TiE Silicon Valley President: Reflects on 2021 COVID, Semiconductor and the Great Resignation

AGK Karunakaran-


AGK Karunakaran(Above photo) is the President of TiE Silicon Valley (www.tiesv.org), Cofounder and CEO of MulticoreWare (www.multicorewareinc.com) and Managing partner of India Impact Investment partnership (www.3ipartners.net).


Each Holiday season, between Christmas and New Year, gives us some down time to go down memory lane. For me, 2021 started with a need to get out of home after about 10 months of staying at home due to the COVID-related Shelter in place order. All of us were trying to figure out ways to handle the COVID crisis. I enjoyed the socially distanced walks along the trails of Saratoga and Peninsula with my colleagues, TiE Board, and Charter members, but it was not enough. The urge to get out on the road and the long gap of not meeting our son prompted me to travel North to Washington State where our son lives. When a plane trip without vaccination was vetoed by the family, I decided to go on a solo road trip. The surprise came when my dear wife decided to come along with me on a long road trip[almost 2,500 miles] to the Seattle area with stops in Ashland, Shakespeare town in Oregon, Portland. Pacific Northwest has its own character, the lush green trees, snow-clad mountains, and beautiful lakes and we thoroughly enjoyed the Tulip festival, Wine country in Walla Walla, and the views of Sawtooth peaks of the Olympic mountains.

COVID as a way of life

While waiting for the vaccinations, shelter in place continued, but in a new part of the area unfamiliar to us. Thanks to the Zoom exercise sessions, working from home, TiEcon 2021 planning activities and exercise goals set on my Apple watch, I started viewing COVID crisis as a way of life. As a technology company executive and the volunteer in chief of TiE Silicon Valley, working from home was not that difficult for me. Between conference calls and regular phone calls, work could go on. Figuring out overlap times and the communication with my colleagues was the first challenge; and next came the working arrangement with bandwidth, quiet space and being in proximity with my wife 24×7. It was way too close to being comfortable with both of us observing and commenting on each other’s work, food, and communication styles. But we managed to hang on until we got the opportunity to get vaccinated. The protection got me the freedom to travel, and I started traveling back and forth to Bay Area from Seattle, Southern California, Boston, India, UAE. Few takeaways as we dealt with COVID AS A WAY OF LIFE:

  • When life gives a COVID lemon, we can make lemonade out of it (for me the lemonade was 10K steps a day, 500 exercise calories, 8 hours of standing for at least 5 minutes, travel and great conversations with colleagues, volunteers, friends, and family)
  • We can live with limited resources irrespective of our net worth (for me it was Airbnb hopping in Pacific Northwest and one hand baggage full of clothes)
  • By properly managing time a tech worker can balance the demands of being a kinder human being (for me it was volunteering and fostering relationships through conversations)

Semiconductor industry observations

COVID caused many disruptions and one of the most prominent ones is the availability of Semiconductor products for various vertical markets. Demand for computing, computing, and consumer electronics products surged during COVID. Working from home demanded the need for high-performance computing servers, laptops, displays, and networking devices. In addition, the automotive industry is becoming more reliant on semiconductor products, as over 50% of the value of the car is in the software which runs on microprocessors, digital signal processors and processes data different type of sensors.  New startups were funded in the areas of Artificial Intelligence accelerators for Deep learning and Inference. Radars, Lidars, Cameras, Ultrasonic sensors enable autonomous vehicles on the road, factories, retail, surveillance markets. The semiconductor industry could not fulfill the demand and the semiconductor manufacturing equipment and fabrication companies slowed the delivery of their products. Realizing these trends, countries like USA, China, India started to focus on protecting the intellectual property and supply chain for their respective markets. Make in America, Make in China and Make in India policies are becoming mainstream when it comes to Semiconductor manufacturing. It is going to be a rising tide for the entire Semiconductor industry and countries who figure out the supply chain nuances will benefit immensely. The semiconductor industry presents a lot of opportunity to fresh college graduates, budding entrepreneurs and seasoned executives as countries and companies invest to handle this surge in demand.

Great Opportunity

The transition to work from home, and now the reverse of getting back to the office is a Great Opportunity to invest in Human resources. Human beings adapt to changing circumstances and in that process, they evolve. Transitions in the past such as war times and associated rebuilding, Partition of India and Pakistan after the freedom fight, and past pandemics have taught our leaders and nation builders, different and unique ways of dealing with these transitions. While the Human Resources industry is talking about “The Great Resignation” due to the transitions faced by the workforce, I view it as “The Great Opportunity” to give it the necessary focus by learning from the past and paving the future for our workforce one person at a time. Every person and their situation is unique, as managers and human resources executives, we should learn to be mindful and kind towards the needs of the individual. One size fits all will not work as their needs have changed since the pandemic started. Irrespective of the kind of workforce, it is time for the entire industry to invest in human capital and nurture them to make a lasting impact in their lives and ultimately in ours.

Here is to mindfulness and kind fullness focused 2022.