5 steps to career success in Asia’s semiconductor industry
- After a relatively robust H1 2020 for the region’s semiconductor industry despite COVID-19, the outlook for the rest of the year is uncertain.
- Key growth sectors include: 5G; autonomous cars; artificial intelligence; the Internet of things; optoelectronics; and sensors.
- Hiring managers identify 3 broad challenges when recruiting: (i) a conservative mindset that stifles the flexibility needed as job requirements evolve; (ii) a lack of senior women to fill leadership positions; and (iii) finding people who can lead expansion into new markets.
- Candidates can enhance their appeal in 5 ways: (i) do self-learning, to develop new skills and knowledge; (ii) volunteer in new areas, to grow mental agility; (iii) consider temporary relocations, to increase exposure; (iv) embrace networking, to broaden horizons; and (v) partner with a Semiconductor specialist recruiter.
Market overview – uncertain times ahead
After a slow 2019 for the semiconductor industry due to factors such as US-China trade tension, optimism was high at the start of this year. IHS Markit, for example, was predicting 5.9% growth in global revenue for 2020, based on capacity to meet increasing market demand.
Even COVID-19 didn’t dampen prospects for computing chip manufacturers across key Asian markets in the first few months of the year. These were spurred by several developments:
- Singapore saw S$13 billion in investment in areas like electronics and infocomm media from January to April, beyond even the full-year projection by the Economic Development Board.
- Taiwan launched subsidies and other initiatives to lure around S$1.8 billion of research and development funds by foreign technology companies, including for semiconductors.
- South Korea has heard ever-louder calls from the semiconductor industry for government support to ensure competitiveness in the face of competition from China and other markets.
- China has started to develop more of its own computing chip technology in a bid to reduce reliance on imports and meet rising domestic demand, encouraging a wave of start-ups.
Such trends reflect sustained confidence among many investors and businesses in the semiconductor space over the medium to long term – especially in 5G, autonomous cars, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of things, optoelectronics and sensors.
Shorter term, however, there is uncertainty over the outlook for Asia’s semiconductor industry, at least for the rest of 2020.
This sentiment stems from the economic aftermath of COVID-19 generally. The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), for instance, highlighted declining global sales in the first quarter of 2020 – by 3.6% compared with the previous quarter. While in line with typical seasonal trends, the Association acknowledged that the available data hadn’t yet fully captured the impacts of COVID-19.
Demand for talent – new opportunities emerge
From a recruitment perspective, meanwhile, market trends are paving the way for several thousand new jobs in the years ahead. For example:
- The deployment of 5G will not only provide new growth opportunities for the wireless industry; it will also boost economic recovery due to the acceleration of wireless take-up for businesses globally plus rapidly changing consumer behaviours.
- The introduction of numerous semiconductors in connection with autonomous driving, AI and low-power semiconductors will lead upticks in demand, plus optoelectronics is likely to experience growth in 2020.
- Continued M&A is expected as major players strive to acquire the latest technology to bolster their market share.
These opportunities are bringing with them a growing need for senior management – to drive strategic direction and business growth.
Hiring hurdles – 3 key challenges
Yet finding suitable candidates who are well-placed to fit a new-look semiconductor landscape that requires individuals to adapt and evolve accordingly is easier said than done.
For example, technical experts increasingly need a multi-disciplinary skill set and broader market understanding, not just be a specialist. This calls on them to gain new experiences and wider exposure to different aspects of the industry.
Conversations with several hiring managers pinpoint 3 common challenges in their search for the right talent:
- Change management and new mind-sets – in an industry populated by engineers who tend to be technically minded, it is relatively rare to find people with mental agility and an openness to new ways of operating in terms of processes, systems and strategy. But in catering to the needs of digitalization, robotics, virtual reality and other emerging sectors, a flexible approach is essential for senior semiconductor executives.
- Gender diversity and inclusion – there is a notable lack of female talent, especially at leadership levels. Women only occupy around 10% of specialist positions across the industry as a whole, with fewer and fewer in more prominent positions. Although Singapore, for example, has initiatives in place to improve the ratio of women in senior roles, HR and hiring managers continue to grapple with gender diversity.
- Market expansion and business development – it is difficult to find ways to encourage sales teams to adjust their strategy to expand from existing markets and legacy clients to cover new geographies and sectors, or to introduce new offerings.
5 tips to enhance your career in Semiconductor industry
We believe there are 5 specific steps that forward-thinking candidates can take to increase their appeal to employers within the semiconductor industry:
- Be proactive in developing themselves – via self-learning activities, candidates must not let themselves be restricted by the attributes required for their current positions, and instead get up-to-date on market trends, and refresh and enhance their skills and knowledge.
- Volunteer for new or additional projects – by participating on a pro bono basis in industry initiatives and applying talent to areas of work beyond their core function, candidates can grow their mental agility, plus become more open-minded and flexible.
- Relocate for a certain period of time – in offering to move to a new location or take on a new role, candidates can get experience of new projects and positions, learn about different cultures and build a broader knowledge of the market.
- Participate in networking – in trying to be more outgoing and interact with industry peers, candidates can broaden their horizons and get exposure to a variety of people and trends, in turn expanding their understanding of different markets.
- Getting the right support – by aligning with a specialist recruiter who understands the emerging trends within the semiconductor industry, candidates can not only understand hiring trends, but also gain access to a range of exciting opportunities within their own country and overseas.
If you would like to access more market information or discuss your next career move in the Semiconductor industry, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Please click here to view our latest job opportunities.