Monday, February 23, 2009 

2008 Year End Review and 2009 Outlook

2008 Year End Review and 2009 Outlook Well for many the end of 2008 was great news! Looking forward to 2009 for signs of optimism and a return to better times might prove to be a little challenging. In all reality, most of 2008 was pretty good in terms of business and the job market. The real problems began to surface post labor day and certainly began to deteriorate rapidly after Thanksgiving. Venture funding showed signs of slowing in the last half of the year as the financial market began its historic meltdown. The number of IPO’s in our space in 2008 was non-existent. Cavium, Avago and Magnachip all filed and withdrew. The M&A market was off as well yet there were a few finalized in the last quarter with Intersil claiming three in D2 Audio, Kenet and Zilker Labs. The valuations were definitely deeply affected in both forms of exits. One interesting casualty of the last 6 months is the collapse in the wireless segment in our space. Finding funding and modest M&A valuations was very challenging. A few large companies like TI, were unable to find buyers for their wireless businesses and have shelved the sale for the time being. The hot specialties in 2008 in hiring were for Power Management, Mixed Signal, MEMS and Data conversion. 2009 has begun with mass layoffs from large, medium and small VC funded firms. This will have significant impact and ripple effects that are yet to be fully determined. One of the most critical problems is to make sure the downsizing does not cause the firm to lose its competitive advantages. Sometimes a focus on short term execution can cause companies to forgo the investments in people that are required to sustain their strategic advantages. In other words when sales slow and profits decline companies often focus on efforts that involve cost savings and efficiency, rather than the bigger picture! I remember writing in a previous column the realization that one day your phone may stop ringing off the hook from recruiters. Well, that day has arrived and as I also mentioned this does spell a big problem for all from Executive to the recent grad. At Analog Solutions in 2009 we are running at about a 40-50% of our typical workload. My limited visibility in the semiconductor space leaves me with a leapfrog opportunity to diversify, and continue a trend that we began in 2008: Alternative Energy, MEMS & Sensors, Medical Device and Nanotechnology. I expect this will be positive for not only us but our clients and candidates as well. Another interesting dilemma is the H1-B visa pool. For those on H1-B’s currently, and have found themselves laid off, most will be required to return home. Finding positions back home most likely will present some challenges as well. Looking forward in 2009 on a more positive note some company executives and BOD’s will seize the tremendous opportunity to upgrade their staffs and teams. Many firms who decide to take advantage of this strategy will be able to recruit talent that wouldn’t have been possible for them a brief 4-6 months ago. I would expect an increase in M&A activity in 2009 as public companies and medium size private firms look for opportunities to position for growth now and in the future. As such I have become a partner of small M&A firm to help facilitate this activity with clients in our space. 2009 Recommendations For those displaced in the recent wave of layoffs I want to offer some guidance going forward which may prove helpful in getting thru this difficult time. The entire theme remains consistent. You must in addition to seeking a new position full time, continue to seek ways to improve your skills and capabilities. This applies to those who still have positions as well. Executives who find themselves unemployed should use their network to help their colleagues, former competitors, etc find solutions to managing their business in these challenging times. This will serve two purposes. The displaced executive can stay just as sharp as if they were still employed. Being unemployed does not mean being incapable of managing change, and solving problems. On the contrary, companies that seek help from their displaced friends, colleagues, etc can gain benefits thru accessing this highly talented pool. On the engineering side, you should find ways to become stronger engineers. Reviewing fundamentals, taking classes, attending conferences can all have a positive effect, and in addition, make you more marketable in the job market now and into the future. Sales and Marketing professionals should continue to research the markets they have served and stay in touch with their entire network and customer contacts. These relationships will most definitely help going forward. Remember, YOU are your best champion! Candidates whether active, inactive or who are passively seeking new opportunities should continue to review their previous accomplishments and keep an accurate record. These are the key criteria for which you will be judged by current and future employers. I would also recommend all job seekers review my ”Interviewing Tips” section of our website at: You will find them under the candidate section. I have also written previous columns on why smart people sometimes fail in interviews. All of my articles can be found on the PlanetAnalog site by simply searching my name or following the columns archive on page one of the site through Bill Schweber’s weekly Column. Finally, I want to thank all of my readers, and Bill Schweber as well that through your continued interest in my articles you have helped establish my column consistently as one of PlanetAnalog’s most visited pages. As I have said in the past, if there are topics of interest share your feedback so I can continue to deliver content that is off interest to all. I wish everyone the very best in 2009 and remember the sun will shine after every storm!

Stay tuned!

Monday, November 17, 2008 

Siport Tragedy

Sad Day for our industry!

