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 Aldo Lopez.
Aldo Lopez is SVP, President, Datacom & Specialty Solutions Division at Molex, a $6B global electronics leader and connectivity innovator. He oversees advanced communications technologies for leading-edge product design, testing and manufacturing across the 5G ecosystem of network service providers, equipment OEMs, device manufacturers and stakeholders in automotive, consumer, enterprise, industrial and medical markets. Mr. Lopez joined Molex in 1988 as a sales manager in Molex Guadalajara. During his 33-year tenure with the company, he has held a variety of sales, operations, marketing and product development roles, which have provided him with overarching insights on how to build and lead high-performance teams with integrity, tenacity and trust.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! 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?
Iwas born and raised in western Mexico. From a young age, I helped out in my family’s produce export business, which entailed the development of cross-border relationships with customers and suppliers in the United States, as well as frequent trips to California and our distribution center in Nogales, Ariz. During those trips, I recall seeing a brown logo for a technology company called Molex, along a route that included more familiar tech companies, including IBM. It wasn’t until years later, however, that I realized the significance of Molex as a connectivity innovator. By then I was graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical and electrical engineering from the University Autonoma of Guadalajara. In 1988, I became the first employee at Molex Guadalajara, taking on the role of Sales Manager. It was the first of many different roles, responsibilities and destinations within Molex’s global organization, where I leveraged every opportunity to learn, grow and thrive.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
It’s difficult to pinpoint one overarching story in a career that has taken me and my family around the world. After being promoted to General Manager in Guadalajara, I learned a lot about how to build high-performance teams. In 2000, I was asked to bring that approach to the role of Northwest Regional Sales Manager in the U.S., which meant moving my family to California. In 2005, we moved to the Chicago area when I joined the team at Molex headquarters as the Director of Product Development and Marketing for a group then called the Commercial Products Division. In 2009, I was promoted to VP of Sales for Asia Pacific South, with responsibility for China, Taiwan, ASEAN, India and Global Datacom. Our time in Asia was especially rewarding for the whole family, as we experienced different cultures, travel, food and customs. In 2014, we returned to Chicago after I was appointed SVP & President of Molex’s Global Sales. Throughout this journey, I have had the privilege of developing and nurturing long-lasting relationships with customers and colleagues around the world. Many shared experiences, countless opportunities and a multitude of stories have enriched my life while enabling me to make mutually beneficial contributions to the company, my colleagues, customers and family members.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Among my favorite quotes is: “It’s better to try and fail than fail to try.” The reality is that nearly every business endeavor has a fairly equal chance of success or failure. Applying a “can do” attitude, and demonstrating ingenuity and perseverance are essential to overcoming barriers to success. Throughout my career, I have taken a series of chances, made possible by mentors and executives who took a chance on me. They trusted me, which bolstered my confidence and fueled my desire to exceed expectations. I also credit my upbringing with instilling a strong work ethic. My grandfather’s family came to Mexico from Italy, and while working as a shoeshiner, my grandfather created a successful produce business to support his family and send his children to the U.S. for a college education. My parents embodied this same entrepreneurial spirit, working extremely hard to support us without ever losing sight of the importance of helping others and giving back to society.
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 am indebted to a long list of mentors and supporters who gave me expert guidance and ample opportunities. Three retired Molex executives stand out most: Ron Schubel, EVP; Martin Slark, Molex CEO; and Dave Root, President, Global Commercial Products Division. Early in my career, Ron spent a lot of time offering me advice, candid feedback and endless encouragement. He promoted me to GM in Mexico, which was a big step in my career trajectory. Ron also was behind another big move, this time to California during the heyday of the dot.com era. During a rollercoaster of activity, I relocated my family to California based on the trust Ron and others placed in my abilities. I’m eternally grateful, as this particular move paved the way for additional career opportunities domestically and internationally.
Both Dave and Martin cheered me on throughout my career, giving me the opportunity to take on significant responsibilities, including a move to Asia. Over the years, my family and I also lived in Chicago and Hong Kong. The opportunity to live and work around the world has been extremely rewarding for all of us. Together, we have experienced different cultures and become true citizens of the world. Having a global perspective has continually served me well. So has the opportunity to take on different roles and responsibilities across the organization, encompassing sales, marketing, plant operations, product development, and more. I am grateful to Dave, Martin and Ron for opening many doors to a variety of opportunities, all of which helped me develop valuable insights into different disciplines and skillsets.
Dave liked to say there are two types of people in the world — ones who make the news and the others who report the news. His advice still resonates to this day, and I often coach teams on the importance of taking chances, despite the inherent risks.
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?
- One of the most important traits of a successful business leader is intellectual curiosity, which fosters a continuous learning environment and virtuous cycles of innovation. To accelerate the growth of 5G, for example, we need constant collaboration and innovation that spans investments in infrastructure, chipsets and mobile devices. Those investments will unlock opportunities for developers to create increasingly powerful applications. As new applications and 5G-connected devices gain momentum, the opportunity to increase coverage and device speeds will fuel further innovations and investments.
