Posted November 27, 2018 | Electronics, Industry Interviews | No Comments »

[Interview] IC Design – John Gough

We’re chatting to John Gough, director of West Coast Semi Design, this week. With many years of experience working within the semiconductor industry in the UK and more recently China, we thought we’d ask him about his career journey, his thoughts on the industry and his advice for pursuing international engagements.

Hi John, thanks for chatting with us. Firstly, could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

I graduated in 1984 with a degree in Electronics and Electrical Engineering. I started my working life as a Design Engineering graduate at National Semiconductor in Greenock, working my way through the system to become a Design Manager at both National Semiconductor and Texas Instruments (TI). I laterally took on the role of Technologist at TI for two years before the design centre was closed in 2016.

Just under one year ago, I set up my own company called West Coast Semi Design, in Glasgow. I have a client based in Shenzhen, China, and we are presently designing a power management chip for them. All of my team are also previous Texas Instruments employees, who I have worked closely with in the past.

You were a lecturer at the University of Glasgow for a while, could you tell us what that was like and why you decided to move back in to the corporate world?

It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience; I had always wanted to try lecturing as my previous job at TI allowed me to present one hour seminars at various universities in Scotland to promote analogue and mixed signal IC design to undergraduates. I taught 4th year Control Engineering and I also had to prepare lab experiments and tutorials. It was something completely different but seeing “the penny drop” with students is what really motivated me and made the job very enjoyable. I made some very good friends at the university, which of course makes collaboration between industry and academia all the more tangible.

I decided to move back to industry because, although I really enjoyed teaching, I realised I really missed the coal face and being at the customer facing end of IC design. I had the privilege of working with a company called PCS Semi for a short period and jointly we worked together on cultivating the close relationship I now have with my client in China (the President of the company is Roy Jewell, who I feel I would like to mention).

Has there been anyone/anything that has influenced your career choices?

When I was a teenager at school I always enjoyed science fiction, and in those days electronics was a young science. I really enjoyed building electronics kits and had wonderful support from my parents, who worked extra hours to pay for home correspondence courses for me in electronics whilst I was still at school.

What challenges have you had to overcome in your career?

One thing you can guarantee is that there are always many challenges in the job. There are the obvious technical challenges; from designing smaller and smaller devices with improved performance to reduce overall system cost; all the way through to working with major OEMs in developing design specifications and schedules that can meet their challenging needs, as well. However, there are additional challenges, such as managing a proper work-life balance, which I found particularly difficult when my children were young.

What are your views of the semiconductor market in Scotland?

In terms of semiconductor manufacturing, we have seen this move East over the past few decades to the extent that silicon fabs in the North are extremely rare. On the other hand, IC design is buoyant, with major design houses based in Edinburgh and Glasgow showing a very positive trend in hiring and expansion. We are also seeing smaller start-up companies joining the fray and this is testimony to the excellent skillset we have here in Scotland, both at the senior and graduate level. So I would say the future for the semiconductor industry in Scotland is looking very bright indeed.

What excites you about the semiconductor market at the moment?

More and more emphasis is being placed on power delivery and efficiency in portable and mobile applications. There is also great growth in emerging markets such as Asia, with which West Coast Semi are actively engaged right now. Customers are looking for innovative and cost effective solutions that also help them to place themselves at the leading edge of their markets. To be able to influence this and be relevant in the industry is very exciting.

What do you think makes a great tech company?

A company that allows its employees the freedom to be creative and innovative, as well as a fun place to be has to be high on my list; along with every employee being made to feel they are playing their part in making the company successful.

Can you tell us a little about West Coast Semi Design’s involvement with Desay?

Desay is our client at the moment. So we are presently engaged in a design project for Desay that will enable the company to have a presence in the power pack market in China. We work very closely with the design team in Shenzhen and also participate in cross design and layout reviews. Furthermore, we are planning on opening a larger R&D centre in Glasgow in the not too distant future, in collaboration with Desay.

