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Charging Up the Talent Pool
The semiconductor and electrical components industry has 10s of thousands of jobs to fill.
There couldn’t be a better time to get into the semiconductor industry.
According to SEMI, the global industry association the represents the electronics manufacturing supply chain, there are more than 10,000 job openings in the worldwide semiconductor industry, but the current talent pool is so thin that qualified people cannot be hired fast enough.
Wondering what it’s like to work in this high-demand industry? Four professionals discuss their work, share what makes their companies great, and offer insight on how to find success in this industry.
Mow Drives Innovation for Maxim Integrated’s Mobile Audio Business Unit
As a senior business manager, Greg Mow wants to help make Maxim Integrated’s mobile audio business unit profitable. “In most organizations, this role is designated as a product manager,” he explains.
“What that really means in the larger scheme is that I own our audio products, and the basic goal is to ensure that the entire audio business unit is profitable now and in the future.”
This includes looking at a product’s road map, and profit and loss, and managing products across the organization, from legal and engineering to sales and marketing, and more.
“I help define the next products, meet with customers about what they have, what they want, and what the problems and challenges that they’re facing are,” he details.
For instance, he recently helped bring the MAX98390 dynamic speaker management (DSM) smart amplifier to a wider market. Compared to a standard class-D amplifier, this DSM technology allows 2.5 greater loudness and significantly more bass compared to the microspeakers that today’s cellphones are using.
“Previously, speaker characterization and the complex programming required to use DSM were so time-consuming that this limited support and accessibility to only the largest customers,” explains Mow.
“But now, we’ve made this technology accessible to everyone and anyone, from a maker to a student, so anyone can customize it for their own speaker.”
The son of engineers, Mow always loved playing with LEGOs as a child and solving problems. With plenty of experience from a young age in leadership roles through sports and school, as well as through early sales and customer service experience in his career, he also had a passion for working with people. Taken together, those were perfect qualities for his current role at Maxim.
“Being a business manager allows me to bring together my engineering and business side,” notes Mow, who’s been with Maxim for a little more than eight years. He was attracted to the company for its reputation in the semiconductor industry. It also helped that he was able to easily move into a role that fit his passions.
“I went to a career fair and met a sales manager who was looking for new college engineering grads for technical sales roles,” recalls Mow. “It was the first time I’d heard of such a program.…Most of the time, you have to have five to 10 years of experience. This was a unique opportunity to move into a role to grow my sales and business acumen while using my technical capability.”
What Mow loves most about his job is having the “rare opportunity to take my dreams and translate them into reality.”
He continues: “In this role, you get to dream up ideas and start working with engineering to see if they’re possible. You get to be a dreamer and an engineer at the same time, solving customers’ problems and their customers’ problems.”
He also appreciates that San Jose, CA-headquartered Maxim offers much opportunity to grow.
Mow offers some practical advice for young engineers: show what you’ve done with your education and skill set, and show your results.
“Internships are the most important thing, and once you get out of school and start your job search, can you show what have you done with your skill set? It’s more about results, which you can achieve through internships. Work with others and achieve results.”
Once you have those results, make them your headlines on your resume, and then explain how you achieved said results.
Finally, if you have a passion for something or learn a new skill, then do something demonstrable with it.
“If you learn a skill, then make or create something with it,” advises Mow. “Add it to your resume - don’t be scared to learn, just make sure you put what you learn into action and do something with it.”
Find career opportunities with Maxim Integrated at maximintegrated.com/careers. Connect on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
Hill Owns the Growth of TE Connectivity’s Sensors Solutions Division
As chief technology officer and vice president of engineering for the sensor solutions business unit within TE Connectivity, Byron Hill, Ph.D. strives for growth in his division. “My job is to own and implement the technology and product strategy that will support the growth of the business,” he points out.
“In order to accomplish that, I make sure we have the best and brightest talent globally to make it happen.”
While he’s not working in the trenches day to day, Hill notes that TE’s customers rely on their sensors to work harder and do more as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes more pervasive in different industries.
