Insights for technology professionals

How can organizations stay competitive in today's semiconductor industry?

Posted on July 10, 2018 by Jack Trompert


We’ve discussed how engineers stay relevant in the industry, but what about companies? How do organizations stay competitive in today’s semiconductor industry? Managing the talent market, nurturing leadership, and refining execution is always an evolving practice. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, it’s a good idea to establish best practices with room to deviate and mature.

Let’s explore three ways for leaders and managers to stay ahead of the competition in today’s semiconductor industry.

Deliver continuously

Adrian Cockcroft, the pioneer behind the success of Netflix in the cloud, repeatedly said, “speed wins the marketplace.” Getting the speed to innovate has become a competitive advantage in the marketplace. When companies create more products and scale larger, it’s imperative to deliver continuously to meet the demands of the market.

But to release great products, high-performing organizations need to collect and interpret data and customer feedback, adapt code, and relaunch in regular cycles. Moving into cloud operations makes it easier for organizations to respond quickly to user needs and develop consistently with continuous value for consumers. This can help teams adapt to changes and needs with real-time updates under one infrastructure.

One of the leading frameworks for this is DevOps, a combination of product development and operations. According to AWS, DevOps is the combination of cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increase an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services at a high velocity.

McKinsey articulated successful implementation in three stages:


Stage 1: Simplify

Companies need to create a repository for all software, source codes, and assets, which can be accessed quickly and reliably. Developers and engineers should submit code changes frequently and conduct peer reviews to ensure transparency and quality.


Stage 2: Scale

According to Gartner, scaling automation broadly and deeply throughout the tech ecosystem remains a pivotal challenge for widespread automation in DevOps. In order to prevent siloed processes, it’s critical to 1) understand what hardware and software your system uses, 2) leverage a powerful, integrated tool to build solutions for different teams, and 3) employ a system that provides high visibility into your infrastructure.

Scaling requires time and money. So focus on the highest-value automation opportunities to organize your priorities. When automation helps accomplish menial tasks, you have time to create opportunitiesnot just respond to them.


Stage 3: Sustain

The pursuit of continuous delivery needs to be simple to follow and ingrained in a company’s culture to maintain its value. This means moving technologies and products to cloud-based ecosystems with automation in place to control infrastructure, scale, and quality.

To surpass the competition, organizations need to develop continuously with intention behind their work. And competing in a different economy with bigger players and larger markets starts with understanding why your organization is innovating in the first place. It’s the first step to learn how to deliver value at scale. As you undergo transformation, keep in mind the purpose and vision at hand. The most successful companies follow a holistic approach knowing what value they’re offering.

Cultivate culture

The engineering and tech industry holds a reputation for long hours, intense competition, and employee burnout. However, organizations have the choice to control many of these elements. Developing an ecosystem of constructive culture (not just ping pong tables and free snacks) takes a proactive approach. Culture should be treated as a product of best workplace practices. While staying true to the company mission, design new ways to incorporate those values into every process at the company.

A few factors to build a quality culture include:


Clear, aspirational goals

Start by reinforcing core values in the company. The best leaders set high aspirations and a compelling vision of where the organization needs to go, how to get there, and clear measures of success. Take Google for example. They use OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to make goals hardnot slam dunks, in order to stretch the company while staying focused to a defined goal. By putting the proper resources and time in place to map goals for the future, it encourages everyone to discuss collaboratively, understand expectations, and stay on the same page of what the company stands for.


Transparent, collaborative communication

By having consistent, honest, and open-ended conversations about personal and professional development, a leader builds trust with employees around a common purpose. Jay Desai, founder of health technology startup PatientPing, penned a user guide to help facilitate collaboration and communication without second-guessing. Through an open act of communication, leaders can champion transparency and exchange impactful discussions with employees. Whether it’s laying out open communication channels or conducting peer reviews, employing transparent, collaborative communication breaks down silos and builds accountability within teams.


Inclusive, quality hiring

More often than not, hiring practices are put on autopilot. In any dynamic industry, running in the same place with archaic processes to evaluate your next hire puts you behind the talent curve. It’s also a hindrance to your company culture and ability to scale fast. To create a company of giants, transform your hiring method. Using the RACI matrix, or having structured interview panels designates decision-making with different areas of qualifications (such as one for algorithms, Java, company culture, etc). It’s also key to manifest inclusive principles within your workforce by diversifying candidates in your recruiting process. Remember, the way you recruit and hire is dependent on your values and mission. Hiring doesn’t end when new engineers are in their seats. It’s important to keep an eye out for hiccups in the process so that you can intervene when necessary and fine-tune the approach.


Learning opportunities

By creating learning and development initiatives that support, encourage, and reward continuous learning and reskilling, you equip your workforce with both soft and hard skills to lead projects with purpose and clarity. As leaders and managers of the people, it’s crucial to take an active role with your employees in their professional and personal goals. Establish learning programs like apprenticeships, on-the-job-training, mentoring or collaboration with universities to engage and unlock employees’ potential. It’s also important to prepare for a potential skills gap in your organization by fostering an open culture of curiosity and honesty.

Ensure Quality

As growth speeds up, the quality of your products becomes crucial. Ensuring standards in a cohesive method prevents engineering teams from constantly fighting fires in order to maintain quick shipments. Tim Howes, an entrepreneur and growth expert of startups including Rockmelt, gives three key rules that he recommends to every engineering leader:


Pay attention

Start with a product review and notify anyone with quality errors. Recording details of crash rates keeps the team alert and responsive with safeguards.


Make a release checklist

Standardize a release checklist with each engineering team to check before any product can be released. Including checkboxes such as: “What’s your binary size? What’s your memory usage? What have you done on security? What external URLs are you using?” help maintain consistency on the quality of releases and provide transparency to the rest of the organization.


Implement reviews and automated testing

Code reviews, functional tests, and unit tests force you to structure your work well. When your work is reviewed by a fellow teammate, it keeps engineers mindful and attentive to quality. Reviewing work will also expose the level of complexity, issues, and concerns around the processimproving and strengthening the input.

Growth can happen fast. For organizations to stay ahead of the curve, it’s important to set expectations for teams to work toward clear, aspirational goals with established communication and opportunities for employee growth. Additionally, scaling engineering teams with bigger and complex projects also means ensuring quality control. Running a team smoothly can be challenging, especially in highly competitive markets. But managing your workforce with self-awareness and a constant process of development helps you accelerate and thrive in the industry.

New Call-to-action

Jack Trompert

In 2010, Jack and Janet Trompert started Talent 101 with a clear new vision on how to deliver talent to the marketplace. To work at Talent 101 is to be a part of something creative and big. From our modest roots as an ambitious startup, to becoming a global workforce solution provider to the world’s most recognized semiconductor companies, our growth and momentum owes a lot to our strong company culture of customer service, can do attitude, sense of urgency and always focus on the client and talent.