Analog Angle Blog

Watching Analog Devices’ Jerald Fishman Up Close

Jerald (Jerry) Fishman, the CEO of Analog Devices Inc., passed away last week at age 67. I won't go through the details; you can read them at the ADI website as well as the story in EETimes. But as someone who worked at ADI for many years, and who sat in meetings with Jerry (I made it my business to always stay at the back!), I'll add a few personal observations.

He had been at ADI for 41 years, starting out in product marketing. Certainly, that's a very long time to be at one company, but longevity of employment is not that unusual in analog-centric IC companies; I've met many 15-, 20-, and 25-year single-employer veterans in the industry.

Jerry never positioned himself as a chip designer gone into management, which he wasn't (although he did have BS and MS EE degrees). Instead, he was a no-nonsense, plain-speaking manager who knew that marketers sometimes fell so in love with their products that they became blind to reality or sometimes projected a few data points to the desired conclusion. I heard him challenge them many times, asking on what basis they had reached their conclusions.

Certainly, a lot of new-product marketing is supposition and guesswork (truth be told) but he insisted that marketers at least be honest about that and not use a sketchy data to extrapolate to the desired end-point, with the veneer of excess significant figures to lend false precision.

He also was strict in insisting that marketers and designers kill a product that was late or inadequate, even right up to the day of its formal release, a lesson he had taught along with ADI's co-founder (and now chairman of the board) Ray Stata. Despite any personal attachment that a development team had to their product, the message was this: The cost of developing a product was a “sunk cost”; that money was gone. But if the product was not going to be a winner, due to unexpected competitive changes, don’t release it.

The reason was that the real, ongoing, profit-draining costs really begin when that product gets a formal release and can be ordered by customers. Then it has to be manufactured, tested, supported by applications, and be available for some number of years, even if sales are low and it loses money. In other words, put your emotions aside, and look at it cold-heartedly: The best thing you can do is bury it before it gets released and write off the development cost as part of the risk you take and a learning process. You could call it “tough love.”

In addition to his engineering degrees and MBA, Jerry also had a law degree. But he never practiced law, and I often heard him curse lawyers and remark how much he disliked them, as they had made business deals so complicated and fraught with lawsuits (both legitimate and nuisance) and got in the way of product development and marketing.

Our industry has its share of colorful, high-profile, even flamboyant leaders. By his own choice, Jerry was a lower-key type, preferring to work mostly “inside” to make sure the wheels turned smoothly and the corporate vehicle stayed on the desired course — but he also knew when to take risks and when to cut losses. Those characteristics are a good complement to the other styles in the analog segment in particular and the semiconductor business in general. It both keeps things interesting and makes for consistent success, filling spaces in the puzzle that is the picture of long-term success.

Did you know or work with Jerry Fishman? Are there any industry leaders — visible or perhaps not-so-visible — that you think have played a key role in the success of their companies, and the industry as a whole?

9 comments on “Watching Analog Devices’ Jerald Fishman Up Close

  1. Bill_Jaffa
    April 3, 2013

    Fellow EEs out there–I am sure may of you have “stories” (whether good, bad, happy, sad, smart, dumb) about upper management that you could tell! Go ahead, tell them. Use their names if you want to, or not, doesn't matter. And remember: you can be anonymous here.

  2. Katie O'Kew
    April 3, 2013


    Your commentary on Jerry is appreciated. He and I were contemporaries: I first worked for ADI in 1972, then came state-side as ADI's first Fellow, to join in the fun. At that time we were pushing ICs into the deep, dark caverns of nonlinear functions, working (playing) in our first remote design center, the NW Labs, in Oregon.

