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 Shankaran Janardhanan.
Shankaran Janardhanan is vice president of GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ (GF) mobile radio and Wi-Fi business. With over 15 years of semiconductor business and technology experience, he’s responsible for the business’ financial performance, including radio frequency (RF) front end modules, Wi-Fi, transceivers and gesture sensing. He was previously responsible for all GF’s RF offerings including RF SOI, RF CMOS, SiGe and FDX-RF.
Before GF, Janardhanan held roles in design, technology and RF and MEMS product management at TowerJazz, where he also led design support. He holds an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Temple University. Janardhanan has co-authored several papers and articles and speaks on RF trends at conferences around the world.
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?
Ibelieve the lessons you learn early in life, along with pivotal moments over the course of your life, define your core makeup as an individual. My loving parents provided me with all the comforts as a child, but also taught me early on that I could not take anything for granted. This stayed with me, especially when I came to the U.S. from India and realized that I needed to build my life here from scratch. As I worked on my master’s degree, I worked at the cafeteria, pushed carts at the university hospital and held teaching assistant jobs. Any leftover sense of entitlement evaporated.
From that point forward, it was about making the best of every opportunity I was given. In my first job as a technologist, I discovered that my true passion was the intersection of technology, customer engagement and business. To work in an area I was passionate about, I needed to make a number of strategic moves and take a few chances, such as switching my job profile to applications engineering, restart the green card process and learn the customer engagement process.
I joined GF to help develop the analog mixed signal business and in parallel get my MBA at Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.
After I completed my MBA, I had a choice to make — either stay in the semiconductor industry or take a management consultant job. Back then, the semiconductor industry was going through a rough patch, but I realized there was significant upside potential since there were a very small number of companies manufacturing chips.
I decided to stay with GF so I could continue to contribute and grow in this industry. Looking back, it was the right decision. I don’t believe the journey to become a successful tech-savvy executive will ever end. There is always something new to learn and an opportunity to grow, if you look for it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Doing my job to the best of my abilities and seeing the impact it has on people’s lives has always been a humbling experience for me. Knowing that what I’ve built is a “chip” that helped improve someone’s life is incredibly rewarding.
An example of this happened during my early days as a technology process development engineer. I was working on a chip that was running through the fab when we ran into hiccups and had to run our back-up chips through to meet the customer’s deadline. If the customer did not get the product from us on time, they would not be able to sample it with their end customer. I ended up running it manually in the fab by myself over multiple weekends and nights and shipped it to the customer in time for their sampling.
It turned out that the sampling led them to raise a new round of funding, without which the company would have run out of money. The delivery of the product I worked on allowed them to live to fight another day — all because of a few weekends of extra effort from one person!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I am not much of a “life lesson quote” person. I just rely on the basic principles I have learned in my life. Through both personal and professional experiences, I have learned that there are no magic spells, and you need to work to earn your keep in life.
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?
My wife, Nivedita, is the first person that comes to mind. She truly has been the rock in my life, the one person who has stood by me as I worked toward my dream.
A year after our son was born, we discovered he had a major health condition. We both crumbled. But Nivedita was the first one to get up and fight back to steady our lives. Our son needed a lot of focus and attention during his initial years and without hesitation, she took a temporary step back from her flourishing career to provide the necessary foundation and support that both my son and I needed to move forward. She has this uncanny ability to navigate through troubled waters and see with clarity, something that has helped me tremendously. Her indomitable spirit and straightforwardness have helped me become a better person.
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?
- Empathy: People build technologies, not equipment or tools. Connecting with people and understanding their perspective and needs is critical to succeed as a business leader. I have the privilege of working with some of brightest people on the planet at GF, and I had to recognize if I can establish the right connection, the best outcome naturally follows. The company you work at should also encourage creating an environment of empathy. GF does that well.
- Integrity: For me, this is doing the right thing — even when no one is looking. I always strive to set a good example for my son and be someone he can look to with high integrity. Also, having been in this industry for as long as I have, I recognize your reputation always precedes you. There will be many opportunities to make questionable decisions, but I always want to be able to make decisions that allow me to sleep well at night and be confident my decision was right for my company.
