This is so cool and so relevant.
Matti Makkonen, a giant of Finnish telecoms, has been awarded the Economist Innovation Award for Computing and Telecommunications for 2008. You may not have heard of Matti Makkonen, but you do use his service every day. In fact, no other computing or telecommunications system has ever been used by more people than the one he helped invent and create. It is SMS text messaging.
So cool, so cool, so cool.
Matti has retired and in his last job he was CEO of the Finnet Group in Finland (one of my two operator employers back when I used to be employed in Finland) but I was truly privileged to have actually worked with Matti to considerable and deep degree. He was a senior VP at Nokia when I was there, and right after I was promoted to start up and head Nokia's business consulting unit, my boss sent me to tutelage to only one person - Matti Makkonen. Because of Matti's long career in the telecoms operator business as a senior exec prior to joining Nokia, he was perfectly poised to give me advice on what my department was to aim for and achieve - as the clients of my department's consultants would be the major mobile telecoms operators around the world.
In giving me advice, Matti was always thoughtful, insightful, and helpful. He was able to truly guide the development of my little department and I was always impressed at how thoroughly he would dedicate his attention to the needs of what was, after all, a very junior exec in HQ with a modest department. He treated me with enormous respect and this was also something I then insisted my consultants would always do with everybody else, both internally at Nokia and with our customers.
Matti was also supportive of me after I left Nokia to launch my own consultancy. He is in every sense of the word a gentleman. And for Finland's mobile telecoms industry, he is one of the true giants. Now he has won this year's computing and telecoms award for innovation, by the Economist, for SMS text messaging. I love it.
Matti, my best best best congratulations. I know you are retired, and won't bother reading techie blogs and following this industry anymore, but this award is so deserved. I will make sure I get the word to you also via email, that we Finns all around the world are celebrating you.
And I have to add, that once again, yet once again, the Economist - my favourite weekly newsmagazine - manages to prove it truly understands the 7th Mass Media, they get their stories on mobile telecoms right far more than any of their rivals. Good call, Economist.
UPDATE - I was just surfing the web to find a contact for Matti, and found a comment on his award by Jukka Salonen, the CEO of Finnish mobile developer Bookit. Look at what Jukka said and observe the pattern, this truly is the personality of Matti Makkonen, he made everybody feel like this. Listen to Jukka explain:
I was just a young guy – when I joined Telecom Finland in 1996. Matti was a top executive but yet he took time and patience to listen to my ideas of making PC applications available to a mobile phone. Matti listened carefully and then replied: “Why should we limit mobile applications to things we normally do on a PC! Mobile phone has advantages that PC does NOT have: It fits nicely in your pocket, so it is always with you. You can use it with one hand and press the buttons with your thumb, even when you moving. Think if we could make reservations, payments and quick and easy transactions just pressing one button”. Think of the mobile phone as a remote controller of your life, continued Mr. Makkonen.
One - you see Matti acting just as gently and respectfully towards a far junior new hire at Telecom Finland in 1996, as he did to me as one of the most junior execs of Nokia in 2000. But secondly, observe the second half of that paragraph - and most importantly the timing. In 1996 Matti Makkonen was telling his employees that a "mobile phone has advantages that a PC does not have." Does this sound familiar? Can you see the seeds of Tomi Ahonen's 7th Mass Media theory and so forth. Here is where it all came from. At a time when the whole world said that nobody would type text messages on a phone, and that mobile phone penetration rates would never exceed 20% per capita - Matti already saw that this was a "remote controller of your life". Matti, you truly are a genious.
And thank you Jukka for that wonderful anecdote of Matti's life. And in addition to a much longer story about his career, there is a wonderful recent picture of Matti Makkonen in the story, and Matti seems lively and energetic and youthful in that photo as he always was, seeming decades younger than his real age. I miss my sessions of guidance by my mentor....