Next Gen Ninja

Next Gen Ninja is a podcast that features the leaders that are shaping the world for the next generation. Hosted by the entrepreneur Kory Farooquie, the podcast explores topics ranging from emerging technologies, artificial intelligence, the future of humanity, the entrepreneurial spirit, and fun future prediction over the next 100 years. 

Closer Look into Episode 5 with Paul Puopolo

Farooquie talks innovation, autonomous vehicles, autonomous systems, and even smart cities with Paul Puopolo, EVP Innovation for The DFW Airport. The DFW Airport is the third largest airport in the world, as big as the island of Manhattan. Paul shares his vision for the future of the airport and what future smart cities will look like.

"It is the third largest airport in the world in terms of size. It is the fourth busiest airport in terms of flights, and the 15th busiest in the world in terms of passengers. It's bigger than the island of Manhattan, making it a city in itself, and it’s home to the world's largest airline: American Airlines. Not only that but it is also the first and largest carbon neutral airport in the used in the United States "

Kory Farooquie

We all know and understand travel is an integral part of our everyday lives. But how we get from point A to point B is about to take a dramatic shift. We’re already seeing the penetration of autonomous vehicles and autonomous systems in all facets of our lives; from pizza delivery to package delivery, autonomous vehicles are here to stay and grow. Farooquie opened episode five: 

“As the global population reaches eight billion and beyond, figuring out the efficient management of people becomes more and more important. This is the discussion today not only about autonomous vehicles, but also smart cities. It’s also a discussion about the smart hubs of travel like airports that manage the people that are commuting from point A to point B. And what better way to discuss this topic then with someone who gets all of it and whose purview encompasses all of those things.

My guest today is Paul Puopolo. He is Executive Vice President of Innovation at the DFW Airport. Paul is a quintessential intrapreneur bringing an entrepreneurial mindset into some of the largest Legacy organizations that he’s worked for. In the past Paul has held leading roles at both MetLife and Humana before that.”

After introducing Puopolo, Farooquie explained to the audience how large the DFW airport: 

“Dallas Fort Worth is the largest landlocked metropolitan area in the United States. It is also the fastest growing metropolitan area in the US. And this growing Metroplex is getting bigger and bigger. It’s already bigger than the state of New Jersey The DFW Airport that services both Dallas and Fort Worth and all of the different suburbs that comprise this Metroplex has some glaring facts itself.

It is the third largest airport in the world in terms of size. It is the fourth busiest airport in terms of flights, and the 15th busiest in the world in terms of passengers.  It’s bigger than the island of Manhattan, making it a city in itself, and it’s home to the world’s largest airline: American Airlines. Not only that but it is also the first and largest carbon neutral airport in the used in the United States.”

With that in mind, Farooquie asked Puopolo to explain his role as head of innovation for the DFW airport. Puopolo responded: 

“DFW is a unique experience for me. It is truly a pure operational environment, which is very different than the financial sector that I was in, the healthcare sector that I was in. So when we think of testing and piloting solutions, you’re actually going to impact customers in real time on a day-to-day basis, and you can really affect the operations of the airport as well. So we always want to make sure that we keep in mind safety and security at all times. We have 73 million people coming through our airport every year, so it creates a unique opportunity to test and pilot, and my role is to obviously build an innovation team and manage innovation and lead an innovation function. DFW airport has always been innovative, but they were looking at a way to standardize the way they approach new ideas, the way they look at emerging technologies, [and] the way they solve problems.

I’ve always loved working in large complex organizations. I truly believe large companies can innovate; you just have to have the right leadership. You have to have the right process, and you have to have the right approach to how you’re going to do innovation because i think most innovators are innovation leaders. So that’s what I’m doing here at DFW.

It’s been a great nine months. It’s definitely a learning curve but learning curve is over for me. I’ve got a brand new team, and that team is coming together. So not only are we trying to lead the culture of innovation at DFW, we’re also trying to gel together as innovation team.”

