Back in 2014, when Akash Palkhiwala was first approached to serve as treasurer of wireless technology company Qualcomm, the company’s future CFO was uncertain as to what the role of a treasurer might actually entail.
“I’m not making this up: I did a Google search on what a treasurer does,” explains Palkhiwala, who recalls that the approaching retirement of the firm’s incumbent treasurer had led then-CFO George Davis to gauge Palkhiwala’s interest in the role.Read More
Palkhiwala had first joined Qualcomm in 2001, and during his early years with the firm had been involved in the wireless firm’s M&A activity. Eventually, he graduated from a succession of financial planning and analysis roles through which he had rendered a steady flow of strategic insights for Qualcomm management as the company climbed from 3G to 4G to 5G along the wireless continuum.
“Although I’ve been here for 20 years, I feel like I have changed companies multiple times,” comments Palkhiwala, who notes that the treasurer role ultimately proved to be one of his career’s greatest learning grounds.
“It was just a fantastic experience. I did a lot of different things that I had never done before and worked with a whole new set of people, got exposure to the financial markets and the banking system, and created these new relationships that today I see as foundational in being successful as a CFO,” observes Palkhiwala, who adds that while today he knows that he made the right decision, accepting the treasurer position did require a degree of courage.
Says Palkhiwala: “I was recently talking to someone who was facing a tough career choice. He explained that you get maybe three windows of opportunity in the course of your career, and your success or failure over time is largely defined by your courage when windows of opportunity show up.” –Jack Sweeney
CFOTL: Tell us about Qualcomm … what chapter is this company opening today?
Palkhiwala: When you look back at Qualcomm, you see that we were largely a mobile company and very focused on creating technology that makes mobile devices, phones, the most personal device that you can have. As we were in the process of doing this—and we’ve done an incredible job with this part of the business—the digital transformation that came with cloud computing was creating a situation that has now resulted in several devices that are becoming what we are calling the intelligent, connected edge—new devices that want to connect to the cloud.Read More
As our CEO Cristiano Amon always says, “if you believe in the cloud opportunity, you should believe in the intelligent, connected device opportunity.” Our objective—and I think that we’re very fortunate with this because of our history—is to become the premier chip provider for the intelligent, connected cloud—the intelligent, connected edge.
Let me explain what I mean by this. When we were making chips for phones, we had to build a chip that was connected to the cloud, that did very efficient processing at low power, and that did artificial intelligence in the device. Now, when you think about—as an example—a car, and the car is getting connected to the cloud, the car needs these same three qualities. It requires connectivity with 5G, it requires processing at low power, and it requires AI at the edge.
We’re just fortunate that all of these devices are demanding technology that was created for mobile. We are positioned to really be the primary beneficiary at the edge from this digital transformation that was happening anyway but really got accelerated tremendously by COVID. I gave you the example of a car, but the same principles apply to manufacturing, retail, transportation, utilities, and healthcare, and each one of these is a big enough opportunity that it could create a whole new Qualcomm-size business by itself.
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