Working with a Chinese company, what is your vision for technology globalisation?

The growth in connectivity speeds now allows remote design to be done for any company, anywhere in the world. The barriers that prevented long distance networking are being addressed through much more efficient network speeds that increasingly make the world a smaller place.

You have worked for a US company, how does that compare?

Desay appreciate the fact that the design expertise they are looking for exists within West Coast Semi Design. As such, they are very much hands off because they trust us to deliver what they need and they are also very supportive in providing the tools required to do our job, in a very expedient manner. I have seen, on the other hand, some companies, due to size or financial infrastructure, take a long time to make things happen for the engineers at the coal face, which can lead to frustration in the field.

With Desay, we have a great relationship with the CEO and senior VP of our division, who move very quickly to support us in order to maximise the value of the experience that we bring to them.

With first-hand knowledge of the Scottish Higher Education system, where do you think Scotland fits in its ability to nurture future talent for the UK tech industry?

In terms of the emerging new digital media companies, Scotland is already proving its value; as can be seen by the talent that flourishes here already. In terms of IC design, there is a lot of research amongst local universities in the area of efficient DC-DC convertor architectures for use in future electric vehicles, as well as wireless charging for automotive batteries.

What do you think it is about Scottish Educated Engineers that makes them so attractive to global electronics companies?

I believe that in Scotland universities still teach the classical analytical approach to analogue design but there are challenges. I think it’s important that people from industry liaise well with universities to help shape what we view as important for undergraduate study, that will be relevant to the demographic that exists in Scotland.

Universities are still seemingly encouraging overseas students to do masters degrees and PhDs but current immigration policy makes it difficult to retain this talent in the UK. How do you solve the problem of not enough people/talent in engineering? 

Actually when I was lecturing in UESTC in Chengdu, the UK wasn’t the most popular place for post grad studies. Most students were applying to US universities as the interest appears to be in in AI and Software. One of my students has come to Glasgow to do a PhD and another went to Edinburgh to study AI. In fact, the final year number of students studying VLSI (which was not my subject) was 23! So I think there is a view that IC design is not where the growth is, and instead it’s in autonomous cars, planes etc.

We should focus on home-grown students and canvas universities to find good candidates that we can sponsor and nurture. Unfortunately, the number of students keen on IC design seems to be decreasing but I think it’s up to us as employers to reignite that interest and show there is talent and opportunity here in Scotland.

Do you think academic and industrial collaboration in Scotland is sufficient? If not, how might this be improved?

There are strong companies that do encourage this, for sure. When I was at TI, this was a big part of our planning; and when I was a manager there that’s what I tried to do also. As I mention above, you cannot beat going to universities and lecturing to 1st and 2nd year students (4th year is almost too late) and find keen, early students that can be trained in a very exciting discipline, with plenty of exposure to a design environment. At TI, we took on students from 2nd year and it was quite successful. For our new company that will also be the plan, in order to have a healthy mix of youth and experience.

What opportunities do you see for people coming into the semiconductor market: are there more jobs available, is it challenging, is it a good market to be getting into?

Although we are based in Glasgow, the market is worldwide. We are developing devices for the growing China market and the expertise that’s offered in Scotland is what is making this possible. We cannot be complacent however, in that we are very aware that these skills are also being developed elsewhere and so we need to always remain ahead of the curve in innovation, passion and desire to be successful.

What advice would you give the tech industry in Scotland on pursuing international engagements, like the one you have with Desay?

China is the place to engage with. They appreciate and respect design experience and a track record. So it’s important when engaging companies over there that we have something to show and something we know they need.  In fact there are many small design start-ups all over China, however they lack experience. They usually get funding partly private and partly state. So it’s really a matter of finding a niche for our expertise and engaging with China OEMs to develop an understanding of the ecosystem of the market and target the key players. This is in fact our strategy right now to further our business.

