2019 Rising Star Winner - Sprint's Ryan Sullivan

Ryan Sullivan, VP Product Engineering and Development, Sprint(Source: Sprint)

The FierceWireless editorial team has done it again. We’ve selected a slate of wireless executives who are on the rise. For 2019 we’re doling out the names of our winners, two per day, so that our readers have the time to enjoy reading their profiles. Later this week, we’ll post our popular Rising Stars poll, giving everyone the opportunity to vote for their favorite top executive to watch in wireless. 

Sprint and its competitors are banking on 5G to help them keep up with the mushrooming demand for mobile data. Ryan Sullivan leads Sprint’s effort to launch new smartphones that enable customers to move to the more efficient 5G networks. Sullivan earned his stripes by directing Sprint’s iPhone launch in 2011, and two years later the company put him in charge of all new devices the carrier launches. 

Sullivan carries every new Sprint phone as his personal device, switching phones roughly every two weeks. For each device he carries, he sends his team a punch list of issues and bugs he finds. Sullivan makes sure he understands each problem before reporting it to the team.

“I would never ask anybody in my organization to do something that I wouldn’t be willing to jump in with them and do myself,” Sullivan says, and when others describe him as a popular manager, he says that’s the reason.

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Sullivan has been with Sprint since he graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1999 with a degree in business finance. He earned an MBA from the University of Kansas while working at Sprint. He says “bridging the gap” between business teams and technical teams is a top professional strength.

Like many Sprint employees, Sullivan has been “wearing two hats” for more than a year now, running Sprint’s handset development business while also talking with his counterparts at T-Mobile about how things will operate in the merged company. He’s optimistic about the future, for Sprint and for the wireless industry overall. Sullivan believes 5G is “a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

“I really think it’s going to be a spark for the industry,” he says. “I think it’s going to be the catalyst that brings growth back to the wireless industry.”