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Leon Bezdikian, VP Human Resources at Inphi

Extreme Recruiting. Needed: Sr. Director of Engineering, Memory Platform Products. That's for starters

 
Leon Bezdikian, VP HR, InphiLeon Bezdikian

"An organization's ability to excel is solely based on the ability of the employees to get it there."

What to do when every single req you're trying to fill looks like a purple squirrel? This is Jeremy Eskenazi, Managing Principal at Riviera Advisors. Our guest today on Insights: Amplified is Leon Bezdikian, VP Human Resources at Inphi, a Silicon Valley based manufacturer.

Leon has extensive domestic and international Human Resources experience - primarily with high-tech companies.

Now, why did we want to interview Leon for the Insights: Amplified Talent Acquisition Channel series? With a 25-year-plus career in HR, Leon's expertise includes executive coaching, management training, organizational development, talent acquisition and team building. His insights' regarding HR leadership extend to teaching Human Resources at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Extension Program. I'm sure you'll gain a good deal of actionable information from our interview today!

Inphi, founded in 2000, is a fabless provider of high-speed analog semiconductor solutions for the communications and computing markets, providing high signal integrity at leading-edge data speeds that are designed to address bandwidth bottlenecks in networks, minimize latency in computing environments and enable the rollout of next generation communications infrastructure.

The company has 40 open reqs for engineers with titles like "Sr. Staff ATE Validation Engineer" with qualifications that include, "lead and execute PHY SERDES device validation on ATE platform."

Leon Bezdikian Interview Transcript, TotalPicture Radio

Welcome to Insights Amplified, a monthly podcast featuring interviews with the movers and innovators in talent acquisition, staffing and corporate human resources. Insights Amplified is a production of Riviera Advisors, helping organizations improve, enhance and optimize their corporate recruiting and staffing capabilities through sophisticated levels of expertise in tactical and strategic global talent acquisition. And by TotalPicture Radio, the voice of career and leadership acceleration.

This is Jeremy Eskenazi, managing principal of Riviera Advisors. Our guest today on Insights Amplified is Leon Bezdikian, vice president human resources at Inphi, a Silicon Valley based manufacturer. Leon has extensive domestic and international human resources experience, primarily with high tech companies.

Now, why did we want to interview Leon? With a 25 year plus career in HR, Leon's expertise includes executive coaching, management training, organizational development, talent acquisition and team building. His insights regarding HR leadership extend to teaching human resources at the University of California at Santa Cruz extension program. I'm sure you'll gain a good deal of actionable information from our interview today.

Peter: Thanks, Jeremy. Inphi founded in 2005 is a fabulous provider of high-speed analog semiconductor solutions for the communications and computing markets providing high-signal integrity at leading edge data speeds that are designed to address bandwidth bottlenecks in networks, minimize latency in computing environments, and enable the roll out of next generation communications infrastructure.

Leon, welcome to TotalPicture radio.

Leon: Thank you, pleasure to be here.

Peter: Can you put into plain English what I just said?

Leon: Sure. We play in the analog space, and we make semiconductor chips that take very high-speed information or electronic signals in the communication and computing space and manage it. In the computing markets, we make memory buffers or we make chips that conduct the flow of storage within the computer, so it sits right along the processor and manages all your material that you're storing, bringing out, using, etc. We make it more failsafe and we make it at incredibly fast speeds.

On the communications side, we're at the very low level of working with lasers and laser diodes, and we get those signals and manage them electronically and then send them out usually to other OEMs like Cisco's, Alcatel's, Juniper's, and stuff like that they take the signal and then do something with it. But because they're generated at very high speeds, that's the realm we play in. We capture that electronically and then do something with it.

By some analysis they say that 80 percent of internet traffic goes through something that Inphi has made and done, which is pretty fantastic.

Peter: That is fantastic, especially for a company that most people probably haven't even heard of.

Leon: Yes.

Peter: Which must be one of your challenges in HR and recruiting.

Leon: It is. It is in the sense to the mass audience but the people that we look for to recruit are so specialized, the people 'in the know' know that Inphi has an excellent reputation, and it's been around for twelve years, and in late 2010 did an IPO. It's been also with the influx of this big data and the need for all this information - like we're working with the Googles and the Facebooks and whatnot on their data centers to facilitate the transfer of information. Those who know it's an easier sell, but we've got to get those people.

Peter: Leon, in my world, what I hear about is everything moving to the cloud, all the iPads and tablets and the WiFi requirements and bandwidth issues surrounding all of that stuff, moving to 4G, and those are all the areas that your company is playing in, correct?

Leon: Exactly. We're just at the cusp and in a lot of ways, the market is coming to us now with our products. It's a good place to be at this point.

Peter: Leon, tell us about the company leadership.