For instance, a construction equipment manufacturer recently challenged his team to help improve the lifespan of its products while measuring several engine fluid properties with a single sensor. What resulted is a fluid property sensor that measures viscosity, density, dielectric constant and temperature.
“The integration of multiple measurement properties into a single sensor is a growing trend in the equipment industry because it reduces installation time and decreases the weight of the machine by eliminating unnecessary sensors and cables, thereby improving the efficiency,” he elaborates.
“It also limits the number of components the manufacturer has to keep in inventory. This is just one example of the kind of customer-centric innovation I continually encourage from my team.”
With a Ph.D. in electrical engineering in the area of control systems, Hill enjoys how science and math can be used to create things that better lives and solve problems.
“When you think of systems, typically sensors are not what comes to mind. For example, a car is a system. Can you imagine driving a car without the ability to know how fast you’re going, how much gas you have in the tank, or even be able to maintain a comfortable temperature? Well, you need sensors to do that!”
Traditionally, he explains, TE - which has its world headquarters in Switzerland and U.S. headquarters in Berwyn, PA - has been a global powerhouse in the terminal, connector and wiring harness industry, products that enable everything from cars and planes to appliances to work. But what’s often hanging off the end of those wires are sensors.
“TE decided to make sensors a key part of the growth strategy beyond the legacy business,” Hill says. “I came to TE to be a part of that transformation in sensors.”
What makes TE a great company for which to work, notes Hill, is its culture. “There’s a real effort to make sure people are valued and included. There’s a high expectation of performance, but not at the expense of the individual. Also, it’s nice to go home at the end of the day and realize that the work being done at TE is truly making the world a better place.”
To succeed in the workforce, Hill advises performing well in the job that you’re in today.
“Continue to develop and build your skills, but if you don’t excel in your current role, then it’ll be difficult for someone to consider you for the next role,” he says. “Make that part of your brand.”
He also notes that for those who want a career specifically in sensors, be ready to work for it.
“Sensors is not a field you can get an undergraduate degree in,” Hill says. “We typically have to train people to design sensors. What we look for in future hires is strong fundamentals in science, engineering and mathematics. You have to have the knack of turning science into something real and practical.”
Find career opportunities with TE Connectivity at careers.te.com. Connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Glassdoor and YouTube.
Kia Helps ADI Verify Products via Stringent Testing
Mahsa Kia knows the value of testing. Kia is a test development engineer in the aerospace group at Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI). In this role she develops frameworks for repeatable test solutions, which involves creating and implementing test plans for product verification, as well as data analysis for product specification.
“I love challenges, and it’s so rewarding for me to solve a problem,” she shares.
“Being a test engineer is like being a detective! You need to find out all of the characteristics of a part. If unexpected performance is revealed, then you must find the root cause of the unexpected performance, which is challenging, but I enjoy this most about my job.”
Kia’s interest in physics and how it applies to daily life led her to study electrical engineering. And analog devices, she adds, are critical to daily life.
“There’s a golden key in most technologies we have today…which is analog electronics! The world we live in is analog, and being able to create devices to sense, measure, and communicate these analog signals is so astonishing to me,” she adds.
What drew Kia to the company were two different projects she worked on in graduate school. For both design projects, she needed to find commercially available components used in system- or component-level applications to which to compare her designed part.
“As a result of my research, I became familiar with Analog Devices’ products and was eager to look for a job at this pioneering company,” reveals Kia, who’s been with the Norwood, MA-headquartered company for about two and a half years.
What Kia appreciates about the company is that everyone is generous with their experience and knowledge: “This makes ADI a great place to grow.”
In addition, the company provides many learning and development opportunities, she additionally points out.
For this specific field, a good background in math, physics and great analytical skills are important, but Kia offers young engineers a simple piece of advice: do what you like.
“The first key to success is passion,” she emphasizes.
Find career opportunities with ADI at careers.analog.com. Connect on Glassdoor, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.
Shahi Brings Software & Hardware Together at STMicroelectronics
As an application firmware engineer for the imaging division of STMicroelectronics (ST), Sneha Shahi gets to see both sides of the equation. “The semiconductor industry is a field where we can see the both the hardware and software coming together on the same platform,” she points out.
