Career Profile: VP of Mobile Devices and Logistics
Imagine that you know about device innovations months before a product’s launch date. Imagine that you and your team are the primary decision makers when it comes to selecting the devices that your company offers to customers. For Steve Karan, Bell Mobility’s VP of Mobile Devices and Logistics, this is a reality.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Steve to talk about his career journey, where he draws inspiration from, and of course, devices.
Bell: You’ve worked at Bell for over 14 years. Tell us about your career journey and how you got to be in your current role.
Steve Karan: I studied at McMaster University where I majored in Finance and received a minor in Economics. Later I completed my Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.
My first job out of school was as a Grad in the Graduate Leadership Program here at Bell. I was given an opportunity to work in many different roles within the organization, which allowed me to diversify my skill set very early in my career.
After taking a 1-year sabbatical to work for PwC as a Mergers and Acquisition Consultant, I came back to Bell Residential Services where I worked on the team that launched FibeTV. When the opportunity for my current role came up at Mobility, I was able to leverage my diverse experience (Finance, Controller, and Product IPTV, Internet/Phone, Network, and Wholesale) which helped me land the VP, Mobile Devices and Logistics position.
Bell: The wireless space can be fiercely competitive. What are some of the challenges you face in your role and how do you work through them?
SK: Mobility is an incredibly competitive environment that changes every day (sometimes multiple times a day). My team and I must stay acutely aware of everything that is going on in the marketplace from all perspectives including product, pricing and supply chain. As a result, my team has a very diverse set of skills and responsibilities.
My role is balanced between day-to-day operations (pricing and inventory management), as well as strategic leadership (new product introductions, customer experience, subsidy management). The challenge is not to be overwhelmed by the day-to-day and “miss the forest for the trees.” One of the biggest hurdles is managing long-term goals with short-term pressures.
Bell: What does an “average” day look like for you?
SK: There is no such thing as an “average day” in Bell Mobility.
I start my day around 7am. I spend an hour to an hour and a half focusing on the impacts of the previous day; pricing and financials, inventory, and competitive reactions.
Bell Mobility is a very hands-on and face-to-face culture. Throughout the day, I spend my time with the executive team discussing high-level strategies, reviewing results and business proposals. I meet with my team to align on action plans and execution. I also meet with external partners to review product roadmaps, negotiate contracts, and foster relationships.
I am an avid reader of industry blogs and, typically in the evening, I’ll spend half an hour reading. It gives me perspective and a balanced view of the developments, and feedback on the products we have launched.
Bell: How do you help Bell stay on top of the latest technology and trends?
SK: My team and I have relationships with OEMs, industry experts, partners, and similar carriers. We attend conferences (like CES and Mobile World Congress) and meet with them around the world to see roadmaps, exchange best practices and create strategies for mutual success.
I regularly visit stores to see execution and to gather competitive intelligence. It’s important to have a 360° view of the industry, including what’s happening, what has happened and what we expect to happen.
Bell: What are some of the mobile trends you’re most excited about?
SK: We see significant innovation on the device side that will allow us to take advantage of incredible network speeds. With faster speeds, new functionalities become available and new ways of using devices. We’ve seen an increase in video streaming with the conversion from HSPA to LTE. As speeds become faster we’ll see more Internet of Things (IoT) implementations.
We’re also excited about the periphery ecosystem we see developing in the Android space. VR will change how people interact with content and will unlock the computing power in handset devices that hasn’t been previously leveraged.
Bell: You were a part of the team responsible for the FibeTV strategy, business case and business development. What was that process like?
SK: It was awesome to be involved at the very early stages of such a revolutionary product. It was very exciting because Bell was the very first company in the world to sign the IPTV contract with Microsoft. Now IPTV is available in 50+ countries. To see a product go to market and see people enjoy something that you’ve been working on for many years is very rewarding. I learned a great deal about innovation and perseverance from that team. The success of the FibeTV launch was a true example of the power of team work and focused execution. That team continues to innovate and is considered leading edge in the world of television.
Bell: Do you have any advice for individuals who are thinking of/are launching an innovative product?
SK: Believe in your concept. If you know it’s the right thing for the company in the long term and you receive feedback that it might not be right now, take the feedback and try again when it’s a better time.
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