Exploring the Capabilities of an Interconnected World with Kazu Gomi

Posted: 12/12/2018 - 10:18

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In this episode of the Sourcing Industry Landscape, Dawn Tiura interviews Kazu Gomi. Kazu Gomi, CEO of NTT America, ranks as the 4th largest telecommunication company in the world. We learn the breadth and depth of NTT’s capabilities, from system integration, (they acquired Dell Services a few years ago) and are also one of the largest security companies in North America. 

Dawn Tiura: My name is Dawn Tiura, and I'm president and CEO of Sourcing Industry Group, also known as SIG. And I'm excited today. I have a different kind of guest than I've had on before. We have somebody who is an expert, and his name is Kazu Gomi. He is the Chief Executive Officer of NTT America. He's out of the greater New York City area. But first, I just want to welcome you, Kazu, to the show. So thank you for joining me.
Kazu Gomi: Thank you very much for having me. Good morning.
Dawn Tiura: Good morning. So just for the listeners, NTT, I was blown away personally when I learned what a large and vast organization it is. Can you give our listeners a little bit of background about who NTT is as a company, and then NTT Securities?
Kazu Gomi: Okay, I'd love to. NTT is a Japan-based company. It's roots is a telecommunication company. NTT stands for Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporations. Currently, as we stand, our annual revenue side is over $100 billion. If I understand, the most recent Global Fortune 500 ranking, amongst the "telecommunications companies," we are ranked number four after AT&T, Verizon, and China Mobile. And something our company, NTT, is a little bit different from all the other usual suspects, AT&T and so and so forth, is that we have a pretty [large] breadth of service capabilities for enterprise market.
Kazu Gomi: We have a couple different operating companies including NTT Data and Dimension Data. Especially, this group called NTT Data, this company has a lot of capabilities in the systems integration areas. SAP and Oracle, all those enterprise applications that this company can take care of it. And for the U.S. audience, I think that this company's very well known for the company who acquired DELL Services about three years ago. So all, basically, the capabilities that DELL Services had, we have inherited.
Kazu Gomi: So as the NTT Group, we have a capability of a traditional telecommunications company. So all the global network we have, global footprints, and the data centers, voice solutions, and so on and so forth, those are infrastructure side. And Dimension Data provides the systems integrations. And as I've just mentioned, NTT Data, which has the capabilities
of enterprise applications. And on top of that, of course, the security is a big topic for everyone, so we have experts of this area. We have a group called NTT Security. But basically, altogether, NTT Group, we call ourselves. And we try to become the group who can do full stack, full life cycle for the enterprise IT solutions. So that's where we are in a nutshell.
Dawn Tiura: Good. And so my understanding is you also carry more internet traffic than most of the well-known names here out of North America. Is that true?
Kazu Gomi: Yes. It is true. So, one of the infrastructure capabilities that I can touch upon is this global internet backbone NTT Group runs. And I personally have been involved in this project longer than any other project in my career, to be quite honest. But yeah, we carry more traffic than anybody you may think of, like AT&T and Verizon and so on and so forth. We are one of the top three providers in the world in terms of that volume of traffic—volume of internet traffic, I should say—that we carry amongst all the providers in the world.
Dawn Tiura: Yeah. That's amazing. So when I first got introduced to NTT, I thought of you as telephone and telecom. And I had no idea at the breadth and depth of your company. But let's go back to the beginning. So, my understanding is you have a undergrad degree in mechanical engineering; a master's degree in engineering; an industrial engineering degree. So, you knew from early on that this was an area you wanted go into. Because your very first job after school, if I recall correctly, was going in to be a director at NTT. So what got your interest? Why NTT? And why are you so overly educated?
Kazu Gomi: Well, I'm not sure if I'm overly educated or not, but I was always interested in technology. And that was the early stage of personal computers, well, if you remember those term[s]. And then I thought that that will change the world. And NTT has, back then, a lot of bells and whistles around ISDN, if you remember those terms-
Dawn Tiura: Mm-hmm, Mm-hmm.