What’s one key piece of advice for people to navigate the industry?

Don’t be afraid to take risks, don’t be frightened to fail, explore, experiment and never give up when the unexpected arrives.


Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in photonics, electronics, semiconductor, and software in Scotland. Check out our blog for the latest in the technology industry. You can get in touch with us hello@enigmapeople.com or call us on 0141 332 4422/0131 510 8150

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Posted November 07, 2018 | Industry Interviews, Photonics | No Comments »

[Interview – Part 2] Optical Design – Duncan Walker

Earlier in the year, we interviewed Duncan Walker of Walker Optics, about the optoelectronics industry, globalisation and hidden technology. We really enjoyed our last chat so we thought we’d ask him some more about his career in photonics and optics, how he views the industry and his advice to people looking to navigate their career in the optoelectronics industry.

Hi Duncan, thanks for chatting with us. Firstly could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

I am a freelance Optical Designer and I’ve been doing it for about 10 years now. It basically means that I provide all design services to a whole range of companies and businesses who need it. Usually, I work a mixture of longer-term contracts, often with larger organisations, and one-off projects with smaller companies that don’t necessarily have the optical expertise in-house and don’t have the requirements to have it in full time, so they make use of someone like myself for a project that requires optical design for their systems.

So what made you decide to set up your own company and pursue contracts? Are there better opportunities in Optical Design as a Contractor?

It’s a mixture of factors. For me, it was that I’d reached a stage in my career where the pathway, the more traditional pathway certainly in the UK, is to get to a certain level as an engineer, as a technical expert, and then to some extent get shunted into management. Managing projects and managing teams isn’t really my strength. I regard myself as very strong technically and I can do the organisation side of it, I have to obviously running my own business as part of the contracting, but it’s not something I want to be the primary focus of what I do. I also like a variety in what I do. I don’t want to just be working on one massive three to five year project and that is all I do for that period of time. I like working on a range of different problems, using the same basic principles. The combination of not looking to be in management and wanting to work on a range of projects meant moving out of the traditional way of working and moving towards more contracting and freelance work.

What influenced your career choice? How did how did you get into Optoelectronics?

In my case, it was very much that I was always fascinated by lasers and light. I did a degree in physics and then did a PhD in using lasers and non-linear optics because that was what I was interested in. When it came to the end of my degree, I decided at that point I wanted to be making things, seeing how lasers or optics could be incorporated into products and so that was the route I chose and I’ve stayed within that sort of technical space, rather than move into a profession.

I didn’t know at the time but the way the industry has expanded in the last 20 years or so that I’ve been working is phenomenal. I look back at what the state of the products were then and of the things we have now and take for granted. It’s day and night in terms of the advancement in technology since I started my career. To run a laser when I finished my PhD meant pretty much needed to have a PhD physicist available just to set it up, tweak and adjust it the whole time. Nowadays, you can go out and buy an industrial laser and it’s plug and play. You can stick it into the wall and point where you need it, switch it on and it works.

The development of this technology has enabled a lot of applications off the back of it and so there’s now an awful lot of lasers used in machines in manufacturing today. It’s now a reliable source. The high intensities now mean you can cut through steel and other metals or whatever material you need to create all sorts of fancy shapes on one hand and on the other hand, you can mass produce millions of highly complex lenses that go into mobile phones to take high-quality images. I think that the range within the industry is fascinating. I still wake up in the morning and think it’s exciting to have a problem and see how I can apply the optics to solve the problem.

Do you find yourself constantly learning new things as the technology develops then?

Oh definitely, but I think that’s the same with any technology. I think the moment you stop learning, that’s the moment you probably need to stop and re-evaluate what you’re doing because things are moving and evolving all the time. There is always something to learn about how to use it and apply it. When you’re building a product, it doesn’t matter what your field is, whether you’re an optics Designer, Mechanical Engineer or an Electronics Engineer, part of the process of building a product is combining it all together into one product that does what it needs to. There’s a balancing act between the requirements and the whole cost environment that also need to be contained in that design. So every time and for every type of new project, there’s always something new to learn.

