When the Going Gets Tough: A Journey to Leadership

Samsung R&D Institute India – Bangalore (SRI-B) is known to be an innovation powerhouse, driven by an insatiable thirst for novel ideas that can create the future. Engineers at this R&D centre take no little pride in contributing to the creation and development of several ‘world’s first’ and ‘world’s best’ technology, crediting their achievements to the open innovation culture at SRI-B.

Established in India in 1996, the organization effuses the wisdom of veterans and the curiosity of youth, united by their passion for research and innovation. Amit Mannan, Head of Network R&D team at SRI-B, is one such individual whose passion found a home in SRI-B.

Prior to joining SRI-B, Amit had over 18 years of experience working in European firms, where he admits he had grown ‘too comfortable’. That’s when the opportunity to challenge himself was presented to him through Samsung – a brand that had just taken over the #1 position in the handset business at the time. The global giant was now looking to grow its Network business in the country, having partnered with Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. (JIO) for its pan-India commercial launch, and was looking for an able leader that could help accelerate this journey in SRI-B. For Amit, this was a golden ticket into unexplored territories, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Since then, the Samsung Networks business has grown in leaps and bounds globally. By 2018, the organization had begun operations for the release of 5G services, and today, is exploring horizons beyond 5G, with SRI-B playing a pivotal role in this growth. However, the journey to this point was all but easy.

As the new lead of a team of senior engineers – comprising mainly of veterans who had been in SRI-B for more than 10-15 years – Amit had his fair share of challenges getting accustomed to a work culture that was entirely different from his past experiences. Not only did he have to adapt to the new environment, but also prove his capability as a leader among seasoned experts, while building a formidable team that could lead the future of Networks in Samsung India. However, thanks to the invaluable support and encouragement from leaders, team members and the expatriates at SRI-B, he was soon able to overcome these challenges, build a highly capable team and forge lasting bonds – not just in SRI-B, but globally as well.

Despite his initial struggle, Amit shares that he has come to really love the culture at Samsung and truly enjoys what he does. He especially values the high regard held for all colleagues and people relations, and the focus on continuous upskilling at Samsung, where there is no end to learning.

"The pace of execution and the drive of people working in Samsung is simply amazing! It’s not something you see commonly in the industry. One example that I still remember is when we were in the process of releasing Jio networks in India. These were the early days, so there were still some issues that needed to be resolved and, just to narrow down the problem, 700 people from SRI-B – leaders, managers, everyone – boarded buses and conducted two test drives around the town with mobile phones connected to the Jio network, to see how good the performance was. Never have I seen that kind of step being pushed right from top level."

In his years at SRI-B, Amit has had the opportunity to work on various key projects, but especially cherishes and takes pride in the commercial launch of Jio in 2016, the development of eMTC stack from scratch in 2017 and their contribution towards the commercial launch of 5G for Verizon (in the US) and other operators in South Korea during 2018~2019. The most recent accomplishment by the team includes end-to-end ownership of 4G Network Software that is deployed by 20+ global operators.

He counts himself fortunate for having a great team, including leaders who are experts in technology that support and motivate him and a ‘world-class’ bunch of engineers – comprising of seasoned experts and a large percentage of youth from various domains, whom he believes are the ‘engine of the team’.

Talking about what made working at SRI-B enjoyable, Amit shared, "I’ve spent my life in companies that work only on Networks, but at Samsung, the portfolio is so vast, that there’s a lot to learn from other businesses as well, whether it’s Mobile handset Protocols, IoT, Camera, On Device / Voice Intelligence or Services… the diversity is amazing! In one single organization, I can get exposure to just about any tech business."

Apart from work, Amit is also a passionate tennis player and often works off his stress at the court, which helps him stay cheerful and motivated. As a leader that is cherished and admired at SRI-B, Amit has one tip that helped him in his leadership journey: "Forget your ego and move on!"

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