JOHN CHEN, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN & CEO OF BLACKBERRY - INTERVIEW
JOHN CHEN, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN & CEO OF BLACKBERRY HAS BEEN SELECTED BY THE JUDGES OF WORLD BIZ MAGAZINE'S ANNUAL AWARDS TO BE A RECIPIENT OF THE TOP 100 CEOS IN INNOVATION AWARD 2021. THIS SELECTION FOLLOWS A STRINGENT PROCESS THAT EVALUATED OVER 40,000 NOMINEES TO SELECT THE EXCLUSIVE LIST OF 100 WINNERS.
John Chen, is Executive Chairman of BlackBerry’s Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer of the Company. John is a distinguished and proven leader in the technology industry.
Prior to joining BlackBerry, he served as Chairman and CEO of Sybase Inc. from 1998 to 2012, where he developed and led the company’s re-invention from a mature, slower-growth technology company into a $1.5 billion-plus high-growth innovator. Under his direction, Sybase became the leading provider of enterprise mobility and mobile commerce solutions, achieving 55 consecutive quarters of profitability.
John started his career as an engineer at Burroughs Corp. in 1979, where he progressed to General Manager of the UNIX Group following a merger that renamed the company Unisys. John went on to become President of Pyramid Technology, where he served from 1991-1995, before they were acquired by Siemens Nixdorf and he was offered the position of Executive Board Member, which he held from 1995-1997.
He has testified before Congress on U.S.–China trade relations. In 2005, U.S. President George W. Bush appointed him to serve on the President's Export Council. In 2006, he was appointed co-chair of the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee. Additionally, John chaired the U.S.-China Policy Advisory Roundtable for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). John is actively involved in international relations. He has been a member of the Committee of 100 since 1997 and was Chairman from 2009-2011, with the dedicated mission of furthering U.S.-China relations.
In recognition of his leadership in building U.S.-Asia relations, John has received awards from the US-Asia Institute, the U.S.-China Policy Foundation, and the California-Asia Business Council. For his corporate board work, he has been honored by the U.S.-Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation.
John graduated from Brown University magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and holds a master's in electrical engineering from California Institute of Technology. John has an honorary professorship from Shanghai University, and honorary doctorates from San Jose State University, City University of Hong Kong, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
John served on the Board of Directors for The Walt Disney Company (2004-2019) and Wells Fargo & Co. (2006-2018). He is also active in the not-for-profit community, and is a trustee of Caltech, board member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, member of CFR, national trustee of The First Tee and Governor of the San Francisco Symphony.
"Innovation is the backbone of BlackBerry. We have been delivering transformative technologies to the market for over 30 years and continue to make considerable investments in R&D (last year we invested 24% of revenue in R&D). Examples of BlackBerry’s technology innovations include, the development of the first smartphone, the first mobile enterprise email (enabling people to work from anywhere), the first mobile instant messaging, the most secure endpoint management software, the first prevention-first cybersecurity software, and more."
Tell us about some of the key successes that have been achieved under your leadership in the last 12 months.
I joined BlackBerry in November 2013. Since then the company has transformed from a hardware manufacturer to a software company. Today, BlackBerry’s market-leading software connects and protects over half a billion endpoints and thousands of organizations around the world.
Some of BlackBerry’s key successes in the past 12 months include:
Company organized around two business units – Cybersecurity and IoT.
Count 45% of Fortune 100 companies as customers of our software.
Achieved having BlackBerry software embedded in over 195 million vehicles.
Frost & Sullivan named BlackBerry IVY an industry leading edge-to-cloud software platform for automakers and smart cities. BlackBerry IVY is a unique, intelligent, edge-to-cloud software for the connected-autonomous ecosystem. It was launched by BlackBerry in partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Frost & Sullivan awarded BlackBerry the 2021 Technology Innovation Leadership Award.
Our software prevented over 165 million malware based cyberattacks in one year, on desktops and laptops alone.
We were granted over 2,000 new patents and filed approximately 500 more last year.
We announced the company is on-track to be carbon neutral in 2021.
How important is innovation to BlackBerry?
Innovation is the backbone of BlackBerry. We have been delivering transformative technologies to the market for over 30 years and continue to make considerable investments in R&D (last year we invested 24% of revenue in R&D). Examples of BlackBerry’s technology innovations include, the development of the first smartphone, the first mobile enterprise email (enabling people to work from anywhere), the first mobile instant messaging, the most secure endpoint management software, the first prevention-first cybersecurity software, and more.
Our customers rely on us to innovate, particularly in the industry that we are in, which is evolving constantly and rapidly. It is critical to our continued stability and growth as a company that we innovate, but it is also critical that the innovation we deliver enables stability for our customers.
What are the most crucial challenges BlackBerry is solving today?
BlackBerry was founded in 1984 with a mission to advance how the world connects. We believe that connectivity is powerful, more so when security and privacy are built in. Some of BlackBerry’s early inventions were the smartphone, which transformed the world of work, and BBM, the world’s first mobile instant messaging solution.
The world is now hyperconnected and our lives will become increasingly digitalized over the next few years. BlackBerry is enabling the hyperconnected world with continued innovations in connectivity and security. Today, we are doing this with a focus on two key markets – the Enterprise and Internet of Things (IoT) markets. We believe these markets will converge in the future, to form a single connected ecosystem.
The Enterprise: BlackBerry’s enterprise platform allows organizations to secure their operations, and enable their workforce to be productive from anywhere, at any time. The platform consists of endpoint management, endpoint security and secure communications solutions. Most recently we added Cylance to our enterprise platform. Cylance is a revolutionary Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) based cybersecurity engine, which predicts, prevents and responds to cyberthreats.