I is a sad day for all of us in the semiconductor world to learn of the tragic events of last Friday at Siport in Silicon Valley. A Product/Test manger who was terminated earlier in the day returned to meet with the CEO, VP of Operations and the HR Manager in a conference room only to open fire and kill all three. He promptly walked out of the building and in a brief few seconds devastated 4 families. I, nor anyone else, can figure out why a intelligent professional would go to this extreme and create the lasting damage that an event like this has caused. In our industry this individual would have found a new position sometime in the near future and therefore would have survived the termination and moved on. I only hope that throughout this economic downturn we don't hear of anymore of these senseless acts. I had thought over the weekend that I had seen about everything one could see in my 27 years in the business. I guess I was wrong!

I did not know Brian Pugh or Marilyn Lewis, but have met Sid Agrawal on a couple occasions. He was a outstanding human being! This is a typical start-up company and as such is a small family of professionals that are giving all their energy for the common good. My only hope is that it won't cause these innocent survivors to lose faith in their company, and or, their fellow man. Rather, I would like to see them rally and focus on building this company in the memories of their departed brethren.
For now all we can do is offer our prayers and support for all of them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 

Current Economic Status and Myths

I wanted to respond to a number of recent requests on the state of our business in the analog/mixed signal community in light of all the negative press and current economic crisis. I don't want to sound like a pie-in the-sky optimist. Obviously we have all heard about, or read about some recent layoffs. This consists of both large and small companies. Certainly there has been a barrage of bad news throughout the media about the state of global recession and slowdown. While many think it crosses all industries within electronics, I have not seen a dramatic effect to date in our space. Yes we have seen a small amount of layoffs from some the start-up companies who are trying to reduce their cash burn rates to preserve capital. The problem with this trend is that time is of the essence for most start-ups. Most run quite lean anyway, and by reducing people I can';t see how this will help them reach success. You could certainly understand perhaps a small reduction for performance issues, or a change in strategy, which might facilitate a need for different skill sets. This has been primarily due to the lack of interest in the VC community right now to invest in our space. Yes, getting a Series A round of funding is most likely impossible, but I believe this is temporary and will return after the new year. We have seen a number of start-ups receive B,C and later rounds recently. We have also seen a couple who have had great difficulty. The M&A activity has however picked up recently because of the perceived bargains. VC funding is down in every industry right now as the credit crisis has manifested itself.

I have spoken to several CEO's and senior executives in the last month with larger private and public companies and most have said their business has held up pretty well overall. Most have fairly large cash positions! This has allowed them to buy back their stock at very low levels. Despite the funding challenges, all have reported that they are looking at acquisitions as well due to the reduced valuations. All have indicated that current economic time is nowhere near the downturns of 2001 and 2003. Also, most indicated that there is a shortage of inventory now,which will help going forward. We have many recruiting assignments right now so this confirms that the industry is still moving in a positive direction. The global market obviously helps in the sheer number of consumers versus 2001 and earlier recessions.

Make no mistake about one thing, All of the disciplines in our space with their six figure incomes, represent fine careers and incomes. Job stability overall is more geared to one's strengths and accomplishments than to this current economy. I know the few who have been layed off probably are quite worried. Most will find new opportunities if they are flexible on a few points.

I look forward to doing a yearly update soon on the state of the analog/ mixed signal world as well as my annual column in Jan/Feb. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 08, 2008 

Headhunter Networking

Headhunter Networking

Have you added the right connections in the headhunter world?

Being known and having a relationship with the right headhunters could be some of the most important career contacts you possess. When you understand the headhunter’s model and paradigm you most certainly can increase your chances of getting a phone call that can change your life forever!

It is first necessary to understand the differences in how recruiters often work. There are those that are generalists, and those that are specialists, and everything in between. In addition the methods in which they operate are also very different. This can range from the recruiter who simply collects resumes from various sources and blasts them all over the industry, to the highly specialized recruiter who will only present you on the specific opportunity that you find appealing. One thing is consistent in that most headhunters begin their day focused on finding candidates for openings that they have been engaged to fill. They don’t find jobs for candidates, but rather find candidates for opportunities. All fees are paid by the client companies. Many times calling a headhunter to find a opportunity can be difficult. This is because unless your timing just happens to line up with that quality opportunity he/she can’t often pull a rabbit out of a hat. Opportunities often arrive at the most inopportune time!

So what are the ways to keep your name and background on the top of our list? Just having some knowledge of how headhunters think will help you in your networking. I have listed some important tips which will help you successfully network with the most skilled and well know headhunters.

