To Work, Perchance to Dream Big

I was laid off in August of 2017. Fortunately, I was able to find a new job before I ran out of runway. I know quite a few who were not as fortunate as I have been.

I started my bright, shiny new job in November working for a gigantic electronics manufacturing company that employs hundreds of thousands of people in sites around the world with revenue in the tens of $billions. This is a company unlike any of my prior experience. I was hired by one of the several Chief Technology Officers — a man I have known for more than fifteen years — to join a team he's building to reinvent big swathes of the firm's business. We're planning to transform it from a simple, ruthlessly efficient purveyor of quality manufacturing services into more of a partner with whom our customers can co-develop their products. We now provide reliable and efficient engineering expertise in electronic, mechanical, and software engineer, and our customers can then innovate standing on the firm underpinnings provided by these layers to add value that actually makes them (and, therefore, us) money.

This is the new way of doing business. You don't try to hold every competency close to yourself, under your control, employing all of the people with all of the diverse skillsets required for a modern product. Instead, you partner with some number of others who all have a vested interest in your success, sharing risk and leveraging each others' strengths. No man — or company — is an island, after all.

In return for building such capabilities, a manufacturing company such as my new employer earns new respect in its industry, builds skill sets that can be useful across many diverse client needs, and it can finally create some value in ways that aren't simply digging ever deeper into couch cushions looking for nickels to save in the bill of materials or manufacturing costs of a product. We can, in effect, save our customers money by helping to bring their products to market more quickly, with less risk and allowing them to do so while employing fewer expensive fixed cost specialized employees in areas outside of their core business.

As manufacturers grow in scope beyond their traditional "just build it, fast, cheap, and with high quality" mandate, they create new niches that allow them to drive industry standards spanning across competitive boundaries that their customers found they could not bear to cross. Instead, the manufacturers help construct coalitions of shared interest by aggregating their customers' needs under a single roof while carefully managing their competitive drives.

This new way of looking at manufacturing companies as partners will blossom as more digital manufacturing methods continue to grow.