Kazu Gomi: -to basically start, not just voice communications, we start talking about the data communications. So I thought that was very interesting and I thought that's the future that we're going to head out. So, I really wanted to devote myself into, mostly, when I started a career in NTT in the R&D project that I wanted to get involved in. So basically, that's how I ended up in NTT and started my career.
Dawn Tiura: That's awesome. So you started off in Cyber Space Laboratories in Yokosuka, Japan. Is that correct?
Kazu Gomi: Yes. That was in Japan, yes. And back then, well, I was involved in several projects. But one of them was early '90s, that I was involved in, a project called the video on demand project. And well, it's kind of funny to say that right now, I think, that video on demand is basically everybody see it on the internet today and nothing new; everybody knows what it is. But back then, that was a big thing. You can see that videos of—over the network. So I thought it had a lot of potential and capabilities and can change the world. So that's one of the projects that I was involved in, mostly, to develop different applications around this core technology of storing video and then distributing the video over the network.
Dawn Tiura: Now, that was a long time ago before we had all this Netflix on-demand and everything on-demand. So you were definitely a visionary starting out back then. So that was back in 1998, if I recall. So from there, you went on to become the VP of global business development. Was that still in Japan?
Kazu Gomi: Just for a brief two years, three years, I worked out of Japan. Back then, early 2000, NTT decided to go to the global market, and I was involved in this project from Tokyo for the first couple of years. And then 2004, I was assigned to work in New York City. And I've been here since then. So yeah. I've seen a bit of history of NTT's global expansion. And I'm really proud of and I'm also happy to see how much we have accomplished. But certainly, Dawn, you mentioned, you didn't know too much about NTT until this interview was scheduled. So that means that we have a lot to go so that NTT becomes a little more household name, I guess. So that's-
Dawn Tiura: Well, yeah. And actually, ever since you got involved in SIG, your team has been doing a great job getting your message out there. And that's when I went, "NTT?" You're so much more complex and so much more vital an enterprise today that they need to know about these capabilities. And that's why I wanted you to help describe them because everybody knows their own little story about NTT, that you bought Dell. Okay, so you have services. Or that you have a securities arm. Okay, that's interesting. Or you've got data. But nobody understands—not nobody—but it took me a while, to be honest with you, to understand how critical you can be, and instrumental, especially today, when everything is about risk and security, that you've got such a broad array of things that you can offer to our members. So I'm just really impressed.
Dawn Tiura: And I'd like to talk a little bit about risk and security of the internet. We hear about that all the time. Is it something that—are we always just trying to stay one step ahead, or do you think we can ever get two, three, four steps ahead of the hackers and trolls and everything else that happens to be out there these days? Are you optimistic?
Kazu Gomi: Yes. We should be able to say that we are a few steps ahead. But certainly, [the] world is changing so fast. And I think network is so pervasive and everybody can access to everything, so it is not an easy job to do. But I think we can do that. And from NTT's perspective, we have couple of interesting propositions that we can create around based upon our capabilities. Like I said, that we carry vast amount of internet traffic on the backbone network, which is actually one of the assets when it comes to the security arenas. We have more visibilities on what's going on in the network. So along with other technologies of [inaudible] engines, big data analytics and all sorts of technologies that we have also, the combination of that and the internet traffic analysis, we can do a lot of really interesting thing. And then we are trying to be ahead of the game in this arena. And then once again, it is moving very fast. So, it is not an easy job to do, but we are trying the best.
Dawn Tiura: Yeah. And we're just rolling out our third-party risk management certification. And it comes up throughout the certification about the need to understand your third parties and the risk that they bring. And that's an area that I think you can add so much benefit to our members by being able to talk about third-party risk management. So we really appreciated all your contributions in that front.
Kazu Gomi: Well, thank you.
