Ron Nersesian is the President and CEO of Keysight Technologies. Keysight provides world-class electronic measurement capabilities to accelerate the technology innovations that make the world more productive and a safer place to live. No other company offers the breadth and depth of measurement tools and expertise to meet the world’s critical requirements for electronic measurement. The original business, founded by Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett in 1939, later spun off as part of Agilent Technologies in 1999 and Keysight became a standalone company in 2014. Keysight develops solutions that help bring electronic products to market faster, from design simulation, to prototype validation, to manufacturing test, to optimisation in networks and cloud environments. Their customers span the worldwide communications ecosystem, aerospace and defense, automotive and energy, semiconductor, and general electronics end markets.
Below, Ron tells CEO Today about his industry experience, the key to stimulating growth, and the ways in which Keysight changes our world for the better.
What challenges did you face when leading the launch of the new company at the time of your appointment?
The biggest challenge was stimulating growth. Because test and measurement was such a healthy revenue stream within the Agilent portfolio, the business had not received adequate investment for growth, and therefore had not grown for decades. This made perfect sense as there were greater opportunities for growth in the life sciences business, but once we established a separate entity – Keysight – it became very clear that growth was crucial if we were to create value for customers and shareholders.
Today, Keysight is 100% focused on helping companies tackle the toughest electronic design, test, and measurement challenges through a combination of trusted hardware, innovative software, and our own global team of industry experts. The result? Insights that lead to innovation. From home entertainment to network reliability to communicating wirelessly, Keysight provides the measurement capabilities that make our world more productive and a safer place to live.
How have you influenced Keysight and its development since becoming CEO of the company in 2013?
Customers think in terms of finding solutions to their unique business and technical problems. They don’t think in terms of products to purchase. I knew we had to shift our focus and mindset to address real-world requirements in our customers’ target industries. So we transformed the company to deliver integrated measurement solutions to the toughest technological challenges of today and tomorrow.
For example, in the past, we were organised in a division structure where multiple product teams would approach the same customer and provide single-product building blocks. We shifted to an industry structure so that our R&D teams can provide customers with solution-level test systems ahead of market windows that allow them to get to market faster. As part of this structure, we can now offer a single point of contact who can provide and make commitments from a roadmap standpoint across Keysight. In addition, we paired customers with internal experts who have deep experience to ensure our solutions are tuned to key customer requirements and timelines.
And for those customers who need expert assistance or want to outsource test altogether, we offer multiple services, including test-as-a-service locations around the world.
The number of early market engagements and partnerships we have forged with market-maker companies since our transformation demonstrates that this strategy is working for us and for our customers.
How have your experiences in a range of management positions at Hewlett-Packard and Agilent prepared you for your role today, and what has Keysight taken from Hewlett-Packard in terms of its stance on innovation and integrity?
I joined Hewlett-Packard in 1984 and held several management positions over the next decade or so. After a brief hiatus from HP in the late ‘90s, I returned to Agilent Technologies in 2002 as Vice President and General Manager of the company’s Design Validation Division. Over the years, I had many roles including Vice President and General Manager of the company’s Wireless Business Unit, then President of Agilent’s Electronic Measurement Group, and in 2011, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Agilent Technologies. In 2012, I was promoted to President and Chief Operating Officer.
When Agilent announced the separation of its electronic measurement business in 2013, I was appointed Keysight President and CEO. But I’m not the only one with deep roots in HP and Agilent. Many, if not most, of our employees have been with us for decades and share a similar foundation of uncompromising integrity, measurement expertise, and passion to work as one to create value for customers, investors, and employees.
Continuous innovation and progress is also key. Our Hewlett-Packard heritage means that innovation is in our DNA and is applied to everything we do. We’re never satisfied with the status quo, we always look for how we can improve and how we can return more value to our customers and shareholders.
What has been Keysight’s greatest achievement since its separation from Agilent Life Sciences?
Personally, I’m most proud of Keysight’s compassionate and comprehensive response to the Santa Rosa fires last October. From the first moment we learned of these fires, our immediate concern was for the safety of our employees, and how we could help them through this difficult time. We provided employees financial contributions because we wanted to offset any time lapse or money gaps from their insurance company. There were 119 employees and their families who lost their homes. We decided to give them all $10,000 outright. Anybody who was temporarily displaced received $1,000. Our employees around the world wanted to help too, so we set up a donation process for them to contribute either cash or accrued vacation to their colleagues.
We also set up an emergency relief center where employees could get supplies, like daily necessities, and connect with one another. We operated the relief center day and night for weeks, and we helped not only our employees at that time, but former employees and retirees, as well as anyone in the community looking for help. In addition, we hired counselors and psychologists to help employees and their family members dealing with hardships because of the fires. We even set up a website and used social media to help affected employees find temporary or longer-term housing. Many of these employees had been with us for decades and we wanted to treat them right because we hope they will continue to be with us for decades more.
Professionally, I would say the biggest game changer for our company was the rapid transformation from hardware-centric products to software-centric solutions. We realised that at each stage of development – design simulation, prototype validation, and production optimisation – different teams create their own test parameters and analysis points. Traditionally, design simulation software operates independently from prototype validation lab systems, which operate independently from production test systems. Keysight’s PathWave software platform enables design, test, and analysis work from each stage to be shared with the next. This not only improves the design but saves customers a lot of time used to reinvent tests typical in most developments.