Leon: We just had a change in leadership, actually. Ford Tamer joined us about a week and a half ago, actually, February 1st. He's got a wealth of information and experience; he comes from Broadcom and Telegent as of late, and our old CEO, Young Sohn retired (a pun on words there, previous CEO). He's not old at all. ☺ He retired. We're very fortunate to have Ford online at this point, and it's actually to help augment the second phase of the organization. The first ten years we kind of made our mark, developed our technology and the second decade now we're looking at significant growth, hopefully approaching a billion dollars in this decade.

Peter: That's great. Do you report directly to Ford?

Leon: Yes, I do.

Peter: That says something about your organization right there.

Leon: Yes, I think so. I've been in HR a long time, and I've always made a promise to myself that I wouldn't work in a situation that was different. Having theHR function report into the CEO, I think, is crucial.

Peter: When I was spending time on your website prepping for this interview, I actually noticed that you're #3 on the management list on Inphi.

Leon: Yes, that's not in any order of importance, it's just the way it's structured.

Peter: Speaking about CEOs, Leon, I was reading recently PWC's 15th Annual Global CEO survey, and there's a section called The Talent Challenge. Here are a couple of interesting stats from the survey:

Twenty-nine percent of those interviewed said, "We are unable to pursue a market opportunity and of course this is due to talent constraints."

Twenty-four percent said they cancelled or delayed a key strategic initiative due to talent constraints.

Does this sound familiar to you? Do you share their pain?

Leon: Absolutely. It sounds very familiar, not only in Inphi, but other organizations I've been with, and it's the message that I teach when I'm teaching at UC Santa Cruz that talent is the name of the game right now and an organization's ability to excel is solely based on the ability of the employees to get it there. Things are moving so fast and markets are changing so quickly and so dynamically that if your people aren't up to the challenge, and if you don't have the talent required to get you there, you're not, and it's just moving so quickly you get buried just by the flow.

Peter: Leon, in reviewing Inphi's career page, I see that you're trying to hire a whole bunch of highly specialized engineers, correct?

Leon: Yes. For our size right now, we have 40 open reqs and we've got about only 170 people in the company.

Peter: How do you go about sourcing talent? Do you use third party recruiters, job boards, staffing agencies - how do you find the talent you need?

Leon: We have 160 people in the company and they're all recruiters at this point. In addition to that, all of the above and anything else we can get to that will get us the people.

The one challenge that we do have, in addition, to just finding the good talent is we're in Westlake Village, Los Angeles and not too much high-tech companies around here. So it's a little more difficult to bring people in, although it's a very good place to be and raise a family. It's difficult because of lack of high-tech companies. That's been a challenge and our corporate headquarters have now changed to the Santa Clara area. We're building a team there and have about 50 people and growing. Most of the reqs are going to be filled up in the Santa Clara area. We're looking to some acquisitions as well.

Peter: Leon, I'm curious, is that move to Santa Clara, due specifically to being able to recruit the talent that you need for your organization?

Leon: Absolutely.

Peter: Interesting. How many recruiters do you have on staff?

Leon: We have one dedicated recruiter who came on board and we're looking to hire to two or three more at this point. We need a lot of the people fairly shortly in a short time span. We really need to kick up the burners on it. This week and next week, my goal is by at the end of next week is to have a few more on board.

Peter: That's fantastic. You're looking for engineers in Westlake Village and Santa Clara as you said, and you're also looking in Korea and the UK. How do you approach international recruiting? Do you have a recruiting staff in these locations?

Leon: Not yet, but we use staffing agencies, and we have partners that we've used for a long time and they're an adjunct recruiter, if you will, for us. It costs a little bit more, but at this point as we're trying to grow as an organization, it's the most cost-effective way to do it. We cultivate those relationships and those partnerships in order for getting the best talent out there, and when we need them, we turn them on and they help us.

Peter: Leon, what are you building out in the UK and Korea. Are these manufacturing facilities, research... what are you recruiting for?

Leon: In the UK, it's a design center. It's a very high-speed design center. Some of the people there have talents that are a handful in the world. We're very, very lucky to have them. In Korea, it's a sales office, and it's not so much a design center there but our major business comes from the Asian markets. We've got a good team in place there to help us with it.

Peter: When I see a job req for a "senior director of engineering memory platform products" to your point, I don't think there are a whole lot of people out there qualified for this role. Am I correct?

Leon: You're absolutely correct, and those who are qualified are really bolted down. It's a challenge, but one of the things that helps us is we're working on leading edge technology, so it's kind of sexy and exciting to be with Inphi and work on this stuff because it's different and it's harder. Analog is much harder, but it allows for these people... We have five ex-CTOs that work for us, for example, and it's because of the challenge and the technology and what we're trying to do that allows them to play in the field that we're in. It's very difficult, but we seem to be managing well.

Peter: You know, I used to do a lot of films back in the late '90s for Bell Labs and AT&T Labs for their fellows program. They were really fun to do because there was no political agenda. These people were researchers, scientists and inventors, and they were just really passionate about what they did. It seems to me that you've got the same kind of situation with Inphi, is that right?

