Looking back at 2020, despite that the global economy has been severely damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, the performance of the semiconductor sector is still strong. Terry Tsao, the Global Chief Marketing Officer and President of Taiwan of SEMI believes that the prospects of the semiconductor industry are still optimistic for the next 20 years. SEMI will continue to focus on the cooperation between industry, government, and academia to solidify Taiwan’s position as the semiconductor hub in the Asia-Pacific region.
As a marketer without any technical background, Tsao is the first Asian Global Chief Marketing Officer of SEMI. In the interview with MOST GASE, Tsao shared the trend of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry development and how to bring in and develop more new talents to the industry.
Making Taiwan the hub of semiconductors in the Asia-Pacific Region and an indispensable player in the digital revolution
As the stock price of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company(TSMC), Taiwan’s silicon shield continuously hits record highs in 2020. Tsao cited the report from McKinsey & Company and predicted that the global GDP will drop by 4% due to COVID-19, only medical and semiconductor industries avoided the impact, especially technical applications that play an important role under the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the sales of chips have surged and the output value of semiconductor chips is expected to grow by 5% in 2020.
The US-China trade war reshaped the global tech supply chain. As a result, Taiwan’s cutting edge technologies is making Taiwan at the center of attention. Tsao pointed out that with the strong advantage of production value, technology, and purchasing power, Taiwan is fully capable of being the semiconductor hub in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Semiconductor industry has to become the shield of Taiwan’s economy amid the geopolitical conflict, and Taiwan needs a team of comprehensive semiconductor companies rather than relying on a single semiconductor giant.”
Tsao pointed out that, the total output value of Taiwan's semiconductor industry is the world’s second-largest, and top-notch technology that’s second to none. The investment amount and equipment purchasing power it brings has far exceeded the other industries in Taiwan.
It is suggested that the government should prioritize attracting international manufacturers in the semiconductor-related supply chain, and combining the strength of international industry associations and enterprises to boost Taiwan to form a semiconductor industry cluster with a complete supply chain that integrating R&D and manufacturing. This will not only bring more employment opportunities and economic development, but also continue to widen the gap with other competitors, and create a new economic height.
Attracting young talents from all fields and genders with promotional films
Tsao believes that "in the next 10 to 20 years, Taiwan will continue to play a leading role in the global semiconductor industry, so it is an industry worthy joining."
However, there is a shortage of talents in the semiconductor industry both in terms of quantity and quality. "Every year, Taiwan's Ph.D. graduates in STEM are not enough for TSMC itself, let alone the other tech industries.", Tsao explained. The shortage of talents in the international semiconductor industry is even worse than in Taiwan. " TSMC is attractive for talents in Taiwan, but in the United States, young talents prefer GOOGLE and Facebook rather than the semiconductor industry", Tsao added.
In the face of the challenge, Tsao knows that in order to attract the youth, he has to make everyone knows that semiconductors are actually the foundation of all technological innovations. Knowing the young people are a visual generation, SEMI hired a Hollywood film production team to make a movie trailer in 2018 and received critical acclaim. Furthermore, SEMI organized the " Women in Tech Forum " to invite female senior management in the high-tech industry to share career advice and industry perspectives to the mass, and convey the message that "the semiconductor industry does not distinguish between male and female".
Tsao hopes that more women from non-science and engineering backgrounds could join the semiconductor industry. "The semiconductor industry also needs talents from other fields such as marketing and financial management. In recent years, affected by the China-US trade war, the management also needs to have a good understanding of geopolitics and government relations to make accurate decisions."
The activities are not just limited to the semiconductor industry, SEMI hopes to inspire more young people in basic mathematical scientific research in the long term. Since 2001, SEMI has been organizing the High Tech U (HTU) workshops for high school students. In the three-day event, a series of practical and experimental courses have been designed to stimulate students' ability in problem-solving. At present, there are more than 8,000 students from 9 countries/regions and 12 states in the United States participating. According to SEMI, between 2006 to 2010, more than 70% of the workshop participants later joined STEM-related industries.
Stay curious and keep learning
As a typical “slashie”, Tsao looked back on his career and wondered, if he would’ve stayed in Taiwan, in what industry could he make the greatest impact? Taiwan’s technology industry is very competitive globally, so he decided to devote himself to technology marketing to make the most of his talent in sales and marketing. Over the past few decades, he has gradually moved from computer consumer products, telecommunications, to the upstream semiconductor industry.
From the advertising industry to the technology industry, facing unfamiliar and difficult technical terms, Tsao said that he got through this by lifetime learning. "In a diversified and dynamic society, industries are constantly changing, and some will even disappear after a decade. Therefore, the only way to stay competitive is to challenge yourself!" Tsao encourages students to stay curious, continue to learn, and develop the ability in problem-solving, and finally, all roads will lead to Rome.