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Engineer who grew up with Korea's IC industry

Posted: 30 Jul 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:career? management? job? engineer? skill?

Soo: Having an established organization reduces difficulties when replacing staff in emergency situations.

Fairchild Semiconductor's Bucheon facility nurtured Korea's semiconductor industry during its early days. This facility was owned by Samsung Electronics, which started wafer processing in 1974. Two decades later, Fairchild bought this power business unit and renamed it as Fairchild Korea Semiconductor Ltd.

The Bucheon facility is also where the engineering career of Kim Kyoung Soo, regional VP at Fairchild Korea, started. EE Times - Korea met with Kim and talked about how his career began in a relatively young semiconductor industry in Korea.

The year 1976 saw how Korea's electronics industry took off. At that time, Kim had just joined Samsung as an applications engineer. His first project, also the first for the company, was the development of CMOS chips for watches.

"While I was developing chips for wrist watches, I also thought of selling other items. That's when I started developing transistors, even when the demand for transistors was still very low," Kim narrated.

However, the company's early transistors were considered inferior goods. "I worked to get an approval for applied technology using transistors in the mornings and repaired and repainted inferior goods at night," added Kim.

Not long after, the development of transistors became the base of Samsung's non-memory business.

"In 1985, I went to the United States to sell our transistors. No one knew about Samsung and the people I talked to kept asking me about the company," Kim said.

U.S. companies had no reason for partnering with Samsung because of quality concerns and the cost of around $50,000 to ensure quality for a product that was only 2 percent of their business, he added.

This setback, however, turned into a blessing because of power MOSFET. Samsung teamed up with Ixys Corp., a company that manufactures a broad spectrum of power semiconductors including power MOSFETs. The two companies redesigned their technologies to suit the needs of the Korean market and started producing power MOSFET devices for a hard disk drive company.

Ixys had the product while Samsung had the production capability. "Ixys requested to produce wafers at Samsung's facility in exchange for the right to use its products. It was a better alternative than paying for a royalty fee, because Samsung just had to provide the production technology. This is how Samsung's foundry business started," Kim said.

With the Ixys partnership, the power MOSFET business opened up a good opportunity for the Bucheon facility to be significantly developed. In fact, this fab is still an important unit of Fairchild Korea's family. Fairchild Korea also produces discrete components such as IGBT, power transistors, signal-processing transistors and analog ICs.

Established organization

Making strategic decisions such as partnerships are important but it is equally important to establish a clear division of roles in an organization, Kim said. The manager should not lose sight of the company's vision and must set short-, middle- and long-term goals for his team.

"Having an established organization reduces difficulties when replacing staff in emergency situations," Kim said.

"No new engineer knows everything about semiconductors in the beginning. To every engineer that we accept, we give study assignments. As a leader, I monitor their level of learning, attitude and effort for a certain period," Kim explained.

Fairchild trains its staff to hone their expertise. After a three-month training period, engineers have to pass a test to become regular employees.

Evolution of an engineer

Kim has come a long way to become Fairchild's regional VP.

He majored in electrical engineering in Pusan University and earned his MBA in Yonsei University. While working for Samsung just after college, he broadened his experience to include ASIC design, audio/video IC, telecom IC, microcontroller and DRAM.

From 1985 to 1991, he headed the expansion of Samsung's U.S. market--launching its power MOSFET business.

From 1991 to 1995, Kim launched a project on LCD driver chips with a Japanese company. During that time, he was promoted as the strategic marketing director in-charge of Samsung's power, microcontroller, consumer, telecom, networking and ASIC business units. He also worked on a number of new products and strategic developments as market managing director from 1996 to 1998.

Apart from his career at Samsung and Fairchild, Kim also shared his knowledge while teaching about microcontrollers in universities. He also contributed some studies on consumer electronics to help future engineering visionaries.

- Lee Ju Yeun

Electronic Engineering Times - Korea





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