Peter Linder is Ericsson’s 5G Evangelist, responsible for 5G Customer Engagement Marketing in North America, and has been with the company for 28 years. As a top 100 global influencer on 5G, Peter’s expertise is in fixed and mobile broadband networks, plus digital transformation for network operators. His experiences come from marketing, strategy, business development and portfolio management roles. He blends this with his strong passion for mentoring about digital transformation. At Ericsson, Peter is focused on 5G’s ability to shape the future of connected technology and ultimately how 5G and IoT, in combination with developments in technology and society that enable digitalization, will change the way we work and live. Beyond the 5G ecosystem, Peter has extensive knowledge on smart cities, Industrial IoT, virtual reality, autonomous transport and more. Peter speaks three languages and considers himself a global citizen. He holds a M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering and an MBA in International Business Management, both from Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Peter! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I made my first career decision when I was eight years old at The Swedish Grand Prix in Formula 1. I loved hanging around in the paddock. When I understood the role of the car wings, I decided to become a professor in aerodynamics. I got my first job at 11, and by the time I started high school, I had pivoted to electric engineering. I got an internship one summer at a Swedish silicon provider and from that point and on, I was able to see just how far my wings could carry me — often far away from home.
I got accepted at Chalmers University in Gothenburg and graduated with two Master’s degrees, which became my two entry tickets into my life-long career at Ericsson. My role you can say is split 50/50 on three fronts: Broadband Networking, half fixed and half mobile; International Business, half global and half U.S; and finally Innovation, which includes the intersection of tech and business.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
My most interesting story happened recently. During 2019, we kicked off a leading-edge marketing partnership with Verizon in the U.S., targeting 5G for their enterprise customers. I was selected by the customer unit head at Ericsson to speak at the event. This gave me the chance to earn their trust and participate in thought leadership opportunities with our enterprise customer’s team. The experience was really rewarding and gave me the confidence I needed to share my ideas with the team and help Verizon convey the message of the power of 5G. How often in one’s life, do you get a chance like this to help your customer’s customer?
The exciting moment came on June 6, during the 75-year anniversary of the D-Day, on the aircraft carrier Intrepid in New York City, where over 500 people were in attendance. Leading up to the event, I asked my wife to take time-off and join me during this exceptional moment in life.
I rehearsed my 20-minute session by walking around for three hours in lower Manhattan to get into the right mood. This included talking to myself, waving my arms, and essentially appearing crazy to those people walking by. When I finally took the stage later that evening, it was such a release of energy. A bit like compressing a coil for 2 months and then letting it expand in 20 minutes. A moment of great joy!
Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
I see my current role as riding two bullet trains at the same time. One is the industry transformation driven by 5G and the second is the transformation of marketing, where digital and human marketing is integrated with sales. The combination of the two make my professional life interesting.
The first four mobile network generations were about consumers, phones and networks. Today, our phones are smart, the high-speed data connectivity is universal and our apps are based in the cloud.
The fifth generation aka “5G” is ground-breaking on multiple fronts. The network itself is an innovation platform. We have defined 5G with businesses, consumers and the government needs in mind. We’ve also expanded the telecom ecosystem to reach into every connected industry such as manufacturing and healthcare. The technology approach is new, where network hardware is shared rather than dedicated to a specific network function. The software also defines the capabilities of the network, creating the dynamic network that can accelerate already dynamic markets.
How do you think this might change the world?
Each mobile network generation has shrunk the world. First, we gave sales professionals tools to make phone calls on the road, responding instantly to customers and placing orders when they left their customers. Second, we allowed everybody to text or mail questions from a portable device and expect instant responses. Third, we eliminated borders for digital work, mobile data cards and MiFi routers made remote working a daily occurrence. Most recently, social media and apps have changed how we market goods and services and enable digital businesses.