Start by developing a relationship with just 2-3 of the best known firms or individuals. Relationships are developed over time and often don’t involve mutually beneficial results immediately. Most people have relationships with their chosen banker, lawyer, accountant, stock broker, etc but yet don’t even think about the one relationship that can affect you the most, your career! Start by researching your industry to find the well know recruiters. Ask your colleagues for leads and ask about their personal experiences with the recruiters they have dealt with. Perhaps look at the recruiters your own firm uses that specialize in your niche. Look for and analyze their website. Do they appear to be professional and well connected? Many candidates will look at a prospective company’s website as a first screening criterion. Don’t be concerned with the prospective location of the firm as most all specialty firms’ work nationwide, or in today’s times worldwide. Interview them and ask them how they conduct their business. Do they send resumes to their clients without first discussing a potential opportunity? Do they seem interested in your short and long terms goals, and do they ask good detailed questions designed to allow them to share only the best and most unique opportunities.

Look for reasons to email or call: If you only call when you are in need of a new position chances are you will either be ignored or disappointed. The reason for this is because most recruiters think if you are calling them you are calling everyone else as well! Time has value to everyone and no one wants to waste precious time on a wild goose chase. What do headhunters and bankers have in common? If you need them desperately, you probably won’t get anything. The best approach is to stay in touch for as many reasons as you can. Use the recruiter as a sounding board in your niche; keep them updated on any change to contact data or locations. Keep them notified of any new accomplishments or resume updates, promotions, salary updates, title changes, etc. We like to talk as often as we can with people and do take a sincere interest in helping people achieve their dreams. The best recruiters are already financial sound and therefore will look to help their client and candidate without the thought of the financial gain. Keep them appraised of any change to career directions or plans so they may call you if and when that ideal opportunity surfaces. The best recruiters also believe that a “no interest” is a perfectly acceptable answer and is not directed at them personally!

Provide help when asked: Most high quality recruiters understand the one hand washes another mentality. You can’t ignore someone who goes out of his/her way to help steer high quality people their way! Be positive at all times. Candidates who continually complain about their chosen company, or industry won’t be viewed positively by a skilled recruiter any more than a prospective employer. The more information you share with them the better informed they become about the industry and the market value you possess in your chosen field. The more knowledgeable they become will certainly bring tangible benefits to you both short and long term!

I hope this information is helpful as we have faced many inquiries in the last year of two about how to best utilize the services of recruiters.

I look forward to doing a yearly update soon on the state of the analog/ mixed signal world as well as my annual column in Jan/Feb. Stay tuned!

Friday, May 02, 2008 

Venture Trends

In a recent article I reviewed on Venture wire some interesting trends were noted. Having just begun a Executive Level search in the Solar Industry it was a testament to what I think we are going to see a lot more of in the next couple years. I have also received inquiries about fuel cell opportunities recently which also fits into the same trend.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has raised $500 million to target large companies pursuing "green" ventures, a twist on a trend that is taking many Silicon Valley investment firms away from their roots in computer-related start-ups.

The energy-related fund was announced this morning with another fund that will bring the total being raised by the Menlo Park, Calif., firm to $1.2 billion - despite fears about the U.S. economy and other issues that could worry investors.

Kleiner, which a few years ago began targeting fledgling ventures in areas such as biofuels and electric cars, now also wants to fund larger clean-technology companies that need bigger sums of money to get to market, said Kleiner partner John Denniston. Kleiner expects to invest anywhere from $10 million to $50 million in each of the companies - many of which already have revenue - and has hired an energy-investing expert from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Ben Kortlang, to help run the fund.

A chunk of the money for the green fund is coming from Generation Investment Management LLP, the socially conscious London investment firm that was co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore, now a Kleiner partner.

Kleiner, which backed big tech names like Google Inc. and Inc., also announced a new, $700 million fund - Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers XIII LP - to invest in early-stage technology, health-care and clean-tech companies. Kleiner is still, at its core, an "early stage" firm, said Brook Byers, a Kleiner partner who has specialized in biotechnology investing.

Kleiner's move comes as some of its competitors are overhauling their business models to adapt to the changing venture capital landscape, where it has become tougher to make money backing traditional start-ups. Silicon Valley stalwart New Enterprise Associates now invests much of its capital in "venture-growth equity" deals of $20 million to $100 million apiece, instead of start-ups. And Sequoia Capital, a Kleiner competitor in the high-tech market, is considering raising more than $1 billion to move into a host of new investment areas, from public stocks to real estate to oil and gas.

