to say that leadership is about more than a title. It reflects experience, intelligence, an understanding of the business landscape, but also of human nature. In the 21st Century, with the diversity that now is America and our global environment, leadership requires something even more.

I’m reminded of what the poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “We need the whole society to [arrive at] the symmetry we seek.” Emerson saw the world as all leaders should. When he looked into a crowd, he saw not a crowd but a collection of individuals. He saw each person as limited and diverse in what and how they perceived things.

Every other year, Chicago United, a non-profit which promotes multiracial leadership in business, selects a new group of executives who make exceptional candidates for corporate board directorships because of their outstanding performance and leadership. The latest crop of Chicago United Business Leaders of Color see the world the same way that Emerson did.  And, they understand what early American President John Quincy Adams said: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  I recently moderated a discussion on leadership, diversity and driving change with four of these exceptional business leaders . Check out the lively exchange in the edited video above.

Chicago United Business Leaders of Color panelists (above video, from left to right):

Cathy Peng, Chief Business Development Officer, Ethertronics

Ana Dutra, Chief Executive Officer, Mandala Global Advisors

Sunil “Sonny” Garg, Senior VP and Chief Information and Innovation Officer, Exelon

John Trainor, General Manager and Publisher, Hoy Newspapers

To watch clips from our discussion, click the video above.

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Burden to Bear: NFL’s Sherman Balances Ego and Insecurity

February 26th, 2014 in Diversity by

RichardSherman

By Wilfred J. Lucas

Will LucasBy now, everyone who watches football has seen or heard about Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s rant after an acrobatic block of a pass at the end of the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.  And as you might expect, everyone has an opinion about him personally and as a football player.  The most ugly comments seem to be the result of people evaluating his actions through the complex prism of race: A black man with talent who stands up and proclaims to the world that he is the best at what he does.  Instead of comparing him with the traits that have made all successful Americans great, some have given to calling him a “Thug.”

My hope in writing this article is that everyone learns something, even Richard Sherman.  Sherman possesses the things that have made him successful and even models the traits that gave birth to our nation.  Maybe it is not an accident that the Sunday, Jan. 27 issue of the New York Times had an article about Richard Sherman and another one in another section about “Success.”  I saw a real connection. (more…)

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Microsoft’s Diversity in Leadership Will Lead to Innovation

February 23rd, 2014 in Diversity by

Nearly lost in the coverage of Microsoft’s Feb. 4 announcement of a new CEO was the simultaneous, though subordinated, announcement of a new company Chairman: John W. Thompson. In combination, these two appointments are extraordinary management moves—perhaps more visionary than any tech industry C-suite reorgs since the dot-com bust more than a decade ago.

How so? Well, the fact is, Microsoft has done something unprecedented among digital companies. Suddenly, it has the most diverse leadership tandem in big-time techdom, with the top two execs being people of color: Thompson, the African-American Chairman, and Satya Nadella, the Indian-American CEO.  Now, you might be thinking that their race ought to be irrelevant. What’s significant is these executives’ ability to perform, to do as promised and transform Microsoft from a fading tech star into a newly competitive light in the galaxy of cloud and mobile computing.

satyanadella_large_verge_medium_landscapeTrue. But if Microsoft is to be supremely competitive again, it will need to find growth in new markets, markets far from its traditional mainstream hunting grounds. Most of the growth in mobile computing, for example, is happening overseas in places like Nadella’s homeland of India. He studied Electrical Engineering at the Mangalore University before moving to the U.S. to study computer science at the University of Wisconsin. He’s been with Microsoft for over 20 years now, but just in his mid-40s, he’s young for a chief executive.

By picking Nadella the Microsoft board seems to recognize the company needs a fresh perspective with a closer connection to the current and next generation of technology users. And make no mistake, Nadella’s Indian upbringing and education allow him to innately see the world through the eyes of international consumers. As Nadella has rightly pointed out in interviews, success at Microsoft depends on the collective power of its various teams. But he has also said that he is very much a product of his experiences and background. Indeed, the worldly, India-influenced vision and instincts he brings to the corner office will likely bring a much needed spark to Microsoft’s innovation. (more…)

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Leadership: Business and Life Lessons from Nelson Mandela

January 30th, 2014 in Leadership by

The wheels of American Airlines Flight 6447, the plane I was aboard, touched down in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday, December 7th — two days after President Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95.  As my pastor has since assured me, this was divine destiny: to be in that country, at that time.  It was my first trip to the Motherland, and as I took my first steps on Africa’s hallowed ground, I was anxious about what I might see and experience.

mandela-v1

To be sure, Johannesburg (“Joburg,” as South Africans affectionately call it) defies the stereotypical images perpetuated by American media.  Little is “Third World” about this great city.  With a population of more than 3 million, it has more people living in its city limits than the number of people living in my current home of Chicago.  The district we stayed in, Sandton, is a bustling, modern mix of business offices, shopping malls and upscale hotels.  It is the neighborhood where Oprah and President Obama stay when they visit Johannesburg.

President Mandela lived a couple of miles away from Sandton in an elegant suburb called Houghton.  The neighborhood reminded me of driving down the best-manicured streets of Kenwood-Hyde Park in Chicago or Bel Air in Los Angeles.  Huge houses are protected by large fences, walls and gates.  A security guard stood on the red brick sidewalk leading to the golden-walled home that Mandela lived in until he passed.  What was most striking about Mandela’s house was the dense, 6-foot wall of flowers that surrounded it (pic above).  The rows of flowers had been there for months — repeatedly replenished by admirers of “Madiba” (as South Africans call him) since he had fallen gravely ill.

The people of South Africa, indeed the people of the world, love Nelson Mandela.  The current of that love washed over me like a spiritual tsunami, as I stood not too many steps from his front door.  And as I spent the next several days with South Africa’s people, I learned a lot about why Mandela was so beloved as a leader.  Here, I share five attributes, or lessons, that made his leadership style so irresistible and effective. (more…)

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Video: Three Simple But Sure-Fire Ways to Spark Innovation

December 2nd, 2013 in Business by

Welcome to my video blog on business, leadership and diversity.

To check it out, click the video below.

To read the transcript, click here. (more…)

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Leadership: A High Performance Year for Women Execs

December 2nd, 2013 in Leadership by

Yahoo-CEO-Marissa-Mayer

Dick Costolo took Twitter public last year. Jeff Bezos continues to transform Amazon into the “everything” retailer. Sergio Marchionne is resurrecting Chrysler. These men led their companies to impressive achievements in 2013. Still, in my book, no one accomplished more than Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer, HP’s Meg Whitman and Xerox’s Ursula Burns. Here’s why:

Mayer faced an uphill battle when she was named CEO in the summer of 2012. Yahoo, once a promising player in the race for Internet riches, had been dusted by the likes of Google and Facebook. Despite the millions of users it had drawn over the years, I considered the Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale) company’s prospects as dead as a dial-up modem.

Clearly, Mayer doesn’t give a hoot what most people think. One of her first moves as Chief in 2013 was to ban Yahoo employees from working from home (and this in a region legendary companies were launched by people working in PJs out of their garage).  The approach drew widespread criticism at first. But in Mayer’s mind, “to become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side,” she wrote in an internal memo. “That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”

The  move helped develop a culture of collaboration and devotion at Yahoo. (more…)

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