Visit to China’s Secretive Tech Giant Huawei

It’s one of the world’s leading – and somewhat inscrutable – technology companies. Its telecom systems connect a third of the world’s mobile phones. And globally, it employs 110,000 staff – more than Cisco or Microsoft. The company is Huawei – born and bred in Shenzhen, southern China. And it epitomises today’s power of Asia.

“Our workforce is also very young – the average age is 29 – so there’s a very dynamic environment within the company.”

Here, the company houses key research-and-development units, global testing facilities, and an executive training centre. But the enthusiasm on show isn’t all down to the youth factor.

In its early days, Huawei had to fight its corner for a share of China’s mobile telecoms market.

Back then, the main orders for the lucrative urban network systems went to either state-owned companies or foreign firms. So Huawei, instead, focused on the challenging countryside.

As the company grew and expanded into foreign markets, it made a name for itself as a problem solver – listening to its potential customers’ needs or problems and designing solutions.

Huawei’s Ross Gan says the company cut its teeth on rural markets Huawei is now the world’s second-largest supplier of mobile telecom equipment, after Ericsson, serving 31 of the top 50 telecoms operators. It also boasts 55% of the global market share in 3G dongles.

Huawei attracts the cream of China’s engineers – postgraduates like Zhong Jianwei, project manager at the company’s technical compliance unit.

He discovered that working here is very different from most large Chinese companies with their typical rigid, statist, chains of command.

“Every day, I need to communicate with Huawei staff all over the world. It’s international here – global,” remarks Zhong Jianwei.

“I’ve never experienced this before.”

To achieve its growth targets, Huawei wants new experiences.

At the Shenzhen headquarters, it’s clear that huge efforts are going into video conferencing – from standard desktop or mobile use to the kind of systems used by large corporations and governments. The goal is to create near face-to face communication.

The design team is now working on reducing today’s distracting seams between the multi-screens.

“Within the next one-to-two years, we will, step-by-step, go from a narrow gap to no gap, to even 3D, ” enthuses Luo Shan, software development engineer.

“Now we’re working on the technology. We want to deliver a trusted high-level experience.”

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