The Ideal Mix for Employees

A recent article in the Israeli business magazine Globes addressed some of the challenges that are currently facing Intel, including losing its lead in the chip market, CEO churn, and a lagging share price compared to its competitors.

While the article focused on the role that the Israel branch of Intel’s R&D and manufacturing arms can play in Intel’s revival, we at Ethernity Networks paid special attention to the section of the article that dealt with one particular issue that has plagued large corporations of late – employee retention and defections.

These corporate giants have been bleeding their best engineers to fierce demand from not only other technology giants, but also from well-established yet smaller companies like Ethernity Networks.

And why not? When you consider the many benefits of working for a dynamic company such as Ethernity over a massive corporation, it seems pretty obvious.

For example, in larger companies, most junior employees are given a specific set of tasks, which they perform with no knowledge of how their work will ultimately be integrated into the larger project. As one person quoted in the Globes article said, “Amazon pays great, but in the end, you’re a small cog in the machine, without global impact. Anyone who goes to work at Google’s hardware division in Israel deals with a very narrow aspect of cloud CPUs.”

Ethernity, on the other hand, offers an environment in which its employees interact with a variety of different disciplines and responsibilities, touching on all the aspects of a global project. Furthermore, our employees are part of the whole product development cycle and not limited to just their individual tasks, so they see the bigger picture and how their piece fits into the entire project and into Ethernity’s range of strategic offerings. This leads to an enhanced knowledge base that incorporates a wider set of skills than just the core competencies that are built in a massive corporation.

This exposure to all the company’s departments and the cooperation with those departments broadens the scope of possibilities for the employees’ career paths, such that the workers have more say in the direction they take. When it is clear that the employees’ talents lie more in one discipline over the original department into which they were hired, it is much more likely that the company will encourage that development and take advantage of it.

As the Globes article mentioned, “Today… long-standing employees are leaving Intel, equipped with specific, narrow expertise and without the tools to help them integrate into other companies. ‘What people have absorbed there, over 10-15 years, doesn’t really match what can be absorbed at other companies for that time…’”

When employees are not limited in their development by being compartmentalized, it leads to the potential for quicker advancement through the ranks of the company. At Ethernity, our employees’ contributions are far more noticeable and recognized, both because the work can stand out in a company of dozens of employees much more so than in a company of thousands, and because the company’s management is hands-on and can see their work firsthand.

To quote the Globes article once again, “…the sheer size of the company sometimes makes it difficult to move quickly, and when one division head gets replaced by another, it’s like a body that’s had its head replaced.”

But it’s not only junior workers who benefit from working at a smaller, more family-like company such as Ethernity. More veteran, senior employees will often find that they yearn to work in an all-inclusive, broad-minded environment where employees are not “just a number” but rather part of the team (or even the entire Ethernity “family”). They seek rewards packages that are more flexible because the hiring company does not fit all its employees into a single employment contract mold.

Interestingly, Ethernity is also in a bit of a sweet spot when it comes to the potential for employees to cash in on company options compared to younger startups. Whereas options in a startup have no real value when an employee leaves the company, rather only being worth something should the startup go public or be bought, Ethernity is already a publicly traded company.  Ethernity’s options, when granted, are based on current market prices and can be exercised and converted into marketable shares, offering employees the possibility of significantly enhancing their full compensation package. Furthermore, as the employees contribute toward growing the market share of Ethernity’s unique and exciting offerings, the Company’s share price on the London Stock Exchange grows exponentially adding “super growth” to the share price at a far greater rate than that of the giants such as Intel. Employees therefore build their worth as Ethernity’s value grows.

Another aspect of the work that plays to Ethernity’s advantage is the work-life balance. Startups are notorious for overworking their employees to the point of burnout, but there are more modern frustrations for managers at today’s massive corporations, ones that simply never existed until recently. There is, in large part, a sense of entitlement among some of today’s junior staff that can interfere with a manager’s ability to lead properly.  For example, Noam Bardin, the former CEO of Waze, recently commented on his experience after the company was acquired by Google, by saying “Having trouble scheduling meetings because ‘it’s the new Yoga instructor lesson I cannot miss’ or ‘I’m taking a personal day’ drove me crazy. The worst thing is that this was in line with the policies and norms – I was the weirdo who wanted to push things fast and expected some level of personal sacrifice when needed.”

There is also a better sense of satisfaction in knowing that a job well done has a direct impact on the company’s fortunes as well as improving the fortunes of the company’s customers. As Bardin noted, “At the end of every day, I always ask myself ‘what did I do for our users today?’ This simple exercise helps keep priorities straight. When I found myself avoiding this question because I was embarrassed by the answer, I knew my time was up. I feel we ended up with the worst of both worlds – the challenges of a startup with the constraints of a corporation… We start companies to build products that serve people, not to sit in meetings with lawyers. You need to be able to answer the ‘what have I done for our users today’ question with ‘not much but I got promoted’, and be happy with that answer to be successful in Corp-Tech. I guess that’s just not me.”

Let me assure you, Mr. Bardin, it’s not Ethernity either. At Ethernity we reward our staff for their contributions; our employee salaries are not only reviewed annually or upon promotion, but also when employees are recognized for their significant input to a project, for going the extra mile, or for contributing outside of their basic functions. And not just in terms of a pay raise, but bonuses and additional options as well. A smaller company like Ethernity has the HR flexibility to deal with employees on a one-on-one basis instead of via a fixed one-size-fits-all model.

So whether you are an FPGA engineer just starting out on your career or you are an experienced manager in the field looking for new challenges that rekindle the exhilaration of creating something new and exciting in a dynamic environment, think twice before accepting what seems like a cushy offer from the likes of Intel, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, or Nvidia. Be wary of the promises of a startup that may or may not ever be worth anything and where funding uncertainty can shorten your career at the startup significantly.

Ethernity is at the very forefront of the technological edge for its FPGA engineers. We work with the most advanced FPGA system-on-a-chip technology, and our engineers are exposed to full NOC (network-on-a-chip) design, including our network processor and traffic manager, crypto engines, and many of the most exciting new features in the market.

Moving up in the market value chain, the company requires senior software engineers to lead teams developing cloud virtualization drivers and virtual software appliances including router, and integrating with other virtual networking functions like DPI, monitoring, and security. Therefore, the challenges a software engineer faces at Ethernity compare favorably with those found in large corporations, only amid a better working environment and atmosphere than our peers.

The smart play is to work for a company that offers stimulating opportunities in a growth environment at the leading edge, one that has the stability of being well-funded, publicly-listed company on a well-respected stock exchange, where there is a culture that provides the freedom to learn, flourish, and rapidly ascend the ladder that is lacking in the big boys.

In Israel, no tech company represents that ideal mix more than Ethernity.