In the thriving expanse of the Middle East and Africa’s telecommunications sector, where investments surge, infrastructure evolves and new technologies burgeon, a transformative dynamism shapes the way people live, work and conduct business.
One name that stands out here as the architect of connectivity, innovation and sustainable growth is Roque Lozano. As the Senior Vice President of Network Infrastructure MEA at Nokia, Roque’s journey spans over 25 years of expertise, transcending borders and embracing the dynamic landscapes of Europe, Asia and Latin America before ﬁnding a pivotal role in the MEA region.
He is a seasoned professional who not only witnessed but actively contributed to the metamorphosis of digital landscapes in developing countries, fostering individuals who now shoulder significant responsibilities. Beyond the titles and roles, Roque’s legacy is etched in the enduring connections that continue to reach out, be it colleagues, team members, customers, or even competitors, more than two decades after their initial connection.
Let’s delve into Roque’s story, one of the key victories and successful recoveries of critical projects, an ode to a career that transcends mere professional milestones, leaving an indelible mark on the interconnected world of the digital age!
Rising with Expertise
Digitalization has always been Roque’s passion in the various ways we have referred to it over the last 40 years. The process of reaching out to others and collaborating on new endeavours is what led him to the Telecommunication ﬁeld initially. And later to infrastructure serving as the foundation for all the digital services we enjoy today.
Roque arrived in the region in 2018, having previously worked in European, Asian and Latin American markets. Therefore, he has some experience as an ‘expat‘ in a multicultural environment. Roque shares, “I must say that it is always a challenge, albeit a pleasant one. I quickly felt at home due to the tremendous development opportunities I observed in the region.” When one identiﬁes how to contribute to the ecosystem they are a part of, everything becomes easier.
However, with the operational responsibility for most of the infrastructure in the region, the COVID-19 period was undoubtedly the most challenging as Roque was providing transport and access capabilities to the majority of operators and many enterprises. He recounts, “Almost overnight, we were unable to visit sites, with teams stranded in countries for months.” Despite this, they had to ensure that all networks performed even better than ever before due to the increased trafﬁc volume and unexpected patterns driven by remote work and schooling.
To address these challenges, Roque and his team empowered the local teams, reorganized operational processes with extensive ‘remotization‘ and implemented signiﬁcant automation. This allowed the facility to continue operating remotely. After a few days of adapting logistics, the team members are proud to report that no projects were halted and all the networks successfully sustained remote operations for schools, enterprises, governments, etc.
Roque shares. “Our headquarters went the extra mile in R&D support when needed and we worked collaboratively with our partners and customers to manage what was hopefully the most complicated situation a telecommunication network could face.”
Highlighting the collaborative efforts and acknowledging the entire ﬁeld team’s resilience in facing the most complicated situation a telecommunication network could encounter. Kudos to the entire ﬁeld team of this critical industry.
Roque, a proponent of specialized teams, unveils his principle, “not having experts in everything but fostering expertise in speciﬁc domains.” This philosophy, extending beyond pre- and post-sales permeates the diverse technologies integrated into their solutions.
“For me, the key is quite simple,” Roque emphasizes, highlighting the importance of collaborative qualiﬁcation and a holistic understanding of the customer’s business case. Collaboration begins at the inception of the opportunity life cycle, spanning qualiﬁcation, business development, high and low-level design, Proof of Concept (PoC), tendering, and precise dimensioning of all solution components. This encompasses the necessary service capabilities for deployment, maintenance and network evolution.
Throughout this intricate process, Roque stresses the signiﬁcance of maintaining open and active engagement with all stakeholders. This engagement extends beyond partner and customer organizations often enveloping the entire ecosystem where a project is destined for implementation.
Roque’s approach emphasizes synergy ensuring that each phase of the project involves seamless collaboration and a shared understanding of the objectives. It’s a philosophy not just about solutions but about the relationships that drive success in the dynamic landscape of technology integration.
