Chema Alonso: “I love technology, yes, but I love people more”

Find out more about Chema Alonso, Chief Digital Officer of Telefónica. Discover his professional career, his personal vision of the company and his spanish omelet preferences.

Chema Alonso
Chema Alonso

Chema Alonso

Reading time: 6 min

How long have you been with Telefónica and what is your assessment of your time here?

Well, I’ve been here almost 12 years now, but in truth it seems like yesterday that Enrique Blanco read me the orientation manual over our first coffee.

My first contact with Telefónica was at a Top 150 event in Brazil in December 2010, where I was invited to speak about cybersecurity, and on 1 February 2012 I started at Wayra and launched the Talentum programme. The rest has been a journey of incredible experiences, rollercoasters, new projects and more changes.

In 2013 we launched ElevenPaths, in 2015 we merged ElevenPaths and the cybersecurity vertical of Telefónica Digital, and I joined Telefónica Business Solutions. The following year, Telefónica offered me the position of Chief Data Officer and I started a new phase, leading a valuable project such as the fourth platform (now Kernel) and the creation of LUCA, among other initiatives. In November 2019, another change to be in charge of digital technology and customer platforms, and now also with Open Gateway, Wayra and the development teams of Telefónica Innovación Digital.

Has it been a journey or not? For me it has been intense, beautiful, challenging and not always easy. But I wouldn’t change these twelve years in a company like Telefónica for anything.

Is there any project at Telefónica that you are particularly satisfied with or proud of?

All of them. The successful and the unsuccessful. Nobody knows what the future will be like, and when you create technology and innovate, you always have to live with the excitement of knowing that it can go one way or another. I’m proud of everyone, ElevenPaths and all its products, the Talentum programme at Wayra, LUCA, Kernel, HaaC, the work of the Tuenti team in developing their wonderful cloudphone in Novum, Aura, the innovation projects, the patents. Of working at Wayra, of hosting interns, of later seeing ElevenPaths and LUCA become part of the great company that Telefónica Tech is today.

I come to Telefónica to work every day with enthusiasm, with the desire to do things, knowing that when you do a lot of things it is easier to go wrong, but as I tell my colleagues: “A telephone engineer in innovation has to do a lot of things and get most of them right”.

What do you think Telefónica has contributed to society?

It changed my life. The day that I saw Julio Linares, I gave him a big hug and I said to him: “Thank you for Infovia”. The day the Infovia flat rate arrived, a generation of Internet and technology enthusiasts with low purchasing power were able to connect to the Net. On that day, Telefónica put Spain at the forefront of Internet connectivity and it changed my life.  But it hasn’t stopped yet.

When someone gets angry with us on social networks and complains that they don’t have fibre or coverage at home in Spain, I always tell my colleagues that it’s normal. Everyone knows who has invested the most in “tiling” connectivity in this country, from top to bottom. That is Telefónica, a company that is changing the future of a country and a society through the impact of what we do.

Where do you see Telefónica in the future?

I see Telefónica adapting to technological evolution. As it has always done. 90 per cent of the revenue of our company comes from services that did not even exist 20 years ago. New networks that had to be created. New services that had to be built. Platforms that did not exist.

Telefónica is a company that will be 100 years old, and not by chance. It is because it has known how to compete in the technological evolution, it has adapted and it has constantly changed its assets. I always remember great companies that were everything in my world and disappeared before they were 25 years old.

So I see a Telefónica that is more relevant in the world of the future because it has adapted much better to the digital world, with software, programmable networks, managed by AI, with digital services that take advantage of our capabilities, with people enjoying their lives thanks to being more and better connected to their loved ones, and with companies growing thanks to technology and communications that bring development to society. Just as Telefónica has always done.

Could you live without a mobile phone?

I could live. But I would miss things. I think people are the most important thing. And although I am very disciplined in my work and go online every day, I also know how to put it aside. I’m not addicted at all.

I enjoy my friends, my girls. My Hacker, who is 15 and drives me crazy, and my Survivor, who is now 10 and knows more than the red mice and always gets on my nerves.

I think technology gives us better ways of working, better ways of living, it brings us closer to people who are far away, but I wouldn’t trade a hug, a kiss, a chat over a beer or a day in the country with friends for a video conference, not even as a joke.  I love technology, yes, but I love people more.

Help us solve one of humanity’s great enigmas: the potato omelette… With onion or without onion?

Please raise your hand if you like omelette without onion, I’ll chop it up. The only omelette allowed without onion is the Betanzos omelette, the rest with onion. If not, it’s a mazacote. The Betanzos omelette is different. In Galicia, we know how to eat good food and good things, and this omelette deserves a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the only omelette without onion that you can never say no to. Not even after you’ve eaten it. All the others with onion, please. There, chicote and I have made our point.

Nominate another colleague to appear in this section

Yes, many. I would like to see Telefónica through the eyes of Denise Sayuri, who has a special soul, or Andrea Folgueiras, who has an energy that is a driving force for many, or Cristina Burzaco, who is always a shoulder to lean on when there is a problem, through the eyes of Luis Prendes, who suffers and watches over us. Or the eyes of some of our network technicians in the NOC in Aravaca, who fight hard in the difficult moments of downtime or during the pandemic. I walk past them and even feel respect for them. But I would also like to see them through the eyes of the young hackers in the Telefónica Tech operations centres in Hispam. When you think about the size of this company, it’s impossible not to feel small and know that even though you’ve been here for twelve years, there’s still a lot you don’t know and don’t see.

In #Thespanishomelettething tag section we interview Telefónica’s employees on a variety of topics, while trying to solve one of humanity’s greatest dilemmas.

The Spanish omelette ranking

63%

WithOnionists

20%

WithoutOnionists

17%

OtherOnionists

Get into the ranking! We want to know about you – tell us your story!
* This interview is aimed at Telefónica’s employees


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