PathWave allows our customers to accelerate innovation and product development from concept through manufacturing and deployment. It’s the industry’s first software platform to integrate design, test, measurement, and analysis in a completely programmable environment. It combines design software, instrument control, and application-specific test software in an open development environment allowing users to create high-performance solutions fast.
What common issues do your clients face, and what solutions do you offer to assist them?
Every industry has innovators who push the boundaries of performance to introduce smaller, faster, and more powerful products. This is true for manufacturers, consumers, and businesses. One thing they all have in common is that at some point, they need to test their innovation, and that is where we come in. At Keysight, we continuously advance our test solutions to enable those innovators to create. We constantly develop new tests across semiconductors, electronics, power systems, devices, and even networks. We are helping innovators connect and secure the world, anywhere, anytime, with any information – voice, data, video, and whatever they can imagine next.
How are you developing new strategies and ways to help your clients? Are there any specific markets you see having greater opportunities to help your customers?
Keysight is at the heart of innovation processes in key end markets such as 5G, automotive and energy, IoT, aerospace and defense, and high-speed data centers. But even innovation requires innovation. That’s why at Keysight, we are innovating the invention process by streamlining workflows for software and hardware designers. As the market leading wireless test and measurement company in the world, we are laser focused on the electronic technologies of the future. Wherever the signal goes, Keysight will be there to help customers design, test, manufacture, and optimise it.
We see a lot of exciting growth areas across many markets. Let’s start with the promise of 5G. Similar to what the market experienced in 3G and 4G usage growth, 5G promises to connect billions of new devices in new ways for new markets. That alone is exciting, but even more exciting are the attributes of those devices. Intermixed with traditional smart-phone users will be a growing variety of IoT devices connecting machines to other machines. Some will use small amounts of data like advanced smart-parking systems; others will use large amounts of data like virtual and augmented reality systems, or connected vehicles, all of which could require very low latency connections.
Getting to 5G requires engaging in new millimeter wave frequencies to augment existing cellular bands; using innovative waveforms and protocols, massive multiple input multiple-output (MIMO) techniques, just to name a few. To test all this, we not only need to extend the capabilities of individual test equipment, but to build entire system solutions aimed at validating specific 5G design implementations.
Keysight partners across the 5G ecosystem, including with chipset makers, device designers, network equipment manufacturers, and service providers. We create tests to validate designs of individual features, specific products, or end-to-end networks. There are plenty of exciting technology design and measurement challenges to go around in every part of the 5G ecosystem as each part pushes the boundaries of technical innovation.
In terms of automotive, our customers are pushing the boundaries in battery manufacturing, power conversion and power loading in the area of e-Mobility. They are also innovating longer range, higher-resolution radar and LIDAR sensors for autonomous driving and integrating e-Call services and broadening the data connections to make a truly connected car.
In IoT, we are seeing an evolution from ‘best effort’ applications to more ‘mission critical’ applications that require higher reliability and more secure wireless connections.
In data centers, we constantly see improvements in data connection speeds which now top 400 Gbps requiring a new generation of transceivers. In aerospace and defense, our customers are always pushing on the boundaries in sensors and communications.
What does Keysight do differently that sets it apart from competitors in the industry?
Keysight possesses a unique combination of values, processes, and operational best practices by which we operate and deliver for customers and shareholders. We call this the Keysight Leadership Model and it has customer success at the center because customers are our lifeblood.
Wrapped around the Keysight Leadership Model are our enabling values; we operate with uncompromising integrity to do what’s right; and we operate as “One Keysight”, bringing the entire organisation to bear when solving customer problems and driving results for our shareholders.
Following this model, we execute faster and more consistently, have better benchmarking, and deliver greater value to our customers, shareholders, and employees. It is the enabler of our mission to accelerate innovation to connect and secure the world. It permeates every aspect of our operations and drives innovation, speed, and operational excellence.
What do you anticipate for the future of Keysight’s development?
With the pace and breadth of innovation in the market, testing and validation demands are growing as well. The stakes have never been higher. We are seeing a real drive to keep up with Nielson’s Law governing the speed of Internet connections and Swanson’s Law looking at the cost of energy. These are driving access to digital information everywhere. Effectively, our customers are bringing products to market faster than ever and trying to optimise their designs across more domains.
Keysight has always been good at helping designers simulate their innovation, then test it on the bench and in production. With the addition of Ixia, we added to that the ability to test and monitor data handling capacity at the industry’s largest scales, and to test and monitor security integrity. With the addition of Anite, we added the ability to do device testing using network emulation solutions as well as drive testing for signal integrity and user quality of experience.
We are finding these capabilities are critical for our customers, many of whom are migrating from point product offerings to lifecycle products plus service offerings. Their testing needs are growing to include test-in-motion and live monitoring. Keysight will be there with solutions that meet their needs today and well into the future.
Since we launched Keysight as an independent company in 2014 with the goal to create value for customers and investors, we have moved through phase 1 of our strategic plan, the formation phase, where we separated from Agilent and established the operational discipline required for success as an independent, public, and global company.
We are well into phase 2, transformation, where we have organised for industry focus, carried out strategic M&A, and installed new leaders and cultural elements. Phase 2 will continue, and will overlap with phase 3, value creation of a level beyond what we have achieved thus far. We are in beginning phase 3 now.
In phase 3, we will achieve superior value creation by thinking and executing bigger and bolder. Around the world, the need to improve the lives of citisens, increase the productivity of businesses, and raise the competitiveness of nations, is leading to ever-higher expectations for connectivity and security. These expectations are creating opportunities for current and future Keysight customers, for our company, and for all of our employees.