Leadership in Focus
Roque says, “I’m not sure if a leader needs to be very different in one sector than in another.” For Roque, the key is always being yourself, both in good and bad moments. It involves the ability to understand others and to consolidate a vision for the entire team. This includes direct, extended and the rest of the ecosystem.
Communicating this vision realistically is crucial, but at the same time, it should be infused with an aspirational ambition to stretch the capabilities of the entire team. As aptly Roque puts it, “In my view, a good guiding principle is: ‘No one is better than their team, whether direct, indirect, virtual, internal, or external.’”
Building Trust, Achieving Results
Roque believes in a leadership approach that acknowledges individual strengths and aspirations. “I do my best to manage the team by considering each individual’s capabilities and ambitions,” he afﬁrms.
Transparency is his guiding principle in decision-making fostering an environment of openness. Empowerment, according to Roque, hinges on trust and proactive assessment of each team member’s capabilities. “Empowering the team through trust and proactively assessing each person’s capabilities is crucial,” he emphasizes. Despite the challenges of empowered delegation, Roque sees it as a pathway to optimal results. “The more you engage in it, the better results you achieve,” he states advocating for a leadership style that nurtures trust and unleashes the team’s full potential.
Roque is a staunch advocate for innovation as a bottom-up process and he champions the concept of practical innovation. “Innovation is not conﬁned to laboratories,” he asserts emphasizing its potential to enhance every task from critical communication solutions to invoicing and custom clearance processes.
His team operates with a dual focus, understanding the importance of meticulous, step-by-step actions while maintaining a broader perspective. “Everyone on my team understands the importance of keeping a constant focus on our immediate actions,” Roque notes. This duality involves consulting the map, considering reference points and looking around.
Roque underscores the necessity of a vision spanning short, medium and long terms, serving as a guiding light even in the most challenging situations. Through Roque’s leadership, innovation becomes a practical, pervasive force driving excellence in every facet of their work.
Cultivating Leadership Excellence
Roque attributes the signiﬁcance of his role to his personal character, shaped over 25 years in a foreign country. Whether navigating the familiarity of his home culture in Italy or immersing himself in the vastly different environment of APAC during his 15 years in Shanghai and Beijing, he underscores the importance of respect and communication. He highlights the nuanced nature of communication styles, acknowledging that what might be exciting for one could be perceived as boring or even offensive by another.
The advice is straightforward, “be open and transparent while remaining clear about basic governance rules.” Roque emphasizes the necessity for people to understand expectations on both sides, emphasizing the importance of mutual comprehension.
“They need assurance that you comprehend their expectations,” he adds. In his view, delivering on expectations and providing explanations in case of any gaps are crucial elements of effective leadership. Roque’s wisdom provides a simple yet profound guide for fostering understanding and collaboration in diverse professional settings.
Decades of Impact
Roque reﬂects on a remarkable journey, noting, “Many people still reach out to me even after more than 20 years since our initial connection.” Colleagues, team members, customers, and even competitors continue to seek his guidance. Having been immersed in developing countries, Roque has witnessed the growth of numerous individuals who now hold signiﬁcant responsibilities.
The impact of his work is evident in the key victories and successful recoveries of critical projects. Roque modestly acknowledges the multitude of successes, emphasizing the collective efforts that have marked his professional trajectory. His enduring connections and the tangible outcomes of collaborative endeavors stand as a testament to a career that transcends mere professional milestones, leaving a lasting impact on individuals, projects and the broader landscape.
In the MEA region, a signiﬁcant game-changer has emerged with the introduction of new submarine cables, providing an unprecedented level of connectivity n00 Terabits per second. This transformation has been further propelled by the entry of global cloud providers into the region.
Beyond enhancing connectivity within MEA region and to the rest of the world, these players are making substantial investments in data centers and their connectivity, both among themselves and to the landing stations of these submarine cables.
Subsequently, they plan to extend connectivity from the data centers to end-users. This shift is reshaping the landscape, creating an unprecedented demand across all networks layers: access, edge/aggregation and core and long haul with stringent requirements in terms of Quality of Service (QoS) and User Experience (UX), particularly in areas such as latency, resilience and security. The arrival of this ‘super connectivity‘ will facilitate the deployment of digital services across all industry segments, potentially heralding the next industrial revolution—The Digital Revolution.
