Executive Insights Q&A With Nicola Palmer, Verizon

Jan. 1, 2019
Meet Nicola Palmer, Senior Vice President of Product Development & 5G Ecosystems at Verizon. Nicola is a leader who walks her talk as she guides her team to build a […]

Meet Nicola Palmer, Senior Vice President of Product Development & 5G Ecosystems at Verizon. Nicola is a leader who walks her talk as she guides her team to build a better future through mobility, technology and innovation for Verizon customers. 

Watch Nicola discuss her priorities on bringing 5G to the masses in 2019, her excitement for the fourth industrial revolution, the greatest myth about being a woman in an executive position, and much more. Read Sharon Vollman’s exclusive Executive Insights interview with Nicola below discussing Verizon’s 5G launch, virtualize and automation, plus embracing change and encouraging risk-taking across her team.


On October 1, 2018, Verizon’s 5G Home network went live for consumers in parts of Los Angeles, Sacramento, Houston, and Indianapolis.

Sharon Vollman, ISE: What was the most challenging part of the launch? What were some of the lessons you and your team have learned?

Nicola Palmer, Verizon: Our team gets excited about bringing tomorrow’s technologies to life, and the ongoing development and deployment of 5G is one of the great tech challenges of our time. It has the potential to change the ways we all live, work, learn, and play. It will touch individuals, small businesses, and enterprises; and leaders in municipalities, cities, and states will play a key role. At Verizon, we know how to build great networks — it’s been the foundation of our brand for years. And meeting challenges is part of our network-building DNA. We’re approaching the deployment of 5G technology with the same fortitude. The beauty of how we’re architecting our network is that it’s multipurpose. Most of the strategies, efforts, and investments we undertake are relevant for all our networks, whether 4G, 5G, Fiber or IoT networks like CatM or NB IoT. These integrated networks serve our wireless, enterprise, and FiOS businesses, enabling new service agility as well as efficiency gains along the way.

We learned a tremendous amount during our series of 5G trials during 2017, purposely done in different topographies to test our millimeter wave spectrum in every possible way. We were very pleased with the results, which frankly met or exceeded our expectations in every important dimension. These trials really set the groundwork for our 5G Home launch, the first US commercial 5G launch in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Houston and Indianapolis. Now customers are enjoying the capabilities of 5G Home broadband service, and we continue to learn and improve.


ISE: A business needs to run two models simultaneously: one optimized for today and one optimized for tomorrow. How do you do that well without neglecting one or the other?

Palmer: Good leaders need to do both. Producing results today is not an option, it’s a necessity. And today’s performance provides a foundation for future success. However, focusing only on the present leaves you vulnerable to disruptive turns in technology, economics, and/or business models. Leaders should always be stretching the organization in new ways. Emphasizing what’s important for the future provides a clear pathway to guide today’s key decisions.


ISE: What is the most interesting thing about your role at Verizon? What would you recommend to someone who wants to achieve a high-level position in their career?

Palmer: Our products and services enable people and businesses to do more — how interesting is that?! Using the latest and greatest technology to solve real world problems with an innovative and super-talented team is phenomenal! In terms of advice: align your interests and abilities with your work and don’t give up. 

Food for Thought from Our 2022 ICT Visionaries


ISE: How do you embrace change and encourage risk-taking across your team? 

Palmer: Leading change is an essential task. Thinking through the dynamics of change, how it may affect your team as a group and as individuals, is time well spent. Most people don’t come to work every day intent on resisting change. As leaders, we need to be unambiguous about the change we want to see. Describing the future state, clearly communicating what you are trying to accomplish with emphasis on the reasons why, leads to successful outcomes.


ISE: What is Verizon doing to virtualize and automate its network operations and how is that effort progressing? What is needed from the vendor community to help?

Palmer: A combination of the latest hardware, software, and applications enables what we call our Intelligent Edge Network. It’s an end-to-end network transformation that includes 5G, deep fiber, SDN/NFV platforms, and advanced analytics. In addition to state-of-the-art, streamlined architecture, we are deploying AR/VR capabilities to improve operations. Our vendors are partners in this journey. As we build services, we expect our vendors to embrace the separation of hardware and software and decomposition of network functions. We like to partner with suppliers that are innovative and lean into technology. Of course, we expect all our suppliers to be efficient and operate with the highest integrity.


ISE: What is your approach to leading teams and how is it different than that of other leaders? Is there a "secret sauce" to your method?

Palmer: There are a few key principles that I try to always keep in mind. It’s fairly simple, but the closest thing I have to a "secret sauce": 1. Integrity — it always starts here, honesty with yourself and with others. 2. Curiosity — ask questions, never stop learning. In my line of work in particular, it’s important to lead with the latest technology. 3. Teamwork — I can’t think of many significant achievements that are the work of a single individual. 4. Don’t take yourself too seriously — have a little fun along the way. 5. Respect — in the end it’s always about people; they will make it work, or not.


ISE: What hands-on things should good mentors do?

Palmer: First off, agility is the name of the game today and it even applies to mentoring. Teachable moments present themselves all day long and a formal setting isn’t always necessary to provide guidance and advice. Some of the best "mentoring" I received was a literal kick under the table at a meeting after an ill-advised comment. I remember it to this day! Good mentors are selfless and empathetic. They are not afraid to provide feedback of all kinds with honesty and kindness. 


ISE: What emerging or disruptive technology excites you the most for the future of the ICT industry?  

Palmer: 5G. The next generation of wireless technology will unleash amazing capabilities through gigabit bandwidth and speeds, latency in the single milliseconds — response time hundreds of times faster than the blink of an eye, and scalability in the billions of connections. Add in the power of big data analytics and artificial intelligence and move all this capability closer and closer to the end user or device through edge computing and you have the formula for immense leaps in utility.

About the Author

Sharon Vollman | Editor-in-Chief, ISE Magazine

Sharon Vollman is Editor-in-Chief of ISE Magazine. She oversees the strategic direction and content for ISE Magazine. She also leads the educational content development for ISE EXPO. Vollman has created educational partnerships with the major communications and entertainment providers including AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Frontier Communications and Cincinnati Bell. She has covered the telecom industry since 1996. Prior to that, she worked in advertising with Ogilvy & Mather and CME. Vollman has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Advertising from the University of Iowa.