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The Founding Fathers of Silicon Valley

During the start-up phase at Fairchild Semiconductor there had been no sense of bosses and employees. There had been only a common sense of struggle out on a frontier. Everyone had internalized the goals of the venture. They didn’t need exhortations from superiors. Besides, everyone had been so young! Noyce, the administrator or chief coordinator or whatever he should be called, had been just about the oldest person on the premises, and he had been barely thirty. And now, in the early 1960s, thanks to his athletic build and his dark brown hair with the Campus Kid hairline, he still looked very young. As Fairchild expanded, Noyce didn’t even bother trying to find “experienced management personnel.” Out here in California, in the semiconductor industry, they didn’t exist. Instead, he recruited engineers right out of the colleges and graduate schools and gave them major responsibilities right off the bat. There was no “staff,” no “top management” other than the eight partners themselves. Major decisions were not bucked up a chain of command. Noyce held weekly meetings of people from all parts of the operation, and whatever had to be worked out was worked out right there in the room. Noyce wanted them all to keep internalizing the company’s goals and to provide their own motivations, just as they had during the start-up phase. If they did that, they would have the capacity to make their own decisions.

The young engineers who came to work for Fairchild could scarcely believe how much responsibility was suddenly thrust upon them. Some twenty-four-year-old just out of graduate school would find himself in charge of a major project with no one looking over his shoulder. A problem would come up, and he couldn’t stand it, and he would go to Noyce and hyperventilate and ask him what to do. And Noyce would lower his head, turn on his 100 ampere eyes, listen, and say: “Look, here are your guidelines. You’ve got to consider A, you’ve got to consider B. and you’ve got to consider C. ” Then he would turn on the Gary Cooper smile: “But if you think I’m going to make your decision for you, you’re mistaken. Hey… it’s your ass.”

  1. daslee posted this