Friday, January 18, 2008 

2007 Review of Career Opportunities, Financial Results, and Recent Trends

As we close 2007 it is time to reflect on the state of the analog hiring picture. I would have to say it was a very robust year in terms of both the number of opportunities as well as the quality of opportunities. At Analog Solutions, we had another record year and I suspect this will continue in 2008. There were several hot areas in 2007: MEMS, Wireless, and Power Management being the most active. Another interesting hiring trend was the strong demand for marketing talent. This represents a good sign in that it shows that companies are focusing on the longer term, and trying to help determine how they can best service their customer both in the short as well as longer term. It also conveys a sense of confidence on the part of company executives in our space that the industry will continue in a positive direction from a sales/revenue perspective. In addition to marketing and sales, we saw a dramatic increase in the need for Product and Test engineers as companies now need this expertise to keep up with their new designs and product offerings. We as well saw an extremely high demand for applications engineers, especially in the power management area.

This robust hiring market of course brings with it a new crop of recruiters, and of course a sizable increase in recruiting calls! I am keenly aware that this might be a bit aggravating to many professionals but, in the big picture, it sure is a much better problem than a dismal job market! I have mentioned to many a candidate this year” If the phone stops ringing, you know you have got a BIG problem”.

The robust market also brought with it some other rather interesting, yet disturbing, trends. Our own personal experience, as well as those reported to us by both companies and other recruiting firms in our space, involve candidates who had accepted offers only to back out before their agreed upon start date. The reasons of course given involve either accepting a counteroffer, accepting another offer, or just simply not being serious about making a change My suggestion for everyone’s benefit would be to make certain before accepting an offer that it is what you want to do, and then live up to your commitments, OR be prepared for the consequences! This action can only have negative reactions. Let’s for a moment just reverse the scenario and wonder how candidates would feel if they accepted an offer, resigned from their current position, and were told a couple days before they started that their offer was being rescinded! This would not be construed by any candidate as ethical or normal practice yet, in the reverse, seems like a normal and ethical outcome!

Let’s all enjoy 2008 as it should be another positive year. Funding had slowed a little bit in the second half of 2007 but not to a point of what I would classify as a problem. It was quite a good year for the Investors as we saw 4 IPO’s: AuthenTec, MEMSIC, Entropic, and Intellon. Although the valuations were modest at best with maybe the exception of AuthenTec which did and continues to do quite well! They were added to the Russell 3000 index in October. On the other hand, at least there was an appetite and an opportunity for those companies to raise money in the public market. We must remember that an IPO should be the launching pad, not the exit! AuthenTec seems to be doing quite well on this account as well. The acquisition market was quite good with approximately 15 acquisitions that represented anywhere from 20-400 Million. From everything that I hear, it should favorable in 2008 as well on both the IPO and acquisition front, as investor demand should continue to pick up. The extent of impact from both the credit crunch and elections have yet to be really felt, but I personally don’t see this causing any significant problem. There is a lot of money invested into deals that has been there from ‘98 and beyond, that investors will want to recoup and begin investing elsewhere. We also saw a couple other interesting trends. Some of our larger more established Public companies are looking to fund internal startups and seeking founders with a good business plan. This in a sense makes them a competitor to the VC's and Angel investors. They are offering a good equity position and at the same time providing sales channels, teams available to them, avl, medical, infrastructure, etc. Less risk, but greater than usual reward. We have also seen companies offering key people margin bonuses that are designed to keep products in the 60% plus gross margin area. Stay tuned!

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 

Counter Offer Rule

New Rule -- (actually an Old Rule, but some people seem to have forgotten it!): Once you accept an offer, you need to stop interviewing! This one seemed so basic to me that I thought I'd never have to actually put it in writing. The purpose of an interview is to get a job offer and once you've accepted an offer, you need to stop interviewing everywhere else. That means not negotiating with your existing employer, either. Accepting an offer means you have given your word either verbally or in writing and hence are no longer available to other employers. We have had the uncomfortable experience several times in recent months of having a candidate accept an offer in writing, negotiate a later start date, and relo expenses afterward and then just weeks before his start date, decide to stay at his current job instead because the counter-offer from his existing firm was "too great to say no". This candidate has demonstrated to the firm he accepted with and to his current employer that his word means nothing! Should you choose to seek a counter offer (and it would take an entire separate column to explain why you should not), do it before you accept the other firm's offer.

Likewise, a candidate who accepts an offer but then continues to look for "something better", is doing something that is as equally bad. I would be surprised if either of these candidates would want the same rule applied to them. If, after they had resigned from their jobs and just before starting their new jobs, the prospective employer said "Sorry, but we kept looking after you accepted our offer and found someone better, so we're not going to honor our job offer to you.", I'll bet there would be a lot of whining! An ability to honor one's word is a trait that is universally respected in business, government and life. Enduring happiness and success is impossible without it.