Gimme Five – Alfred Hesener

Alfred Hesener, European marketing director at Fairchild Semiconductor, talks to Steve Rogerson in our series of interviews for CIEonline. Hesener joined Fairchild Semiconductor in April 2005 as marketing director for Europe, a newly created position. He is based in Fuerstenfeldbruck, Germany, and joined Fairchild from Infineon, where he was senior manager of technical marketing for power semiconductors and control ICs for power conversion.

Hesener spent more than nine years at Infineon and Siemens, in the semiconductor division in technical marketing and R&D. He started his career with Atmel, where he was a field applications engineer.

He has a degree in electrical engineering from Darmstadt Technical University, with a specialisation in microelectronics, especially analogue and digital design, semiconductor physics and process technology.

His hobbies include power electronics, audio equipment, sailing, and spending as much time as possible with his family.

1. LED lighting has moved on tremendously in the past decade, but where will it go from here?

It will become pervasive, it will be pretty much everywhere. They are becoming much cheaper and their efficiency is increasing. That is helping thermal management, which is making them applicable across all applications.

One application where it is not there yet in large volumes is automotive headlamps. This is still the domain of HID lamps. LED is there for most of the lamps on a car but not the headlamps but that will now become a big market.

With the very long lifetime, another area is domestic and commercial lighting to become part of a complete luminaire. You don’t need a socket. You can replace the entire thing. The socket and lamp can be integrated. They have a life of 30,000 to 50,000 hours, so on average use that is around ten to 12 years. You then replace the whole fitting including the socket.

2. Fairchild dates back to the 1950s and is seen as one of the founders of Silicon Valley. The company is a lot different now, but what is it like working for a firm with such a famous history?

It is fascinating. In the 1950s, we were starting analogue and power applications and we have now become full circle with power and mobile applications. Mobile is the big area now and we were involved in the big applications then.

Last year, I acquired an old Fairchild function generator on Ebay and that is now on display in our headquarters in San Jose.

We are an old company and a young company at the same time.

3. Electronica is one of the few really large electronics trade shows left. Do you think such shows have a long-term future?

I think yes. It is good to be there and see everything that is happening in electronics in one place. I like to walk around the other halls to see what applications are there; it is sometimes bizarre to see what people are doing.

They are very useful for meeting many people in an efficient manner. We can meet customers, analysts, the press and so on all at one time. We can present all our innovations all in one space. At trade shows, we put a lot of emphasis on customer interaction and have an efficient process to feed that back to what we are doing.

But I do think people have less time for travelling and going to trade shows, which is a shame. R&D people have to keep working on developing products and meeting time to market. This is because of many are part of a global collaboration and that puts more pressure on European engineers’ time.

Electronica is here in Germany and has grown on the quality of our engineers. In Asia, the trade shows don’t have the same success and that is because people have to stay working on products. It is a question of culture. In the UK, engineering is under-rated. There are very good engineers there and UK companies should be more successful.

4. Where do you most like sailing and why?

I love sailing in the Mediterranean, with my family, with my children. The water is so nice to go sailing and swimming. Just getting away from everything is nice. I also like the teamwork involved in sailing. This fits in with work as well. I learn from the teamwork when sailing with friends things that I can apply to teamwork at work.

We have had to change our behaviour on how we treat engineers. We have to put more emphasis on training and motivating, and providing an interesting workplace so that we can keep the engineers. Once engineers felt like small cogs in the gearbox and it didn’t matter if you were there or not. But now they are treated more importantly.

I also enjoy sailing in the Baltic where the weather is colder. I feel closer to nature.

5. You have a marketing role but an engineering background – do you miss the engineering side?

I do miss that. My role now is marketing and applications. This is an interesting combination for me. This is a very industrial market with a couple of consumer applications. For me it is very interesting to meet the customers on the wide range of applications from dishwashers to smart meters. They all have different needs but a lot in common.

I still manage to keep track of technology. In fact, I have filed a patent this year. The company is pursuing this and it has been sent to the patent office. So I still do some R&D work. I get inspiration from what I see in the market and the technologies we are developing, and I put one and one together and sometimes get three. But I do a lot less R&D than in the past.

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