Communications runs in his blood

Symbio Connect CEO Giorgio Mihaila has spent more than two decades in a career dotted with roles at major communications technology providers

As CEO of Symbio’s Connect division, Giorgio Mihaila knows more than a thing or two about connecting people through technology.

After all, he spent more than two decades fielding support calls, linking up call centres and, most recently, overseeing Symbio’s cloud connectivity services used by Asia-Pacific (APAC) telcos to offer calling, SMS and number porting services.

Mihaila joined Symbio in mid-2022 from Cisco Webex, where he worked as vice-president and general manager for collaboration and customer experience.

His career began in technical support at CompuServe, where he fielded more than 100 calls a day. Some of those calls were the classic “my coffee cup holder is broken”, he quipped.

In that role, he developed an interest in the way technology can help solve recurring problems – for example, by allowing agents to communicate with each other via Internet Relay Chat, a text chat system dating back to the late 1980s.

Mihaila then moved to Lucent, staying with Avaya when it was spun off as a separate company. He rose to the position of principal engineer, working mainly on the interconnection of contact centres, and dealing with very large clients such as Apple.

Then he joined Verizon Business’s complex solutions team, working on large-scale IP telephony projects including an IVR (interactive voice response) system that could handle 40,000 concurrent calls – it turned out to be the American Idol voting system.

A couple of jobs later, Mihaila was at Five9, helping to take the cloud contact centre specialist into the international market.

His next step was to Amazon Web Services (AWS), where he worked as head of global communications for Amazon Connect, the cloud contact centre service that is scalable to 100,000 agents and works in conjunction with 22 telephony providers around the world.

Three years later, Mihaila was vice-president and general manager of collaboration and customer experience at Cisco Webex, reinventing its contact centre business on a single technology stack, and making it easier for its customers to migrate their combined 1.5 million agents from on-premise systems to the cloud by introducing portable licences.

Read more about CPaaS

Symbio’s Connect business offers carrier infrastructure as a service to wholesale service providers that need to modernise to meet their customers’ expectations. Although it is possible to do that in-house, the range of skills needed makes it expensive.

So, Symbio built a multi-tenant system that provides tier-one service, freeing service providers from the need to invest in infrastructure and allowing them to concentrate on delivering an excellent customer experience.

Symbio’s network is highly scalable – something that proved to be an issue for certain competing providers during the Covid-19 pandemic – and can be controlled via application programming interfaces (APIs), Mihaila pointed out.

Those APIs are “a super-important part of the product”, he said, because they allow clients to use their existing orchestration systems to automate processes such as “port a number” or “release a number”.

It has taken about 8% of the Australian market and has made “great strides” since launching in Singapore last year, said Mihaila.

This means its clients can offer their customers a single service providing inbound and outbound calling plus local number porting in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, with little or no investment in meeting local regulatory and compliance issues, which are handled by Symbio.

The company has announced its intention to extend coverage to Malaysia and Taiwan during 2023, and to South Korea, Japan and Vietnam by 2025. Clients will automatically gain access to services in these additional countries as they come online.

And without committing to a timetable, Mihaila said video calling will eventually join voice calling and SMS. Symbio Connect’s communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) therefore appeals to clients that want to modernise their technology stack and grow into the APAC region, he added.

Looking into the near future, he believes service providers can continue to thrive, but their customers will not want to hold excess capacity and instead will optimise their communications spending. In such an environment, the simplicity and speed of adding or subtracting lines provided by Symbio Connect will make life easier for service providers, he said.

Another issue is the ongoing need to develop the skills that digital workers need to provide good customer experiences in a global economy. Noting that Malaysia is already close to achieving its goal of upskilling one million of its citizens, Mihaila said: “I am very optimistic about what will happen next.”

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