This enhanced connectivity will pave the way for the digitalization of society. Looking ahead, digitalization is not just an option but a necessity. Without digitalization, achieving green, sustainable and inclusive goals appears challenging. Everything begins with the right foundation—a ‘premium connectivity.’
The Strategic Lens
Nokia provides an excellent framework for continuous learning and certiﬁcation at multiple technical levels. For Roque, there are two key areas of focus:
Emphasize ‘what for’ over ‘how it works’: Showcase the value of the solution beyond merely explaining its sophistication and functionality.
Understand the context: In Roque’s team, there are many experts, but, as he tells them, “no one can be a real expert in something if they do not understand the context where that expertise is applied.” Everyone should be capable of connecting the dots and to do that, one must look ahead and around, not solely at their own task.
Mastering Capacity, Agility and Automation
In contemplating the evolution of networks and technology, Roque underscores how they’ve met escalating information demands. The increase is over 10,000 times within a working lifetime, as he recalls the days when the boundary between access and transport was a mere 2 Mb/s. Today, GPON boasts 25 Gb/s, with projections reaching 100 Gb/s and beyond, showcasing a remarkable progression.
Roque delves into more details, reminiscing about a about a time when 140 MB/s was considered as a high- transport capacity. Fast forward, and the team now delivers ﬁber links with capacities soaring to 40 Tb/s, a staggering ﬁve-order-of-magnitude increase.
Yet, Roque stresses that the capacity surge isn’t enough—it necessitates the automation of their operation and the assurance of the integrity and privacy of the transported and managed information. He underscores the interplay of capacity, agility, automation, and security as fundamental to providing the sought-after ‘premium connectivity.’
This premium connectivity, according to Roque, forms the bedrock of the new digital era. “Hopefully, it is inclusive and contributes to a better future for humanity,” he says. Roque’s perspective reﬂects the appreciation of not just the technological leaps but the profound impact on connectivity, hinting at a future where technology serves the greater good.
Every year Nokia hosts an event to the entire MEA ecosystem to show and discuss the latest trends in the region and the most advanced solutions that Nokia is implementing with his Customers and Partners. This event is called “Networks for the Next” (N4tN) and it is a unique opportunity to discuss the digitalization evolution of the MEA region with all ecosystem stakeholders.
ESG and sustainability take center stage in the MEA region marking a pivotal shift in the industry. Roque emphasizes the collective responsibility, stating, “By helping the world act together, we can solve the world’s toughest challenges with our customers and partners.” As a crucial player in the digital realm, Nokia aligns itself with a commitment to maximize positive impact while minimizing its footprint.
Roque sees ESG as a formidable differentiator, asserting, “it is the most signiﬁcant differentiator for us.” He advocates taking pride in being recognized as one of the most ethical companies globally. The call is clear—to leverage this ethical distinction effectively in the market.
Roque envisions the transformative power of digital not only in technological terms but as a force capable of creating a ‘more sustainable, inclusive, productive, and accessible world.’ In his perspective, ESG is a strategic imperative for shaping a responsible and impactful future.
Beyond the Comfort Zone
Embarking on a career, Roque advises aspiring professionals to seek ‘real jobs‘ initially, favoring operational roles over strategic and generic business development positions. The emphasis is on immersion, urging individuals to explore all facets of their chosen career. In the captivating realm of technology, Roque places a premium on differentiating roadmap promises and technology evolution from actual implementation reality.
For Roque, managerial credibility and leadership effectiveness hinge on a profound understanding of ﬁeld operations fundamentals. He advocates continuous stepping out of one’s comfort zone, underscoring the importance of building a robust professional network along the way.
Roque’s insights offer a roadmap for those starting their journey, blending practical experience, a nuanced understanding of technology, and the interpersonal skills necessary for success in the dynamic world of operations and leadership.