- Learning agility: Technology is developing at a rapid pace and our skills need to be constantly upgraded in different settings. The key is to do it a rapid pace. It’s not possible to do this overnight. But becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable is something I have worked on over the years. So far, I have held six different roles in five different organizations and have worked hard to learn and contribute in every one of them.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects? How do you think that will help people?
GLOBALFOUNDRIES (GF) is creating the chips that matter, focused on feature-rich chips that are the most vital to and pervasive in everyday life. Nearly every wireless call, text, email, social post, streaming movie, and livestream broadcast passes through chips manufactured by GF. We’re one of only five companies in the world making these chips at scale. We continue to deliver industry firsts with feature-rich chips so products can do more and consume less.
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?
5G is the fifth-generation mobile network and is the most advanced mobile data and communication standard in the market today.
5G is divided into two main spectrums:
- <6GHz called Sub 6GHz 5G
- >24GHz called mmWave 5G
The main differences between 5G and 4G are:
- 5G offers larger bandwidth for faster downloads and uploads
- 5G offers very low latency that enables better connection
- Seamless support across a large spectrum of bands including 4G and high density of connections
In simple terms, 4G is like watering plants with a garden hose, while 5G is like watering plants with a firehose.
Can you share three or four ways that 5G might improve our lives? If you can please share an example, for each.
5G and later 6G brings forth the fourth industrial revolution. The fourth industrial revolution will fuse advanced technologies with high-speed wireless connectivity to blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. The resulting impact on our systems will transform how we produce, manage and govern both our world and ourselves.
5G, and in the future 6G, allows near real-time connectivity. Its lower latency and reliability permit faster transmission of massive data streams — even in extreme conditions — and will support a plethora of sensors, wearables and devices. Some examples are:
- As 5G rolls out, artificial intelligence (AI) will be smarter, communicating between devices, hastening digital transformation. Instead of AI living in the cloud (think slow), AI will become distributed, living on the edge or on IoT devices themselves (think fast).
- In the healthcare industry, 5G will support a tremendous expansion of preventative and monitoring practices via connected devices.
- Similarly, manufacturing is poised for reinvention via AI and IoT tools to increase efficiency, collect data and predict outcomes. Augmented reality tools will allow technicians to remotely maintain and repair smart factories.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this 5G technology that people should think more deeply about?
5G is making the world more connected and giving people access to information and data they’ve never had before.
But while enabling human connectivity from the palm of our hand is critical to our progress, the human brain also needs downtime to rest and recover. I don’t believe in theories that position 5G as a technology that is harmful, but each individual needs to make a choice on managing how much of their time is going to be spent “connected” through a device in their hand. Having said that, I must admit that I’m not great at disconnecting. It’s something I’m always striving to improve.
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?
I have a different perspective on this. It’s been seven to eight years since the advent of 4G LTE and it’s fair to say it has transformed people’s lives. With increased use of smartphone adoption and access to data through 4G services, the mobile industry has become the world’s largest innovation engine.
Billions of new users have gained access to information through cellular networks, which has driven more new economic opportunities than could have ever been imagined. Regardless of geography, socioeconomic class, education level or ethnicity, the fruits of access are evident across the globe.
When we look ahead to 5G, it is driving global growth with greater than $10 trillion dollars of global economic output. The full economic effect of 5G will likely be realized across the globe by 2030, supporting a wide range of industries. Only time will tell about the full impact of 5G, but I think it will help bridge the digital divide, not widen it
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 customer’s needs. If you listen carefully, they will always tell you what they need. Customers are willing to pay for solutions that solve a problem they are facing
- Be diligent in any task you undertake. The industry demands reliability, so deliver what you promised
- Surround yourself with the smartest people and listen to them. People build technologies, not tools
- Build a strong network across the industry. It is not only important to know your customer, but also to get to know your customer’s customer. Then you can be one step ahead of the problem
- Be humble and coachable
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. 🙂
I would say always try to “be human.” The impact technology leaders have on the world is tremendous and with that comes great responsibility. In a fast-paced industry, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that we are all human and are trying to do the best for ourselves and our families. So be empathetic with each other and genuinely help one another. The connection you form will be stronger than 5G.
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.