My first 2+ years at Nokia

Nokia Team

“Nokia has transformed itself many times in its 150-year history, starting as a paper mill in Finland in 1865. (…) ‘In 2013,’ Nokia launched a dramatic, bet-the-company turnaround (…) ‘as’ a full-fledged network infrastructure provider, Nokia decided to retain its patent and technology licensing business in order to continue its legacy of innovation and reinvention (…) from the start of the turnaround through early 2017, the company turned over 99% of the employee base, 80% of the board, and all but one member of the executive team.”  (Nokia: Reprogramming for Growth.)

Nokia Banner

“The Finnish giant has exited mobile phones and doubled down on its networking business. (…) Nokia is a paragon of corporate renewal (…) this corporate phoenix has reemerged as one of the world’s largest telecom network service providers. (…) The fact that it subsequently became a vibrant business just emphasizes the fantastic turnaround. (…) In the summer of 2012, Nokia’s market capitalization was $5 billion and (…) enterprise value was $1.5 billion. By the beginning of “2017,” (…) market capitalization was close to $40 billion and (…) enterprise value was about $30 billion. (…) Out of some 100,000 employees today, less than 1 percent had a Nokia badge three years ago.” (Nokia’s Next Chapter.)

Bell Labs and Nokia books

linkedinBefore I started to write this post I pre-ordered “Transforming Nokia” by Risto Siilasmaa, Nokia’s Chairman. His book is coming out this October, which I will add to my Kindle collection for Bell Labs and Nokia.

Interestingly enough, my LinkedIn profile shows what it looks like my 20 year-long career with Nokia. Though, I need to share that I am among the 99% of staff who did not have a Nokia badge just 3 years ago. I became a Nokia employee with the acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent in January of 2016.

Career Logos 2

My recollection is that LinkedIn does not show corporate logos for brands that are no longer in business. In my case, that happens to be the outcome of M&A (Merger & Acquisitions.)

Otherwise, LinkedIn would have featured the above four logos as part of my professional record. They happen to be part of different market conditions, job responsibilities, experiences and organizational cultures.

LeanOps at MWC16.jpg

Year 1: 2016

Make Tech HumanJoining Nokia was very exciting from the get go. The company’s motto was “Expanding the Human Possibilities of Technology” and had recently ran a public relations program known as “Make Tech Human” in partnership with Wired Magazine.

All of that was music to the ears of those of us devoted to Human Factors Engineering (HFE.) Moreover, User Centered Design (UCD) was pioneered by Bell Labs all the way back to the mid 1940s. Bell Labs is a legendary industrial research and scientific institution that became part of Nokia in 2016.

It’s hard to draw the line between traditional human factors and what we might call ‘user-experience’, aimed at human-centered design of interactive systems. Bell Labs was one of the pioneers in making this transition, starting with the first psychologist hired to design telephone systems in 1945: John E. Karlin. By the 1950s, Bell Labs definitely did UX work.” (A 100-Year View of User Experience.)

Back to 2016… our team at the Cloud Innovation Center (CIC) in Naperville, IL, worked tirelessly to create the system behind the LeanOps initiative showcased at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress 2016 as one of Nokia’s flagship innovations. That premier industry event became the first chance for many of us to come together as one-Nokia-team.

About month later, I was interviewed and featured in an article for “My Life at Nokia,” a corporate initiative capturing what it feels to work at Nokia. That same year, I was invited to join the Steering Committee for our Technology Leadership Council, a silo-busting and grass-roots organization lead by Anne Lee, a Bell Labs Fellow.

Year 2: 2017

LeanOps’ latest was selected again as one of Nokia’s innovations for Mobile World Congress 2017. Thereafter, the demo running at Nokia HQ in Espoo, Finland, became the most visited station of the company’s Customer Experience Center.

Nokia Innovation Award.jpg

A few months later, LeanOps was the recipient of Nokia’s First Prize in Product Innovation. We were made aware of the fact that there had been more than 500 submissions. One can only feel very fortunate and humble given the high-caliber work performed across the company.

Year -1: 2015

Digital innovation enables an impressive and unprecedented succession of emerging technologies and services. Some are improved versions of well understood staples, some are fluid and fast evolving, some other are yet to be invented and will rely on enabling capabilities to be in place… and there is such a thing as hybrid operational environments intermingling them all.

Back in 2015, I was deeply involved in a global primary research effort, whose outcome put the emphasis on execution and, therefore, Operational Excellence. Running highly effective and efficient ops is a critical success factor and top priority for Nokia’s customers, these are Digital Service Providers (DSP.)

No Service Provider would like to like be a victim of their own success. Briefly and in terms of leading (cause) and lagging (effect) indicators… that actually happens when demand grows exponentially, but systems fail to adapt and scale at speed. Lagging indicators then show subpar quality of customer experiences and dreaded churn kicks in to offset and even undermine early gains.