5G shrinks the world even further. We will be able to measure actual purchase and usage patterns for products and services and apply those insights in real time. We will be able to learn instantly by asking Augmented Reality glasses for instructions for the new tasks we face. Response times will be eliminated for cloud-based applications. As if Alexa was sitting next to you all the time. Manufacturing and logistics move towards one click purchases and same or next day delivery. Powered by the movement for the fourth industrial revolution. A large chunk of the unlocked values comes from untethering devices. 5G allows value adding elements to be combined flexibly without dependency on wires.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
I think the biggest challenge businesses face is seeing 5G as a faster version of 4G. We expect 5G to grow in phases, rather than be switched on everywhere at once, with different versions and varying capabilities. I think businesses should avoid seeing 5G as optional with the expectation that they can thrive without it or be a fast- or late-adopter.
5G will play the role of mission critical infrastructure for the future economy. We need to make sure it is secure, reliable and available all the time. This includes ensuring that it is operational indoors and outdoors. By the end of this decade, 5G can be the most important infrastructure in our economy.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
Ericsson has a strong track record at navigating mobile network generation shifts. It is the only company in the world to do so for all shifts from 1G to 5G.
There are a few things I think have been key to our successful shift to 5G. First, we took the decision to double down on technology development ahead of the inflection point. This paid off with superior performance and competitive cost in time to accelerate the build-outs. Second, a laser focused approach on the markets taking off first. The U.S. has been instrumental in setting up an accelerated agenda for 5G standards and early adoption. The third and final piece is early access to how global leaders think in different industries. Allowing our 5G agenda to be shaped by other industries way ahead of switching on the first 5G network.
What do we need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
The adoption of 5G smartphones is a strong indicator in the consumer segment. What we see now is phones coming to market earlier in more variants than we saw for 4G. The adoption of 5G also has strong potential to transform fixed broadband outside the fiber footprint.
Adoption in the business segment depends on cross-industry collaboration to perfect solutions and business models for use cases and use places. A task that depends on learning by doing, and then scaling fast. Nail it then scale it, is an approach we can expect to see frequently.
The third large field of adoption is for smart cities and the clever countryside. To improve and secure vital society functions, we reduce the digital gap to rural and micropolitan areas rather than increasing it. No country will forget to make cities smart, but efforts are required early on to make sure the clever countryside happens soon after cities become smart.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
For the introduction of 5G in North America, we are pursuing some innovative tracks.
First, we are bringing 5G to life locally. We have a long history of creating 100-ish amazing showcases and bringing them to our biggest trade show in Barcelona every year. Ten to 20 representatives from each of the biggest Tier 1 providers get to see these showcases. Last year we packaged up the best ones and brought them to our communications service providers’ offices here in the U.S., reaching hundreds of people each day in each city we visited.
Second, we have taken marketing one-step further towards the end-customers. We go out with communication service providers and co-market 5G to B2B and B2B2C companies locally. This is so we can make the business sector excited about 5G and provide an opportunity to learn at home rather than going to a 5G conference.
The third element is the integration of digital and face-to-face elements of our content marketing. Our face-to-face touchpoints are diverse, and digital elements play a key role in the customer journey in between. Digital is less about activating assets and more about designing them into a tailored customer journey. For the digital portion, we experiment a lot and pivot frequently.
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?
This question would generate a long list of recognitions, so rather than select a single person, I am going to share examples of valuable learnings from those that have inspired me.
- One recommended me to support our CEO in a TV interview overseas and meet/brief them on the flight over, giving me the responsibility to make sure we had all our bases covered ahead of time.
- One sent me to rebuild a damaged customer relationship, which required 10 overnight flights overseas in a single quarter. It is a skill to travel even if you are not a pilot.
- One asked me to unwind a standardization dead-lock, since I had personal relations in both camps. The takeaway from that was to invest in building relationships when you can since there will come a time when you need them.
Overall, I think you can describe Ericsson as real-life business school were you continuously learn from new cases and get to work with some of the best in our industry.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
This question is hard to answer. I am not sure if I am the egg or the chicken in these stories, but the three examples below stand out:
By dedicating my whole professional life to broadband networks, I think I have made a difference. We now have access to any person or insight in the world at the palm of your hand and it’s at a price a large portion of the global population can afford. It’s amazing since I got my first mobile phone when I was 29.
