C-suite career advice: Paul Carter, Global Wireless Solutions

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? “…you must give things a go and put yourself out there even if it doesn’t work out – if you don’t, somebody else will.”

Global Wireless Solutions

Name: Dr Paul Carter

Company: Global Wireless Solutions

Job Title: CEO and Founder

Location: Dulles, VA

Dr. Paul Carter is President and CEO of Global Wireless Solutions, Inc. (GWS), a leading independent benchmarking solution vendor for the wireless industry. Dr. Carter has more than 30 years’ experience in the mobile network industry. He founded Global Wireless Solutions to provide operators with access to in-depth, accurate network benchmarking, analysis and testing. Prior to GWS, Dr. Carter directed business development and CDMA engineering efforts for LLC, the then world's largest independent wireless engineering company. Dr. Carteris originally from the UK but moved to the United States in 1991.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? Throughout my career I have tended to follow my own direction. Whether the outcome has been positive or negative, I prefer to take responsibility for my own decisions which reduces any tendencies to blame others if things don’t work out. I was given a good piece of general life advice by my grandmother, however, which was an adaptation from an old Charley Chaplin quote “you can always stoop and pick up nothing”; that is anyone can go through the motions in life but if you really want something, you need to have the courage to seek it out. I do think this is true – you must give things a go and put yourself out there even if it doesn’t work out – if you don’t, somebody else will.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? I did once receive a terrible piece of business advice. I was advised to change one of my loans for a business property to receive a lower interest rate. However, once I was locked in, I couldn’t benefit from even lower rates that resulted over time. I didn’t receive a very good deal financially in this instance and was stuck for ten years. If I could go back, I wouldn’t have taken that advice. But this bad piece of advice helped me realise that you even need to double-check the advice from so-called experts in their field.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? Hard work is always respected and appreciated in any field. Being successful in any career often comes down to a mixture of hard work, timing, perseverance and an element of luck. For anyone starting a career in tech and IT specifically, my advice would be to think about futureproofing. Where is there going to be a need for skills now and in future? For example, being able to collect and analyse data, identify trends and make decisions based on “data intelligence” will be a useful skill for a long time to come. Knowing how to work with multiple data sources to compare, contrast and correlate is becoming increasingly important.

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? Yes, I did. When I was growing up in the UK, changes and advances in science and technology were becoming more noticeable, more significant. There was a lot of chatter about the future being in science and other related fields, so I took the decision to pursue a degree in science (physics) and then a master’s in electrical engineering before finally completing my PhD in wireless technology. I went down this path initially because I thought it would make me more employable given the changing times. I’m pleased I made that decision because it’s given me valuable knowledge and expertise in an area that will continue to build in importance throughout the modern world. I also happen to enjoy developing things and fixing things, so designing and building networks, understanding how they work and how to improve them also played into my interests.

What was your first job in IT/tech? My first full time job was with a consulting company in the US, where I was hired to help design the earlier generations of wireless networks (i.e., GSM, CDMA, iDEN, etc.). I was doing a lot of the radio frequency design work, among other things. Since then I have stayed in the same field of telecommunications and wireless technology but have built my own business.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? There is often a misconception that to work in these fields you must be good at maths or, which, of course is helpful but isn’t a necessity. Although I came into telecommunications and wireless technology from a scientific background, it’s not essential to have this foundational knowledge. Today, there are roles within big tech companies such as Google and Amazon as well as smaller, more niche app developers that do not require this proficiency. In fact, there are now hundreds of roles within the tech industry that span a variety of different subject areas and skills. We know from our OneMeasure consumer research panel that consumers spend large chunks of time engaging with apps, and so these companies need a range of different people with different skill sets to build engaging apps that will appeal to large audiences.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? Getting to a c-level position does require hard work and putting yourself out there. If you’d like a job at the top you do have to position yourself at the entrance of the right funnel to get there. Luck and circumstance are part of the recipe to success, but a positive attitude, hard work and perseverance are key. You’ve also got to be good at working with others – although that’s not to say you should try to change in order to get on with everyone. I don’t agree with the idea of ‘faking it until you make it’; being yourself and staying true to yourself will help you to succeed. Similarly, don’t be put off by setbacks. If you don’t get a job, it’s likely because it wasn’t the right job for you. So, learn from the experience and try again.

What are your career ambitions, and have you reached them yet? I’d say that I haven’t yet reached my career ambitions, which are to make a difference and solve certain problems within the sustainability space using technology and engineering. I’m currently working on a venture called Aeternum where we are making low-cost, low-powered and unplugged environmental sensors to measure air quality. The potential benefits of this technology for people living in polluted cities will be significant once it’s further developed and deployed widely. The ultimate dream would be to create my own unicorn company.    

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? The pandemic, for all its many ills, has had a positive impact on my work life balance. When you run your own business, you always need to have one ear open because it’s more than just a job in many respects. I feel the last year has allowed me to spend more time with my family and achieve a better balance simply by virtue of always being at home. The opportunity to constantly share a space with my family has been a great thing for me.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? When I started Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) we grew the company organically. We started small and grew based on projects. We didn’t try for investment or private equity along the way so progress was inevitably slower than it could have been. It gave me more control but, in some respects, made the growth phase slightly more difficult and slowed the process down because we relied on internally generated funds vs. receiving an influx of outside capital. Apart from that, I wouldn’t change anything about my career path.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? A degree in any specialism can narrow your options when choosing a career path. But if you want a foundation to metaphorically build your career house on, then a degree is a good place to start. You can always fall back on this qualification and specialism. That said, there are benefits to a bootcamp in something like coding – it can be a very useful starting place and a worthwhile, economical investment. In today’s world, expertise in coding whether it’s app, systems or process driven is in demand and will be for some time.  The more you can understand about how to code will certainly be useful as so much of the world is run through software these days.

How important are specific certifications? Certifications are useful – they show your knowledge, they may be a requirement for certain jobs, and they may help open the door for others. But that doesn’t mean it’s essential for a career in tech. We’re all familiar with those who have hardly any certifications much less qualification and go on to make millions. It’s often dependent on the individual.  

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? I’m always impressed by candidates that have a positive attitude, are clearly very hard-working, and are flexible. In business it’s often the case that you must roll your sleeves up and work across different teams to solve problems and work cooperatively together. It is so much more productive when you can work with people that are consistently reliable.

What would put you off a candidate? I’m often wary of those that seem to have moved around a lot in their career. When you get to know someone, the way they work and how they operate as part of the team, you want them to stick around. I’m also put off by certain types of attitudes; for example, while demonstrating confidence is a good thing, I think there is a fine line between arrogance and confidence that must be walked quite carefully.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? I think the most common mistake is that people often apply for jobs that they don’t really want or perhaps don’t fully understand. And because people aim to please and impress in interviews, they will do their best to muster an answer even if their skillset or expectations about a role don’t align with what will be expected of them. People also struggle to admit when they don’t know something. As an interviewee, recognition of one’s own limits is far more impressive than giving a bad answer to a question you really know little about.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? Leading a business requires multiple skills. Although it’s always the case that the more business acumen or technical ability you have the better, people often underestimate the value of common sense. A timely and well thought-through decision, or an individual who truly understands the USP of their company can go just as far, if not further than someone with abundant technical knowledge. Application and approach to many different areas is key.