What Huawei Can Teach Us About International Tech Challenges

Huawei is a big name in the headlines right now. The Chinese tech company seems to be in hot water over a number of allegations. Whatever the future holds, it’s clear that their international deals are going to suffer for at least a while. Since you’re going to continue to hear about Huawei for some time, maybe it’s worth a little investigation. What exactly went wrong for Huawei, and what can you learn from it?

The Controversy

Everyone has seen the headlines, but understanding this mess requires a look that goes deeper. The deep look at Huawei could easily go back 30 years. Instead, we should start with a few important facts. First, Huawei is the second-largest seller of smartphones on the planet. They have eclipsed Apple to become so, making them a very big deal. Second, Huawei so far seems to be the world leader in 5G development.

Most plans to implement 5G around the world involve at least some Huawei tech. Third, Huawei has a long history of accusations against them. The recent headlines might be surrounded against a single arrest and allegations of violating international sanctions, but the whole story casts severe shade over the company.

Let’s summarize that history. Huawei was founded in the 80s and grew quickly by focusing their efforts on expanding technology available in rural China. The Chinese government took notice, and eventually Huawei was awarded exclusive contracts with the communist party. With that huge edge, they dominated Chinese markets before going international.

Since going international, Huawei has been accused of a lot of stuff. The greatest hits album would including spying on the African Union for the Chinese government, violating trade sanctions against Iran and a long list of intellectual property theft against competing international tech companies. The headlines you’ve been seeing lately mostly center around the latter two accusations.

In short, the chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada and extradited to the U.S. on charges of violating sanctions. Since, the U.S. government has moved forward with indictments against her and the entire company — most of which have to do with spying and intellectual theft.


Lessons to Learn

That is a deep, international controversy involving one of the largest tech companies on earth. It’s a strange mix of upsetting and frightening, for a large number of reasons. It might be difficult to discern what your company can learn from all of this, but that’s the most important part of the story. How can you grow from seeing what happened with Huawei?

The first lesson might not feel terribly helpful until you pair it with everything else. Simply put, international business is tricky. You have to consider different cultures, geopolitics and ferocious competition. When that gets compounded by direct governmental meddling, the whole business can feel like a minefield. The important thing to learn from Huawei is that things are only going to get more complicated, so protecting your company and its reputation is often more important than anything else.

The second lesson is that data breaches will always come back to haunt you. Everything leveled at Huawei is still in the allegations stage. Whether they are guilty or not doesn’t seem to matter much. What is certain is that their technology has been used in high-profile cases of data breaches, and many countries around the world are banning Huawei tech as a result. You don’t have to be an international criminal to get similar treatment. You only have to lose trust.

What that ultimately teaches us is that the integrity of your company is its most valuable asset, and it can be difficult to protect. You already have to worry about the ethos of the company and instilling principles to every employee at every level. That’s only half the battle. Your company’s integrity is also contingent on your technical ability to provide security in every interaction. It’s a tall order, and it’s proof that you can’t take security too seriously.


If you want to distill the entire Huawei controversy into one, fast lesson for yourself and your company, let it be this: your security and infrastructure are due for another audit.

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About the Author: Jeff Poirior

Jeff brings 25 years of telecommunications and information technology management experience in voice and data networking, server support, and telephony and security; with a significant emphasis on customer service. Prior to joining Valicom, he was chief of the infrastructure support section for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Jeff was the vice president of operations for CC&N, overseeing telecommunications, help desk, data and desk side support services. Prior to that, he served as the associate director of technical resources for Covance, responsible for managing systems and network operations supporting 1700 users in Wisconsin and Virginia. He has also led data center operations at Magnetek Electric, supporting mainframe systems, client/server applications, telephony systems, and computer-aided design. Jeff holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Cardinal Stritch University and a master’s degree in business administration from University of Phoenix. In addition, Jeff is a past board member of the Wisconsin Telecommunication Association.