As Chief Institutional and Communication Officer in Europe for telecoms company ZTE, a large component of Alessio de Sio’s role is to inform the world about the company’s progress in fulfilling its leading role in telecommunications and digitalisation. Here, he fills us in on what his work entails.
It’s nice to finally meet you, Mr De Sio! I hope the new year has treated you well so far. For starters, would you mind sharing what constitutes a typical day in your life?
Hello, The European Business Review, it’s a pleasure. My day starts early, as work at ZTE begins at 7:30, and is usually divided into two phases. The first one is dedicated to internal meetings for planning and carrying out the various activities, such as organising events. The second part is often dedicated to meetings with stakeholders, such as suppliers, operators and regulators, which usually take place outside the office. As the director of communications, I coordinate not only with media but also with regulators, and these meetings are aligned with the strategic plan we set at the beginning of the year with ZTE HQ.
When people look at your resume, your timing seems impeccable. Was it luck or good judgement? How much time did you dedicate to networking when you first started?
Good question. I think in life a dose of luck is necessary. In my case, however, there is also a lot of perseverance and application. Networking is fundamental, especially for those who, like me, work in the field of institutional relations and communication. Now that I look back, working at ZTE has helped me leverage on my network, as well as build strategic working relationships with stakeholders. Joining ZTE is one of my key milestones.
Relationships with the media, journalists and stakeholders are a key part of your work. What is the right formula for cultivating these relationships over time?
I don’t think there is a right or valid formula for everyone. It’s natural for me to establish and cultivate direct relationships with my stakeholders. As a global leader in telecommunications and information technology, ZTE is always committed to adhering to high standards of ethics and integrity in global business activities. Obviously we must always have fixed roles, but I think that breaking the barrier of formality helps my work, which is to help the world/public have a clear picture of what ZTE is doing, the contributions of ZTE towards leading and speeding up world digitalisation, and correcting misunderstandings, if any. We always adhere to the values of transparency and integrity in our interaction with business associates and governments, to ensure ZTE’s compliance operation.
ZTE Corporation, founded in Shenzhen, China, has established itself as a leading telecommunications provider since 1985 and is constantly reinventing itself along the way. It must be a source of pride to work for this prestigious company.
Absolutely. This is a company with a great spirit of commitment. And working for one of the leading telecommunications vendors in the world is, for me, a reason for satisfaction and continuous improvement. With the iteration of 1G to being the leaders of 4G and now the pioneers of 5G networks and commercialisation, ZTE places innovation at the core of its strategy. During the pandemic, we saw the company’s resilience and its growth, as well as its care for its people. It is always an honour to work for an organisation that considers people to be its assets, and customers to be its partners. Staff here can benefit from professional development and receive plenty of skills training. It’s one of life’s treasures to have the experience of working here.
In 2021, you won ZTE’s international “Best Branding Person” award. It must have been a surprise as well as an immense reward for your work and commitment to the company.
Yes, it was and I was proud of it, not only and not so much for me, but for the people who work in my team. I am the key spokesperson for my company, but I am also the spokesperson for a very skilled, strong and cohesive team. ZTE accolades its staff for various awards internationally, which breaks down the barrier and recognises its presence as an international global telecommunication company, with a presence in 160 countries and having up to 70,000 employees. I’m glad to work with so many talented people in my company.
What about recruiting young talent? How do you deal with competition from exciting and challenging employers, such as global internet and technology giants?
Investing in young talent is very important to us. Prior to being hired at ZTE, I worked for other corporations, but I have never seen such a strong focus on young people. We make public selections using our social networks and we participate in campus recruitment events with some important Italian universities. This allows us to sustain the talent that Italy has to offer with adequate training provided by ZTE HQ. It’s a great combination for retaining talent, as well as developing young leaders who grow to become influential individuals in society.
You were recently appointed Chief Institutional and Communication Officer for ZTE Europe Region. This is certainly a sign of great trust from your bosses. Has it been difficult to gain their trust over the years? I imagine there have been many challenges.