Digital Operation Centers designed for highly dynamic and complex systems should adhere to ‘Lean’ design principles for the purpose of executing system-wide lifecycle events at scale and speed anytime, and to do so in compliance with Service Level Agreements (SLA,) which are contractual obligations.

Most importantly, operational excellence calls for optimizing both users’ experiences and resource utilization levels, which entails financial considerations and business modeling. Note that ‘end-users’ applies to Business to Consumer (B2C,) and Business to Business (B2B) markets.

Back to Year 1: 2016

My focus is on (a) advanced visualization coupled with (b) cybernetics for workforce automation at high performance Control Centers, which happens to be a decisive source of innovative system requirements.

The fact is that nimbler operations teams are asked to be responsible for greater scope, scale and speed than ever before. This prompts a pressing need for equipping agile and interdisciplinary teams with next generation tools that set them up for success. So, no surprise that Human Centered Design is of the essence, and that any self-service capabilities happen to reinforce that point as ‘making sophisticated operations effortless’ is a must.

About this time last year, my work in Decision Support Systems (DSS,) was shortlisted among the top 10 concepts for the first phase of Nokia Applications & Analytics’ (A&A’s) ‘Intra’-preneurial Program, which processed hundreds of submissions involving a wide range of applications and technologies.

After the “hacking phase” the panel’s evaluation recommended taking further steps in the context of the existing product portfolio. By the way, Nokia’s former A&A is now known as Nokia Software Group (NSG) and DSS is my current area of work.

Bell Labs

Year 2+: 2018

Admittedly, things got even more exciting for me with the turn of the year by being promoted to a Senior Studio Director position reporting to the VP of Solutions Engineering. This is an entrepreneurial department tasked with complex end-to-end systems and chartered to deliver the superior value of the whole.

More recently, I became a Bell Labs DMTS, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff, which I am very proud of. Anecdotally, just a few weeks ago I ended up in Cloude Shannon‘s Bell Labs 1940s office in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Shannon was the father of Information Theory. I couldn’t help taking a picture with his lifesize cardboard cutout : )

The photograph on the extreme left shows Telstar, the first communications satellite and commercial payload in space. The one on the extreme right was taken at the anechoic chamber, which held the Guinness record for the quietest place for some 30-40 years. That space was instrumental in the invention of the microphone. It is a bit hard to tell in that picture, but I was standing on a fairly thin net that is set way above the ground, which makes one feel like floating in mid air.


Nokia also allows a fairly active life beyond the company’s conventional business. Some examples are my current participation in the Advisory Boards for MIT’s institute of Data, Systems & Society, and the Design Thinking conference for the events held in 2017 and 2018 in Austin, TX. I would also like to highlight Nokia’s own HFE (Human Factors Engineering Conference) that I am honored to co-chair.

Last year I spoke at Service Design Week 2017 in Boston and also received Chicago Public Schools’ Science Fair plaque for my five years of service as a judge. My focus was high school projects in the areas of Computer and Behavioral Sciences. Chicago’s Science Fairs were held at an incredibly engaging venue: the Museum of Science & Industry (MSI.)

Earlier this year I was invited to speak at IEEE Emerging Technologies Reliability Roundtable (IEEE ETR-R) and I also joined a panel discussion at IEEE’s Communications Quality & Reliability (IEEE CQR,) both held in Austin, TX.

Interacting in industry and academia turns out to be a highly gratifying ‘give & take’ exercise. By sharing and helping others a healthy feedback-loop develops. That experience takes the shape of a virtuous circle neutralizing negative ‘echo chamber effects’ while exposing and promoting diverse optics: a re-energizing effect and a source of personal growth.

Long story short… my first 2+ years at Nokia have been packed with a number of good and even thrilling experiences.

I have been given the opportunity to be involved in the kind of high visibility projects that I happen to enjoy. As a Human Factors practitioner, I value Nokia’s Intellectual Capital above a number of other considerations because commonplace work ethics and working with and learing from exceptional and thoughtful professionals makes all the difference.



Aspara, Jaakko et all. Strategic Management of Business Model Transformation: Lessons from Nokia. May, Accessed 19 Aug. 2018.

Baeza, Ramon, et al. Nokia: Reprogramming for Growth. BCG, 13 Nov. 2017, Accessed 19 Aug. 2018.

Gertner, Jon. The Idea Factory. Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation. Penguin Books, 2013.

Nielsen, Jackob. A 100-Year View of User Experience. Nielsen Norman Group, 24 Dec. 2017, Accessed 19 Aug. 2018.

Siilasmaa, Risto and Catherine Fredman. Transforming Nokia: The Power of Paranoid Optimism to Lead through Colossal Change. McGraw-Hill, 2018.

Siilasmaa, Risto and Rik Kirkland. Nokia’s Next Chapter. McKinsey Quarterly, Dec. 2016, Accessed 19 Aug 2018.

Weldon, Marcus K. The Future X Network: a Bell Labs Perspective. CRC Press, 2016.



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