Job Transitions that Work - The Integration Experience.

Rebecca Sloop

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For those of us who have been in the semiconductor industry for any length of time, we are familiar with the cyclical nature of the business. The boom and bust waves are not the only business cycles that the semiconductor industry experiences. The semiconductor industry also experiences periods of mergers and acquisitions.

I have had the opportunity to be part of both an acquiring entity as well as being acquired by a larger entity. While the two experiences were different, they had some commonalities. If you find yourself part of an integration, below are some key points based on my experiences that you may find resourceful:

Do Your Homework - the more you know about each other, the easier the integration process will be on both parties. When the division of my company was acquired by a much larger company, I was lucky to be part of an integration planning team which was established prior to the acquisition announcement. I learned quite a bit about some of the personnel and business process of the acquiring company so I was already comfortable during the first days of the integration. After the acquisition was announced, I was able to share my knowledge and assuage the trepidation of other employees in my group who had not been involved in the integration team. Based on the information I obtained and passed along, I felt more at ease with the integration process, and my team members did as well.

The integration planning team was a formal way of learning about the acquiring company. One mistake that I made was that I could made myself even more comfortable if I had reached out to employees of the larger organization to learn what it was really like to work there. If I had a LinkedIn or similar tools been in existence at the time, I could have learned about the acquiring company in a less formal manner as well.

Have Patience - the integration process takes time and the time to integrate can be extended if there is resistance from either party. True integration cannot be accomplished by force. True integration requires buy-in from both parties.

One method I have found successful to reduce resistance during integration is to align business processes. I've seen business process alignment work successfully on two separate occasions. First, when the division of a company I worked for acquired another company about the same size as my division, and second, when my group merged with another group internal to the same company. On both occasions it took several months to align the critical business processes, but it was a key to the success of both integrations.

We first identified the critical business processes that the integrated organization was going to use. Then we created teams which including participants from each step of the process. In both cases where I took part, the organizations were small enough that the majority of participants were included. It helped to gain buy-in by including everyone. Including everyone could be difficult if integrating large organizations. My team then mapped out both our existing "as-is" business processes as well as the combined "to-be" business process. Finally, we rolled out the combined "to-be" processes to all participants of the integrated organization. It took a great deal of time and patience to delve into the details of the process, but it was easy to execute the aligned process, because we uncovered and resolved many issues prior to roll out. The business process alignment was time well spent.

Be Open and Respectful - the "not invented here" syndrome can kill a successful integration. When my division was acquired by a much larger company, there was a distinct feeling that the acquiring company was in a role of higher authority over my group. I felt as if the acquiring company attempted to forcibly integrate us into their business practices. They did not achieve our buy-in and the integration was not very successful. The onus to change, to conform to the acquiring company's business practices, was placed on my group. It was disheartening that the acquiring company was not open and willing enough to learn the business practices of my division. In a prior integration, where my division acquired a company of similar size, my division was far more open and willing to change. This resulted in a much more successful integration.

As a specific example, in the case where my division was acquired by a much larger company, we were forced to conform to the acquiring company's much stricter, less agile engineering change order process that was overkill for the nature of the products we were producing. Now, ten years after being acquired and still working for the acquiring company, our engineering change order process is being revised to become less strict, more agile, and surprisingly similar to the process used at my group that was acquired.

Focus on Commonalities / Successes - during the integration process, especially early in the process, focus on the commonalities and successes of the two parties. When the division of a company I worked for acquired another company, one of the first integration events was an off-site meet and greet where the employees of both parties had an opportunity to meet and learn about the employees and business practices of the other company in a relaxed atmosphere. This worked well because the critical mass of employees from both parties was in the same geographic area. This initial meeting allowed me to discover that our businesses had a lot in common - similar products, same customers, same business software. I discovered I had personal interests in common with some employees of the other company - we were fans of the same football team. I was able to leverage these commonalities and the comfort level later in the integration process when I had to achieve buy-in from the employees of the other company.

When the integrated organization obtained a large customer order, we celebrated that success, being sure to acknowledge the efforts of both parties. This created enthusiasm to further the integration process and achieve additional success.

Mergers and acquisitions will always be part of the semiconductor industry. If you have not had the opportunity to experience a merger or acquisition yet, I'm sure you will if you remain in the industry. Each merger and acquisition is different and will face different challenges. When you experience your next integration, I hope my personal experience and the points I have described above can be used as a resource to overcome those challenges.

REBECCA SLOOP

Operations Program Manager, Applied Materials

Rebecca's love of science lead her first to a degree in chemistry then to a career which began in research and development. After several years moving through positions in engineering, marketing, and quality, Rebecca hit a sweet spot in operations. She is now an Operations Program Manager for Applied Materials where she spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year purchasing used equipment to support the manufacture of Applied's refurbished products. This is a job that she was not even aware existed when she was a student focusing on science. Rebecca now fulfills her love of science by introducing her three young sons to the sense of wonder and excitement produced by science.

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