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The fortunate thing for us is that consumer demand for wireless data is so strong...

History has very few instances of people or personalities who were able to do what they aspired to, throughout their life. The number of people doing it with much success and glory is fewer still, because the vagaries of life often catch up and, one is forced to comprise a bit. But Paul Jacobs, the CEO of Qualcomm, did not have to face any such thing – primarily because he didn’t let things get that iffy. From his childhood on, through his higher education, he was a winner all the way. And, that winning streak has continued to date – something that is manifest in the number of awards and honors bestowed upon him by contemporaries and general folk alike.

He has been a development engineer, VP, Group President (Qualcomm Wireless and Internet Group from July 2001) and a master strategist. But above all, he has remained as an innovator to the core – the number of patents he owns is just astounding, to say the least. Not surprisingly so, because the innovative bent of mind was so very intrinsic to Jacobs ever since he was a child. And, he has done it all in just a matter of less than two decades – the heights he has scaled from being just a development engineer to become the CEO of one of the technology pioneers in the world is something that has taken many other renowned leaders much longer than the 15 or 16 years it took Jacobs.

In fact, it is said that it was his strategic vision and advocacy for innovation that has led Qualcomm‘s efforts in developing as well as commercializing mobile technology which, in effect, has made Qualcomm one of the pioneers in the field of communications technology, as also one of the most valued technology companies. He has undertaken and overseen a number of key initiatives for the company that have been huge successes.

Early Years

Being the son of the co-founder (Irwin M. Jacobs) of the company which he was to lead eventually, did not make it any easier for Jacobs’ early years. Add to that the fact that he had three brothers, with whom there was undeclared and undefined yet positive competition. Therefore, like any other young kid, he was also made go through the rigors of formal education, training, internships, and so on. He received his bachelor's (1984) and master's (1986) degrees as well as his doctorate (1989) in electrical engineering (The Ph.D. also had computer sciences with an emphasis on robotics) from the University of California, Berkeley.

Initial Steps

After completing his Ph.D. in 1989, he joined a French government lab in Toulouse, as a post-doctoral researcher and worked there for one year. This gave wings to the innovator in him, as also the confidence to reach out for greater things in the field of his choice.

It all began in 1990

Jacobs joined Qualcomm in 1990 as a development engineer where, in the next five years, he was to lead the team that was working on the mobile phone digital signal processor software. His work is said to have been focused on the initial variable-rate 8 kbps speech codec for CDMA. Jacobs then spearheaded the wireline-quality 13 kbps speech codec effort, which became CDMA's initial differentiating consumer feature. Obviously, the innovator in him had his effect on the various teams that he worked with in those five years during which the company did some really outstanding work in the field of communications – at a stage when mobile technology the world over could at best be termed as being in its nascent stages. It was natural that the company leadership spotted this spark in Jacobs and within just half-a-decade since he joined them, he was made vice president and general manager of the combined handset and integrated circuit division. The division, subsequently, went on to be divided into Qualcomm Consumer Products (QCP) and QCT.

The innovative and inspiring leader of Qualcomm

Thereafter, Jacobs’ growth went on an upward spiral and hasn’t looked back ever since. He was named senior vice president of the company in 1996 and president of QCP in 1997. Then, within a span of just three after that, in 2000, he was named executive vice president of Qualcomm and group president of Qualcomm Wireless & Internet (QWI) in 2001. Under Jacobs, with the CDMA digital handsets business, which had a global deployment in the 1990s, QCP became the No. 2 CDMA handset supplier in the U.S., with revenues of more than $1.4 billion in Fiscal 1999 (prior to its sale to Kyocera Wireless in 2000). QCP gave Jacobs the perfect platform to give went to his innovations as well as gain extensive operational experience. He was instrumental in the launch of numerous CDMA systems while at the same time, he cultivated important executive relationships at top network operators and manufacturers globally.

In just a decade after that (2005), Jacobs became Qualcomm’s CEO, and his work in which position also earned him the confidence of the board and share-holders alike to be appointed as its Chairman in 2009.

He has undertaken, and overseen, a number of key initiatives for Qualcomm that have been huge successes. As the innovative leader of a broad range of technical teams Qualcomm, Jacobs owns more than 45 patents for his inventions in the areas of wireless technology and devices and allied technologies.

