The Man Behind the Microchip
Like life, the challenges and obstacles faced in entrepreneurship are typically sporadic and inexplicable. In Leslie Berlin’s The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley, she describes the trials and tribulations of Robert Noyce’s life as a growing entrepreneur. In the common day, he is often referred to as the father of integrated circuits. Experiences such as his will propel me to reach my desired goal of being a chemical engineer. In today’s society it is extremely rare to have both technical skill with a product, as well as the business acumen. Alone, I am confident my chemical engineering background will solidify me with a great position for a quality company, however, coupling that with the understanding of the basics of entrepreneurship will land me above and beyond my expectations.
Robert Noyce is typically known as “the inventor of the integrated circuit,” but Berlin explores this statement. Oftentimes, we see that the leader of a successful business receives most of the fame and glory. While this may be rightfully placed to some degree, the hard work of the people behind the scenes make the product successful. Seeing as how Noyce received the fame, and his engineers did the heavy lifting, this case is no different. This immediately struck my attention as an example of the importance of teamwork. No great accomplishment was done alone, and understanding this is key to any startup. It is better to share glory and fortune than to experience neither at all. I will use this knowledge to keep the team perspective in all my business endeavors. While sometimes sharing the fame can lead to selfishness, this can be avoided by showing your team your trust and value in them. This will also encourage them to work harder on their part. It is crucial to recognize that everyone on the team has a unique skillset that can help the business elevate and evolve.
Normally, engineers and tech employees operate with a serious demeanor with only seeing success in results. Noyce often showed a laid-back, attitude uncommon with Shockley and other engineers he worked alongside. Not only was his demeanor a great mix, but it also brought a missing component to a team of brilliant engineers. Noyce understood the personalities of Shockley and his colleagues and thus adapted to a personality that would bring the best out of business. His clear, open attitude encouraged them to explore anything that sounded interesting to them, which played right into their strengths. This exemplifies the team aspect a business or entrepreneurship needs in order to thrive and expand. It also shows that being aware of the situation and being able to diffuse it is a necessary attribute in teamwork. It is something I plan to keep in mind as our start up group begins to make progress on our product.
While Noyce’s attitude was extremely helpful to a team of motivated engineers, it had other effects. He took every measure to avoid confrontation, often giving high latitude to employees to explore any project they wanted. This, however, had a profound effect on his family life at home. His son walked in on him having an affair, leading to a divorce with his troubled wife. From this I learned a multitude of things. For one, I learned that while the rollercoaster ride known as entrepreneurship is exhilarating and demanding, it is important to keep a proper balance in your life, and not everything between business and personal life overlap. Happiness is being a successful person, not a successful businessman. In the workplace, however, Noyce formed the perfect bridge between the business world and the “prickly geeks.”
Another highly intriguing component of Noyce’s story was his rise to fame as being the man receiving credit for the invention of the microchip. A group of engineers showed Noyce how they used transistors, and Noyce cleverly found a way to design a chip that added numbers. He left the idea and Texas Instruments used it to come up with the microchip. After many court hearings, TI ended up with four patents to Noyce’s one, yet he was universally recognized as the founder of the microchip. His hard work, dedication, and innovation brought the fame to his name. He was a unique talent, who always brought a different perspective to situations, and I plan to adopt this mentality when working alongside my colleagues in our start up project. As someone taking a technical role in our group, learning how Noyce bridged the gap between business and technology really resonated with me.
Noyce’s genius and innovation then later led him to start Intel, where he persuaded a team of colleagues to produce the first programmable computer chip for the mass market. While he is known for the creation of the microchip, he may be even more famous for pioneering the psychology of Silicon Valley. He forged the template for the behavior of any tech company C.E.O. such as the young pioneers of Google. They adopted his free and easy attitude, encouraging their employees to look into projects that may seem simple or silly. I have always been a very open minded individual, and having an employer give ample latitude and support would allow me to be the best engineer I could be. Reading Noyce’s story really opened my eyes in the world beyond just sitting at a computer. His qualities are tuned to the success of the technical and business world, and I see a lot of Noyce’s attributes in myself.
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