5G infrastructure is being installed around the world. At the same time, most people have not yet seen what 5G can offer. What exactly is 5G? How will it improve our lives? What are the concerns that need to be addressed before it is widely adopted?
In our series, called, How 5G Technology May Improve and Impact Our Lives, we are talking to tech and telecom leaders who can share how 5G can impact and enhance our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Cherones, Partner at Headstorm.
Alex is a technologist at heart who cherishes cultivating teams of high performing developers. He is also the former CTO of a publicly traded company, exited entrepreneur, & keynote speaker with experience in product development & management amounting to more than $7 billion in development responsibility.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Mycareer started in the real estate industry where I worked at large global companies and started my own investment firm. I stayed in the industry through the Great Recession and exited my company afterwards when I had the opportunity to leverage my finance & development background to pivot into telecommunications as an intrapreneur creating a technology innovation organization for AT&T.
It turns out there are a lot of similarities in funding, development, and go-to-market approaches in technology as in real estate. I led several projects in data analytics, geospatial advertising, & cybersecurity and loved it so much that I started two additional practices — a data analytics center of excellence & a commercial cybersecurity practice.
After almost a decade in these roles I moved to a broader technological consultative role as a partner with Headstorm.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
It’s funny, with every career move there’s always an unusual story — and then one day, you look back and notice all those unusual events have been converging toward a path that made sense all along.
The Great Recession in the late aughts forced the real estate industry to become self-reflective and seek a way to stabilize. This gave me a window to apply arbitrage opportunities to an upside-down industry, and later apply those same financial concepts to an intrapreneurial opportunity at a very large telecommunications organization with untapped assets.
These opportunities afforded me valuable lessons in technology & finance. Ultimately setting me on a path for the rest of my career.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t confuse efforts with results….” by C P Sennett. Throughout our academic & professional careers we’re taught & rewarded based on effort & ability to come up with complex solutions. But at the end of the day, it is often the most simplistic and straightforward solution that is the best fit for the challenge.
Don’t overcomplicate things.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I can’t give the credit to just one particular person because I’ve been fortunate enough to have a team of people that I am extremely grateful towards. My parents, wife, mentors and scholastic and non-scholastic teachers have taught, mentored, and raised me to think critically, question assumptions, & take care of others. Sometimes that means swallowing my pride to learn from those who care enough about me to tell me when I’m wrong, or off-the-mark.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
It has been critical for me to be empathetic, creative, & analytical. But out of those three, being empathetic has been the most important for me.
Whether it’s your clients or teammates we cannot achieve success without building strong relationships with those we serve & empathy is the only authentic way to do that.
Without creativity it’s difficult to challenge the norm & view problems differently. And constructing unconventional solutions is part of what allows good leaders to achieve optimal outcomes. There’s always more than one way to skin a cat.
The importance of analytical thinking can’t be understated either, it’s what allows creativity to turn into action through developing concrete decisions & plans.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects? How do you think that will help people?
One of our exciting new projects is focused on two of modern society’s most critical industries, finance & agriculture. We’re helping farmers gain access to capital so they can continue to grow & ultimately put food on the rest of our tables.
On its face it’s pretty straightforward, but the farmer is provided with more than just capital. They also receive a set of recommendations on what, when, & where to plant crops to optimize output and successful yields.
This is a ‘grow-the-pie’ opportunity where there is a massive value creation for society.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Like 4G, 5G has many different facets, and I’m sure many will approach this question differently. But for the benefit of our readers can you explain to us what 5G is? How is 5G different from its predecessor 4G?
To recognize the differences between 5G & 4G we need to understand the comparison between speed, latency, & bandwidth.
Both systems are only one generation apart and if you remember the switch from 3G to 4G you’ll recall that the difference was night & day. That change constituted what is generally referred to as a 10x improvement in speed, latency, & bandwidth — a change that we are seeing again.
5G’s disruptive potential cannot be overstated, it will do so much more than just provide connectivity for consumers. The network will give enterprises the connectivity they need to power the next wave of digitization & automation.
Can you share three or four ways that 5G might improve our lives? If you can please share an example, for each.
One of the biggest impacts of 5G’s disruptive nature will be its ability to bring high-speed connectivity to rural communities. The implication is that more individuals and businesses will have access to the same services as those in a big city be it streaming services or affording businesses the opportunity to transact and produce widgets at higher velocity.
Rural connectivity is only one of the major improvements that 5G will bring though. We should also expect it to change healthcare, logistics, transportation, and more through increased connectivity for both businesses and consumers.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this 5G technology that people should think more deeply about?
An increased connectivity & dependency on automation is cause for concern. But I’d like to think the risks & drawbacks have a higher potential of resembling “Wall-E” than “Black Mirror.” Where people are floating around on hovercrafts without any interpersonal interaction. But neither option is great!
There is a chance that as people become more dependent on technology, they become less self-reliant, active, & independent. Connectedness & automation gives people back more time to spend productively, but we don’t yet know at what costs.
Some have raised the question that 5G might widen the digital divide and leave poor people or marginalized people behind. From your perspective, what can be done to address and correct this concern?
The gulf between those who have access to high-speed internet and those who don’t has existed for decades with no real end in sight. 5G gives humanity the ability to bridge that gap in underserved areas around the globe.
The advent of 5G enables internet access without the cost & labor-intensive practices associated with fixed broadband. Now we see some areas of our country & world leapfrogging the entire fiber-laying process in favor of a mobile-exclusive backbone.
If you subscribe to this position, as I do, that means the opposite will occur. 5G will help close the digital divide by providing more people with high-speed internet & connectivity.
Excellent. We are nearly done. Let’s zoom out a bit and ask a more general question. Based on your experience and success, what are the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career in the telecommunication industry? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Focus on the financials: Your financials communicate so much internally and externally; they are always on the mind of key stakeholders. If you listen to what they say you’ll gain insights into the health of your firm, where value is created, & how you can influence it.
- Understand the technology: The telecommunication industry revolves around technology & your ability to develop a firm grasp on it will determine your ability to be successful in the industry.
- Maintain flexibility: Change is inevitable, but by changing your perspective to approach new challenges positively you can reframe challenges while keeping your goals in mind & decreasing negative stress.
- Cultivate your industry knowledge: By keeping up with your industry, both nationally & globally, you are giving yourself a front row seat to changes in buying habits, technology, preferences, & economic impacts. This knowledge helps you set yourself apart in your career and create value for your organization.
- Develop core competencies: What soft skills you excel at help to determine the path your career takes, regardless of industry. I’ve leaned on empathy throughout my career to grow teams that are unique & committed to impacts over effort.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
A movement of critical thinking — worldwide.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen misinformation spread rapidly, not that it hasn’t always, and part of the reason that it does is because it is easy to digest and feeds our confirmation bias.
I think if society could better analyze problems & facts while avoiding cognitive biases & fallacies, we would all be better off. The downstream benefits for humanity could include improvements to health, wellness, productivity, & commerce.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
We update our blog, https://headstorm.com/insights/, with new insights regularly. I have a cybersecurity monthly recap that we share on the first Monday of every month — https://headstorm.com/cybersecurity-newsletter/. We also actively update our company LinkedIn profile by sharing the thoughts of our partners.
Headstorm LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/headstorm
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexcherones/
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.