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Late ADI CEO strengthened the engineering environment

10 Apr 2013  | Steve Taranovich

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Steve Taranovich of EDN looks back on the career and contributions to the engineering environment by Analog Devices' late CEO, Jerry Fishman.

As we mourn the passing of Analog Devices CEO, Jerry Fishman, we look back over his career and especially want to focus upon the decisions and actions he implemented for the company after Ray Stata, co-founder and first CEO, hand-picked him for the job to run the company in 1996. Stata and Fishman had common beliefs and values, especially in the area of technical innovation driving business success. Both of these men built an environment to attract and retain engineering talent. They both recognised as long as they agreed on the mission, they would respect that each had different ways of getting there.

These differences often stemmed from their vastly different styles. Jerry was competitive, direct, and at times brash. Yet he balanced this ambitious drive with a pragmatic approach. He was known across the company for setting high expectations and delivering results. In fact, through Jerry's leadership, ADI gained operational efficiency to complement its reputation for cutting edge technology. During his tenure, the company turned its manufacturing infrastructure from a boutique producer to a high volume, high quality producer of high performance products, all while continuously raising the standard for environmental, health, safety and social responsibility.

We have all read about Fishman's impressive multiple degrees in engineering, business and law and here we will focus upon the man and his relationship with his employees, especially the engineers. He was an analytical and data-driven man who held people accountable.

Pushing the envelope
Ray Stata mentioned to me one of Fishman's mantras to his staff, "Be clear, be proud, but never be satisfied." He managed to inspire his engineers to "push the envelope" and stretch just a little bit more, which made the company's solutions extremely valuable to customers, but very painful for competitors.

Fishman gave full recognition and reward to his engineering staff and its leaders. He held people accountable while earning a mutual respect and trust. Once his engineers earned his respect and trust, he cut them some slack with respect to listening to their ideas and giving them resources to carry out their plans.

It has been said that Fishman's interrogational style and razor-sharp mind in meetings, demanded that engineers have all their facts together and be able to justify their ideas, comments and requests. This style obviously made better engineers and innovators.

ADI Jerry Fishman

The lighter side of Jerry Fishman; people respected and genuinely liked him with a special affection and loyalty.

Fishman would often comment on new potential hires as the class of '98 or the class of '04. He fostered an environment of apprenticeship and mentorship to develop those talents into strong and talented design resources. As such, regardless of the business or economic climate, ADI maintains a robust college recruitment program to seed the next generation of leaders. As evidenced by the company's current leadership team, many of whom joined ADI out of university, this strategy has been successful for the company.

His "Cycle of Innovation" urged the designers to focus on the "hard stuff" that could not be easily copied by competitors—-this confounded many competitors in the industry.

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