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Colin Willcock: 25 years in the telecommunication industry

Colin Willcock, Chairman of the Board of the 5G IA, discusses his career in the telecommunications industry and the essential traits of an effective leader

Colin Willcock

Chairman of the Board

Graduating with a doctorate in parallel computation in 1992, Colin Willcock, Chairman of the Board of the 5G IA, began his career in a small telecoms consultant company working with multiple major companies including Siemens and Alcatel in the area of test equipment. Dr. Willcock moved to Nokia in 1999 where he has held various positions in research and standardisation. In 2017 Dr. Willcock was presented with the opportunity to be the representative for Nokia in the 5G IA board where shortly afterwards he took over the position of chairman. 

Dr. Willcock has worked for over 25 years in the telecoms industry. In this time he has worked with multiple large operators and vendors within the industry, which he believes provides him with a certain level of insight. “I think the key point I've learnt is we need to have some sort of balance. So any situation where one group is dominant, whether that be the operators (the people operating the mobile networks), the vendors (the one creating most of the equipment), or indeed the customers where they could potentially get a service at rates which are unsustainable, is not healthy. So, we need to make sure we keep that balance between the various actors, but at the same time, we need to make sure there is space for innovation, that there is space for new ideas and that the existing way of doing things doesn't block future ways of business. Because if we're talking about the promise of 5G and the wish to go beyond the normal telecoms market, we need to think a little bit differently. It's not just more of the same, it's a very different market and we need to think about how we can actually enable those new domains.”

Over the years, Dr. Willcock believes that his leadership style is very much tied together with the culture of Nokia. “I've been working for Nokia for over 20 years. And the sort of traditional Nokia way of managing is very much trying to keep things with a flat hierarchy, trying to push decisions down as low as possible into the organisation, trying to get the best from everyone as team players. I hope that's what I embody in my management style. I try to avoid micromanagement, I believe in giving people clear goals and motivating them to use their own initiative. giving them the space to make decisions when at all possible. I think it's also worth pointing out that I see a clear difference between management and leadership. I believe that they require different skills. Management is more about organisation making sure things are in order and everything gets completed on time. Whereas leadership is more about motivating, inspiring and giving a direction.”

Reflecting on the impact of COVID-19, Dr. Willcock said that “ the COVID-19 situation has been terrible for many of us. Obviously in the first instance the health effects and the loss of dear ones, there is nothing one can say to minimise that loss. As an organisation, the key effect has been that the physical meetings haven't been happening. So, the board now has to meet electronically, and it also means that many of the events have been cancelled, such as Mobile World Congress. Having said that, our industry has always used electronic tools, and we are fairly digitally savvy, so I think that transformation hasn't necessarily been too traumatic. I think what has been impacted is the 5G PPP projects, some of which have been affected substantially because the basis of those projects is collaboration and that is much more effective done in person. I think compared to many other sectors; we've come out of it fairly unscathed. I think this pandemic has only highlighted the importance of communication and communication technology.”

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The promise of 5G is to use this technology as the enabling glue to make a digital society, both commercially within key industries, but also from a societal point of view

Colin Willcock | Chairman of the Board, 5G IA