Staffan Göjeryd, CEO of Telia Carrier, considers what the last 16 months have meant for Telia Carrier, his team and for him, as he looks forward to the future as an independent company.
The global economy and the telecom industry were put under incredible strain by the pandemic, and the value of our network as a mission-critical enabler was truly put to the test. As the largest and #1 rated Internet backbone in the world, we had to keep everyone online and their businesses functioning. The world found itself trying to work and keep itself busy from the confines of living rooms and this led to our traffic surging more than 50%, growing the total traffic over our IP network to a mind-blowing 70+ Tbps. The shift to a work-from-anywhere environment saw traffic to web conferencing solutions increase 4-6x over just one month, direct cloud interconnections grew 6x compared to prior quarters, and cloud security solutions doubled. This all came at a time when, first and foremost, we wanted to look after our staff – and there is no question it challenged all of us – and I was no exception.
The Personal Challenge
For our people, it has been a challenging time in so many ways that it is impossible to generalise. All have different personal circumstances, some will be very social, or have families at home, and others will not. It means that everybody’s experience has been different. Indeed, as a global company, different parts of the business have been in and out of different levels of restrictions at different times too. As a leader, it meant that, rather than preach to people about how to work, we had to make sure they had the tools to work in the best way possible.
At Telia Carrier, we are used to working as distributed teams as we are an organisation of around 500 employees with presence in 34 countries. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated to us that people can work virtually anywhere and feel empowered while doing so. Our own teams went the extra mile, without us having to even ask them: finding ways around problems, keeping motivated and giving us an enormous sense of pride in the process as they maintained operations and the integrity of the network. Empowerment has always been a key part of our company culture and we are not very hierarchical which helps. A lot of cross-functional discussions take place, which gives everyone access to different perspectives. If you do that and at the same time, you feel that you have the right to make your individual decisions without seeking approval – it empowers people.
The Management Challenge
In many ways, the pandemic exposed the true meaning of leadership – both good and bad. For me personally, it’s even clearer now how important good management, consistency and empowerment are for a successful company, and ultimately, a great customer experience.
Reflecting on how we handled the pandemic, as the person at the helm, I would normally be thinking in the long term about the company. But for the management team and I, I think it was actually a good thing that we did not know the pandemic was going to last as long as it has, as I think we might have struggled to comprehend what to do as a business. Instead, we were tactical and action-oriented, thinking about what needed to be done, rather than being frozen by strategising.
The Future Opportunity
Today, we are starting to refocus on the future and the exciting times in telecommunications that are ahead. As a stand-alone company (since June 2021) there are lots of opportunities ahead of us. Of course, we will continue to gradually expand and scale our network, and have learnt new ways through the pandemic to do this with greater efficiency. This will ensure we are readily available to meet demands wherever they arise, in data centres, PoPs or anywhere else connectivity is needed.
Other trends are taking place, such as the shift away from disaggregated networks to those that can seamlessly and dynamically connect with each other to provide the services that customers need, and this is definitely an area customers can expect to see more from us on.
And finally, the telecommunications elephant in the room – customer service – something the industry has a pretty poor reputation for. This is an area that we care passionately about and have done for a long time. I spoke earlier about our people, and how important they are to us. We don’t just lock those people away in rooms to come up with our next innovation, they are all over our business and customer service is no exception. It is an area that going forward will differentiate providers from each other in the sector more than anything else.