- Having a clear vision of where you need to go and how you can best support continuous innovation is absolutely essential. As a leader, it’s my responsibility to articulate that vision in a way that everyone can understand and support. Successful teams take great pride in their accomplishments, so it’s important to give people an unobstructed path to achieving their goals. With that said, being a leader also involves making tough choices and hard decisions for the greater good of the team and overall organization.
- Strong leaders always take responsibility, especially during difficult times or transitions. Taking responsibility, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you have all the answers all the time. Rather, it’s advisable to solicit insight by ensuring bi-directional communications with people, so they can tell you what they think and how they feel. During my time in Asia, I recall a meeting where I asked the team to identify the top three priorities to be successful — and the room went very quiet. I explained how important it was for me to get their perspectives and candid feedback, especially since they were on the frontlines every day. I leveled with them, saying I didn’t have all the answers and wanted to hear directly from them. Slowly but surely, the team opened up and shared valuable in-the-trenches perspectives. As a result, I walked away from that meeting with a much deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges as well as first-hand knowledge of which employees had the most leadership potential.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects? How do you think that will help people?
One of the most exciting projects taking place at Molex involves our digital transformation, which is transforming every aspect of our operation — from how we interact with customers and suppliers to empowering employees with more efficient and effective ways to perform their jobs. Every process, resource, project and investment is being examined through a digital lens to determine if it can be automated or streamlined to create greater value. We’ve been hard at work reevaluating the customer experience while seeking ways to improve how we engage with our global customers on a daily basis. At this point, a lot of focus is being placed on our digital infrastructure to streamline engagement while supporting more personalized interactions. The same can be said for improving the employee experience by digitizing transaction processes and determining what level of customized functionality and intuitive user interfaces will help employees solve customer problems faster, easier and with more positive outcomes.
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?
As the next generation of wireless network technology, 5G is poised to change how we live, work and play. The biggest improvement 5G offers over 4G is a step-change in performance, thanks to ubiquitous access to faster downloads, millisecond latency and a host of new mobile data applications that will be available on more connected devices. In the early days, the most obvious improvements 5G brings over its predecessor will be felt by big speed boosts or reduced network congestion. But more impressive benefits will be felt as adoption and coverage increase, as that will open the door to new use cases for mobile data that are only beginning to take shape.
It’s important to realize that moving from 4G to 5G will entail a series of interim steps, encompassing different “5G flavors,” such as Sub-6 GHz and mmWave technologies. Sub-6 doesn’t represent a major shift, yet offers big improvements over LTE. However, mmWave is a significant step and requires a great deal of technology integration and engineering, as well as a larger investment in infrastructure to realize its potential.
In March, Molex issued the results of its “State of 5G” study, which offered a measured, yet optimistic view of steady progress reported by carriers. Nearly all of the carriers polled expect to achieve their 5G business goals within five years despite continuing to grapple with spectrum issues, lack of consumer use cases and regulations. From Molex’s perspective, achieving 5G success is a long game that requires collaboration across the entire ecosystem of hardware, software and connectivity companies.
Can you share three or four ways that 5G might improve our lives? If you can please share an example, for each.
It’s clear that 5G’s faster, low-latency transmission will be able to support a wealth of consumer, industrial and healthcare benefits. In the consumer space, about a third of those polled for the Molex survey cited Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) or gaming among the first use cases most likely to take full advantage of 5G’s performance boost. Not only will 5G-enabled AR/VR act as an accelerant for all types of gaming applications, but it is also expected to drive other consumer use cases, such as personalized marketing and virtual shopping experiences.
In the industrial space, AR/VR and the predicted influx of 5G-connected sensors are expected to support smart-factory applications, such as remote monitoring, preventive maintenance and eventually, real-time process control. Data fed across 5G networks can be used to monitor manufacturing sites remotely, more accurately predict equipment failures, improve training and reduce maintenance costs.
5G also is on tap to propel autonomous driving by facilitating seamless communications between the vehicle-to-everything (V2X). Moreover, integration of 5G into the car of the future will pave the way for real-time data transmission with safety and sensor information, instant updates on weather and road conditions, along with seamless streaming of in-vehicle audio and visual content, as well as over-the-air updates of in-car applications and software.
Last but certainly not least, 5G innovations will impact connected healthcare, especially in fueling AR/VR-driven medical diagnostics and remote patient-care delivery. It will take time and a great deal of scrutiny before most medical 5G applications make it through all the regulatory hurdles. But when you think about patients in remote locations gaining access to physicians over 5G networks or even having a top surgeon perform a lifesaving surgery thanks to 5G-enabled AR/VR, it becomes clear that 5G may not just improve lives, but actually save them in certain situations.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this 5G technology that people should think more deeply about?
Cybersecurity challenges represent the biggest potential drawback as the proliferation of connected devices increases potential security risk exponentially. While these concerns are not exclusive to 5G by any means, they become amplified when the sheer scope and reach of 5G is taken into consideration. We should care deeply about these concerns and invest aggressively and continuously in security and secure connectivity solutions to safeguard people as they become increasingly reliant on connected devices to support so many different aspects of their lives.
