Systems Thinking and Telecommunications

Amparo Canaveras, Donny Holaschutz, and Khalid Al-Ahmed

By David Rosenbaum
October 20, 2010

System Design and Management (SDM) student Amparo Canaveras, Project Manager at Nokia Siemens Networks, saw a revolutionary change coming in telecommunications, one that would transform the telecom playing field. Wanting to play a significant role in this transformed landscape, Canaveras, who holds both a B.S. in Computer Science and Telecommunications from Universidad Politecnica de Valencia, and an Executive MBA from EAE Business School in Spain, and is an Andalusian scholar as well, knew she needed to deepen her understanding of how technology goes to market, how products and services can be monetized, how consumer trends could be predicted, and how to model the complexity of globalized systems. And she suspected that knowledge could be found at MIT SDM with a degree in Engineering and Management.

Amparo Canaveras confers with members of her SDM cohort, Donny Holaschutz (left) and Khalid Al-Ahmed.
Photo by Kathy Tarantola

At the same time, new wireless technologies and data processing techniques are making it possible to develop and offer new products and services to businesses and consumers, potentially changing both business models and revenue streams in the telecommunications space.

Canaveras has made the question of what this opening up could mean for business the focus of her SDM thesis. "What is the impact on operators and users, big and small?" asks Canaveras. "How will it affect Wi-Fi services, Internet providers, cell phone companies? How could it be used in business-to-business transactions, for data mining, for tracking inventory, for connecting machines on the shop floor?" The possibilities, thought Canaveras, were exciting, endless and, most importantly, complex.

Learning how to deal with that complexity-how to model a system, and then how to make that system efficient-was what brought her to SDM. Canaveras says her MBA helped bring her out of her engineering box, teaching her about the importance of aligning employees to a common goal and how to keep an eye on costs, but she wanted the focus on technology and system design thinking SDM offered. She was awarded an Andalusian Scholarship, provided by the state of Andalusia to promote the overseas studies of promising executives, and began her SDM studies.

"I have experience in many departments in Nokia," says Canaveras, "My MBA was very valuable to me, but it was too general. I wanted to focus on engineering, on technology, because they are at the core of technology companies. And I needed to find a template, a process, for handling complexity. At SDM, all courses lead to an understanding of system complexity. In telecommunications (which will become increasingly global) that kind of understanding is invaluable. There will be new products, services, customers, and business models. Everything is changing."

And, Canaveras says, after graduating from SDM, she expects her role at Nokia will change as she becomes a part of that change.