    He and I have had many a spirited conversation (and altercation!) over the years, usually in his Norwood office, during the time I reported to him in his capacity as the head guy of Analog Devices Semiconductor, before that part of the company became the driving force for its future life as Analog Devices. That was during the time our true outstanding engineer, leader and entrepreneur Ray Stata was still the Presi. I'd say “How much time do you have today, Jerry?”, and characteristically, he would swing his feet up on his desk, while taking a quick glance at his new-fangled stock-quote readout gizmo on his window ledge, and say “As much as you need”. The talks that followed were often littered with his exquisite expletives. More than once, he said “What are we going to do with Mr. x?” where x = a senior technologist; and while I had opinions about the value of x (where x < 100%) I felt it inappropriate to voice all of my concerns. I wanted to steer the conversation back to technical matters. But Jerry was always more interested in people and the overarching objective of doing the best possible job of meeting the customers' present and future needs, even if that meant bending a few egos along the way.

    I will tell one insider tale. During the early 70's I had designed a high-precision analog multiplier (the AD534 – remarkably still in the catalog, and helping to pay for the electricity we drink by the carload). It was being used largely by the military, in its expensive 14-pin ceramic package. We were charging a punishing amount for this part. Nevertheless, when plastic packaging became possible I wanted to take the 534, put it into an 8-pin DIP, slightly de-tune the specs and make this function more readily available at a moderate price. But over a few years of several different marketing managers, he told them –in so many choice words – that their heads would roll if they dared to jeopardize the health of this precious Cash Cow…. In the end, he let the matter descend into the realms of the less important, as the Company moved forward into serving such delicacies as data converters; and the little AD633 was allowed to visit the loading dock.

    You could be sure that Jerry was always available, as his stature and responsibilities rose. And he always had a quick and pithy response to the latest proposal. He will be sorely missed, in a score of different ways. Indeed, it's still very hard to accept what we read as to his passing, and funeral yesterday.

    Analog Devices is strong, and his vision for will continue to shine.



  3. Eng1956
    April 3, 2013


    you could have (and should have) found it in yourself to write a much nicer, much less tongue in cheek and much less self serving eulogy about Jerry, who made you and many others at ADI a millionaire many times over.

    One of Jerry's many strength was to keep analog designers, like you, with great talent and even greater egos, in line and productive for ADI for years and decades. Anyone who has ever managed talented analog designers knows who difficult this is.

    Rest in peace Jerry, you will be missed by the whole industry not only by the people who worked for you and learned from you.

  4. Bill_Jaffa
    April 3, 2013

    Great story–and that's the key: although Jerry was a EE, he didn't try to second-guess IC processes and any IC design itself, but to focus insteasd on understanding what the designer team was thinking, what the reality was, and the market/customer situation. In other words, he didn't presume to be the smartest IC designer in the room, but instead came at it from a different perspective.

  5. Katie O'Kew
    April 3, 2013

    No tongue is cheek here, anonymous, nor any intention to be self-serving. Mine was an honest tribute and a couple of vignettes from one who worked closely with Jerry, especially in the early years when the Company was just getting in its stride. Only such recollections from other peoples' lives can fill in the gaps that were left in the story by his extremely saddening and sudden departure. At least you will find me, for one, wearing a dark suit and black tie at the coming plenary session.

    As a matter of interest, who are you?


  6. Brad Albing
    April 4, 2013

    Barrie – very nice comments on Jerry Fishman. I'm sad that I never worked with him.

  7. Brad Albing
    April 4, 2013

    Hmm… seemed like Barrie spoke well of Jerry and meant what he said as serious commentary. I thought Barrie only brought himself into the story as needed to explain a greater point that he was making.

  8. Slogan
    April 5, 2013


    Nice article on Jerry Fishman. I enjoyed getting a glimpse at his personality. It sounds as though he had a different style from a guy like Jack Gifford, but they will both be missed. Between Jerry, Jack, Bob Pease and Jim Williams, the analog industry has lost some heavyweights the last few years that truly shaped the industry. Each man had his own unique style. They'll all be missed.

  9. Brad Albing
    April 8, 2013

    Slogan – you've surely mentioned some of the good guys we've lost. While it's small solace, we do have some pretty talented folks right here on Planet Analog (Barrie, Bill, and Paul come to mind off the top of my head).

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