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What makes Nokia unique?


This week is my last at Nokia.

I have been here a long time. Over 25 years, including 11 as a CEO. So, inevitably, I’ve been doing a bit of reminiscing, even though the past few weeks have been as busy as ever.

My feelings have been mixed. Sadness on the one hand. And on the other, immense pride that I have been able to lead Nokia on a journey from being a distant fourth in the telecom infrastructure sector to a far happier second.

It has been a life-changing privilege.

But having done what I could to prepare the company for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is time to move on and let someone else take Nokia into the next chapter of its history.

So, my slight wistfulness is tempered by a knowledge that it is a natural time to pass the baton to Pekka – who is a great fit for this company’s unique personality.

Yes, personality.

I choose that word deliberately.

Because after a quarter-century here, it has become clear to me that Nokia has developed a character all of its own.

One built on three things: values, perseverance and people.

Countless companies can say that they are strong on one of these. A decent number can say that they are strong on two.

But all three?

That is a tremendous achievement. Something we should all be very proud of.

When it comes to our values, we have an incredible story to tell.

Climate change, inequality and protectionism are already taking their toll on humanity’s health and prosperity.

Businesses have a responsibility to act.

I would hope that during my time as CEO, we have met that responsibility.

In recent years we have eliminated our unexplained gender pay gap, entirely and permanently.

We have released industry-leading green network products.

We became one of the first companies anywhere to accept 1.5°C as the maximum tolerable global rise in temperature.

We opened our doors and our books for an external human rights assessment, and featured in the rankings of the world’s most ethical companies for the last three years, as certified by the Ethisphere Institute.

We have doubled down on our principle of “Design for Security,” which means safety and trustworthiness are integral to our products rather than patched on top.

We celebrate the diversity of our colleagues, our customers and our suppliers in terms of gender, race, sexuality, beliefs, physicality and disability.

And where we need to improve the inclusivity of our hiring – and we do – we take action.

We do all of these things not because we think they are “nice to haves,” not as a marketing exercise, but because to us, good business means openness, equality and fairness.

It has been a privilege to pursue those values over the last 25 years.

But in order to do so, we needed the business fundamentals in place.

And that is where perseverance comes in.

There is a Finnish word, “sisu,” which is difficult to translate but means something like grit and tenacity. Even bloody-mindedness.

It is a highly valued characteristic in Finland. And Nokia has it.

A decade ago, Nokia Siemens Networks was in the middle of an existential crisis. With revenue down, a 4G market share of 1% and a permanent habit of burning cash.

Just a few years later, we had sold non-core assets, lifted gross margins to nearly 40%, acquired Motorola’s mobile network arm and entered the US, Japan and Korea.

We bought the full share of NSN and sold the devices business, giving birth to the new, solid Nokia, with a networks business at its heart.

But solidity was not enough. So, we acquired Alcatel-Lucent, strengthening our position in the US, expanding our investment potential in 5G and giving us a new path into IP routing, software and enterprise.

Integration was an unprecedented effort. One of the largest and most successful mobile product migrations in the history of our industry. And while there were difficulties, we have come back quickly, particularly in mobile, with the best network performance in the market in 4G and around 80 5G deals.

In sum: a decade of evolution.

None of it was easy. No one here will forget the tough decisions, the tense meetings.

But it was all necessary. Today, Nokia’s Networks business takes four times as much revenue as it did in 2006. And the fact that we persevered, with good staff retention and immense internal belief in the Nokia brand, says a lot about what our employees are made of.

That brings me to the third facet of Nokia’s personality.

In my eyes, the most important.

Our people.

In some ways this might be unexpected.

Because of our sector consolidation, Nokia is home to former employees from many great companies, including Alcatel-Lucent, Siemens, Motorola, Panasonic and Comptel, each with their own cultures and structures.

All of them have been through their own particular journeys over the past decade.

But now we all stand together, as one Nokia.

What success I have had over the past decade would not have been possible without these colleagues, past and present.

So, my last word is reserved for you.

Thank you.

Thank you for doing what you do.

Your hard work allowed us to transform our corporate fortunes.

But that is only part of the picture.

When I leave Nokia, a few days from now, I will carry with me a head full of memories that will last a lifetime.

Memories of the teams I used to work in, of celebratory beers after deals, of customer meetings in which I was dragged over the coals.

Last-minute rewrites at Mobile World Congress, morning gym sessions at Davos, bonds built that can never be broken.

Some product demonstrations gone wrong, many more gone right, and a few so good that there were gasps from the audience (liquid-cooled base stations, for example).

Memories of former colleagues who have gone on to great things, either inside or outside Nokia.

And of some colleagues who are no longer with us at all, much loved, much missed.

All of these people have lived and breathed Nokia, just like I have.

I could not be more grateful for their hard work, their advice and the many sacrifices they have made.

Together, we have invented, made and sold some genuinely breathtaking products and services, and done so while acting in an honorable, ethical way.

And that is why I am so confident – so certain – that Nokia will flourish over the next decade and beyond.

I cannot wait to see where this unique company goes from here.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia using #5G #TeamNokia #leadership #industry40.

Rajeev Suri

About Rajeev Suri

During his tenure as Nokia CEO, Rajeev transformed Nokia into a leading technology company for a world connected by 5G and shaped by increasing digitalization and automation. Under his leadership, Nokia acquired Alcatel-Lucent, successfully expanded into enterprise vertical markets, created a standalone software business, and engineered the return of the Nokia brand to mobile phones.

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