Everybody remembers the first piece of technology that grabbed their imagination.
As a child, I was fascinated by radio waves and the idea that the TV antenna on the roof of our home was receiving beams of energy blasted into the air that allowed me to watch my favorite TV shows. But what really sparked my curiosity is when I learnt I could build my own TV antennas, using a rotator device, to pick up signals from faraway places – and receive TV channels I had never even heard of before.
Technology made the world seem a smaller and more connected place. Technology made things possible. Technology gave a young boy, growing up in Kuwait, a chance to get a whole new bunch of favorite TV shows.
I guess that is what led to a life-long passion for technology and learning, and ultimately my decision to study electronic engineering at university. As I reflect back to that childhood memory, and my 25 years with Nokia, I can see that many things have changed in that time. There have been many technological leaps and bounds that have led to major improvements in the daily lives of billions of people around the world.
In 1995, the year I started working for Nokia Networks in New Delhi, India, as a system marketing engineer, the Global Positioning System (GPS) became fully operational, heralding a new era for telecommunications and transport and giving birth to countless other applications we now take for granted. It was also the same year that Microsoft launched Internet Explorer, the first introduction to the internet for many people.
Perhaps 1995 was a particularly fortuitous year for technology, or for just one young man in particular, but the following year Nokia launched the 8110, or the “Matrix phone,” made effortlessly cool and endlessly desirable by Keanu Reeves in the hit sci-fi movie. And each year that followed brought new innovations and improvements that led to Nokia’s emergence as the world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturer, producing some of the best-selling phones of all time.
As the years have progressed, my personal story has become inextricably connected with the story of Nokia. I am both very proud and humbled by the fact that the teams I’ve been part of have helped build a more connected world and made things possible that would have seemed unimaginable when I was that young boy playing around with a TV antenna kit.
That desire to understand how something works and how we can make it better has stayed with me throughout my career. I firmly believe that technology allied with a mission to improve people’s lives is one of the biggest drivers of human progress. That mission is encoded in the DNA of Nokia, which is the reason I’ve devoted such a large part of my life to this great company.
When I was given the honor and privilege of leading Nokia Siemens Networks in 2009, and then Nokia in 2014, we began a new phase in our journey. Over the past six years, we’ve evolved to become a global leader in the development and deployment of end-to-end 5G networks for service providers and large enterprises. That means Nokia is now at the forefront of the technologies that will power the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
And the most exciting thing about 5G is that it is an enabling technology. It will enable widespread automation and digital transformation. It will enable greater productivity, less waste, and more environmentally sustainable solutions in industries from agriculture and aviation to manufacturing and mining. 5G will enable driverless cars and remote robotic surgery. It will enable smart cities and smarter ways of living. Best of all, it will enable the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs to realize new ideas that we have not even thought of yet, like the millions of mobile apps that 4G gave rise to.
New ideas are the most valuable commodity any business has, particularly a technology company. The Nobel Prize–winning Nokia Bell Labs, home to some of the world’s best innovators, continues to develop the technologies of tomorrow at our Future X Labs. Truly transformative innovations do not happen quickly. You must have the courage to take calculated risks for the long term. Nokia has been around for 155 years. So, we know a thing or two about planning for the future.
The end of this month marks my 25th anniversary as a member of the Nokia team. As I reflect on my journey with Nokia over the past quarter of a century, and all of the brilliant people I’ve been fortunate enough to work with, I am as excited about its future as I am proud of its past. Our technology is already helping farmers grow crops with less water and fewer pesticides, assisting scientists in combating climate change, and keeping the world connected through a global pandemic.
So, as important as it is to look back and take inspiration from what has come before, I choose to look forward. The story of technology never ends. This is only the beginning of a new chapter for Nokia.
What life-changing innovations can we hope to see over the next 25 years?
The only limit is the human imagination.