Review of 2007’s career opportunities, financial results, and recent trends

(Editor's note: There are links to Gary's previous columns below, immediately after his biography.)

As 2007 has closed, it is time to reflect on the state of the analog hiring picture. It was a very robust year, both in terms of the number of opportunities as well as the quality of opportunities. At Analog Solutions, we had another record year and I suspect this will continue in 2008. There were several hot areas in 2007: MEMS, wireless, and power management being the most active.

Another interesting hiring trend was the strong demand for marketing talent. This represents a good sign, in that it shows that companies are focusing on the longer term, and trying to help determine how they can best service their customer in the short as well as longer term. It also conveys a sense of confidence on the part of company executives in our space that the industry will continue in a positive direction from a sales/revenue perspective.

In addition to marketing and sales, we saw a dramatic increase in the need for product and test engineers, as companies now need this expertise to keep up with their new designs and product offerings. We as well saw an extremely high demand for applications engineers, especially in the power-management area.

This robust hiring market, of course, brings with it a new crop of recruiters, and also a sizable increase in recruiting calls! I am keenly aware that this might be a bit aggravating to many professionals but, in the big picture, it is certainly a much better problem than a dismal job market! I have mentioned to many a candidate this year, “if the phone stops ringing, you know you have got a BIG problem.”

The robust market also brought with it some other rather interesting, yet disturbing, trends. Our own personal experience, as well as those reported to us by both companies and other recruiting firms in our space, involve candidates who had accepted offers only to back out before their agreed-upon start date. The reasons we are given usually involve accepting a counteroffer, accepting another offer, or just simply not being serious about making a change.

My suggestion: make certain before accepting an offer that it is what you want to do, and then live up to your commitments, or be prepared for the consequences! This action can only have negative reaction. Just reverse the scenario and wonder how candidates would feel if they accepted an offer, resigned from their current position, and were told a couple days before they started that their offer was being rescinded. This would not be construed by any candidate as ethical or normal practice yet, in the reverse, seems like a normal and ethical outcome!

Let's all enjoy 2008, as it should be another positive year. Funding had slowed a little bit in the second half of 2007, but not to a point of what I would classify as a problem. It was quite a good year for the investors, with four IPOs (for AuthenTec, MEMSIC, Entropic, and Intellon), although their valuations were modest, at best, perhaps with the exception of AuthenTec which did (and continues to do) quite well! They were added to the Russell 3000 index in October. At least there was an appetite and an opportunity for those companies to raise money in the public market. We must remember that an IPO should be the launching pad, not the exit!

The acquisition market was quite good, with approximately fifteen acquisitions which represented anywhere from $20 to 400 million. From everything that I hear, it should favorable in 2008 as well, on both the IPO and acquisition front, as investor demand should continue to pick up.

The extent of impact from both the credit crunch and elections has yet to be really felt, but I personally don't see this causing any significant problem. There is a lot of money invested into deals that has been there from 1998 and beyond, that investors will want to recoup and begin investing elsewhere.

We also saw a couple other interesting trends. Some of our larger, more established public companies are looking to fund internal startups and seeking founders with a good business plan. This in a sense makes them a competitor to the venture capitalists and angel investors. They are offering a good equity position and, at the same time, providing sales channels, design teams, approved vendor lists, medical and other benefits, and the design tools and support needed. All of these factors mean less risk and greater reward than usual. We have also seen companies offering key people margin bonuses that are designed to keep products in the 60% plus gross margin area. So, stay tuned!

About the Author

Gary Fowler is President and Founder of Analog Solutions, a Professional Recruiting firm, devoted to the analog and mixed-signal space. He has over 25 years of experience as an Executive Recruiter. His clients over the years have included several Fortune 500 companies as well as many emerging, well-funded startups. In addition, he has relationships with several leading venture capitalists and investment bankers, who serve the analog semiconductor industry. He holds a BS in Human Resources Management from New York University, and an MS in Management Science from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton.

Previous columns by Gary Fowler:

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