Globetrotting Alumnus Michael Hurlston
Drives Innovation in Internet of Things

GSM Alumni Association Distinguished Achievement Awardee

hurlston_dropcap_self-driving cars, smart houses, factory automation, and linked devices embedded with software and sensors, all promise a revolution in the sharing of more secure, real-time data, offering more efficiencies, accuracy and economic growth.

Welcome to the “Internet of Things.” By some industry estimates, 50 billion devices could be connected to the Internet by 2020.

A major player at the hub of this networked infrastructure is Broadcom, a diversified global semiconductor leader with a 50-year track record of innovation, collaboration and engineering prowess.

hurlston_quoteWe have customers in Asia, Europe, and North America, but also business in South East Asia, South America, the Middle East and even Africa,” said Hurlston, who recently returned from South Korea and India. “It’s an incredibly diverse customer base and business.”

Jointly headquartered in Singapore and Silicon Valley, Broadcom has its original roots in Hewlett-Packard. Today, it rings up $4 billion in annual revenue as a leading supplier of a broad range of analog and digital semiconductor connectivity solutions. Think chips inside iPhones, TV set-top boxes and PCs, for example.

As senior vice president and general manager of the Wireless Communications and Connectivity Division for the Fortune 500 company, alumnus Michael Hurlston logs more than 200,000 frequent flyer miles a year, crisscrossing the globe to grow the business. He meets face-to-face with customers, pushes into new markets and evangelizes for Broadcom’s product portfolio.

Broadcom focuses on four areas: wired infrastructure, wireless communications, enterprise storage and industrial applications.

“We have customers in Asia, Europe, and North America, but also business in South East Asia, South America, the Middle East and even Africa,” said Hurlston, who recently returned from South Korea and India. “It’s an incredibly diverse customer base and business.”

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Pedal to the Metal on Connectivity

Broadcom is the No.1 player in the nuts and bolts of wireless connectivity, including WiFi, Bluetooth, near-field communications and wireless charging. And wireless connectivity is playing a key role in the development of the “Internet of Vehicles (IoV)”—one of today’s the hottest fields with Google, Apple and carmakers investing heavily.

Last March, Hurlston presented at the SEMICON 2015 conference in Shanghai (pictured), followed by a round robin of interviews with Chinese high-tech trade press on the future of smart cars, in-car infotainment and the connected driving experience.

Hurlston told Chinese media that the only growth field in the semiconductor market is the automotive sector. He said Broadcom’s Ethernet and wireless products are poised to help develop and accelerate the Chinese IoV market, which is now the world’s largest sales market.

More recently, at the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January, Hurlston joined industry leaders on a panel about “Six Wireless Technology You’ll Want to Know.” Debating the future of wireless tech, the big theme of the day, according to Hurlston: All wireless spectrum is precious and all wireless networking technologies are needed—the challenge is getting them to work together seamlessly.

With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering and his MBA, all from UC Davis, Hurlston bridges the science, sales and strategy aspects of Broadcom’s business. He is now responsible for the all of Broadcom’s mobility products, and has previously held senior leadership positions in sales, marketing and general management.

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Role Model for Business Leadership

Recognizing his career success, the GSM Alumni Association Board of Directors honored Hurlston with its 2016 Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award (pictured below).

“This MBA degree got me my first job,” said Hurlston, accepting the award at the Peer-to-Pier event in San Francisco on February 16. “It has been a great career, a great run and I thank UC Davis so much for what it gave me.”

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hurlston_dropcap_we asked him about his role at Broadcom, his UC Davis MBA experience and lessons learned during his career in high-tech:

How is Broadcom “changing the game” in the global wired and wireless communications markets through its products and Connecting everything® approach?

Broadcom is the world’s second largest semiconductor company and makes the underlying technology in many products such as smart phones, cellular base stations and television set-top boxes. Through our relentless innovation, we are able to drive these markets forward.

hurlston_quoteOne of the biggest roles I play is finding common ground between Broadcom and the customer whether it be product decisions, business problems or contractual issues.”

What is the most unique aspect of your role at Broadcom and how are you a game-changing innovator internally?

My main task is to bring the customer perspective to everything we do. Quite often, customers input can shape our product definition. Strong customer relationships are so vital to our market success.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

Balancing the customer perspective with the Broadcom perspective and our business objectives. One of the biggest roles I play is finding common ground between Broadcom and the customer whether it be product decisions, business problems or contractual issues.

What are the top two skills that you learned in the UC Davis MBA and engineering programs that you use most frequently in your job today? Why are they important?

First, organizational dynamics. Getting a team to row the boat together is critically important and how you build an organization is the fundamental starting point. The second class that paid off was finance. Coming from a technical background, I had very little exposure to anything related to business s numbers. It turns out, almost every business decision is influenced by financial analysis.

Share two qualities that you look for in a new hire?

A question that I like to ask is “’Do you like to win or hate to lose?” I look for people who expect to win and, as a result, the losing case is a total shock. Second, I look for people who can work with others. Some of the best minds simply cannot work with people and cannot fit into a team concept. The team always outweighs the individual.

What lessons did you learn on your career path that helped to shape your management style and/or goals?

More and more often, I am approached by new marketing or engineering professionals asking about their ‘career’ and ‘career path.’ I never once asked a boss about my career. I learned early on that if you do a job and do it well, career (in this case code for promotions, advancements and rewards) will take care of itself.

What are your top three favorite books?

The First 90 Days, The Last Lecture and Brave New World.

hurlston_quoteGetting a team to row the boat together is critically important and how you build an organization is the fundamental starting point.”

What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken in your career? Was it worth it?

In 1996, I co-founded a company with two friends. In the late 1990s just about every technology company was a wild success—except ours. We ran against every fundamental tenet I learned in the GSM and, surprise, we failed miserably. However, the lessons learned during that period served me very well later in my career. It is true that failure is the best teacher!

Favorite memory of UC Davis Graduate School of Management?

I enjoyed the people, teachers and administrators. It was totally different than my College of Engineering experience. Engineering was very much all about the science, where I found the GSM to be all about people. I miss Davis and my time in the GSM!

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About the Author: Tim Akin

Tim Akin is executive director of marketing and communications at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management.