 What challenges have you had to overcome in your career?

I think that the main challenge we all face is working out what our strengths and what our weaknesses are, and how to do something which feeds best to your strengths. So in my case, I regard myself as technically strong, I enjoy the problem-solving side of my work so that’s what I’m good at and that’s why I’m perpetually learning to try and deal with the fundamentals of my job. On the other side, as a freelance Consultant Designer, I also have to go out and sell myself to people on a regular basis and try and understand what they’re doing and what they need. Building my business over the last 10 years has been and continues to be the single biggest challenge for me. It doesn’t matter how good my technical designs are, if I can’t communicate it to anybody, I can’t persuade them that I am the right designer for that project.

What opportunities do you see for people coming into the optoelectronics market?

I think it’s a great time to be in photonics and optoelectronics. There are so many areas that photonics is spreading across to at the moment, the medical market is one of them. It’s a big driver of the broader optics and photonics market as people are using optics in medical devices more and more for diagnosis, as well as also for basic operations. There are an awful lot of lasers being used today in the medical world too, so it’s a very exciting time to be in photonics. There are loads of opportunities in big companies, in small companies, in start-ups coming out of university, and in research.

Finally, what’s one key piece of advice you would give people to navigate the industry, whether it be people coming into the industry or people who are already in the industry?

Bizarrely, it’s a small world. A lot of technical areas, when you get down to it, are relatively small worlds and so you can easily become known within an area. The main thing that I’ve had to work on and has made a big difference to me is going out and meeting people. Networking! Going to the conferences, going to the trade shows, talking to people to make people aware of the industry and my role within that industry.

This really works on two levels, first, you make people aware of what you’re doing, and secondly, you can discover what everyone else is doing and how that might inform the approaches you might take in the future with the problems you have to solve. So my key piece of advice is, don’t get stuck in the lab or in the office! You need to go out and see what everyone else is doing as well, it’s all about learning. If you’re stuck on a project, seeing what others are doing with different problems can give you some ideas about how to get around your problem.

Read [Interview – Part 1] Optical Design – Duncan Walker


Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in photonics, electronics, semiconductor, and software in Scotland. Check out our blog for the latest in the technology industry. You can get in touch with us hello@enigmapeople.com or call us on 0141 332 4422/0131 510 8150

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Posted October 17, 2018 | Industry Interviews, Technology Industry | No Comments »

[Interview] Stephen Taylor – Technology Scotland.

Since 2016, Enigma People Solutions has partnered with Technology Scotland to help build strong relationships across the Enabling Technology Sector here in Scotland and further afield. With some truly exciting things happening at the moment across the sector, we thought we would have a chat with Stephen Taylor, CEO of Technology Scotland, to find out more about his career, enabling technology and the role of Technology Scotland within the industry.

Hi Stephen, thanks for chatting with us. Firstly, could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

My name is Stephen Taylor. I’m the Chief Executive of Technology Scotland.

Technology Scotland is the industry association for enabling technology and smart mobility in Scotland. We’ve built the association from zero members, two or three years ago, to some 114 members today. I’ve been really happy with the development of Technology Scotland and even happier because it’s not just about technology as such; we’ve also created two new networks – and one around a market!

First, I believe we have been successful in getting photonics back onto the agenda within the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise. In particular, I think we’ve been successful in getting the photonics community together again and collaborating more with each other through events and workshops.

Second, there was a small dormant cluster in Scotland around Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and we’ve grown that to some 70 members in the last 18 months, which is an astonishing growth. We believe it to be the biggest mobility cluster in Europe, if not the world. In fact, how we’ve built our MaaS network in Scotland has been recognised by places like Sydney, Quebec and Barcelona, to name a few, and they’re now modelling their own networks on our process. I think that is a great testament to the people who have been involved in MaaS Scotland, and it’s terrific that Scotland is being seen as a leader in the world in that particular market.

