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Indie internship proves inspiring

By Scott Grant - Posted on 3 August 2016

A total of 25 Strathclyde Business School students were selected for Saltire Foundation internships this summer. Undergraduate Scott Grant is one of them. Currently in the USA with Indie Semiconductor, he is enjoying getting to grips with an inspiring work culture.

My first couple of weeks here at Indie have come in fast. Quick fact before we go any further - Indie Semiconductor, originally AyDeeKay LLC (a combination of the owners’ names) was rebranded in 2014 to Indie. Now can anyone guess why? Well as the owners have strong Scottish roots, they rebranded in September of 2014 in line with the Scottish Independence referendum as they were convinced Scotland would vote for independence… things didn't turn out that way but there is now an interesting story to tell whenever anyone asks why are they called Indie.

My position here is described as ‘commercial intern’ and my training plan went into detail mostly about finance with some marketing aspects. However I am glad to report that I am involved in all business functions and working on multiple projects every week which I really enjoy. I am definitely learning skills that I could apply to my own business.

On my first day I met my mentors Joe (Director of Operations) and Chris (Chief Financial Officer) and was quickly thrown into the deep end. I was asked to adapt the financial modelling here at Indie, which I can happily report was a test to see how I would deal with a problem I had no prior experience of.

Since my first day, an incredible amount of things have happened, and I have been introduced to a huge number of business activities. One thing is for sure - I’ll never get tired of the restaurant meals for lunch every day!

The culture at Indie is probably one of, if not the, most critical ingredients for the company’s success. As a business student, I have learned about organisational culture and its influence in abundance at Strathclyde. I cannot seem to put my finger on what it is exactly at Indie that creates a recipe for success – it seems to be a mix of things.

For starters the office layout is open plan where we are all working tirelessly to achieve the company’s goals. While the engineers are on one floor and ‘business people’ are on the other, at any given point on any given day, there will be a mix of the two chatting somewhere in the building.

You may also assume that in a small but international business like Indie the CEO, CFO and Director of Operations may be too busy for us worker bees, how wrong could you be! Joe, the Director of Operations, has time for anyone at any point. He could easily lose his temper when something doesn’t go to plan and has resulting implications for many other parts of the business, but he is the most level headed person I’ve ever met. And he is a great laugh. Donald is the CEO with a skillset that is seemingly non-exhaustive. He is an encyclopedia of knowledge, knows every part of the business, and is able to recite facts and figure on command in seconds. He tackles tasks and issues head on and leads by inspiring others.

Last but most definitely not least is Chris, the CFO - the formulas he can conjure up in Excel is frankly frightening. Chris can work out pretty much any financial question or scenario at the click of a mouse in Excel.

What’s more, the working environment doesn’t feel like a typical work environment -no one is ever ‘cracking the whip’ so to speak. You are given complete autonomy and flexibility to work whatever way suits you best - as long as the work gets done, it doesn’t matter how. Even though I am ‘just an intern’, my opinion is genuinely valued - even asked for - in meetings. Indie is an understanding organisation where new ideas and approaches are highly valued and encouraged. Just because something was achieved one way in the past doesn’t mean the organisation continues to use that method. Change is engrained and the saying ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ most certainly does not apply here.

Another notable aspect of Indie is the level of complexity involved in the company's operations. This is on the same playing field as the huge MNEs like TMSC, ASE, Broadcom, Qualcom, Samsung. Indie has a supply chain that is as complex as these MNEs, if not more complex. Why is that, you ask? Well Indie is a unique organisation within the semiconductor industry; it not only offers off-the-shelf products to customer solutions, but it engages in research and development of new chips; it holds substantial IPs for the next big technologies, and it also offers NRE (Non Reoccurring Engineering).

Essentially what that means is a company may approach Indie with an engineering problem and out-source the engineering of developing a new chip to solve a particular problem. For instance, a device that used a 3.5mm audio jack for headphones won’t be able to use the new USB C, and an adaptor is therefore required – which is where Indie comes in.

Indie is a relatively small organisation in comparison to almost all of its competitors. They are a company of around 60 employees over three continents in three countries with three entities all working in synergy on different fronts of the semiconductor industry.

The most encouraging part of my internship at Indie is that because it is such a small company, it doesn’t take long to be considered an important cog in the big machine, which means the learning opportunities are presented in abundance. Sometimes perhaps too many for one day…but that’s all part of the fun and games that is being an intern!



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