A Journey of Diverse Expertise: How a Blend of Industries and Geographies Shaped This Visionary Leader

Simone Montozzi shares his insights regarding career milestones, skills for success, and the future of cloud and cognitive technologies.

Please share with us how your diverse background across various industries and geographies has contributed to your current role.

My experience at BCG provided me with exposure to so many different industries and functions that have significantly shaped my profile and background. It was really the first exposure to a corporate job that I had. I worked with consumer media, high-tech, and telecommunication clients, and was able to gain experience in marketing, organizational strategy, M&A, and other different arenas. I believe this provided me with a variety of examples of different business practices—both good and bad. I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do in the business world, and what to aspire for and steer away from as far as bad business practices are concerned, along with much more.

After my time at BCG, I moved to the software company Oracle, where I built upon my learning, especially in their journey to becoming a cloud-based company from that of a traditional software company. Experiencing this migration taught me a great deal about the significance of the cloud in terms of new commercial strategies for a software company, customer positioning, customer engagement, and the incentives required for selling cloud services. Moving to the cloud is a complete business transformation, not just for the company embracing it but also for those selling cloud services.

In terms of geography, I have continued to learn, especially in my current role at Nokia, where I am in a global position. I cover almost all the world's geographies, from North America to India, Asia, EMESA (Europe, Middle East, South America, and Africa), and beyond. I'm still learning how different cultures address various problems, the cultural nuances that vary from one country to another, and the different expectations when it comes to working across different time zones. My career has been an on-going learning journey for me!

With your experience in providing business advisory support for startups, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to navigate the fast-paced tech industry?

First, let me say that I enjoy providing business advisory services to startups and scale-ups. I find it fulfilling because it not only allows me to give back, but also offers me a chance to have fun and stay updated on market trends and the aspirations of new entrepreneurs, making it a truly valuable learning experience for me.

In terms of suggestions for entrepreneurs, particularly in the fast-paced tech industry, it's crucial to prioritize innovation and scalability in your business proposition. This means finding a unique value proposition that is scalable, as successful startups are often those that have the ability to scale efficiently. Young entrepreneurs should focus on the long-term market evolution and disruption, aiming for sustainable differentiation.

Regarding scale-ups, they have already proven their value in the market, but they face the challenge of scaling effectively. Managing this journey requires perseverance, continuity of investment, and the ability to adapt while sticking to the core idea. Recognizing when to adjust or pivot is crucial. I feel that entrepreneurs should avoid excessive compromises and refrain from changing the business model too drastically. In Europe, I've observed many startups that struggle to scale because of such changes.

To sum up, the ability to learn along the way is essential, but it's equally important to stay committed to the core idea, make minor adjustments, and seek early signs of success without hesitating to pivot when necessary.

What were the key milestones or decisions that propelled you to higher levels of responsibility and leadership? In your opinion, what are the key skills and qualities aspiring professionals should focus on developing to succeed in both consulting and technology-driven industries?

There are several key decisions in my career that have been pivotal and marked turning points. First, pursuing an MBA was a significant decision. Before joining BCG, I recognized the need to enhance my business management knowledge, given my engineering background. Hence, I enrolled in a 14-month MBA program in Europe and the US, which greatly enriched my profile with business skills, knowledge, and trend awareness. The second pivotal decision was joining BCG. I was determined to gain exposure to high-intensity engagements with top executives and learn from diverse projects. This decision significantly broadened my understanding and knowledge. After my BCG experience, I transitioned to industry, particularly the high-tech sector. My initial role at Oracle had a consulting-like aspect, focusing on commercial strategy, and was great for bridging my transition into the industry. Later, when I joined Nokia, I pursued a global role with responsibilities over my business unit. This shift allowed me to apply a wide range of skills, from finance and strategy, to understanding geopolitical aspects.

In my opinion, the key skills and qualities that aspiring professionals should focus on developing to succeed in both consulting and technology-driven industries depends on a number of factors. For example, in terms of essential skills for a general manager, there is a broad spectrum. In addition to functional skills such as finance and HR, the ability to lead people effectively is crucial, especially in a global, remote-work environment. Staying informed about market trends and remaining attuned to different cultures, politics, and competitors are also key aspects. Fostering corporate entrepreneurship is vital—including but not limited to allowing individuals to make decisions, learning from failures, and contributing to an organization's growth.

Another key aspect I stand by is empowering and rewarding the team, rather than controlling excessively, as a hallmark of successful leadership. Communication skills, including the ability to convey ideas clearly and structurally, are also pivotal for leaders. Many leaders excel in various aspects, but effective communication can often set apart successful ones from others.

How do you see the intersection of cloud services and cognitive technologies transforming businesses across various sectors in the coming years? What role do you envision Nokia playing in shaping this evolution?

Clearly, cloud services and cognitive technologies are the two key drivers transforming the market today. The cloud services market has matured significantly, with substantial growth in hyperscale and ecosystem applications. We can see how cloud services have become a standard for new applications and software services. Industrial digitalization increasingly demands these cloud services, and the demand is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. In our telecommunications services sector, particularly with the advent of 5G, we've witnessed a substantial transformation. 5G is fully cloudified, microservices-oriented, and foundational for integrating networks into the cloud services ecosystem.

We've also noticed a convergence between telco and IT applications, with growing hybrid requirements. The cloud plays a pivotal role in unifying these elements. Moving into the cognitive domain is another game-changer. Here at Nokia, we've incorporated machine learning into our processes to enhance automation. These AI-based use cases facilitate intelligent automation and assist our operators and engineers in decision-making. This expansion of cognitive capabilities is transforming complex problems that couldn't be automated before, making automation a reality. We're actively assisting customers as Nokia is automating their operations and embracing this transformation; it's the only way forward. For Nokia, the cloud is foundational, and cognitive capabilities represent the frontier of our automation efforts.

Are there any lessons that you took with you from your time at BCG that continue to influence how you operate and lead your team today?

We often talk about exposure to different markets, functions, and industries, and it certainly plays a significant role. However, what has shaped me more is my attitude. At BCG, I learned how to approach business problems with a fact-based perspective. My time there taught me the importance of gathering data, understanding underlying problems, and avoiding hasty opinions. Taking a scientific approach to decision-making was a significant lesson I carry with me to this day.

Another essential lesson I took away from my time at BCG was that, you can't achieve much without a dedicated team. Understanding people, respecting their aspirations, and leveraging their attitudes are crucial. Focusing on collaboration and team effectiveness is the key. Empowering and trusting the team is fundamental to leadership.

Additionally, I learned how to work effectively in a multinational environment and to communicate effectively. Communication skills, including creating structured and precise presentations, are vital and often clear communication is the missing piece for many intelligent individuals aspiring to become leaders. This ability to make others understand your ideas and convey information cleanly and precisely is a critical leadership skill.

When you see a well-structured presentation, you may think, this person must have a consulting background. Effective communication applies not only to slides but also to various forms of communication, including video calls, and I think it's a skill that can set leaders apart from others.