With that said, we also need to pay attention to how much of our daily interactions are dictated by our devices. The ways in which we communicate have changed dramatically, with face-to-face interactions diminishing as online communications increases. Younger generations are more comfortable texting and sharing personal stories on social media than having in-person gatherings. It’s crucial to realize there is no substitute for face-to-face communications.
Throughout my career, I have made it a point to build relationships with colleagues, customers, and partners, among others, as those personal interactions have proven invaluable. Most recently, I was reminded how important it is to establish personal connections when my sons and I boarded a plane in New York. The gentleman who sat next to me was someone I knew from the technology industry more than two decades ago. Now retired, he struck up a conversation with us about some groups and companies he worked with as a consultant.
During the conversation, he offered my son an internship, based mostly on the relationship we had developed decades earlier. He expressed how my son would be a great asset to their efforts. I was flattered and happy to help open this door for my son. Moreover, I was pleased to share a valuable life lesson about the importance of connecting with people. For me, this story is a great example of Molex’s new tagline, which is Creating Connections for Life. While technology can go a long way to fostering and facilitating those connections, the best way to make one that lasts is by building a foundation of mutual rapport and respect.
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?
According to the findings of the Molex “State of 5G” survey, more than half of those polled listed rural home access as the primary use case for fixed wireless access, followed by city and suburban home access. It’s encouraging to see telecommunications stakeholders prioritize rural connectivity, especially since rural areas also are prime targets for remote healthcare services that require high-speed connectivity. In fact, many of the primary 5G-enabled consumer, industrial and healthcare applications, such as remote patient monitoring, remote plant operations and autonomous driving, depend upon ubiquitous high-speed wireless access.
When we look around the world, China, Japan and Korea are setting excellent examples of widespread 5G deployments, which are driving an ever-expanding list of consumer benefits. In some areas, such as Japan and Korea, population density and a more fixed wireless infrastructure are increasing deployment efficiency because they can reach a lot more people with less build-out. China also has made a significant commitment to 5G, expediting a major coordinated approach to infrastructure deployment and rollout.
As with most leading-edge technology deployments, all parts and players must be aligned to coordinate infrastructure upgrades, extensive build-outs of outdoor small cells, development of new edge-computing devices, and more. To reduce and eventually eradicate the digital divide requires careful coordination among chipset makers, software developers, hardware manufacturers and connectivity solution providers to ensure everyone has access and can innovate to the new 5G standards.
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.)
Below are five things you need to embrace to create a highly successful career in any industry, including telecommunications:
- Take Risks: Your entire career is one long, big calculated risk, so don’t forget to do the calculations and understand the impact of any risk before making a move. I have uprooted my family several times, but I did so with sensitivity to specific concerns and misgivings.
- Be a Constant Learner: There’s always room to improve — whether it’s a golf game or a managerial skillset. Be open to feedback and continuously take on roles and responsibilities that test your abilities. People who only look at an upward career trajectory are missing a valuable point because the more you expand your knowledge across the entire operation, the more valuable your contributions become to the bottom-line business. I took a series of lateral job moves in attaining expertise in sales, marketing, operations, product development and manufacturing. The experience I gained as a constant learner informed my career path, which has led to my current position as the President of one of Molex’s fastest growing business divisions.
- Build High-Performance Teams: Surround yourself with employees who embody a “can do” attitude, especially if they also show a propensity for solving the tougher problems instead of the easier ones. I’ve been in many situations where sheer determination won out, so it’s a leadership trait I always look for in others. Effective leaders live or die by the team, so they care deeply for each member and show empathy and compassion for others. Let’s face it, the collective strength of the entire team lifts everyone to new heights of achievement and success.
- Quantify, Summarize and Prioritize: Great leaders typically are very effective communicators who are adept at simplifying complicated and complex topics. In the world of technology, there’s a tendency to get immersed in the weeds of a particular topic or challenge. To ensure everyone is on the same page, it’s important to quantify the problem, situation or opportunity in terms that everyone understands. Then, it’s possible to summarize the high points before prioritizing whatever action is deemed most appropriate to address the matter. This three-pronged approach has been very effective in my efforts to align mindsets, methodologies and milestones for success.
- Maximize Peoples’ Potential: As a Koch Industries company, Molex has an underlying corporate culture that empowers employees to “self-actualize,” maximizing their personal potential and comparative advantages. To accomplish this, we work hard to ensure everyone has the necessary tools and knowledge base to become valuable contributors to the organization. For some, this approach unlocks an entrepreneurial spirit that is then nurtured through new jobs and career opportunities. For others, it’s establishing a pathway to realizing their potential as innovators and problem solvers. It’s so important to be sincere in our commitment to developing our employees’ potential while making it easier for them to contribute to the company for mutual benefit.
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. 🙂
Throughout my career, I always have looked for ways to help people and contribute to society with a focus on making the world a better place. When we lived in Hong Kong, for instance, my family spent time with refugees and volunteered with organizations that supported individuals with disabilities. Opening our eyes to the plight of others gave us more empathy and compassion — even in dealing with each other, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, etc. Helping others is so fundamentally important, especially when you live in different places and immerse yourself in different cultures, which is why I am excited about the progress 5G is making around the world. It truly is a technology movement that can improve how people live, work and play.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
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.