The IoT: BlackBerry’s IoT platform makes the development of safety certified and connected endpoints possible. The platform consists of a secure embedded OS, cryptography software, and supply chain security solutions. Unprecedently, the Cylance engine has also been integrated with our IoT platform, bringing AI and ML based cybersecurity to endpoints such as cars, medical equipment, and turbines.
BlackBerry software is trusted by organizations around the world, including 18 of the G20 governments, 45% of the Fortune 100, the automotive industry, healthcare companies, and more.
BlackBerry is building a connected world you can trust.
"BlackBerry software is trusted by organizations around the world, including 18 of the G20 governments, 45% of the Fortune 100, the automotive industry, healthcare companies, and more."
What values and product / service advantages make BlackBerry stand out in the market?
Our customers trust us.
BlackBerry is known to be a company that operates with integrity and respects our customers. The Government of Canada, who is standardized on BlackBerry’s UEM software, even recognized BlackBerry as the industry standard for trusted technology. click here for more information.
BlackBerry has been the leader in security for over 30 years. Our software today is known to be the most secure in the market. In fact, even our historical technologies, our smartphones from 10-20 years ago, are considered to be more secure than the technologies in the market today. Our commitment to security, which we maintained as we transformed from a hardware to a software company, is key for our customers and meant that our partnerships with our customers have lasted for 30+ years.
Why is BlackBerry well positioned to continue leading the security industry in the future?
BlackBerry has been delivering transformative technologies to the market for over 30 years and has held the position of the market leader in security and connectivity for the same amount of time.
BlackBerry is best positioned to continue to lead the market because of our culture of innovation. We innovate continuously and invest heavily in R&D. Last year, for example, we launched 59 new products, were granted over 2,000 new patents, and filed for ~500 more.
Our customers trust us to innovate ahead of the market’s needs, which is critical with the pace of change in the environment. The number of endpoints is increasing exponentially, the use cases for the endpoints are evolving rapidly, and cyberthreat actors are becoming more advanced.
Furthermore, BlackBerry is known for having the biggest Network Operations Center (NOC) outside of the telecommunications industry. At its peak the BlackBerry NOC handled over 400 petabytes of data a year, 665 carriers and over 175 countries flawlessly. Our experience in managing large amounts of data reliably, securely, and privately, adds to the markets trust in BlackBerry.
"BlackBerry is best positioned to continue to lead the market because of our culture of innovation. We innovate continuously and invest heavily in R&D. Last year, for example, we launched 59 new products, were granted over 2,000 new patents, and filed for ~500 more."
What excites you about your work in this industry?
The pace of change in the markets that BlackBerry operates in excites me, as well as the complexity of the challenges we are addressing. Additionally, the adoption of new technology is rapid, so I get to see the value of the work we are doing in close to real-time.
Our technology touches all aspects of people’s lives, and its applications are contributing to the betterment of society. BlackBerry software enables the development of smart cities, advancements in digital healthcare, secure financial services, enhanced national security, comprehensive public safety, and more.
"The key ‘issue’ that needs to be addressed is one of talent. There is a shortage of talent in the industry and a level of demand that continues to increase. BlackBerry is helping solve this problem through partnerships with Universities, and other organizations such as the Girl Guides."
What improvements do you want to see in the industry and how is Blackberry contributing to realising them?
I would describe the industry we operate in as healthy. It is growing and is very aligned to the key needs of the world – Cybersecurity and IoT.
Having said that, the key ‘issue’ that needs to be addressed is one of talent. There is a shortage of talent in the industry and a level of demand that continues to increase. BlackBerry is helping solve this problem through partnerships with Universities, and other organizations such as the Girl Guides.
Share with us some insight into BlackBerry’s commitment to sustainability and CSR.
BlackBerry’s purpose and responsibility to our stakeholders include taking meaningful action to ensure our business practices and our technology platform enable a more sustainable and equitable world.
BlackBerry’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program focuses on 3 key areas, aligning our expertise to address the technology industry’s most critical environmental, social and economic impacts: Climate Change, Water Access, and Equality.
BlackBerry’s CSR initiatives include:
Commitment to be carbon neutral in 2021.
Commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Investments in clean water access projects in Rwanda.
Investments in wastewater treatment technology in Canada.
Donation of BlackBerry emergency management software to the American Red Cross.
Developed a first-of-its-kind flood risk and clean water monitoring technology.
Monetary contributions to global COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
University partnerships to enable access STEM education.
Commitment to CEO action for diversity and inclusion.
What makes a good leader?
The number one quality of a good leader is ‘fairness’. A leader must be fair to be trusted and to be successful.
Components of being fair include making decisions that are intellectually (fact-based) and emotionally (gut instinct) intelligent. This quote from Nelson Mandela seems fitting: “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”
Additionally, decisions and the reasons behind them must be well communicated.
"A leader must be fair to be trusted and to be successful. Components of being fair include making decisions that are intellectually (fact-based) and emotionally (gut instinct) intelligent."
BlackBerry (NYSE: BB; TSX: BB) provides intelligent security software and services to enterprises and governments around the world. The company secures more than 500M endpoints including more than 195M vehicles. Based in Waterloo, Ontario, the company leverages AI and machine learning to deliver innovative solutions in the areas of cybersecurity, safety and data privacy, and is a leader in the areas of endpoint security, endpoint management, encryption, and embedded systems. BlackBerry’s vision is clear - to secure a connected future you can trust.