Like most young boys, Ayush Sharma developed a passion for movies and comic books. In his adolescence, Sharma spent many hours flipping the pages of the latest Marvel and DC titles and taking in movies like Star Wars and Blade Runner. They sparked his imagination, and soon, the budding engineer was using his uncle’s walkie-talkie as an imaginary teleportation device and dismantling gadgets to learn and reassemble their complex circuitry.
His interests took Sharma to three universities in three different countries (India, England, and the United States), where he studied electronics, data communications, and program management. Throughout those years, he maintained the lifelong curiosity and imagination nurtured in his childhood and developed a habit of naming his routers after Jedi and Wookiees.
Today, after starting his career with major telecom companies like Cisco Systems and Ericsson, Sharma is senior vice president and chief technology officer for Huawei’s networking business unit. With $46 billion in revenue and 170,000 employees, Huawei has become the world’s largest provider of telecommunications equipment.
While growth and revenue are key, Sharma says he and his colleagues are deeply committed to Huawei’s vision of “enriching lives through communication,” and improving Internet access and affordability. They do so by maintaining an intense focus on research and innovation. The goal is an important one with significant impact—Huawei has already connected more than one-third of the world’s total population.
Overall, Huawei global services’ span three segments, including telecom carriers, businesses, and consumers. In 2015, the company scored a major win and strengthened its US handset business when Google announced it would switch to Huawei’s Nexus smartphone.
As networking CTO, Sharma has one foot in the business world and the other in technology—and both areas are connected. “I have to find new opportunities to innovate, and I manage all the aspects of design, architecture, research, and open source,” he explains. “It’s my job to build the atmosphere where our teams can develop the killer apps and design prototypes that we’ll implement in the field two or three years from now.”
Sharma is always thinking about customers and partners. “We’re dedicated to connecting people and technology, and we’re always working on new ideas for every aspect of the business,” he says. The pursuit for innovative ideas leads Huawei to invest 20 percent of its US revenue into research and development each year. In recent years, that figure has eclipsed $135 million split between projects in sixteen research centers.
Most recently, Sharma and his teams have dedicated their time to forecasting the evolution of video. “4K video is here, but it’s not commercialized yet,” he says, adding that virtual reality will open more doors, drive interactions, and change how content providers distribute video content on mobile and communications devices.
Huawei is partnering with companies, universities, and Internet organizations to determine the best ways to handle increased traffic while enriching the experience for the customer. The company is also investigating options for advertisers who will want to knit together messaging and online shopping options with the overall video experience.
Additionally, Huawei is seeking to develop new uses for large networks after a major event. For example, once the Olympic Games or the Super Bowl leaves a city and/or stadium, Huawei can repurpose idle networks and leverage those resources for continued benefits.
It’s all part of what Sharma describes as Huawei’s drive to “develop Internet access, affordability, and relevance,” and his networking team has a chance to define the future of a significant multinational corporation. His team has developed products leading to Wi–Fi calling and other innovations that have affected Huawei’s trajectory. “It’s satisfying for those on my team to touch and feel their work,” he says.
In 2016, 1.5 billion people still lack basic Internet access, according to Sharma. For others, low speeds make connectivity prohibitive. By deploying new networking technologies, Huawei is delivering 5G Internet at speeds up to ten times faster than ever before.
With telehealth and other advancements coming, Sharma says Huawei’s developments are critical. “Nothing is better than seeing how our products and solutions improve society by connecting isolated people or making the Internet affordable,” he adds.
Sharma describes Huawei’s culture as empowering and collaborative. He believes in clarity, accountability, and focus. In implementing these standards, Sharma focuses on what he calls the “three Hs,” meaning honesty, hard work, and the hive mind. “Integrity is paramount—there are no short cuts. And innovation is group-driven, there’s no place for ego,” he says.
This year at Huawei, Sharma and his teams are developing and building new products, solutions, and features to bring open source adoptions into the networking industry, driving innovation and increasing the pace of development.