Can you tell us briefly what it means to be innovative for an airport?

“I think it goes back to how you define innovation. Innovation means different things to different people. It depends on how you determine what innovation means for your organization. Our number one priority is launching new products and services that are going to increase the consumer experience, increase revenue, make us operationally efficient. When we look at innovation, we look at core business, we look at differentiating business, and we look at revolutionary business. 

Redoing a terminal is probably at our core, but we have to keep our eye on the transformative and the revolutionary business opportunities such as autonomous vehicles, EV toll and things like that and biometric entry and exit, and how do we apply those new technologies to create new business models or better experiences?

That goes back to the definition of innovation. Innovation needs to be tied your corporate strategy. And is your corporate strategy to be a destination? Is it to be a transportation hub? Is it to be a community or part of all three? The short time I’ve been at DFW has been to improve the culture of innovation at DFW because we are operationally efficient we are. Now, we need to start to inject some of those some of the creativity into some of the standardized processes and how you look at a new idea.”

What competition does an airport face?

“There won’t be anything that’s going to replace international air travel for right now and at least in the foreseeable future. So long distance travel I think is going to stay the same. Regional travel is going to change. Technology is going to change that dynamic of mobility, and I think airports need to decide what business they’re in. We see ourselves right now as keeping up with all the technology to maintain our position as a major transportation hub to be that connector. 

I think mobility as a service is going to change, and it’s going to force us to change. We’re one of the four sites for Uber Elevate. I’m going to be testing that hopefully next year, so I feel like we’re in a pretty good position to test these new technologies. There’s a lot that we’re doing that I think we can apply not only to DFW but also to the community.”

What is your vision for the DFW airport as potentially the model for major airports all over the world?

“I hope that other airports or even other industries will look at us, not so much about what we are doing, but it’s how we do what we do that’s the focus that DFW has thanks to the executive team on innovation. That being said, we’re also taking a strong look at how we build partnerships with the local ecosystem. I hope people will say, ‘look at how they’ve assessed technology’ because a challenge with the airport is technology is great, but we don’t want to chase technology for technology’s sake. We need to make sure we’re solving a problem, and I think we’re taking a very disciplined approach at technology and making things simpler and more efficient for people.”

Autonomous Airports and Smart Cities

Paul Puopolo, EVP Innovation at The DFW Airport

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Kory Farooquie

Farooquie is an Innovation and Disruption Evangelist. He hosts other global innovation leaders on his talk show, NextGen Ninja and highlight how they are shaping their enterprises to cater to future generations.

He lives and breathes the entrepreneurial spirit and combines 20+ years of Big 4 consulting, sales, advisory and delivery experience as well as multiple startup ventures with the same “roll-up my sleeves and move mountains to make things happen” type attitude. Above all, he’s a constant learner, a visionary and an eternal optimist. He’s grown up in six countries and three different continents, survived a war (invasion of Kuwait) and have three different citizenships (US, EU, PK).

He’s sold to and advised C-levels of SMBs and fortune 100 clients. His focus has been on best of breed sourcing strategies, growth strategies, emerging technologies and a comfort with chaos. Today, he advocates and help his clients create and implement organizational mindsets to harness disruption in order to stay relevant in a future with AI, automation and emerging technologies at the speed of ideas. He’s passionate about helping my clients focus on these emerging technologies and how to best leverage them in a ZERO complacency model to ensure relevance in an AI-Native future.

He’s also a data and intelligent automation evangelist and keynote speaker and work with global clients to bring the C-suite together and help them roadmap a future in an age of AI with a goal to cater to the upcoming AI Native generation as future customers, consumers, and even employees. He has been at the forefront of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Automation from sourcing to implementing automation strategies to the implementation of automation across multiple business units. He has extensive industry experience across a vast array of verticals including and have built an extensive network of relationships over my career within these industries.

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