People is what technology is all about. The best ideas evolve when brilliant minds are given the freedom and trust to build on their own creativity. It’s this mindset that attracted expat electrical system engineer, Salvatore Polito to imec the Netherlands. Experience with other electrical engineering jobs in the Netherlands, made him realise that imec is unique in the freedom and support given at their employees to think outside the box and develop new ideas.
“As engineer I am passionate about design. I’m also passionate about applying innovative technologies to provide cutting-edge solutions. My first job was as consultant. I was seconded to a large, high-tech-company. The colleagues were great, but within the whole process, I was just one small cog in the wheel. Seeing where I could help to make improvements in a concept, but without the authority to do so. That was frustrating. There were huge interests involved. So understandably, everything was formalised in responsibilities and processes. The inherent risks were simply too large for off-the-cuff, let alone out-of-the-box decision making.”
Leading in the design processs
“I decided to move on and look for a new position as electrical engineer. I happened across an electrical engineering job at imec here on the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. The measure of freedom I get here, right from the very first day, is unique. Everybody is a specialist in his own field. And as such, you’re expected to actively contribute your expertise. Each and every day. The collaborative approach is also apparent in the absence of a hierarchical organisation. In my country of birth, Italy, hierarchy in organisations is the norm. The manager or boss tells the story. You are there to listen and do what he tells you to do.”
“Not so at imec the Netherlands. Here everyone is equal. It’s your knowledge and insights that count, not your position. I get to talk with management and express my vision. Any ideas I have are always taken seriously and given a fair chance. Of course, there are ideas which end up in the shredder. But, even lousy ideas can be the beginning of a great one.”
“A couple of years ago, when I was working at imec already, I was offered a position at a leading health technology company. It was the fulfilment of my ultimate dream as system designer, so I took the job. This switch was to become, what I now call, my two-year sabbatical. The projects I did were extremely challenging, and the team was great. But, again it was a large organisation, and I once more got bogged down in the processes. Decisions moved slowly. I wanted to move fast. I wanted to do the design, but that was outsourced. I was happy because the work was challenging. Only, that wasn’t enough for me. Suddenly, I was longing for ‘the good old days’ at imec the Netherlands: being in direct contact with suppliers and customers and being leading in the design process.”
“Luckily, I was able to return to imec. This time round as competence leader. In this role, I support and coach junior engineers. Together with other system engineers, we discuss and share best practices, working standards and more. Most of my time, though, is spent working on projects. Each project has its own team of specialists from relevant disciplines. Such collaboration forces me to look beyond the limitations of my own field. It’s almost magic sometimes, to see how things evolve, grow and come to successful fruition thanks to this multi-disciplinary approach, based on freedom, trust and commitment.”
“The beauty of it all, is that I get to deal with all aspects of making successful technology. More importantly, the technology we make might be perfect in the lab, but at the end of the day you need someone out there who can use it in the real world. The direct contact I have with end users and clients, ensures that my design is fit for purpose.”