SEMI is excited to recognize Debbie Gustafson, CEO of Energetiq Technology as the SEMI Spotlight on Women honoree for Q3 2019!
Spotlight on SEMI Women celebrates the many accomplished women who work in the global microelectronics industry. Nominees in the quarterly spotlight include women who are beacons of knowledge, leaders of organizations and initiatives, hidden heroes and innovators in our industry. They are volunteers, protectors, intellectual disruptors and activists. Learn how you can nominate a woman for Spotlight on SEMI Women.
Debbie sat down with us to discuss her journey as a leader and her belief in the importance of creating an inclusive workforce.
SEMI: What skills have set you apart and led you to your career success?
Gustafson: I’m good at what I do – listening and understanding customers is at the core of my success. You should know and also ask for what you want. If I was working towards a promotion, I always let my manager know where I wanted to go and asked about the expectations for me to get to the next level. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – during my journey in becoming a leader I had some extremely strong mentors along the way, helping me to navigate the industry. We make mistakes and learn from them, but having a mentor can really help you figure out those areas of weakness sooner rather than later. I credit these skills and mindset for our successful acquisition by Hamamatsu Photonics. When I was asked to move from the COO role to the CEO role at Energetiq, I realized that the only way we would be successful in this huge endeavor was if I had the right understanding of both our needs as an organization, and the needs of our future partner.
SEMI: You mentioned the importance of mentors. Can you recount a time that your mentor helped you succeed?
Gustafson: One of my first mentors taught me how to be successful in Japan during a time when women weren’t really present in the business side of the workforce. Going into a new culture, there are a lot of nuances. My mentor prepared me by helping me understand the behaviors that I would need to establish and let me take the lead as the expert. As a result, I was able to earn the respect of the customer and the Japanese market became part of our growth. I believe that my mentor’s preparation helped me getting there much faster.
SEMI: Did you always want to be an engineer?
Gustafson: I came to a crossroads as I approached the end of high school. I had an interest in engineering and automotive design in particular and appreciated the stability that a technical career could provide. I also had a passion for dance and had eyes towards becoming a dancer on Broadway. In the end, the idea of job security won out and I started my journey as a mechanical engineer. I was one of three women in my major, so I realized early on that I was entering a male-dominated field. After graduation I landed a job in the HVAC space. From there I moved into a variety of roles, including a sales job, that helped me realize that I enjoyed working in the semiconductor industry and that I had a passion for helping my customers.
SEMI: Can you tell us about the changes you have implemented at Energetiq Technology to create a culture of inclusivity?
Gustafson: My door is always open – even as the CEO. What gets me excited every morning is helping people to be successful. It’s not just about women, or minorities, or young people – it’s about everyone. We need to change as an industry to foster success and give everyone the opportunity to succeed. You can’t say you’re going to change as an organization and then not implement programs to help foster that change. I knew that we needed to find ways to get people to join and to stay – that’s the challenge. At Energetiq we have implemented a mindset of inclusivity in many of our programs.
We have unconscious bias training that everyone takes regardless of job level. We’ve implemented a flexible working environment and provide sick time to help our employees have work-life balance. We are an employer that realizes the world is changing – we offer paternity leave as well as maternity leave and do everything in our power to support individuals during their major life events. Energetiq supports Employee Resource Groups, and we host a quarterly diversity luncheon where we encourage all employees to participate in open dialogue. As a company we continue to try and find ways to promote everyone’s success.
SEMI: How do you feel the microelectronics industry is doing in terms of attracting and retaining diverse talent?
Gustafson: The semiconductor industry has done a lot in the recent past but there is still a lot of work to be done. I think all the right things are starting to happen, and we are moving towards attracting more diversity into our organizations. We have been shifting our company culture to highlight that the industry is an exciting place to work. The progress has been tremendous and there are more opportunities ahead of us to take advantage of. People are just starting to acknowledge the changes that need to happen, and we are striving to create flexible work environments that are conducive to inclusivity. Diversity is not just going to happen – we need to change the culture in our organizations for diversity to flourish. The industry mindset is shifting, and I am looking forward to seeing where we go next. I am going to help wherever I can to help keep us moving in the right direction.
SEMI: Are there other ways outside of your work at Energetiq Technology that you are influencing the mindset towards diversity in our industry?
Gustafson: Volunteering my time outside of my job to try and change the attitude and the culture of the industry is extremely important to me. Aside from providing mentorship, I am involved with a number of committees and boards across the industry. I am always vocal among my C-level peers about how our industry needs to foster a diverse and inclusive workforce. I really like working with other people to find solutions as I don’t know all the answers. I like to get insight into how we can make this happen and I like to hear about what works and what doesn’t from other leaders. The goal is to allow people to feel comfortable with who they are at work.
Cristina Sandoval is manager of Workforce Development at SEMI.