I’ll be very honest, I like the Chinese culture and the corporate culture at ZTE. I didn’t particularly struggle to fit into this international environment, as well, and I’m very pleased with the results. Working in an integrated professional environment helps to improve one’s performance. I have certainly been helped by my time in other foreign multinationals, which has helped me grow and develop a mind that is trained for change and the curiosity to cultivate it. I always talk very openly with ZTE leaders, trying to make my point of view clear, which is always to protect our company, and I must say that I am lucky to have very enlightened leaders around the world.
In your role as Chief Institutional and Communication Officer, what are you doing to maintain Europe’s position as a digital leader?
The work we do in Europe on a daily basis is focused on developing world-class technology solutions. I believe Europe can and will play a big role in the future of connected networks. There is a lot of work to be done. ZTE solutions are end-to-end products capable of enhancing and building a world-renowned network. We have showcased our solutions on many occasions, including the recently completed MWC22. ZTE also believes in SDG goals, so our green network solutions add further icing to the cake. We want to build a digital and green Europe and I believe we are currently on the right path for that.
The objectives of your department are the same both in Italy and in Europe. Do the modalities change in your opinion? Do you notice differences between Italian and EU media and institutions?
In Italy, the department has been carrying out the work entrusted to me for several years, while at the European level we only started a few months ago. There are certainly differences, especially at an institutional level. The system based in Brussels and Strasbourg is particularly different and is based on complex logic that takes into account the needs of the various member states. The media are not so different from one another, but clearly each of them, at an Italian and/or European level, has visions and editorial lines that need to be deeply understood.
What is it that your team does differently from others that makes ZTE a great place to work for industry veterans?
When it comes to the team I lead, I’m fortunate to work with some very good, very young colleagues who are extremely professional and fit perfectly into our company culture. In general, in my opinion, what is different about ZTE is the high level of innovation and a truly enviable company climate. Research and development plays a key role in ZTEs innovation and we continue to invest 16.4 per cent of our annual revenue in R&D. Innovation is in our blood, and almost half of our workforce are in R&D, so you can see that my team, as well as the ZTE team at large, has the same purpose and goal – to create a digital world of innovation and to win together.
As a director of a world-renowned telecommunications company, what is the most exciting development currently taking place in the telecommunications industry?
Definitely the development and enhancement of 5G and the start of the study phase of 6G. As we are seeing, more countries are auctioning the 5G spectrum, and the operators that have already built the 5G NSA network are moving towards an SA network. ZTE’s end-to-end solutions entail highly efficient and multi-scenario products and solutions which can fulfil the needs of different customers at different stages of 5G network construction. We will continue to create a win-win scenario for the customer to further monetise their network. ZTE has already begun its 6G research and will work with research institutes and organisations to be the pioneers of 6G, as well.
What does success mean to you?
For me, success is raising the bar on my daily work performance. It’s achieving the big and small goals I set for myself within the bigger picture that is my professional life. At ZTE, we measure success with customer satisfaction and end-user guarantees. To build the fastest, most efficient and most sustainable network for our customers, as well as facilitating monetisation while reducing capex and opex. Success, I believe, has different nuances and is also very subjective. Because, in the end, the important thing is to be satisfied with what you do.
Alessio De Sio is a global lobbyist, journalist and former politician. His journalistic career began in 1986 at the editorial office of Il Tempo in Civitavecchia, where he was a collaborator. He was elected Mayor for Forza Italia in 2001 for the local government of Civitavecchi. From 2003 to 2005, de Sio joined the National Association of Italian Municipalities, ANCI in the Presidential Committee with responsibility for relations with municipalities with energy plants. He was then chosen as a collaborator of the Undersecretary of State Guido Bertolaso, responsible for relations with institutions and local authorities. Since September 2017, he works as the Chief Institutional and Communication Officer ZTE Europe Region & ZTE Italia.