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Get to Know: Waleed Badr, Regional Director, Nuage Networks from Nokia

Get to Know: Waleed Badr, Regional Director, Nuage Networks from Nokia

On the lighter side of things, we ask the industry experts what makes them tick.

Waleed Badr, Regional Director – MEA: Nuage Networks at Nokia

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

I have been in the industry for 15 years with various technology providers, so while I have seen many achievements, it is difficult to pinpoint one. Personally, the biggest achievement would be helping a start-up entrepreneur, looking for a space in this highly competitive world, use our technology to create an opportunity for them to serve their customers, and ours, with the right technology. While this has been the narrative for a while, we are still seeing IT and telecommunications converging, because customer demands are changing. For me, the most memorable achievements do not hinge on big financial gains necessarily, but rather helping a smaller business digitalise and step up the competitive plate to compete against bigger rivals and provide their customers with the best possible services to meet their needs, using our technology.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and became involved in technology at a time when most people wanted to have careers in technology. That said, this is a very dynamic landscape that is constantly changing, which allows me to continuously grow as I navigate the changes that my clients must go through to remain relevant and be successful. Technology helps enterprises deliver their best in business and deliver value to their clients, so working these clients to find the right solution to enhance their business operations in terms of excellence of operations, saving costs and driving efficiency is very gratifying. The satisfaction I get from helping a client meet their operational objectives reminds me why I entered the world of technology.

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

I like comparing my team environment to an orchestra. We all work together, bringing different elements (sounds) to the work environment, working in harmony to create a final product or a symphony of solutions that enhance our clients’ businesses. When this team work comes together, we can help our clients, partners and channel in the most agile and effective way so that they, in turn, can deliver results for their customers. We don’t have a defined approach to communication, but because each member of the team knows what their role is, they are able to work together closely and know exactly when it is their time to step up and take control. So, on the surface it’s very much orchestrated and synchronised. This is the way in which we work and manage each other

What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?

Times have changed. Where in the past we had four or five technology providers that we were dependent on, we are now spoilt for choice with a lot of start-up players with innovative solutions continuously emerging. We have moved beyond the Internet era building communication layer, data centres after the industrial Era building machines and in today’s world it is all about the ‘colour’ you add to the technology. The colour of the customer vertical ad segment. The focus has shifted from the basic infrastructure to the value or ‘colour’ that is layered on top. It is that ‘colour’ or differentiators that enable so many start-up technologies and new entrepreneurs to enter the world of technology. While the communication layer remains the same, it’s the application thereof that makes the difference today and each industry has different needs to be met.

Today we live in a time I like to call the industrial Internet. The technologies and infrastructure we have known for years are being applied in different ways to enable industries to connect to back-end data centres and edge computing, collect data and through Artificial Intelligence draw information out of that data to drive value for its customers. This creates an entirely different market discussion when we speak to our clients and incorporates many different technologies.

In my opinion, it has become about using innovation to create technologies that serve each other, rather than focusing on one technology. For example, without 5G you cannot have useful Artificial Intelligence within the data centre, because you need a strong network with high bandwidth and low latency for that Artificial Intelligence to deliver the most value.

Cloud is most definitely a buzzword that continues to come up in business discussions, however. So, as technology providers we need to continuously evolve to ensure we support this move to the cloud, providing the technology that supports it. If you look at Nokia, we start from under the sea, with major optical connectivity that connects the major data centres around the globe. Then we go to the surface with our network virtualisation to be the glue between private and public clouds to serve our clients in the most agile, Secure manner and cost-effective way by Offering Nuage networks SD-WAN Platform.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?

In my opinion, stress is not necessarily a bad thing that needs to be managed. Instead, I rather see it as part of our daily routine where we live with it enjoy our challenges and achievements. That said, we all need time to recharge our batteries and relax, to return and continue tackling those challenges.

My family plays a big role in this. Having a conversation with my two-year old son and six-year old daughter is one of the fast-charging ways. Reading a fictional book can also be very fulfilling.

Swimming  is another quick time out to return to the court with a full battery and clear vision and.  This is not to serve any sub-sea optical objectives. I go under water and I detox electronically, which enables me to come back refreshed and ready to take on the challenges that this industry presents.

If you could go back and change one career decision what would it be?

If I had to go back in time, I would still do everything exactly the way I have. I am very satisfied with the career journey I have been on to date and continue to be on as I still have a long journey ahead of me. That said, I do like dabbling in connecting things in my spare time, using the Internet of Things (IoT). I use my home as a very small lab to connect even old devices so that I can see how they can be evolved and used differently.

Subscribe to a new technology clubs is always a target i.e. Blockchain, IoT and SD-WAN.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

I see two major areas that require investment now and these are 5G and Blockchain. 5G is one of the main pillars that requires heavy investment to serve all over technological objectives. Blockchain will also change the way in which we communicated and engage, not necessarily on the financial segment only but toward all other segments, but in the way we are connected.

5G is important, because it underpins everything. If you can’t reach something, you cannot collect the data you require from that IoT device and if you can’t reach the cloud at the right time, you will not be able to use the intelligence derived from devices to meet your objectives. Likewise, Blockchain will change the way people are connected, for example, to their government, or how they deal and transact with each other daily.

What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Africa?

Africa is a very high growth region when it comes to adopting new technologies. That said, connectivity remains a challenge. We need to apply a different mindset in Africa. In many instances it’s the highly populated rural areas that have the poorest connectivity and those are the people that require technology the most. The key here is the justification of the business case for the connectivity providers. The technology is available, and people are hungry for it, but we need to put the business case in the right context for Africa. A key example here is eWallet. It has grown massively in Africa and it proves that if the connectivity is there, the technology will be adopted. So, by connecting the rural areas in Africa, we create a strong business case for smart villages, giving them access to services in a far more agile way so that they can conduct their day-to-day lives.

What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?

We have moved beyond that and are focusing on how technology can and must affect day-to-day business. It has become about building the right solution for our customers’ businesses. The responsibility lies with us to understand our clients and their business challenges so that we can build solutions that enable them to overcome those challenges, create new revenue streams and, in turn, provide their customers with a solution that makes sense. It is about taking the technology that is available and applying it to specific industries in ways that make it relevant to them.

What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?

Being an executive in the industry, comes with more responsibility towards your team, company and towards society and the communities around you. I like seeing young people and women in executive positions, because it is something we are missing in this industry. At the same time, to become an executive requires continuous learning to ensure you keep up with customer needs and demands, strong content and context, and an in-depth knowledge of how our customers’ businesses are changing. Leadership skills are also very important, because as an executive, you are not only responsible for delivering on the objectives of the company you work for, but also delivering on your customers’ objectives to enable them to take care of their employee.

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