- If you ask my wife, she would tell you I take on the role of tourist guide wherever I go. Through exceptional travel and long periods abroad, I have developed a high cultural bandwidth. I am eager to help people bridge cultural differences. Talking and texting with an accent signal you know at least one more language.
- I am at the point where I have started to give back. I am active on the board for Chalmers Alumni Association in North America, where I’m working and fundraising to send American students to get their Master’s degree at my Alma Mater. I have also spent time to be a digital mentor through a blog, where I have documented my 200 best professional learnings. Check out www.tweeterlinder.com if you are interested.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- You cannot plan a career — I expected my first international assignment to be five years, it turned out to be 19 months. My second I planned for three years and I have not returned. But you can learn every day and be open to exciting opportunities as they open-up along the road.
- Prioritize learning languages — This area is often deprioritized by engineers. I graduated high school with a decent amount of English, but horrible French. I picked up Spanish when I was on an international assignment. The reward came during an evening conversation with natives close to Machu Picchu in Peru. It gave me so much perspective and it was an experience made possible by speaking Spanish. So my advice is to learn to live with an accent — I have it for all the languages that I speak.
- You cannot explain everything with logic — We cannot figure out everything through thinking. The world we operate in is complex and sometimes the best decision is to start moving and learn and pivot along the road. A good piece of advice is to prioritize progress before perfection. It makes you start in time and give you a mindset that works well in a digital world.
- Your passions are life long — It is hard to formulate a career idea when you are young. When you hit the mid-point of your career, you have a solid idea of what your passions are. Passions are life long and dare to steer towards working with what you love. It is the single most important aspects that make you do a good job every day. Not all us get to pursue our passions, but we owe it to ourselves to try.
- Look eastbound for your long game — Not all cultures are equal in long-term strategic views and short-term execution. I have always had a better long game than short game and pushed myself to develop my short game. But a real eye opener came during a dinner with a senior leader in North East Asia. He had a phenomenal perspective on how businesses can be driven to deliver value from operations or assets. Developing your long game is tough in an action -oriented world centered on quarterly results.
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?
One movement I would love to trigger could be described as “Crisp up, do not dumb down.”. We live in a world where attention spans are growing shorter and shorter. We live in a world that is growing more complex every day. In such a world, you can contribute to help other people see in areas where you have important and unique insights to bring forward.
Use clear facts to describe what you see. And use all 36 letters in the alphabet, do not exclude 0–9. Talk in plain language, buzzwords and acronyms allows you to get airtime, but few if anything of what you say get picked up. Some people think in words and others in numbers. But do not forget to use a picture or a metaphor to make your insight stick. I see a strong need for a crisp up movement in many areas of society today.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Never give up, always fight back”.
In 1979, I lost 46 competitive Tennis games. All the games I played that year. In an arts class in school later that year, I was asked to paint something that could have a positive impact on my life. I “painted” the letters above in bold colors and have kept the painting ever since. It symbolizes the grit anyone can put in and everybody need to reach far in life. My success has come more from grit and persistence than raw talent.
Some well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?
The best learnings about 5G can be traced back to Richard and Maurice MacDonald when they opened their first hamburger restaurant in 1948. By focusing on two points, finding a great location and providing the best burgers in town.
It is hard to define the use cases that will drive 5G with a high degree of accuracy. But a good start is to define great use places where 5G can make a difference, and the first use case that can motivate network investments at that location. Once you have vetted a use place opportunity, you will have ample opportunities to scale them to new locations, add new use cases based on customer input and cross pollinate for adjacent use places.
For good reasons, you cannot buy French Fries & Company or Soda & Company. Treat the 5G use place you want to go after as if you were creating a franchise and focus on getting basics right first.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
If you think, I have professional insights to learn from you are welcome to visit your digital mentor.