Important developments under Jacobs
Some of the important developments which were successfully completed under Jacobs in QCP are:
The first Palm OS®-based smartphone.
Qualcomm's initiative to include global positioning system capabilities in cellphones (which led to the acquisition of SnapTrack™ and Qualcomm's development of gpsOne™ position-location technology) and drove the development of a uniform set of application programming interfaces to simplify the process of putting software on handsets.
Jacobs expanded the latter idea (development of a uniform set of application programming interfaces to simplify the process of putting software on handsets) into the overall concept for the BREW® system, which included dynamic downloading of applications to cellphones with checks for digital signatures on the applications to ensure the integrity of the content, and the business ecosystem that enables BREW developers to engage operators globally and receive payment for their applications. The BREW solution is now deployed broadly by wireless network operators around the world.
Other Associations
He is also the chairman of the U.S.-Korea Business Council and of the Advisory Board of the University of California, Berkeley, College of Engineering; Global eHealth Foundation Ambassador; a member of the US-India CEO Forum and trustee of the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. Jacobs has been a Director of A123 Systems, Inc., since November 2002, and also serves on the board of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

He has been an active advocate of some of the electoral campaigns in the U.S. such as: Bush-Cheney (2004), Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Friends for Harry Reid, Gore (2000), Hillary Clinton for President, John McCain (2008), New Leadership for America PAC, and Obama Victory Fund (2012).

He was also a member of the Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society, Phi Beta Kappa Society, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor societies besides being on the Advisory Board of Young Presidents' Organization.
The Family
Paul Jacobs is married to Stacy.
Awards & Honors
As mentioned earlier in this write-up, Jacobs’ path-breaking work has been widely acknowledged and well received throughout his career. He is a recipient of a number of industry, academic and corporate leadership awards such as:
Edison Achievement Award Winner,2013
Samsung Award of Honor, 2012
Ten Brilliant Technology Visionaries, FORTUNE, 2012
Top Ten Mobile Movers, Venture Beat, 2012
Power 100, Global Telecoms Business, 2011-2012
NCAFP Global Business Leadership Award, 2011
25 Most Influential People in Mobile, Laptop Magazine, 2011
Higginbotham Corporate Leadership Award, 2010
IEEE CASS Industrial Pioneer Award, 2009
The Sarnoff Citation, Radio Club of America, 2008
Berkeley Engineering Innovation Award, 2008
Best CEO by Institutional Investor, List of America’s Best (Telecom Sector) - 2007–2013
  People were saying things like, ‘Oh, it’s going to take a van full of equipment to build a CDMA device.’ Then we show up in a portable phone, and people, their minds were blown.
  The key is differentiation and not getting commoditized. The fortunate thing for us is that consumer demand for wireless data is so strong. I think it’s not going to end. This isn’t a CB Radio. This is part of people’s lives now
  People want more and more and more stuff coming down to their device, and faster and faster. That gives us a ton of opportunity. We have a vision for how to solve this issue. Right now, the networks can’t give people enough data to satisfy their demand. Instead, they price it to get price elasticity so people only take so much versus what they really want, because the network can’t support what they really want
  One of the things that we were really excited to see was the [U.S. Federal Communications Commission] actually coming out and saying they’re going to allocate spectrum specifically for small cell deployments in the 3.5 GHz band. That’s great. There’s a lot of spectrum out there. People haven’t known how to use it before. Now, you use it with small cells, all of a sudden boom, now we can give more data to people. People are going to be really happy with that
  If we build the medical device which just talks with whatever radio they have, and that they’ve already gotten certified, and then we backhaul it using cellular and we make it pair up so easily that your grandma can take it home, plug it into the wall and it will just work, that solves a lot of the problems
  I don’t think people necessarily believe that the communications is the fundamental component of the energy grid, which if you have that kind of decentralized generation and storage, it is. Information is as important as the storage of the electric power and the generation of electric power
  I think the thing that is happening at the low end that could have been very disruptive had we not seen it coming was this rise of the small manufacturers, for example in China. There’s this whole story, Media Tech, and all these others spread. All these other companies down there that are building almost a complete phone that then some company comes along and makes relatively small modifications to and brings it to market quickly. That’s the story of how Nokia got hurt in China. It lost a lot of share to those companies

Hope viewers caught up the spark…