“This was something I was always curious to explore. During my undergraduate when I first wrote assembly level code for an 8051 microcontroller, I was very happy to see the software flow on the hardware in real time. It confirmed my decision to go into this field.”
Shahi now designs and develops sensor drivers for mobile and wearable platforms.
Recently, for instance, she worked with her team to develop a new edge computing and sensing system for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), which is compatible with existing open-source autopilot software and deep-learning frameworks. This work ultimately allowed for the UASs to be used without relying on a link to a ground station.
“Our evaluation results demonstrate that an autonomous UAS can fly based on predefined destinations with on-board deep learning for perception and obstacle avoidance,” Shahi explains.
The project took almost a year to complete. “When we started the project, we had so many issues regarding the hardware and software design. But the team’s effort helped us to overcome those difficult days,” recalls Shahi.
“The first day when our drone worked as per our design, it gave us so much of joy and happiness I’ve never experienced in my life.”
The team wrote a paper on the project for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which was recently selected.
With the company for about 18 months, Shahi choose STMicroelectronics as it’s a renowned name in the semiconductor industry.
“Their microcontroller platform is amazing. The innovation happening in the company - especially around microcontrollers and sensors - is attractive to many students,” she notes.
What Shahi likes most about ST is its company culture and team efforts to debug any critical issue reported. She also appreciates the fact the company accepts innovative ideas, including those that inspired her to work for the company, which has its global headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and offices throughout the world, including in the U.S.
To succeed in this industry, Shahi notes that patience is important. “We need to be patient to complete the job application work and not lose hope. Always keep up the hard work.”
Proficiency in C/C++ is also a must for this field, according to Shahi. Apart from this, she notes, knowledge of microcontrollers, operating systems (especially real-time operating systems, or RTOS), the ability to read schematics and a knowledge of tools like logic analyzers and oscilloscopes would be great. Knowledge of protocols like SPI, I2C, UART and others also help to get up to speed and contribute quickly, she adds.
Find career opportunities with ST at st.com/careers. Connect on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram.
Sparking Career Growth
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), 2% is the anticipated rate of growth for electrical and electronics engineering through 2028. Contrast this overall smaller percentage against OOH’s better growth percentage of 5% specifically for electrical engineers, which is on pace with the 5% growth projected for all engineers.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH)
Electronic engineers receive the highest compensation for their work - surpassing software engineers - and those in the semiconductor industry “take home the largest paycheck.”
The median annual wage for electrical and electronics engineers was $99,070 in May 2018. More specifically, the median annual wage for electronics engineers, except computer, was $102,700 in May 2018. And the median annual wage for electrical engineers was $96,640 in May 2018.
And here’s another look at what electrical engineers can expect to make:
• Average Starting Salary: $67,000
• Average Mid-Level Salary: $82,000
• Average Late-Career Salary: $96,000
Sources: EE Times, newengineer.com and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Semiconductor Units to Exceed 1 Trillion Devices in 2020
Annual semiconductor unit shipments, including integrated circuits and optoelectronics, sensors, and discrete (O-S-D) devices are forecast to rise 7% in 2020 and surpass 1 trillion units for the second time in history, according to IC Insights’ McClean Report.
The 7% increase to 1,036.3 billion total semiconductor shipments expected in 2020 follows an 8% decline in 2019 and 7% growth in 2018, the year that semiconductor shipments reached 1,046.0 billion units - a record high that’s expected to remain in place through at least this year.
Starting with 32.6 billion units in 1978 and ending in 2020, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for semiconductor units is forecast to be 8.6%, an impressive annual growth rate over 42 years, given the cyclical and often volatile nature of the semiconductor industry.
Sources: EPSNews and IC Insights’ McClean Report
2020F Semiconductor Unit Shipments
Std Logic 6%
Source: IC Insights
Semiconductor Industry Avoids Direct Impact of Coronavirus
The semiconductor industry appears to have escaped the direct impact of the coronavirus crisis so far, but the market is likely to suffer the repercussions as the outbreak slows or suspends production among electronics manufacturers, according to Omdia.
