Jonathan Rutherford: People In the Czech Republic Are Extremely Business-Minded

Published: 1. 8. 2020
Author: Adriana Dergam
Photo: Kateřina Šantorová
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He has only lived in Czechia for a relatively short time, when you talk to him, it is obvious that he really likes this country. He speaks enthusiastically not only about the places he has visited, but also about the people he has met. And, he talks about his work with the same enthusiasm. We are talking about Jonathan Rutherford, Vice President, Vodafone Business. And because he works in a company that is known for its casual vibe and friendliness, where one of the commonplace rules is that every employee is on first-name basis even with the CEO, this talk was established strictly on first-name basis.

How long have you lived in the Czech Republic and where did you work before?

I've been here for almost two years. Very briefly about my career – I have worked for many years in sales, commercial and marketing roles at Vodafone, I have worked in product management and business development in the UK and Ireland. At the beginning of my career, I worked as a technology consultant mainly in Western Europe – for example in France and Belgium. I studied telecommunications, IT and technology. I must say that I am fascinated by the huge transformative power of technology. If you look at the journey we've made over the last 20 years, it's incredible! It is very encouraging for me to meet new interesting companies. For instance, we recently supported women's startups competition. I am always impressed when I see the quality of new projects that can arise, for example, through 5G, 4G mobile network and optics.


Do you see any distinctive features that are specific to doing business on the Czech market?

I am convinced that the Czech market has two very strong points that I personally like very much. Compared to other markets, people are much more educated in mathematics and science, and are much better at technology. This is something you should grow. And this is related to the fact that people are much more business-minded here, not afraid to experiment with technology, combine, create new things. That's great.


From the perspective of Vodafone, which part of the Czech market are you most interested in? Who are you primarily targeting?

I think Vodafone's role is very much related to breakthrough technologies that change industry and society. We were one of the first brands to allow data transmission over  mobile connection and have made a big contribution to the expansion and popularity of mobile services. We recently teamed up with UPC and as part of this process, we verified that customers want to have the choice from both mobile and land line services and get the best speed. When it comes to the business market, we see tremendous opportunities in IoT (Internet of Things) and SDN (Software Defined Network). I believe that people know our advertising slogan " The Strongest Network is You " – that expresses our deep conviction that the world is so interconnected and connectivity so vital to businesses of all sizes that the more connectivity we have, the more opportunities we will provide.


You mentioned the connection to UPC. What will it bring to corporate customers?

With UPC we have obtained an optical backbone network and, of course, local connections using cable distribution and other technologies in business centres. Thanks to them, we can now provide solid services in many more places. With UPC we also took over great people with great experience. We have acquired voice engineering, data engineering, so our professional service team has been greatly strengthened. Customers who have had a long-standing and successful relationship with UPC can now benefit from a single provider of mobile and fixed services, which is another major benefit.


Much has been said about Industry 4.0. Can UPC help Vodafone with its building in the Czech Republic?

In connection with industry 4.0, it is mainly about the use of new technologies in production. The most promising are the so-called mobile private networks. A prerequisite for such a network is much higher transmission power and a much faster connection that would allow the operation of machines and robots. This requires much faster response - basically in real time. That's why we need a 5G network that will be fibre optic connected to mobile transmitters. UPC has a great optical network that will help us a lot. Without such a network, we could never build 5G and Industry 4.0.


5G is still to come, but it is already necessary for many companies to undergo digital transformation. How can Vodafone help them in this?

Vodafone can play different roles depending on the type of business. When talking about small businesses, digital transformation will mean for them, above all, the ability to connect to the Internet wherever they need it, whether over a fixed or mobile network. They will also need to ensure data security and secure storage of company information. We can do this for them on a variety of devices, including mobile phones and fixed networks. In addition, smaller businesses may need applications that enable them to digitize more and work more productively. They will be able to use Microsoft 365, share cloud work, or use other CRM applications. We can help them in all these aspects. For larger companies we have a much larger portfolio of IoT services and solutions. They can measure or track operations, increase work efficiency, or reduce the cost of running a property. For example, we offer a Smart Building service to control energy, lighting, heating, etc.


When we move from IoT to innovation in the broader sense, I would like to ask about the Women Startup Competition. It is a unique event on the Czech market and Vodafone has been its partner there for 3 years. What do you see as your main contribution to it?

I think we want to do two things. First, when we look into our own ranks, it is clear we don’t have enough women in technology. We want to support the representation of women and show how fantastically inspiring female technical leaders who start startups today are. The second reason is also significant for us as a technology company. Our mission is to create the strongest possible networks and to help connectivity flourish. And when you look at women's start-ups, you will find that the vast majority of them are either technology companies or companies that are revolutionizing technological change. So we see a clear connection between how we are helping this revolution and, at the same time, women who are doing pioneering work in this field.


