The topic of sustainability is top of mind for Maria Sundvall when chatting to The CEO Magazine. The outgoing Managing Director of Equinix Sweden, who will finish up with the company at the end of March, points to experiences from the COVID-19 pandemic, which quickened the rise of remote work and virtual meetings – trends that are continuing as the world adjusts to a new normal.
“I think during the COVID-19 pandemic, we learned that we can do meetings successfully virtually. We are traveling less for internal meetings, but we are also traveling less for customer and partner meetings,” she says.
“There is always a place for face-to-face meetings, of course. But I think from a sustainability perspective, this is probably quite good.”
Companies don’t know how long they need their infrastructure. They need flexibility in scaling up and scaling down.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced people to work from home, cancel business travel and organize virtual meetings. That many companies emerged unscathed from the pandemic – with some firms thriving – was assisted in no small part by Equinix, the world’s leading digital infrastructure company.
“I think what we enable is digitalization, but we are also able enable it in situations like the pandemic, where business is done in a completely different way,” Sundvall explains.
Equinix is facilitating an ongoing transformation in doing business. The company, based in the United States, recognizes that the emerging economy requires digital services that will deliver what the client needs. This allows clients to transform their business to better engage electronically with all their stakeholders.
Equinix’s digital infrastructure allows for videoconferencing, using communications software and artificial intelligence applications, and conducting ecommerce. However, investing in such digital infrastructure can be costly and companies can be reluctant to invest too heavily in new services, especially during uncertain economic times.
The solution, according to Sundvall, is offering a more flexible option: companies can instead lease it through an opex model. She points proudly to Network Edge, an Equinix product that allows users to activate and configure virtual network functions and services in near real time. Some of the biggest names in business and technology are now on board with the product.
There is always a place for face-to-face meetings, of course. But I think from a sustainability perspective, this is probably quite good.
“What Network Edge does is actually make it possible for a company to have a presence in a country or at a site where it doesn’t have any physical infrastructure,” she says.
“When you acquire hardware in a traditional way, flexibility is much, much more difficult,” she says.
“Companies don’t know how long they need their infrastructure. They need flexibility in scaling up and scaling down. So an opex-based model with Network Edge or Metal is really attractive, because it makes it possible for companies to be more flexible.”
Equinix Metal, another of the company’s products, makes it “possible for companies to proceed with their initiatives, despite the world chip shortage situation, and long delivery times of hardware”.
“Metal gives flexibility because you don’t know how long you’ll need an infrastructure in a country,” she adds. “You don’t know when you need it or how much you need. You can scale up on a per-needs basis.”
A sustainable future
Sundvall, who holds a Master of Science in Engineering from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, joined Equinix Sweden as Managing Director in November 2017.
She speaks passionately of the company’s technology and its role creating a more sustainable economy – including initiatives for green IT. The company’s people and progressive corporate culture also fit with her own leadership style of employing empathy.
“I think empathy is really, really important in any successful leadership style,” she points out. “I’m very much for being open and transparent.
“I think communication is so important. It was even more important during the pandemic, and I think this is an area where most of us normally fail, or where we could do better.”
Company-wide, Sundvall speaks of a program known as ‘We are Equinix’, which focuses on several pillars such as health and wellbeing; diversity, inclusion and belonging; and creativity and having fun.
It’s not meant to be the managers or the leaders driving everything. We want people to drive it themselves because then, I think it will be more successful overall.
“We want people to really take responsibility for driving the company and take responsibility for our culture,” Sundvall says. “It’s not meant to be the managers or the leaders driving everything. We want people to drive it themselves because then, I think it will be more successful overall.”
Equinix’s values are expressed in its support for the broader community. Employees at Equinix Sweden have supported Ukrainian refugees fleeing conflict and the company also pledged support to Ukrainian companies facing difficulties, and helped several banks needing to urgently move out of the country.
“We did it all pro bono,” she notes. “In this difficult situation, I think everybody is happy to be able to do something like that, and that it’s supported by the company.”