i3 | April 17, 2020

LG's Nandhu Nandhakumar

Riya Anandwala

After nearly a decade in academic research and teaching in the area of computer vision and machine learning, Nandhu Nandhakumar transitioned to the tech industry. Today, he is the SVP in the office of the CTO at LG Electronics where he leads R&D projects in next-gen media technologies, smart cities and robotics. In a conversation with CTA, Nandhakumar discusses how his experience in academia prepared him for success in a leadership role at LG, the importance of standards for interoperability in tech and shares advice for future leaders.

Can you talk about your professional journey and current role with LG?

I obtained my undergraduate degree in India in electronics and communications engineering, a master’s degree at the University of Michigan in computer engineering and then a Ph.D. at the University of Texas with a focus in computer vision, AI and robotics. I began my career at the University of Texas, then transitioned to the University of Virginia where I established a research lab focused on computer vision and robotics. I was recruited by LG Electronics as part of their new R&D lab focused on the next generation of multimedia devices, which was later spun out as a separate business unit to become Triveni Digital, where I served as the CTO and VP of Engineering. After a brief diversion to work with a startup in San Diego, I rejoined LG to help restructure Triveni and stayed on with LGE’s CTO organization to focus on strategic projects and partnerships.

Today I lead a team on strategic technology projects related to display systems, robotics for B2B applications and smart cities with a focus on transportation. My team’s focus on display products includes technology development, standards development, product specification, feature definitions and the go-to-market strategies to deploy those products.

What made you switch to the tech sector?

LG's Nandhu Nandhakumar

It was an exciting challenge to take technologies that were many years into the future from consumer viability and more defense-oriented and bring those aspects into consumer electronics. In academia, there is an emphasis on research funding, making new discoveries and inventions, and publishing the results. It’s as if every professor is running their own startup venture because they’re bringing in money, raising funds by applying for grants, supervising R&D staff and managing complex budgets. The challenges and goals are similar, so those who have been in academia can thrive in industry, especially in an entrepreneurial setting.

Can you talk about your role with CTA’s technology and standards work?

have worked with CTA in various capacities for at least a decade. My involvement with the Technology Council focuses on identifying technology trends, defining areas that need new standards, developing messaging to consumers and industry, and addressing emerging regulatory activities. One key consideration is related to the rate at which technology is changing and its effect on interoperability, usability and adoption. New products have to exist in an ecosystem and talk to other products, they cannot be islands. This is when interoperability becomes very important and CTA plays a crucial role in creating standards that allow for products to work in conjunction with each other.

What advice would you give to people pursuing leadership positions in tech?

First and foremost, you must be an expert in your field of technology. You also need to develop good communication and public speaking skills. It’s also very important as you’re growing in your career to be proactive about being involved in other parts of your organization. Breadth of knowledge and experience allows you to understand the bigger picture and context of how your product or service will be used and what challenges it will face. An understanding of the broader relevance of a technology-driven issue will help you communicate it to others more effectively and get buy-in for the change or action that you are seeking.

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