Leon: That's exactly it, you hit it. The passion here is for these engineers to come together. They're colleagues, they bounce ideas off, very minimal politics. It's the challenge of making the next thing that's revolutionary from a technical perspective. We've been able to do that, as you could see on our website. There's a lot of goodwill in the marketplace because of the work we're doing and a lot of that is direct results of the people that we have and the culture that we've established.

Peter: We'll return to our interview with Leon Bezdikian after this short break.

Hi, this is Jeremy Eskenazki. Guaranteed to help advance any career in corporate staffing leadership, my new book, RecruitCONSULT! Leadership: A Field Guide for Corporate Talent Acquisition Leaders will provide all the tools and resources you'll need to identify, plan, develop and execute a corporate staffing strategy that will deliver specific business objectives.

Please visit our new website, recruitconsult.net to learn more. I look forward to seeing you at ERE Spring next month.

As Jeremy mentioned in his introduction, you teach human resources at the University of California Santa Cruz Extension Program, and you've done so for a number of years. How has what you're teaching your students today changed from what you taught perhaps, five years ago - or has it?

Leon: It has changed. In my class, the class is called 'Managing the Staffing Function' and I differentiate between staffing and recruiting. I think staffing is the strategic piece; recruiting is the tactical piece.

The strategic piece for me is the actual running of the business. The strategic imperatives of meeting the market, meeting your cost targets, getting your people in place and productive.

The recruiting piece has just exploded with the social media, the different automated tools out there now. I think that's been the biggest difference is just the tools available to be able for us as HR professionals, especially in the recruiting realm, to go out and talk to people, find people, engage with them. And then you've got to have the stories to attract them, but getting to them is a lot easier than before.

Peter: Yeah, it really seems to me this whole HR role has changed dramatically in the last number of years. It's no longer managing a pension and healthcare program, right?

Leon: Yes, absolutely.

Peter: Leon, what do you think is the biggest challenge HR leaders will face this year?

Leon: I believe the biggest challenge will be working with the management teams and not only attracting, but retaining the talent. I think the last few years, as you know, the economy has been in the dumper. As it comes out, there's a challenge now, especially for us after the IPO, our turnover rate has been very low. There are quite a few people who now think, "I've got my money, what's my next opportunity to replicate it?" And so holding onto those people, providing them with challenging work, that's got to be the key, and bringing on new talent to help with the projects that we've got.

When I say new talent, not just bringing them on, but bringing them on cost effectively and timely. That's the most important thing. When you miss the market window, you're dead. To be able to move at the speed with which the market is going and with helping your other executives with their need for that, I think, is the biggest challenge.

Peter: Leon, you've spent your entire career working for high-tech companies. What differentiates your role in HR leadership from other types of companies, perhaps, manufacturing or financial services?

Leon: I would say the speed with which innovation and distribution work. From idea or from concept to market, you've got to be so on target, you've got to be so on, especially in the semiconductor space, the cost of taping out and just the whole event of getting things to market is so expensive; you've got to be right, and you've got to be on time. And when you miss that window, you're out.

The need for accuracy and speed is just, well, it's like analog, that's what has to happen. That's what you've got to do.

Peter: One thing that's really come across to me in our conversation today is that finding the engineering talent your company needs is really a strategic imperative.

Leon: Absolutely.

Peter: Is there anything I haven't asked you, Leon, that you'd like to tell our audience about your organization or about HR?

Leon: I think as the world gets to be a smaller place because of the internet and the communication abilities, and everything that we're moving towards HR, and the ability to deal with people, work with people, motivate people, find the right set that come into your team and organization is even more critical. Everybody has their specialties and dealing with the HR function, and people with all the nuances that involves in an organization, and working towards a common goal, I think in the future companies who do that well will be the most successful.

Peter: Leon, thank you again for taking time to speak with us today for the Insights Amplified channel on TotalPicture radio. It's really been a pleasure meeting you.

Leon: Same here. Thank you very much.

Peter: Leon Bezdikian is VP of Human Resources at Inphi.

Thank you for tuning into the latest Insights Amplified, a production of Riviera Advisors and TotalPicture Radio. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, just do a keyword search for Insights Amplified. Also, subscribe to the Insights from the Riviera blog at RivieraAdvisors.com/blog.

To learn more about Riviera Advisors real world experience in leading and managing global corporate internal recruiting and staffing functions, please call toll free 1-800-635-9063, or visit RivieraAdvisors.com.

Riviera Advisors is a member of the ASHER Talent Alliance, a global alliance of talent acquisition providers working together to benefit the unique and individual needs of their clients. To learn more about ASHER, visit ASHERTalent.com.

Jeremy Eskenazi

About Jeremy Eskenazi

Jeremy Eskenazi, Managing Principal, Jeremy draws on his more than 20 years of experience and expertise in helping companies assess and enhance their talent management systems and processes.

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.

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