You hold the honorary function of “ Women in Business Ambassador ” at Vodafone. What does it entail?

It has its own history. About four years ago, when I was working in Ireland, the CEO was a fantastic lady - Anne O'Leary. She was one of Vodafone's most inspiring leaders and a world leader in her field. She led a programme aimed at women in business and tried to explain to senior people how important it was for everyone to have a say. At the time, this topic was also part of Vodafone's global agenda. This is to say that inclusion, diversity and the active involvement of all individuals are really important to our society. Yet, as for Irish experience - I was in charge of a programme for managers working with experiential methods. We wanted everyone to try hard for themselves what it means to be a minority. This made it easier for people to realize who they really are and what drives them forward. I have been very enthusiastic about this programme and determined to change a lot of things around me. When I came to the Czech Republic, I was very glad to take on the role of ambassador for this campaign, which supports women across our business. I am pleased to be able to pass on my experience from Ireland.


Vodafone is generally devoted to women. It has also won several awards as best employer for women.

That is true. But it's not just women that Vodafone cares about. We strive to create an environment in which everyone can do their best. We want our corporate culture to be open to everyone. We support the LGBT community, employees who care for elderly parents or grandparents, and think of those who need help because they have some health restrictions. In short, we want to be as inclusive as possible. What we represent as an employer, what we strive for and what role we want to play in society is important. This is important for our employees as well. I think Vodafone has much to say in this respect. We are introducing a new benefit that is unique on the Czech market. It is a 16-week paid holiday for fresh parents. And it does not matter if the child is born or adopted, whether the parents are spouses or partners. So it's not just a benefit for dads, but also for the LGBT community. The employee can take off a few weeks in a row or draw it as separate days, up to 1.5 years of the child's age. This gives people space to be together with their family in this crucial period of life. It also shows that our company cares about its people and that it cares about work-life balance. I consider this to be a very important step and a very helpful step towards our employees.


What about your family? You have three children – have they got used to living in the Czech Republic? How do they spend their free time? Do they have Czech friends?

I have two boys and a girl. By the way, having a daughter opens a person's eyes. When it comes to women's employment, you will become much more aware of how many differences there are. My family arrived half a year after me, so they’ve been here for about a year and a half. The Czech Republic has impressed us. It's a beautiful country. My family enjoys immensely the Czechs' affinity for nature. This is very important. Generally people  here appreciate nature very much. And there are many more outdoor activities. Many possibilities for walks, trips, jogging. We are happy to have met a number of Czech friends, having discovered Czech culture and society. My son's best friend is Czech, he speaks incredibly good English and helps him with Czech. Czech language is a big challenge for us. My Czech is appalling, but I am not giving up;  I go to classes and I enjoy it a lot.

Jonathan Rutherford is the Vice President for Vodafone Business.

He joined Czech Vodafone from Vodafone Ireland, where he was primarily responsible for expanding the Vodafone business unit through integration of M&A, building a managed services unit and developing a fixed line business.

#Prior to that, he worked as Head of Commercial and Marketing, where he launched 4G services for business and held a number of other leading roles in Sales, Business Development, Product Management and Marketing for fixed, mobile and IT business lines across Vodafone UK.

Before joining Vodafone, he worked as a management consultant, primarily working with high technology companies and emerging European carriers.

Jonathan advocates diversity in the workplace, believing that technology can change society for the better, and he is interested in innovation.

He spends his free time with his wife and three children, or relaxes playing football, squash and in the countryside.

He is from Newcastle, England.


Internet of Things

One of the innovations Vodafone brought to the Czech Republic is the Internet of Things (IoT). How does Jonathan see its future on the Czech market? “The IoT market is currently very promising. This is because most people use IoT, they just don't know it. There is a plethora of devices connected to the Internet, like watches, whether it's Apple Watch, Garmin, or Fitbit, ” he says. “Other devices are used by many people at home, from smart speakers to door buzzers and more. And the same is true for companies, which in turn use IoT in many different devices or sensors. Let me give you one nice example. At Christmas, we launched a platform called Vodafone Invent. We wanted to show how easy it is to develop an application for IoT. We decided to follow the Christmas tree transport from Liberec to Prague. People could participate in the event and see where the tree was and what temperature or humidity was there. The event received a very positive response, people enjoyed it. But we wanted to show that with the new developer tools we can create and publish a brand new “live” application in a few weeks. I think IoT is a very fertile field for innovation. You can come up with lots of solutions to help people increase efficiency. We’ll be seeing different kinds of devices appearing on the market, helping with things like lost pets, child control, etc. ”


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