We’ve also just recently launched a third cluster – Design Network Scotland. Like Mobility as a Service, there’s a nice concentration of design companies in Scotland and so we’ve launched a network surrounding that and I’m excited to see where that leads us.

How did your career journey lead you to become CEO of Technology Scotland?

That’s an interesting question. I wasn’t particularly looking for a new job at the time but I was approached by a recruitment agency that had looked at my LinkedIn profile, my mix of skills, and saw that I had been involved in semiconductors, manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, photonics, and sales, as well as being involved in global business, managing people, and P&L accountability. They were looking for somebody who had all those skills, and perhaps more.

When they approached me to ask if would I be interested in this role, I thought about it and I decided “you know I really am”. For many years I have been living in Scotland but working mainly abroad. I felt like I had a good mix of skills, and that I could truly put something back into the local economy.

Heading towards the end of my career, I decided I could do without so much international travel, and working locally would be a really interesting thing to do. I concluded this was a really great opportunity, the job spec was terrific, and the chance of using the skills that I’d built up over 30 years or so in business and putting something back into the Scottish/UK economy was something that really appealed.

Technology Scotland was looking for someone with good understanding of enabling technology and what it can do. So with my background in semiconductors, photonics, advanced manufacturing, and my sales and business career, I seemed to be a really good fit for the role.

The job can be fascinating. Just recently, we met with the current Executive Director of Innovate UK, who is relatively new to the role. He was keen to meet with Technology Scotland members, to get feedback on how Innovate UK can help them. Things like that, which pop up are really exciting. We had a terrific, interactive session with some 20 members involved. Innovate UK has a near billion pound a year budget for innovation projects, so the opportunities that can arise are a really exciting thing to be involved in.

Tell us about a defining moment in your career to date?

Within Jabil I progressed from business development and sales, to running a P&L business, which meant I had accountability not only for sales and business development, but also for the manufacture and delivery of products. It was a terrific new challenge for me.

However, the defining moment for me, was when Jabil decided to create a component business because they were looking to become more vertical in their offerings to their end customers. It wasn’t just about making board assemblies any longer, but also making the plastics, metal and the other components involved in supplying an entire product to the end customers.

What were your main responsibilities at Jabil then?

One of the key components that our end customers were looking for was camera modules for mobile phones and other applications. I got involved in building and then running the camera module business which we built from zero. Zero customers, zero suppliers, and very limited capability in terms of manufacturing, apart from what I would call a pre-production line.

We developed a customer base of very large global enterprises (some of which I can’t name!). Let’s just say we were making cameras for mobile phones, for laptops, for hand held barcode scanners, and endoscopes. We ended up going into three or four different markets, including industrial, consumer and medical markets.

The camera module business grew from zero to about 130 employees working for me, with multimillion-dollar annual sales. It was a terrific job. I had sales, design, and manufacturing to look after. It truly was a business within a business. I thoroughly enjoyed growing that business from scratch, and consider it was the best achievement in my career!

What did you take away from your time at Jabil?

Before I worked there, I had a loose understanding of photonics from high school physics, but in my camera module role, I really had to learn about photonics and discovered the importance of photonics in enabling almost every other market and business sector on the planet. It was a terrific learning experience for me.

My boss said to me “go away and learn about photonics”. I understood the basic physics of it, but there were some technical terms that I really had to better understand, and I learned a lot of it on the job. There were some technical terms that I really had to get to grips with, like MTF (modulation transfer function), which is about the quality of a lens / electronic system design, and how good it is at creating an image or transmitting photons.

What I came to realise is that photonics is the technology for the 21st century. If the semiconductor was the technology that drove the 20th century, photonics is what will drive the 21st!

What challenges have you had to overcome in your career?

