Tech Job Watch Feb 09 2011

Nokia May Change North America, R&D Leadership

By sindhu sundar and john shinal

An expected shakeup at Nokia may mean "significant changes" in the company's North America and research and development leadership, according to Zahid Hussein, an analyst at Citigroup who covers Nokia.

The German weekly Wirtschaftswoche, citing company sources, reported on Saturday that a number of executives may leave, including phone unit head Mary McDowell, markets unit manager Niklas Savander, chief development officer Kai Oistamo and services and solutions manager Tero Ojanpera, according to a Reuters summary of the German article.

Hussein said there would be a "good amount of restructuring" at the company's research and development and operational facilities.

Nokia did not respond to calls for comment.

Divisions may not be shut down and there may not be job cuts. The restructuring is meant to increase productivity.

"It's not just about cost savings," said Hussein. "It's more about a collaborative effort between hardware and software -- it's about doing more with the same amount."

A Silicon Valley tech recruiter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he has spoken with a top Nokia executive who expects changes at the top of the organization.

"If there is a shake-up at the top, it will be a move from hardware to software and services," said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a Campbell, Calif.-based industry analysis group.

The speculation followed a leaked company memo in which Nokia CEO Stephen Elop outlined the company's failure to keep up with rivals Apple and Google, saying that the company is "standing on a burning platform."

"There will be genuine change inside Nokia and the problem is at the helms. You need someone who can take aggressive moves," said Hussein. "The real value in what Steve has done is to be honest with the seismic challenges the company is facing."

A new role of chief marketing officer was created in January with the appointment of Citigroup veteran Jerri DeVard as executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

Nokia's problems go beyond personnel, said Gren Millard, who heads global technology recruiting for Korn/Ferry International from Washington, D.C.

"It has an impact on their brand [and] given their market position, it's more important than ever that they attract top talent," said Millard, who who declined to comment on whether his firm is recruiting any Nokia executives.

Hussein added that there was "not a lot of credibility" to reports that the beleaguered electronics giant would relocate its Espoo, Finland headquarters to Silicon Valley.

Elop joined Nokia last September from Microsoft, where he was president of the business division. He was previously COO of Juniper Networks. Prior to that, he was CEO of Web software company Macromedia until it was acquired by Adobe Systems in April 2005.

A Canadian citizen, he is the first non-Finn to be Nokia's CEO. He replaced Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo.

In December, Nokia moved all of its employees in Silicon Valley into a new facility in Sunnyvale, Calif., which houses approximately 500 workers.

Investors have been clamoring for a change in management since 2009, a period that has seen the appointment of CFO Timo Ihamuotila in November 2009, and EVP of Mobile Solutions Alberto Torres in July 2010.

"Shareholders are happy [with the appointments]," Hussein said. "[Elop] needs to deliver a clear message with tangible time lines."

Any move that boosts Nokia's credibility among mobile application developers would help the company attract some of the product innovators it needs to compete better with Apple, Google and Research in Motion, according to Millard.

A note today from Goldman Sachs Nokia analyst Tim Boddy said Elop's comments about Symbian, Nokia's mobile operating system that has come under fire, suggests that Nokia "may announce a radical (rather than incremental) strategic shift on Friday."

Write to Sindhu Sundar and John Shinal

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