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30 Most Inspiring Leaders to Watch 2022

Michele Merrell, Merrell Consulting Group Technology and Mobile Telecom Executive: “The best women business leaders follow their instincts and are good at putting their finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist”

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Working in the technology and mobile telecom industries is fast-paced, exciting and constantly evolving. They are both industries that require grit, determination, thinking on one’s feet, and dealing with constant change management. Michele Merrell is very accustomed to moving at the fast speed of technological change. Michele M. Merrell is a senior level technology and telecommunications executive with 30 years’ experience in marketing, communications and business development working for organizations ranging from start-up to mature, private, public and pre-IPO. She is the President of Merrell Consulting Group, a global consulting consortium.

Since 2014, Michele has served on the Board of Directors for three international corporations; she is the head of the Corporate Governance & Nominating Committee, and also serves on the HR & Compensation Committee and the Audit & Risk Committee. She is a National Association of Corporate Directors accredited Board Leadership Fellow. She speaks regularly both internationally and domestically on topics ranging from technology, entrepreneurship, marketing, business leadership, and politics.

In conversation with Michele Merrell, Technology and Mobile Telecom Executive of Merrell Consulting Group

Q. You’ve had some great successes in your career. What do you attribute this to?

Fortunately, throughout most of my corporate career in mobile telecom and technology, I have worked for some great companies with amazing entrepreneurial role models that have shaped my thinking about how to approach business. Being in global organizations and industries that have increased 20-30-40-50% in growth each year has given me a great perspective on the operational pressures that come from high growth, on top of working on interesting strategic projects such as taking companies through an IPO process and creating start-up companies.

Q. As a consultant, what is your approach to meeting with new clients?

As a consultant, one of my key objectives is to fully understand my clients’ situations so that I can offer advice, solutions, and support as needed. This means taking the time to understand not only my client’s history and current reality but also their vision for the future. Listening is crucial to building the client-consultant relationship. The biggest reward is seeing business operations improve and become more productive. I am excited to play a role in that.

Q. You may have a unique perspective. What trends do you see in the mobile telecom and tech industries?

This is a longer discussion as the two industries are constantly evolving and converging, but some general themes we are seeing might include the following:

Broadband: A shift to more decentralized government broadband funding due to the $1 trillion Infrastructure investments and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed in November 2021 by the U.S. government. The bulk of the bill’s federally allocated broadband dollars will go to more decentralized state-based models.

A Global Policy Debate on Broadband Network Investments: Worldwide, mobile operators are investing in extraordinarily complex high speed networks that are advancing from 4G, 5G, 6G, and beyond, which enable the entire Internet ecosystem. The global Internet value chain has more than doubled in size in recent years and is  worth over $7 trillion today. Most of this growth is from the Big Tech companies that have seen record revenues and profits. Some studies show that 57% of all internet traffic is from just six companies, including Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft. None of them are paying for a fair share of the infrastructure costs that are being absorbed by mobile operators, who are investing 15-20% of their revenues annually in networks. Much of this is to cater to Big Tech content, and meanwhile, operator revenues have remained fairly static. The position is not sustainable long-term and must be addressed by both industries in a collaborative manner.

The Rise of META: In October 2021, Facebook changed its name to META and announced its rebranding as a social technology company focused on its vision of “the metaverse as the successor to the mobile internet – a set of interconnected digital spaces that lets you do things you can’t do in the physical world…characterized by the social presence, the feeling that you’re right there with another person, no matter where in the world you happen to be.” Until now, the strongest demand for these technologies has come from the creative and content-rich side of the industry, such as gaming, live events, and video entertainment. However, analysts predict that new immersive technologies and virtual worlds will enter many areas of our lives, including healthcare, education, travel, meetings and events, retail, aged and disability care, fashion, real estate, the military and even agriculture. It is no longer difficult to imagine being in a “virtual environment” that will become close to indistinguishable from a real one. Going forward, the metaverse will blur the line even more between professional and user-generated content, giving rise to further calls for standards of online safety for vulnerable individuals as well as the control of “disinformation.”

Artificial Intelligence Broadly Accepted in Various Industries: Artificial intelligence is well on the path to being one of the most sought-after technical resources. Data - such as in the insurance industry - can be processed and analyzed in large quantities with AI software to make services more productive and increase profit. AI within the telecom industry will enhance and accelerate digital transformation and will help with predictive maintenance, network maintenance, client support, and security.

Reassessment of Cybersecurity and Risk Management: As mobile operators push into the 5G era, the adoption of 5G offers many benefits but also creates new security concerns and challenges. It will force companies to reassess their cyber security practices again and again and work with technology companies to harden their security posture.

Q. What steps do you suggest to women who want to be successful like you?

Be willing to stand up for what you believe in, and do something different. Be willing to take a risk to change the way the industry works. The answer to ‘How can I transform the industry?’ is simple: Take one concrete action at a time, not tomorrow, but today.

Q. What entrepreneur do you consider a role model?

I have always followed Steve Jobs, the entrepreneurial legend and CEO of Apple. In his journey to create a successful company in Apple, he helped to transform at least seven technology areas, including personal and tablet computing, mobile phones, apps, video, music, and digital publishing. His unique company branding also set worldwide marketing standards. He is one of America’s most daring, visionary and greatest innovators. History will long remember how he applied vision and imagination to technology and business and forever transformed our lives.

“We know what we stand for – honesty, integrity and dependability – and act accordingly with clear boundaries. As good leaders, we can be depended on for professionalism and follow through at all times.”