Dawn Tiura: And then, so let’s talk about—then you moved into being the chief technology officer, then the COO, and now the CEO. So congratulations on this climb through NTT.
Kazu Gomi: Oh, thank you.
Dawn Tiura: But from a chief technology officer perspective to the CEO perspective—tell me how does that change your perspective? Are you suddenly more concerned with analysts and quarterly earnings than as chief technology officer, you don't have to worry as much about that? How does that role change? Because that's a dramatic shift as you went up to become the leader.
Kazu Gomi: Yeah. Certainly, there's good and bad. Well, as we touched upon during this conversation, I like technology. And I still believe that I have engineering blood in my body. And so, I love talking to the CTO-ish discussions and not too much worrying about earnings and stuff like that. But now, certainly, I have to change my focus and diversify my focuses for the company's performance and then all the other broader aspects of it, which is interesting, but at the same time, I have less time to spend on the technology side, which is a bit of a—well, I should not call it negative side, but that is the fact.
Kazu Gomi: Yeah. But I believe that nowadays, especially in these industries, that a lot of things are going on in technology space. And I believe that my understanding on that base technology and the network hostings, cloud, and all that is really helping me navigate the companies and help find a way for the customers to tighten up their securities or bring more efficiencies in their IT systems and in their entire processes, and so on and so forth. So I believe that there's certainly a difference that I can make because of the various career movement that I have gone through.
Dawn Tiura: Yeah. So if you don't mind, can I talk about your big announcement that came out on August 7th, where you're restructuring the global business that's outside Japan? And you had three different operating companies and you're gonna be integrating that into one over time. Can you tell me what was the driver for this? And what do you think will be the success story out of doing this integration and merger of these three operating entities?
Kazu Gomi: Yes. So like, once again, that you touched upon a little bit earlier on this conversation—that NTT has different names: NTT Data; Dimension Data; NTT Communication, so on and so forth. And people get easily confused. And then I hear such feedbacks from the customers, from analysts, and so on and so forth. So we decided we have to change our operation model a little bit. And then basically go to market side much easier for the customer to understand who NTT is.
Kazu Gomi: So in a nutshell, that's where we're coming from. What we are trying to do, based upon the announcement that we made early August, was from NTT Corporation perspective, is that we're going to restructure the global business or more of an actual entire enterprise business from NTT Corporation's perspective by basically put[ting] all those companies under the single umbrella. And eventually, we will integrate them together so that we have an easier story to understand from the customers, analysts—their point of view. And then, like I mentioned, we have a full life cycle, full stack capabilities. And by putting all those operations' arms together, we can really be able to…we can really provide those full stack capabilities to the customers with a similar fashion. That's what we want to achieve, and I think we should be measured against how well we do from that perspective.
Dawn Tiura: Well, that's awesome. Well, anything we can do at SIG to help you get the message out there, let us know. And obviously, through this podcast, we'll let all the Art of Procurement listeners know about it, as well.
Dawn Tiura: So now you've been 30 short years, your entire career. You're now CEO of a huge company. If you were to look back at your younger self, is there anything you would have done differently? Is there any advice you'd give yourself?
Kazu Gomi: Well, let's see. That's an interesting question. I think that something I can tell myself that what we should have done is that I think from the technology perspective: we should have paid a lot closer attention to virtualization and cloud technology. I guess that, well, now everybody knows how important it is in the market. But I have to admit that I didn't understand when it comes to the market in early or mid-2000s how important this is going to be. So that's something I thought of when it comes to the technology side.
Kazu Gomi: And another thing is more of a Chief Executive Officer's point of view. I think importance of how to send a message to the customers and analysts that ‘who we are’, just easy for those critical parties to understand what our capabilities are, and then what we are strong at and what we are good at. I think that sending an easier message, simpler message, that's something we could have done better job than what we have done so far. So those are what I can think of quickly.
