‘IoT innovations can transform Ireland into a smart nation’

14 Dec 2017

Debbie Power, IoT solutions sales manager, Vodafone Ireland. Image: Vodafone

Vodafone’s Debbie Power outlines her company’s role as an enabler of IoT technology and why STEM diversity is an issue close to her heart.

Debbie Power is the internet of things (IoT) sales solutions manager at Vodafone Ireland.

At Vodafone, she uses her strengths in the areas of IoT, marketing and PR to help transform how customers use technology, offering solutions for a smarter, more connected Ireland.

‘From an IoT and NB-IoT perspective, we regard ourselves as a significant enabler of smart cities’

Describe your role and what you do

My role is largely interactive and customer-facing, with each day bringing a new experience, which is something that I really enjoy. I regularly meet with customers to understand their business challenges and requirements, where I asses how our IoT technology solutions can alleviate and assist with their problems. I then work with our partners and suppliers to deliver end-to-end bespoke solutions that address the challenges they have identified.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I’m a ‘to-do list’ person as I feel this works best for me. I start my day by looking back at my notes and actions from previous meetings, and create an action list for the day. That’s where I start to organise my working life and I try to stick to this as much as I can. A key consideration that I have learned over my career is that you need to be adaptable, as anything can happen in a day to throw your to-do list into disarray. A rule of thumb that I go by is that our customers come first, so it’s important that their needs are prioritised.

What are the key industry opportunities you’re capitalising on?

In August, Vodafone became the first mobile network operator to commercially launch a nationwide, fully commercial narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network in Ireland, and one of the first global Vodafone operating companies to offer it to the market, which I am very proud of.

NB-IoT is a low-power wide-area network (LPWA) technology. It is designed to wirelessly connect millions of devices that have low bandwidth requirements, and will enable society to become smarter and more efficient.

The network complements Vodafone’s existing suite of IoT services and technologies, providing customers and partners with multiple connectivity options to suit a variety of operational use cases.

At Vodafone, we see ourselves as ‘enablers’. We have a broader strategy to be an enabler of a Gigabit Society and, as part of that, from an IoT and NB-IoT perspective, we regard ourselves as a significant enabler of smart cities.

Recently, we partnered with Dublin City Council in announcing that Vodafone’s NB-IoT network has been selected as a key connectivity enabler to the Docklands Smart District – part of the wider Smart Dublin initiative. A first of its kind in Ireland, the Docklands Smart District encourages innovation in the area by bringing together leading technology companies, research centres and other agencies, with a focus on deploying the latest smart city innovations and connectivity across the quarter. Demonstrating Vodafone’s commitment to driving a ‘smart city’ and keeping Ireland at the forefront of smart technology innovation globally, the deployment of our NB-IoT network in the docklands will enable the creation of cutting-edge smart city solutions, such as smart rubbish bins, which will alert a local authority when full, reducing cost and improving the city’s cleanliness.

What are the biggest challenges facing your business and how are you tackling them?

Smart technology has the potential to radically change the way we live and work in Ireland. IoT innovations can transform Ireland into a smart nation.

From a business perspective, in terms of implementing IoT and NB-IoT solutions, there is an education piece needed so that our customers understand how the IoT and NB-IoT offerings can help their business improve their efficiency, increase revenues and develop new business models. It’s important that our customers understand the process and benefits of this game-changing technology.

What set you on the road to where you are in the technology industry?

It all started with a meeting with the current CEO of Vodafone Ireland, Anne O’Leary. We met 20 years ago this month! It was a meeting that started my career at Vodafone. Deregulation had just happened in Ireland and the telecoms market was about to explode. It was an amazing time to work in the industry.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

I was doing a degree in engineering and, before completing the degree, I switched to study business. In hindsight, I wish I had completed the course and then added business afterwards. That’s one of my regrets, as it would have been great to have an engineering degree in my back pocket. I think it could have opened up broader opportunities for me in the marketplace. However, I have no doubt I would have ended up in technology anyway.

How do you get the best out of your team?

My attitude to dealing with people in life is to treat others as I wish to be treated myself. I value honesty and believe it should be at the core of everything.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity. What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to effect change?

The diversity and inclusion agenda is a cause that is very close to my heart. We desperately need more young female talent in biotech, IT, tech communications, electronics, computing and medtech jobs, and we must continue to improve and contribute to the creation of companies that allow employees to be at their very best.

The challenge for many STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) sector companies is that they just don’t get the applications from women, and therefore I believe it’s unfair to place entire accountability with the company itself. I do firmly believe that family culture and our education system need to adapt for real change to take root. Additionally, a focus within families on developing their children to have equal opportunities begins at home, and should then be facilitated through the education system. I do believe that the technology sector in Ireland does have a responsibility, too, to help create the type of organisations that encourage our young women to pursue careers in STEM.

D&I and STEM are a number of areas that are ingrained within Vodafone’s culture. We believe the culture, behaviours and environment that we create in our organisation should ensure that we attract and retain talent regardless of gender, race or sexuality. This year, our CEO was presented with the inaugural I Wish Inspire award, in recognition of her inspirational role and work in STEM.

Who is your business hero and why?

I don’t really have a hero; I truly admire people who work extremely hard and create their own success.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

My favourite book is probably Wild Swans by Jung Chang. It’s about three generations of family life in China.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

Sleep – I need about seven hours a night. I go to bed early and I’m up early. I usually have an hour of work done before 7am, before anyone else in the house is awake.

Also, Microsoft Outlook for diary management and my mobile phone are essential for me, too – I’d be lost without them.

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