From the classroom to the boardroom, success seems to follow Won-Pyo Hong wherever he goes. But no matter how high he climbs – right now he’s leading one of the most innovative branches of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd,, which itself stands among the 15 largest companies in the world - he credits his education at Michigan as one of his most significant assets.
“Michigan taught me a comprehensive approach to understand issues and challenges, and to figure out the best way of overcoming them,” says Hong, who earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in electrical engineering. “The technical knowledge I learned at Michigan provided me insights into how to lead, and taught me professional ways of interacting with a variety of peers and colleagues.”
After earning his PhD investigating the molecular structures of exotic materials, Dr. Hong joined Bell Communications Research, Inc. in New Jersey (1988-94), where he led several high-capacity communication system research projects. He followed this with eight years at Korea Telecom Corporation (1994-2006) and its mobile subsidiary, where he led the company’s global expansion and CDMA commercialization.
Dr. Hong joined Samsung in 2007 in the Network Infrastructure Business Division. Within a year, he became head of the Global Product Strategy Team for the Mobile Communications Business Division.
It was in this role that he was responsible for the overall product strategy of the Samsung GALAXY mobile phone series, one of the most hotly anticipated and ultimately best-selling mobile devices in history. The first GALAXY phone hit earth in 2010, and it’s been going strong ever since.
He managed GALAXY’s design, product specifications, key features (such as the super sharp AMOLED display, multi-core processors, and LTE-A connectivity), and key applications, as well as its USP’s (Unique Selling Points) and portfolio for regions.
In 2012, Dr. Hong was named President of Samsung’s Media Solutions Center (MSC). Established in 2008, MSC quickly became one of Samsung’s fastest growing internal organizations, now operating in 10 countries.
“MSC’s mission is to foster software platform innovation with a focus on providing unique, value-added content and services to Samsung products such as smart devices, wearables, and home appliances,” explained Hong. “It’s about giving users an experience that makes their lives happier and more productive through better, more convenient connectivity.”
In 2015, Dr. Hong was named President and Chief Marketing Officer of Samsung Electronics. He is also Head of its Global Marketing Office. The future for Samsung, says Dr. Hong, is connected living and the Internet of Things (IoT), an already huge market that is expected to more than triple between now and 2020 to more than $7T. Dr. Hong sees the largest tangible improvements due to the IoT revolution as being in four areas: Health, Fitness, Home, and Transportation.
Hong envisions a world in the near future where intelligent services are integrated with nearly every aspect of daily life. At home, your smart phone will communicate with the Smart Home system to control the heat, air-conditioning, lights, and entertainment system. On the road, your smart phone will act as an all-in-one entertainment, navigation and climate control system. Personally, your phone will team up with wearable devices to monitor your sleep and exercise habits, deliver real-time coaching, and even help you get the kinks out of your golf swing.
“Moving forward, I want to continue to make meaningful innovations in the consumer electronics industry - especially in the area of IoT,” said Hong. “But I also want to become a person that advises and guides the younger generation to achieve their goals in Information and Communications Technology.”
He knows that Michigan students have what it takes to succeed, and says he is personally aware of a number of Michigan alumni who are performing very well at Samsung.
As the most successful Michigan alum at Samsung, Dr. Hong has proven that he is not only content with revolutionizing our day-to-day lives. He’s showing future generations that, armed with a Michigan degree, it’s to the GALAXY and beyond.
What is Dr. Hong’s favorite Samsung product?
The GALAXY Tab S. “I find it hard to take my hands off of it," said Dr. Hong. "It presents a combination of the Super AMOLED display with premium services such as Papergarden, Samsung’s new digital magazine service, and WatchON, its video service."
Diversity: One of Michigan’s Greatest Strengths
Recalling his favorite memories of life at Michigan, Won-Pyo Hong said, “The rich diversity of the student body gave me a huge opportunity to learn about various cultures, and teach others about Korean culture in return. For example, my interactions with graduate students and postdocs from India taught me a lot about Indian culture, especially food. I became a great lover of Indian dishes.”