NADINE Allen knows where to look when it comes to making a success of her role as the country chief of a global information and communications technology company.
Allen, the president and country manager of Ericsson (Thailand) Ltd, looks outwards to capitalise on the best of Ericsson's global assets and its leadership in 5G wireless broadband technology while, on the home front, making use of the strong local talent to further grow the company's business in Thailand.
“My approach is to use the best of Ericsson’s global assets and our technology leadership in 5G, combined with our local talent, to offer the strong solutions and superior service to our customers that really supports their success,” Allen says.
“We’ve a lot of passion for what we do at Ericsson and we’re committed to continuing to contribute to the success of the Thai [telecom] industry.”
Allen, 44, was born in Warwickshire county in the UK. “Though I actually grew up in Leicestershire. Our nearest major city was Leicester and, yes, that makes my family fans of Leicester City Football Club,” she says.
“In fact, I have met Jamie Vardy (Leicester City forward). I enjoyed the World Cup recently. England did well, but they still have a bit more work to do,” says Allen, who concedes she’s not much of a football fan.
She took the top job at Ericsson Thailand on August 1, 2016. Her first impression of Thailand was of a colourful country. She also admires the respect and kindness displayed by the people.
“I like the humility- it’s such a great part of Thai culture, to be humble,” she adds.
She lists Krabi, Phuket and Chiang Mai as being among her favourite places in Thailand.
“I love to visit different places and the temples and learn about the culture. I also really like to see the elephants - they are my favourite animal,” she says.
Asked whether it was hard for her to adjust to the new cultural and business environments that came with her transfer to Ericsson's top post in Thailand, Allen says: “The hardest part of adjusting is not knowing all of the fine details of the culture, so you hope that you are not making an unintended big mistake in misinterpreting any of these subtleties,”
“Humility and patience are very important in Thailand. Networks and relationships play a bigger role here. And I always say anything is possible in Thailand, so the way things get done can be more creative.
“The biggest challenge for me has been to really understand the finer details of how things work, as the little things always add up to the big things. So, I need to spend my time to make sure I have understood things correctly in order to take the right steps and give direction to the team.”
At the core of her management philosophy is the belief that high performance is achieved by enabling and supporting those around her to perform to their best and feel great about what they do and what they achieve.
In any role, she focuses her time on three elements; strategy; the team (and chemistry in the team); and strong execution.
“My style, well, I’m quite energetic, I like things to move fast and to make progress. I measure myself every day on whether things have moved forward or not. However, being calm is important to me as it helps me to assess difficult situations better,” Allen says.
“I like things to be very clear, so I am quite straight forward and no-nonsense. I think it’s my job to ensure that we create an environment where everyone can contribute to their best and that we can be open about the things that we need to change and improve, so I always encourage everyone to speak up.
“When it comes to dealing with problems, firstly, I like to make sure we have really understood the problem and for this I will always check with a few experts in the team that we are clear on the issue that needs to be solved,”
“Then I look for the options. In my experience, particularly with complex problems, there is not always one fix. There are usually a few options each with their own compromises, so I ask the team to provide me with the options and the outcomes and then I assess which gives us the best outcome in that situation. A lot of my time is spent on solving problems.”
Allen says her key management strength stems from her vast experience in telecoms and other industries in many countries, as well as broad experience in different types of management functions.
“However I like to think one of my key strengths comes from my passion and my ability to be objective. I care a lot about what I do and I want to deliver the best for Ericsson in Thailand, including my team and the long-term future. I also hope that I act as a positive role model for female leadership,” she says.
Previously, Allen was the vice president of Ericsson’s industry and society customer unit, in Western Central Europe. In this role she was responsible for running Ericsson’s business with vertical industries in the spheres of automotive, energy, intelligent transport systems, public safety and shipping maritime. Her patch covered 16 countries in a broad swath of Europe.
“This role was super complex because we were starting up new business with new industries, I had to start up a small company in a big company – it was a very interesting challenge,” Allen says.
“As we were in an early phase, this role focused mainly on creating a strategy, building a team and creating some early wins. We had to perform a large and complex market assessment of five major industries (automotive, energy, transport systems, public safety and shipping maritime) in the 16 countries,” Allen says.
“A new team of many experts from around the world was built. This role combined many of the things that I like to do; we completed a good strategic piece of work, built a great new team with some superb talent and fresh perspectives.
“I learnt many new things very fast and I had to be very flexible as we were taking on very new types of challenges every day,” she said of the five industries that were involved.
“This ability to start up a new business across such a broad range of industries definitely tests your leadership strength and for sure is an experience I rely on for what I do now,” Allen says. “I also learnt a lot about those 16 countries across Western Central Europe. You never really know about a country unless you live there or do business there – then you learn.”
She adds that her parents and other family members, along with friends, have had a huge influence on who she is.
“I have also been focused on wanting to make a difference, and be intense and passionate about many topics. I cannot slow down easily. My mum used to say that as a child she felt like she was holding me back every day,” Allen says.
As for her leisure time and hobbies, the go-getter says: “When I was young I used to dance (ballet and contemporary) and do quite a lot of sport. However, now I have to manage my time between family and work, so I do not have much time for a fantastic hobby – it’s on the to-do list to develop one! I do try and keep fit and when I go out with my colleagues, I like to sing.”
Allen's husband and three children - a boy and two girls - are here with her in Thailand. “When I am not at work I always spend my time with the family and vice versa. Work-life balance is a bit of a challenge, but that goes with this kind of job, so you have to manage it,” she says.
With Thailand embarking on the transition from the 4G landscape in telecommunications to the futuristic world of the 5G era, Allen finds herself juggling a hectic workload as she focuses on the vision of building a solid foundation for Ericsson as a leader in 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) in Thailand.
“Thailand is an important market for Ericsson. We have been here for 112 years. My vision is to do the work today that builds the foundation for Ericsson to be a leader in 5G and IoT in Thailand,” she says. “There are many elements to this that involve different (radio and core networks) technologies.
The important part of continuing our journey here is mobile - and mobile networks would not be where they are today in Thailand without Ericsson.”
She adds that Ericsson is now conducting 5G trials and commercial activities in other parts of the world and will use this global capability to prepare itself locally to introduce the new technology.
She says that in early 2017 Ericsson was the first to demonstrate 5G in Thailand from its early prototypes. It will work to support its customers and partners to get the quickest possible 5G launch.
“5G is the next standard after 4G – 4G today is what allows you to have super-quick downloads of data and video and streaming. 5G is actually not designed with mobile data in mind; the concept is quite different. 5G will have the performance -bandwidth, speed and responsiveness - to support many new-use cases in different industry transformations,” Allen says.
“We believe that by 2026, Thai operators can benefit from an additional revenue opportunity of US$2.6 billion from a new concept known as IoT - and 5G will be a key foundation of this growth.”
Allen is encouraged by the government’s Industry 4.0 vision and that it has significant ambitions to use technology to progress Thailand in its economic outlook and on the global stage – and 5G will be a key enabler of this thrust, she says.