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Working for SMIC
I almost went out there to work for SMIC.
In 2003 I felt a calling. A reason to go to SMIC. I was inspired by what was going on out there.
Maybe it's a little bit of spite and jealousy, or just frustration at the fact that I could have gone to Shanghai, but I chickened out. As a result I'm still here in Massachusetts, ranting about it. Two years ago I thought all the things happening was definitely a sign of God's calling for me, now I'm not so sure.
I still think of going to work out there. Two years ago SMIC seemed to be a scrapping startup, technologically years behind. Last year they went IPO, and now it's the largest most advanced semiconductor company in China. They were founded by a man who thought of what he was doing as a X-tian missionary endeavor. He has indeed fulfilled some sort of promis, he's built his own church out there, and attracted talent internationally, even brought the word to a land desparatley crying out for it. But I can't help but feel that there's a deeper, more nefarious thing going on there. Something which still attracts me, yet also fills me with fear. I've heard somewhat disturbing stories slowly filtering back about what it's like to work there.
How they managed to make the jump to 0.18 um technology, which is about two years ahead of even the best technology analysts had predicted. Now they're at 0.12 and looking for the state of the art 90nm technology
The company seems to be just plain cheap. The joke is that S-M-I-C stands for Save Money I Can. Their travel policies sound primitive. Perhaps I'm spoiled by American sensitivies. Silly things, like requiring people to share hotel rooms. But I've been told that often employees end up having to spend their own money for business trips.
There are even more mundane things which someone remarked seemed similar in mentality to haggling over a bunch of knockoffs in a tourist market. I have to inquire about how it is to negotiate business contracts, with them. Perhaps it's a cutural thing, but I would wonder if they're hard negotiators. My only experience is that they chose not to buy our tool, because they thought it was too expensive, and our sales team refused to give them any more discounts.
There are stories of how they water down the soap in the lavatories, and set the thermostat on the AC as high as possible without being uncomfortable when it's hot outside. I think they did away with the more egregious practices such as the mandatory, "factory cleaning" team building exercises, instead of having a professional janitorial crew for the cleanroom. It all smells kinda fishy.
I can't get over the notion that what on the surface seems to be a bit mundane, but underneath the company is somehow exploiting the people working out there, especially the x-tian American expatriates. I know a lot of them are going out there, they think of it as a calling. They're going out there and willing to work for lower wages. As a startup, the company is granting stock options, it does sound like the policy all that generous. Essentially I've heard that unless one stays out there four years, almost 80% of the options don't vest. Think of that... four years. Who stays at a job for that long, especially in the tech industry, for young foreigners, especially the teachers in the school probably more than half won't even make two years in China. Yet, a lot of the skills the company gains are invaluable, are taken for granted that they can be found in the US.
I don't know, I could have looked at the exact compensation he was offering. I was sitting at the conference table, with the offer letter in a manila folder in front of me. But I simply said no, I said I didn't want to look at it. To me if God was calling me to go, the amount of compensation should have been inconsequential. A month later I wrote them saying I was going to turn it down. And I've have been rethinking that decision ever since.