I’ve had many, many business challenges over the years. However I guess the single biggest challenge that I’ve had to overcome in my career was that when I was 26 years old, I was diagnosed with a cancer. It took about a year and a half out of my life going through chemotherapy and recovery. That was 30 odd years ago, so it’s a long time ago, but it’s definitely the biggest challenge I have had to overcome.

Has there been anyone/anything that has influenced your career choices?

I was at a meeting at Philips in Airdrie, when they still had a factory there making phones. I was with my boss and some customer personnel, when I realised I hadn’t a clue what they were talking about. I suddenly realised that I wasn’t selling electronics; I was actually doing business transactions. Although I had a degree in electronics and so on, I realised that I needed to understand business if I was going to be successful.

So I went to my boss and I said I wanted to do an MBA, to learn about business. I spent the next three years doing an MBA part time, while at the same time travelling all across the planet. It was a really significant step in helping me to better understand business transactions, motivation, how people work, organisational behaviour, strategy, finance etc. Doing that MBA was definitely a big influence in my career.

What’s one key piece of advice for people to navigate the industry?

If you want to be successful, you can’t be successful on your own. You need other people around. You need good people to work with you, work for you, and work around you, so networking, talking and collaborating with people is really important. Network actively and often would be my piece of advice.

Can you tell us a bit about Technology Scotland and enabling technology?

 Technology Scotland is an industry association. Our role is to represent our members and promote the industry to local and national governments. It’s about influencing policy, and interfacing to other international stakeholders, like other Photonics or MaaS clusters in other parts of the world. It’s very much about local and international networking. One primary role is to make sure that our members’ voices are heard by local and national government to make sure they are aware of industry challenges, and what the Government needs to do to help support the industry to ensure it stays vibrant in Scotland and the UK.

Another key role we have is to bring the community together through events, workshops, and forums, creating promotional materials, and publishing what the community is doing through roadmaps or whitepapers.

For example, we published a Whitepaper on MaaS earlier this year, which resulted in the announcement of a £2m Maas Innovation Fund in the recent Scottish Programme for Government. This is a great result for our members, and opens an exciting phase for the roll out and upscale of Mobility as a Service in Scotland.

We’re currently working on publishing a Whitepaper about photonics in Scotland which will include analysis on the strengths of, and challenges facing the photonics industry. We aim to consult our members on a strategy and an “ask” of The Scottish government of how to at least treble the photonics market by 2030. We see Whitepapers as one way to get government attention for the industries that we represent.

Regarding enabling technologies, they fundamentally underpin every service and everything that is made. People talk about “The Digital Age”, but the digital age is only possible because of very clever people designing the electronic and photonic subsystems that enable it. The internet itself is what I describe as “a massively interconnected system of electronic and photonic subsystems, connected together by fibre optic cables and laser diodes”. The internet, the “cloud”, the “digital” world, all of these things are underpinned by photonics and electronics – fundamental enabling technologies which are sadly not well understood by the public or politicians alike.

Enabling technologies are what will help governments and businesses solve the grand challenges of the planet – not enough water, not enough food, as well as the transport, energy and pollution challenges. I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say enabling technologies are what will help solve those grand challenges. Enabling technologies will drive the future productivity and growth that all governments want. They underpin and enable almost everything else.

What are your views of the enabling technology market in Scotland?

In a Scottish context, the enabling technology market in Scotland is bigger than life sciences, and just as big as the software industry, if not bigger. Enabling technology companies account for 10% of all Scottish exports. However, enabling technology is hidden. People are not aware of it, and one of the challenges we have at Technology Scotland is to try and make people aware of what enabling technology does. Without enabling technology, these grand challenges are going to be really difficult to solve.

What excites you about the enabling technology market at the moment?

