Texas Instruments: Avenues for IT Advancement
For more than 75 years, Texas Instruments has repeatedly pushed technological boundaries through advances in the application of signal processing. From revolutionizing oil exploration in the 1930s to creating the foundation for modern electronics in the 1950s with the first commercial silicon transistor and the invention of the integrated circuit, all of Texas Instruments’ advances have stemmed from signal processing. In fact, the company’s work in processing and interpreting signals is part of our daily lives—from the single-chip mobile phone solution to cable modems, home theaters, wireless Internet, digital cameras and advanced automotive systems.
As a global provider of signal processing and analog technologies, as well as educational and productivity solutions, and sensors and controls, the company is always creating new products to remain competitive. Texas Instruments’ IT Services organization serves as the foundation for the company’s overall success and provides innovative solutions that allow the company to win with customers and gain market share.
Comprised of four support groups, as well as five technology-specific groups that include business applications, design systems, IT operations, semiconductor business IT, Web solutions and worldwide manufacturing and technology, the IT services organization employs 600 professionals worldwide. Texas Instruments Business Infrastructure Systems Manager Kim Smith is responsible for setting goals and strategies and people development for the business applications sector. “I manage about 90 people and report to the vice president of IT operations. I have six direct report managers who work together to provide IT support companywide for many core business applications including employee e-mail, cell phones, PDAs, intellectual property (IP) phones, conference bridges, director and authentication tools, database administration and reporting application infrastructures,” Smith said. “Each of my managers is responsible for a cost center, and I control the department level finances as well.”
Although Smith specifically manages the business applications sector, she has a hand in developing all of the IT services organization’s employees because the business applications sector is the strategic base for the IT services organization.
Texas Instruments strives to create opportunities for all its 35,000-plus worldwide employees to develop and reach their full potential and achieve their personal goals as well as business goals. And one way the IT services organization creates opportunities is through job rotation. “We have a number of job roles and also allow people to rotate into different areas of responsibilities throughout their careers,” Smith said. “Some of the roles are systems administrators, architects, project managers, business analysts, programmers and developers, Web developers, quality control, business readiness, and finance and accounting. Responsibilities begin with the individual contributor and then go up one of two different paths: technical or managerial.”
An employee on the technical career path begins as an associate of the member group technical staff (MGTS). Employees are promoted to the next staff level—senior member group technical staff (SMTS), distinguished member technical staff (DMTS) and to fellow—through a nomination process. “The election process serves to nominate those who are doing extraordinary in the eyes of their co-workers,” Smith said. “This also serves as a way to honor and reward achievement at Texas Instruments.”
The management career path includes team lead, supervisor, manager and department chair. According to Smith, employees often move from the technical path to the management path or vice versa—depending on where their careers lead them.
Texas Instruments’ IT Services organization seeks potential candidates who are natural leaders as well as technically and interpersonally talented. Smith said that a positive attitude and a good work ethic are critical qualities for prospective employees because the company’s work environment has always been based on integrity, innovation and commitment. At Texas Instruments, employees should be committed to keeping their skills current and competitive by taking the initiative for personal development. “One should never stop growing or learning. We encourage people to take the opportunities to learn in the manner that best works for them and their situation,” Smith said.
Furthermore, because Texas Instruments constantly creates new innovations, the sense of change and new direction extends to its employees as well. The company offers a variety of in-house training courses and uses a variety of different delivery methods—instructor-led, classes via satellite broadcasts or videotape as well as classes online—to encourage employee growth and development. In addition, the IT organization’s technical staff members often cross-train others while on the job because it is important for IT employees to be able to perform a variety of functions.
Employees also are encouraged to attend external conferences and individual courses at local universities and earn higher degrees. Texas Instruments collaborates with several universities to develop courses for its workforce—for either on-site or on-campus delivery. For example, the company previously worked with the University of Texas at Dallas to establish a master’s degree program in organization development and change management. Texas Instruments also offers educational assistance programs and tuition reimbursement.
Internal course curriculums teach employees not only technical proficiency, but also interpersonal skills to improve their ability to work effectively in Texas Instruments’ team environment. In-house training covers a wide range of topics—ranging from ethics to international etiquette, from digital signal processing (DSP) design to database management, from stress management to knowledge-based systems and more.
“Not only are soft skills and project management skills important, they are vital. Relationships and communication are key to our business as well as working through common repeatable processes. Without the soft skills, we would fail regardless of our technical knowledge,” Smith said. “We are finding that all roles and responsibilities require some skills like project management, communication and listening, teaming, collaboration, leadership and presentations—both written and verbal.”
Smith also said that it is critical that IT employees understand the company’s business objectives and customers. Training in ethics is mission-critical because Texas Instruments holds employees fully accountable for their actions and outcomes. International etiquette courses also are strategic because understanding, valuing and leveraging diverse cultural differences and perspectives helps the organization meet and exceed both internal and external customers’ expectations. “We have many people who co-locate with the business customers and meet with them on a regular basis,” Smith explained. “Steering teams are formed and always include business champions so that cross-training can occur. A lot of focus and time is spent on getting the IT professionals knowledgeable of the business including all the intellectual property material they need to understand. Traveling to worldwide sites is also a part of the learning process for many.”
Because Texas Instruments believes that the continued education of its employees adds to its competitive edge as a company, it is no wonder that certification is valued as well. “Industry and technology certifications are a big plus and a differentiator for the individual and can be beneficial to the company as a whole when looked at from the outside in,” she said. “However, with the rapid pace of technology change coupled with the growing need to derive business value directly out of a company’