Dawn Tiura: Yeah. No, I think that's great. But I think when you're so involved, it seems so intuitively obvious. Of course, you should know what we do because we tell you. But when you're sitting back now in a leadership perspective, you understand that not everyone's listening. You're telling them. You're explaining it. But the message is not always resonating. And I think that's very common with a lot of companies, is that you get so caught up in what you're doing that you assume, or you presume, that it's obvious to the outside world all the different things that you do and the services and that it's explained well. So that's great insight to go back and think of, "Wow. Maybe our messaging could've been better way back when." But I love the fact that you're still in love with technology 30 years later. And are you gonna be able to keep up that energy level with the rate of change? Do you think you still have a passion that will carry you into the next decade?
Kazu Gomi: I certainly have the passion, I believe. But yeah, nowadays, it's a little bit sad to say that I realize, talking to the engineering folks in my team, and I realize that, "Oops, I don't understand what they're talking about." So it's definitely a sad moment here and there. I try to, you know, cover myself and looking at internet and then see, "Oh, what was he talking about?" And then try to catch up that way. But yeah, so if you call that as a passion, passion and energy level, I still have that. So that's good. I can still, I guess, catch up on what's going on in the market. But yeah, definitely, more and more often, I realize that, "Oops, I don't understand what they're talking about." That moment, I have more often these days.
Dawn Tiura: Oh, that's amazing. With this great a change, I'm not surprised. And with your focus being so big. So if you were to have a new person starting out and you could give them a piece of advice—and they're coming out of engineering and they're in love with technology, what would be your advice to them today?
Kazu Gomi: I think nowadays, everybody, especially in the U.S. market, when I look…well, I certainly have a challenge to talk with folks who works in start-ups and doing interesting things. I really admire many of them who really have a pretty good balance between the technology understanding and then their new future capabilities through their development. And they have a very good sense of linking that into how to apply that to the business or how to apply to, really, this market. I have to admit that I didn't have that type of skills when I was younger. 30 years ago, I certainly didn't have. So, I really think that nowadays, especially in the U.S. market, many people have that good sense of balance, and then linkage between technology and how to apply that to market.
Kazu Gomi: But I think it is certainly very important to be cognizant about this linkage. Yeah, I think there is an old saying that any technology, it doesn't make any difference, or it doesn't mean anything until you really apply it to the business or the life. Well, certainly academic people may have a different approach to their research and technology development areas. But as long as you are in business, certainly, that’s the key stuff. So just pursue whatever you're interested in in terms of technology. But it is really important to understand how this is going to be changing the world of enterprise or changing the world of everybody’s life. Well, it was a long answer, but that's my-
Dawn Tiura: No, it's very true, because sometimes, you get lost in the technology and don't make the practical application. And if you don't understand the application, you might go down the wrong path. So I think that's fantastic advice for somebody starting out, is ‘pause, see how it fits in’.
Kazu Gomi: Well, thank you.
Dawn Tiura: Yeah. I think that's fantastic. So I just want to thank you for being a CEO of such a magnificent company. And you have just been so approachable. And you're so down to earth. And you're so humble. So I just really wanna wish you the best of luck. And I would love to be able to check back with you on the podcast and see what's going on after you do the integration and hear the next chapter of your story. Can I invite you back one day?
Kazu Gomi: Of course. Yeah, I'd love to do that. And thank you very much for this opportunity.
Dawn Tiura: Well, thank you so much. So folks, I'm talking to Kazu Gomi. He's the chief executive officer, NTT America. Thank you, Kazu. Have a wonderful day.
Kazu Gomi: Thank you very much, Dawn.

About The Author

Kazuhiro (Kazu) Gomi is CEO of NTT America. He has led NTT America as CEO since 2010 when he ascended to the CEO role after being the COO for just over a year and the CTO for five years. Kazu also had positions as the director in charge of general planning at Cyber Space Laboratories in Yokosuka, Japan. Kazu has an undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering and M.S. degree in BOTH Industrial and Electrical Engineering and resides in the Greater New York City area.