I think all of the above! Enabling technologies are going to help us transform the planet. We need these technologies to solve the grand challenges. By the year 2035 or thereabouts, it is forecast there are going to be some 45 trillion devices connected to the internet (almost 6000 per person!) One of the huge problems this will cause is security of data. How do you ensure that your data is safe? Researchers are looking at quantum solutions to solve cyber security matters. Quantum enabled security may be required to keep these 45 trillion devices talking to each other, but only when they’re allowed to.

Quantum technologies are also going to revolutionise the speed at which computers can work. Faster data analytics will help to solve many, many problems.

There’s also quantum photonics, an example of which is going to allow people to look round corners, and we have examples of this already! There are cameras right now being developed, by our friends at QuantIC, which can in fact look round corners and others that can see through surfaces. It’s fascinating stuff.

Enabling tech is what is going to drive productivity and improvements. It’s going to help the world solve the grand challenges and that’s what really excites me about it the most.

What do you think makes a great tech company?

Looking to solve the unsolvable. When I was a global business traveller, I used to run around with a Nokia mobile phone, a Canon camera, a Palm Pilot and of course my Sony Walkman to listen to music. These were products from four different but huge markets, and it took somebody with a great mind, Steve Jobs of course, who said let’s put all these into one little package and then Apple created the iPhone.

Apple destroyed the “Walkman” market by creating the iPhone. This new technology also completely decimated other successful technology markets, like the PDA and the stand-alone digital camera market. Basically, what makes a great tech company is trying something that previously hadn’t been thought possible or doable, and doing it. Actually, Sony who invented the Walkman had themselves created a new market before newer technology replaced it. It’s about looking at what’s not been done before and doing it.

What opportunities do you see for people coming into the enabling technology market: are there more jobs available, is it challenging, is it a good market to be getting into?

There’s a world of opportunities. I was visiting one of our member companies a few months ago. One of their employees had done a PhD in chemistry, and then found himself working at a large multinational electronics company designing security solutions for the biggest brand names on the planet. His job is to design security labels that go on the back of phones, software, laptops and other high tech equipment. He’s got a chemistry degree, yet he travels to Silicon Valley, Korea and Japan visiting household name global electronic giants. He has a fascinating job.

So there’s a world of opportunities in the enabling technology market. There are opportunities in photonics, electronics, advanced manufacturing and more. The careers in these sectors can be really well paid, really challenging, and really exciting for people to get involved in because you’re making a difference. If you’re involved in a business which is somehow going to help to resolve global problems, how better can it be than that?

Are there lots of jobs currently available in photonics, electronics and advanced manufacturing?

Absolutely, we had another meeting recently with about 12 CEOs in Scotland, all running electronic or photonic businesses. Every single one of those companies was struggling to find enough skilled people to build products, so they all had multiple open job vacancies. They were trying to figure out what that meant in terms of wealth for them. (On average UK businesses generate £118k of revenue per employee with photonics companies even higher at £198k of revenues per employee).

So if you consider that every open job that’s not filled is going to cost your company at least £150k a year in lost revenues and you have 10 jobs you can’t fill, that’s potentially £1.5 million of lost revenue. All of these companies were talking about growth levels in the last year of 80%, 50%, 100% and 70% – so there’s massive growth there, but even with that growth, they still can’t find enough people.

One of the big things that came out of this discussion was that there are not enough women involved in technology. Some 50% of the people on this planet are women, yet a recent SPIE survey suggested only some 21% of those employed in photonics are women. If we get more women involved in technology companies then there’s a good chance we could solve the lack of available labour to design and manufacture these enabling technology products; the photonics, electronics, lasers, new advanced materials, those things that are going to make a difference.

Overall it’s a terrific market to be in. It’s growing enormously, it’s challenging, it’s really exciting thinking about what these technologies can do, and we would absolutely like to encourage more women to get involved in STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).


Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in photonics, electronics, semiconductor, and software in Scotland. Check out our blog for the latest in the technology industry. You can get in touch with us hello@enigmapeople.com or call us on 0141 332 4422/0131 510 8150

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