Currently, I work for a small semiconductor equipment
company. We make measurement equipment for semiconductor manufacturers.
My job description reads automation engineer. In short:
the position I have is somewhere between an applications engineer, in
charge of making sure the tool works correctly and is generating the
correct data, to automation related work, making sure data is being
transferred throughout systems in the factory. As well as fielding new
requests for features, and testing new software features.
To see my resume, and the
companies I've worked for, and not worked
for. Click on the appropriate links.
To read my thoughts on the state of the chip industry,
and in particular the semiconductor equipment industry click
I suppose it's kind of ironic that my job is one
of those that really improves efficiency, thus is one of the enablers
for companies to do
so much more, with so much less. I wondr if I put people out of work. I work in automation. The goal is
to eliminate the people from the factor. Through robotics, software
and controls. It just makes things better.
Lights Out. "Will the last person left, please
turn out the lights"
There's a joke here, Lights out means being able to run a fully automated
factory. Thus people never need to walk through it, and thus you could
turn the lights out and keep running. It is not to be confused with "Will the last
person left, please turn off the lights" although given the state
of the semiconductor business, unless you're Intel, that might be the
I just might end up in China, and that scares me. Call it a calling from God. Of which I'm not listening too well. In fact. I might be actively trying to find reasons not to go. The more I think about it, the more it scares me, and the more I really don't want to go for a lot of reasons.
There was an article in
the LA times about the founder of a company in China. He described
himself as "A missionary trapped in an engineers body." Sometimes
I think of myself as that person.
Of course the man's wealthy, has a PhD, a
Chinese National who lived for years in Taiwan, and founded two semiconductor companies and
in working for multiple companies in the United States. Plus
he seemed to have the contacts and the credibility to attract
probably over a billion dollars in venture capital funding,
in country not always known for rule of law. But I can't help
wonder if you can find what he's offering anymore, as they
say it's the "Classic tech-company bargain," a chance
to get in on the ground floor of something pioneering.
Yet I've been out there, and even went for an interview out there. But for some reason I didn't go out there to work. somthing about working for SMIC didn't seem right.
Maybe it was just fear.
Maybe not though...
The rub lies here.
I've been in the semiconductor business almost
my entire career. Although I've done other
things (well sort of)
but I'm drawn to this kind of
work, and this industry. So do I stick with this out of faith,
loyalty or just plain stupidity,
that I've been doing this so long I can't imagine doing anything
I have mixed feelings about leaving Boston.
Objectives to get me to move overseas -
Community, calling, loyalty...
A friend told me that this is why people stay.
They have a job that is sustainable, they don't feel like they're
struggling to get by.
They have a community which supports them, whether it be family,
friends or a fellowship. It's not exploitive. And it's not immoral, unpatriotic, or just plain evil.
They feel like they're progressing in their life. Their career
is going somewhere and there's potential to be part of somthing
Big problem - Is it being disloyal to being
I work in an industry where most of the equipment
has been subject to export rules that would normally
preclude it from being shipped into China. China is pretty protectionist
when it comes to semiconductors. There's a 30% VAT tax on imported
semiconductorss, (with a rebate it's only 3% for domestic products)
there's a fundamental problem here. Supposely international economics
allows developing nations to impose high tarrifs, so they can nurture
their own industries. We did this with Japan, with Korea, and probably
a host of other countries.
China is different, they're not a small developing nation, they're a force unto itself. Upon which all the countries under it's influence you can hear a great sucking sound. We complain about high paying jobs
going overseas. China is going to be taking a lot more than just some jobs.
There's another issue, aside from the tarrif
issue, and whether going there is contributing to the decline of
the once mightly American empire.
It used to be just about nuclear proliferation. But it's know that China possesses the technology to make an atomic bomb. Those
rules are laid out in a voluntary, international pact called
the sale of so-called “dual-use” equipment
that can be used for the manufacture of innocuous things like DSP
chips for DVD players and not-so-innocuous things like DSP chips
used in sensitive military targeting systems.
However technology some of the offending items
are found in all sorts of standard everyday products. and
not just high powered suprecomputers, exotic metals, or advanced
processing techniques involved. For example: there is a limitations
quality. It is illegal to ship them a bearing with a tolerance
rating in excess of ABEC 7. Found in a halfway decent skateboard.
The fact is that
technology is changing and improving, and the rules need to get
down to the fundamentals and the intent of the agreement, which now that China is becoming a superpower and a challenge to the entire American economy. We need to really think about what's going on out there.
Originally written 7/22/2003