A leader for tomorrow

A leader for tomorrow

30 June 2020 | Melanie Mingas

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As the newly elected chair of the Global Leaders’ Forum, Laurinda Pang takes the helm at one of the most important times in the industry - and forum’s - history. With an agenda to lead the GLF into the future, she tells Melanie Mingas what the next 24 months will have in store.

In its list of must-have leadership qualities for 2020, the World Economic Forum cites 10 skills for the modern leader to master, among them service orientation, critical thinking and the art of negotiation.

But not all leadership is simply about driving the bottom line. The ability to devise successful corporate strategies, head international operations and manage a complex and decentralised team, is what makes a top candidate shine.

Enter Laurinda Pang, newly appointed chair of the Global Leaders’ Forum (GLF), elected this year by the group’s 31 member organisations to lead it through what is shaping up to be a truly unprecedented time for the ICT infrastructure industry.

A seasoned executive with more than 25 years’ experience in telecoms, Pang has risen through the ranks at CenturyLink — an organisation she joined in 1998 when it was still Global Crossing — demonstrating an array of leadership skills along the way (see timeline).

She will continue to serve as president of international and global accounts management, and the Global Leaders’ Forum isn’t her only extra-curricular activity: she serves on the board of directors for Acacia Communications, and the executive advisory board for Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. She is also a trustee for various non-profit boards, including the CenturyLink Clark M. Williams Foundation, and A Precious Child.
However, as chair of the GLF her priorities are clear.

“As chair, the first priority is to continue to advance the mission of the GLF, that is to uphold the principles of interoperability and to advocate for the industry, and it’s certainly to also provide and create action around particular initiatives that members can collaborate on, such that we can help to transform our industry,” Pang reveals.

Pang succeeds Marc Halbfinger, CEO of PCCW Global, who served two 24-month terms as chair and remains a GLF board representative. Continuing the forum’s four-point programme across fraud, security, settlement and blockchain, Pang has already enhanced the agenda to sing to the megatrends currently defining the industry. Among them, digital transformation, mobility, IoT, and how industry will embrace the edge.

She says: “I want to work with the membership immediately to determine where we might be able to, or are well served to, work together across the group to solve some of these challenges and address these megatrends.”
One of the first flagship projects to be launched under Pang’s leadership is a diversity and inclusion working group — led by Verizon’s Eric Cevis — that publishes its first report into gender diversity in the industry during International Telecoms Week (ITW).

A project six months in the making, it is of particular importance to Pang, who is not only a D&I advocate herself, but also the first female GLF chair.

Collaborative connections
Taking the reins during one of the most challenging times in modern history, Pang is acutely aware that there is one additional megatrend influencing everything: Covid-19.

In the early days of the crisis GLF launched #Keepingtheworldconnected, an advocacy campaign calling on governments around the world to classify ICT infrastructure and communications services as essential, while ensuring those in the industry are recognised — and protected — as essential workers.

To date, this has been achieved in several major markets, including the US and UK, where most recently the government announced data centre workers arriving in the country will be exempt from compulsory isolation.

“It’s critical that this happens globally because no one service provider can connect the world. We are very dependent on one another,” she says, adding that initiatives to enhance industry resilience extend beyond the pandemic.
Supporting the industry and campaign, in April Capacity Media hosted the first, fully virtual Critical Connections conference, with Pang featuring in the keynote. Subsequent editions are in the pipeline for the coming months.

“[The campaign] has been incredibly important for us and will continue to be important going forward. Having said that a lot of the work we have been doing the past couple of years around automation and really pushing one another around SDN, and other areas, has been vital during this time,” she explains.

Despite the progress and reach of the campaign, there remain many unknowns for the industry in a post-pandemic world and a working group has been established to support the service provider community as it prepares against future threats.

“We still don’t fully appreciate what the financial impacts of this pandemic will be. Not just for ICT players ourselves, but also the customers that we serve.

“It’s going to be incredibly important for us to understand how to build resilience across the industry for a future crisis, whether that’s another pandemic, a natural disaster, or something else. How can we be sure that the industry is holding up during times of crisis?”

The future is software
In its work to uphold interoperability and ubiquitous connectivity, the GLF has made significant gains to date with additional working groups contributing to advances around international voice, automation, settlement and blockchain, not to mention the forum’s fight against fraud.

The second annual report, Evolution of Fraud Management, found 80% of carriers are treating fraud as a strategic or top priority, with 55% reporting that the fight against fraud is gaining importance in their organisation.

The GLF Code of Conduct against fraud now counts more than 30 carrier signatories, following the addition of MTN GlobalConnect, OTEGLOBE and Rostelecom last year, and the forum is currently looking at mechanisms to attest the signatories’ adherence to its principles. The third report is due in October.

On automation, settlement and blockchain, the newly incorporated Communications Business Automation Network (CBAN) facilitates a three-in-one approach while building on the GLF’s earlier work in these key areas.
Headed by Colt’s chief of staff, Louisa Gregory, the special purpose vehicle was created with the intention of automating the business of communications and, conceptualised in 2018 it was incorporated as an independent entity earlier this year.

Last month Gregory told Capacity that CBAN represents “the opportunity for industry players to make history”.

Pang says: “Software is clearly the future of the industry and CBAN will be an important advocate for what we are doing right now. It’s a separate entity from GLF and some of our members are participating with CBAN so we will look to encourage other providers to join that organisation.”

However, when it comes to automation, settlement and blockchain, CBAN is far from the only action to be taken.
Blockchain proof of concepts (PoCs) involving major industry players continue to be carried out with multiple stakeholders, as part of work to develop commercial settlement frameworks that encourage participation and innovation for new services.

In terms of leading the forum through the extensive work at hand, Pang is upbeat, optimistic and energetic when talking about the schedule for her 24-month term. As she says: “Together, we’re keeping the world connected.”
For an industry organisation of its size and scope — not to mention relative infancy — the GLF has its work cut out, and on that Pang is grounded.

But as it embarks on a seminal new chapter in its history — in parallel with the digital transformation of the world around it — Pang’s focus firmly remains on getting the job done.

“The world around us and the customers we serve continue to transform at a rapid pace. The current pandemic has taught us that business and industry resilience must be cared for to ensure our world stays connected — both socially and economically. As such, I believe digital transformation will only accelerate. The GLF believes in interoperability and automation with an ever-expanding ecosystem.

“I would like to be remembered for helping to lead our industry in building platforms for the future, ensuring our industry is resilient and that our customers derive value and success from our services.”