David López-Pérez is a Distinguished Researcher at Universitat Politècnica de València, awarded by the IEEE, has authored 2 books on small cells, has published more than 150 research manuscripts, and holds 59 patents. He has been Expert and Technical Leader at Huawei Technologies in Paris and a Distinguished Member of Staff at Nokia Bell Labs (Dublin). His main research interests are in network performance analysis, network planning, and optimisation as well as green networking and technology and feature development.
Thanks to the Program for the support of talented researchers (GenT Plan – CIDEGENT) David is now a part of the iTEAM and this is what he has told us.
Please, tell us about your professional career and when did you know about the iTEAM?
I knew I wanted to go to university, but I wasn’t interested in studying; I wanted to be an airplane pilot. For this reason, I first went through the military academy and prepared for flight school. I became interested in mathematics and, to enter the army, it was easier to do it with a degree, so I enrolled in telecommunications. I gave up the idea of a military career and focused on the field of telecommunications without really knowing what I would end up doing until I did an internship at Vodafone on mobile communications. Through a project on optimization, I realised that I was good at it.
I went to Ireland to do my final project and, although they offered me to return to Vodafone in Alicante, my family supported me, knowing that I could always come back to my homeland, but I needed to explore all the opportunities I had abroad at that time. Shortly after, I applied for a Marie Curie scholarship at the University of Bedfordshire and resigned from the doctoral scholarship that had applied for in Ireland.
In England, I had a great team, made many publications, and it was a memorable year. Later on, I was offered the opportunity to go to King’s College in London where I met Xiaoli Chu and was able to continue with my projects as well as to collaborate with Alcatel Lucent and Holger Claussen, number one in small cells and my opponent in the thesis. In 2011, I worked in Silicon Valley (Palo Alto) as a result of a collaboration with DOCOMO Labs, a Japanese operator.
At a certain point in my career, I knew I wanted to return to Spain, and for that, I was asked for a letter of recommendation, so I thought of reaching Holger Claussen. Coincidentally, at the time I contacted him, there was an open position at Bell Labs. It was a dream come true. At Bell Labs, I spent the best years of my professional career so far, it was a turning point. I did simulations, theoretical analysis, proposed new ideas… and little by little, I was thriving. In three years, I had a senior position, and I was honored with the distinction of “Distinguished Member of Technical Staff”, a title that is only granted to few employees. I was lucky to have a great team there: Adrian Garcia, Giovani Geraci, and Lorenzo Galati. We focused on WI-FI standardisation. I was privileged to be part of their education, which is one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had.
There came a point when I wanted more, to be a group leader, but to do so I had to go to the United States. Previously, I worked in New Jersey, but I didn’t see myself there. That was when I had my first contact with the Universitat Politècnica de Valencia (UPV), with Narcís Cardona (Director of iTEAM), regarding the Beatriz Galindo scholarship, which I obtained but finally rejected. I had been contacted by Huawei to work in France, and my instinct told me to try to be a team leader before returning to Spain. At Huawei, I discovered a new David López, met new people, and proved to myself that I was capable of doing different things. With the experience of leading a group, I reconsidered what I wanted to do. Shortly after, I met Narcís again, and he told me about the CIDEGENT program for Researchers and Doctors of Excellence of the Generalitat Valenciana. That was when I made up my mind and decided to return to Spain beyond a shadow of a doubt.
What are your plans for the iTEAM?
When you’re in university, it’s a competitive environment and you see that there’s a huge world beyond. Not until I went abroad, did I realise that there are people who value your talent. I’ve experienced that and I’ve met Spanish workers with a lot of talent. Going back to university, where I have access to attract young talent and being able to teach my method based on what I’ve learned from the industry and what I’ve been taught. Facilitating their incorporation into the companies with which I have collaborated and being a link between those businesses and the university. Getting my students to continue their education and helping with their professional development. I am currently accredited as a tenured university professor and it is something that I don’t rule out doing in the future.
I would like to be a good educator since no one has ever taught me to believe in myself when I was a student, to believe in Spanish talent.
What do you think of the iTEAM?
When I studied telecommunications, no one told me that the major companies were abroad. Once I realised that, if I wanted to come back to Spain, I knew the best place to do it was in Valencia, specifically at the UPV. Here I have a state-of-the-art school in telecommunications and Narcís, whom I already knew. I am happy because I’ve found a lot of practical capacity and cutting-edge technology at the iTEAM. I am excited to see what we can do together.
Who are the people who have had a significant influence on your career?
Firstly, my father, because he is the best engineer I have ever met. He would tell me, “David, never put your hands in your pockets when we’re working.” And my mother, for telling me to go fearless to live all the experiences that awaited me abroad: “We will always be here, don’t be afraid.” Secondly, the professionals I’ve met along the way: Jie Zhang, my PhD advisor, for believing in me and giving me absolute freedom in my doctoral studies. Xiaoli Chu for giving me the opportunity and time to finish my PhD research at King’s College (London) as a post-doc, without impositions. Holger Claussen for being the best boss one can have and opening the door for me to Bell Labs. None of this would’ve been possible without him. Tod Sizer for taking me to the US in 2015 and buying me the computer monitor I needed. Peter Vetter and Marcus Weldom for believing in me and giving me the title of “Distinguished Member of Technical Staff” at Bell Labs (a dream come true). Adrián García, Giovanni Geraci, and Lorenzo Galati for their dedication and effort to our Wi-Fi research during my time at Bell Labs. Antonio, Nicola, Fadhel, Wenjie, and Ali for all the experiences during my time in Paris, where we built a successful group from scratch, and from whom I learned so much.
Welcome to the iTEAM, David.