Despite facing logistical, packaging and test challenges related to the coronavirus, semiconductor fabs located in China are continuing to function normally, with high-capacity rates. However, the risks are considerable, given the semiconductor market represents a huge component of the global economy, generating an estimated USD $424.8 billion in revenue in 2019 alone, as reported by the Omdia Semiconductor Competitive Landscaping Tool. A potential disruption to Chinese chip production could have major ramifications for worldwide economic growth.
“Global chip supply through the first two months of 2020 appears to be largely unaffected by the coronavirus outbreak,” says Len Jelinek, research vice president, components and devices, for Omdia.
“There’s plenty of chip inventory in the channel, compensating for any coronavirus-related production shortfalls at semiconductor fabs located in the Wuhan area and elsewhere in China. Plus, few semiconductor suppliers are located in areas affected by the virus, and all of the parts sold by these companies can easily be sourced from other chipmakers.”
The real danger for the semiconductor industry lies elsewhere, as the coronavirus disrupts production at electronic manufacturing companies that represent some of the world’s largest semiconductor purchasers.
“With electronic manufacturing services (EMS) and original design manufacturing (ODM) companies facing challenges regarding the number of workers returning from the Lunar New Year closings, the global market will face serious challenges as it enters the second quarter,” Jelinek says.
“China is a major center for manufacturing services, with organizations including Foxconn basing massive factories in the country. These companies represent major purchasers of semiconductors, accounting for 29% of global purchasing this year.”
Major EMS/ODM operations in the region include Foxconn’s iPhone production operations located about 300 miles from Wuhan in Zhengzhou. This plant is open and running, but only at about 10% to 20% of capacity due to workforce issues. Other EMS/ODM operations in the area, including those run by Jabil and Wistron, are also suffering workplace issues, but these don’t have the major impact on the semiconductor demand that Foxconn does. The capacity utilization rate for all electronics manufacturers in China presently is lower than normal. This is mainly due to labor shortages, with many workers still not returning to work. Furthermore, demand is seasonally weak, reducing stress on suppliers.
Coronavirus Slows Import/Export Activity
Although semiconductor supply appears to be intact, suppliers in China are encountering challenges related to the outbreak. “For foreign semiconductor companies, especially fabless firms, the greatest challenge is import and export logistics,” says Hui He, principal semiconductor analyst for Omdia.
“Because of the controls placed on flights in and out of China, many government staff members haven’t returned to work. As a result, the import/export process in China now is taking much longer than before, slowing the pace of commerce.”
However, the impact of this logistical slowdown is being mitigated by the fact that the first quarter is the slowest period of the year for the global electronics business. With production rates at relatively low levels, the negative impact of coronavirus has not been fully felt yet.
Fabs Cleanliness Prevents Disease Spread
Semiconductor fabs are inherently clean and highly automated, yielding an environment that’s not conducive to the spread of disease. As a result, foundries operating in the country - including SMIC, TSMC and UMC - have been able to maintain normal production conditions without any changes. Capacity utilization rates at these fabs remain high.
In Wuhan itself, semiconductor supplier YMTC has kept its production line running at normal levels. The XMC fab in the Wuhan area is running smoothly, as well.
Package & Test Challenges
For chipmakers, the impact is more serious in the package and testing realm. Due to labor shortages, many package and testing plants in China have reduced or even stopped operations. This has created a bottleneck for chip companies that rely on such back-end package and testing capacity.
At present, many small and medium-sized chip design companies are faced with a dilemma of being unable to obtain sufficient production capacity from both fabs and package suppliers. If this production slowdown continues for an extended period, then these design companies may face bankruptcy, or acquisition.
Other Coronavirus Developments
Most of the Chinese factories that are part of the supply chain for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and sensors declared that the operations would restart on February 10.
Sensor suppliers indicate that they have enough stock to cover for the suspension of production during the extended Lunar New Year holiday, which halted production until February 10.
Sources: Evertiq and Omdia
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