As I wrote about here, I attended an Intel Alumni event last week where Andy Grove spoke about clean technologies. This was actually the first time I’d attended a formal Intel alumni event since I left the company in 2005 after 5 years of employment there. Meeting former Intel colleagues and listening to Grove has led me to reflect on my years at Intel. What really stands out about Intel is discipline and process excellence, training, its role in the technology ecosystem, investing in R&D during recessionary periods, and the overall Intel way.
Discipline and Process Excellence- Intel is clearly a role model company when it comes to discipline and process excellence. A focus on effective meetings, very structured strategic and financial planning processes, and an ability to institutionalize processes across divisions and locations. Intel embraced the copy exact philosophy when it came to fab production facilities around the world and equally applied that philosophy to internal processes. I’ve often used the analogy that Intel is an adult when it comes to process and internal infrastructure in contrast to, for example, Yahoo!, (where I spent the next couple years after Intel) who would be considered an adolescent .
- Training- The breadth and diversity of the training program at Intel is world class. Being part of the Finance organization, there must have been 50 courses available to finance professionals. Additionally, employees were encouraged and had the development opportunity to be an instructor, improving their own public speaking, leadership, and expertise in a particular area. Intel university was one of the real assets within Intel and again a model for other mature companies to follow.
- Role in Technology Ecosystem- As a first time employee in the hi-tech industry after graduate school, it was great to see first hand what Intel’s influence in the computing and technology’s ecosystem allows Intel to do in new markets. I participated first hand in two new initiatives, one that ultimately failed and one that is still going strong today and of high strategic importance to Intel. In the early 2000’s, I worked in the Intel Online Services (IOS) group, a web hosting division that was going to take advantage of the web server hardware and software requirements during the heyday of the dotcom era. While that endeavor failed and was shut down in a couple of years, it was a wild ride that clearly demonstrated Intel’s ability to try something new, use its reputation to gain partners and customers in a new space, and use its ample capital resources to quickly fund expansion. Later, I worked with the Wi-Max team as Intel heavily championed the Wi-max alternative to 3G and 4G technology, which is gaining traction and momentum still today. Again, once Intel committed to a strategic goal such as Wi-max, it had every opportunity to try and make it succeed—of course, as was the case with IOS, the business had to prove itself in a reasonable time frame to remain funded.
- Investing in R&D during recessionary periods- During the period of the dotcom crash and the recessionary period that followed, CEO Craig Barrett often stressed that in recessionary periods, leading companies have to invest more in R&D. Be the company to have the leading edge new products, the innovative products, out in the market before the competition. The best way to do that is not to retrench during the slow periods on the R&D side, but to be aggressive with R&D and look elsewhere for cutbacks.
- The Intel Way- Ultimately there is was an unmistakable Intel way characterized with terms such as ARs (Action required), foils (powerpoint slides), SLRP and PLBP (Strategic Long Range Planning Process and Product Line Business Planning), constructive confrontation, analytical, data and engineering based decision making, the characteristics such as discipline and process excellence already described above, and a core set of Intel values that every employee wore with their company IDs. While the Intel way had both good and bad aspects to it, the Intel way became a way of life for many—I often said that after 5+ years, one starts to become Intelized and it would be much harder to work at other companies which would not many of the high standards that working at Intel created for many.