Get to Know the CEO showcases some of the faces of our member companies, what they’re working on outside of work and the wisdom they have to impart on others in the industry. This month we interviewed Stephen Rothrock, President, CEO and Founder of ATREG, Inc.
What personal projects will you be working on this weekend? (are you building anything cool? Any electronics or software projects, for example)
We are currently building a small guesthouse in our backyard to accommodate friends and family when they come to visit. I like this little house project and the idea of a living with a smaller footprint. I am thinking about how technology can help improve the quality of our lives. I am wondering how I can live and work with less, especially now we are all spending more time working from home. The pandemic has made me more aware of the impact work has on family life. Watching my family work up close during this time has helped me reflect on how technology enhances our lives and how it interferes with the things we care about.
What advice would you give to early career engineers/people wanting to get into your vertical market/people wanting to start a company in the current climate, etc.? (You do not need to answer each of these, please select the one you prefer to answer and delete the others)
Pay attention to choosing your team or in selecting the team you will be working with, and what opportunities you will have to learn and grow. How do the leaders act? These things are important.
What was your first job in the industry?
My first job in the industry was selling Matsushita’s 200mm wafer fab located in Puyallup, Washington, near Seattle.
What advice would you give to your younger self? OR what advice do you wish you had when you graduated?
Read and listen a lot, and in general seek to understand before being understood. These are the things that will help you learn in any industry. Then you need to be bold and do things you care about. Also, as I tell my kids, don’t be afraid of failing, you learn a lot when you fail.
Who was (or is) your mentor? And, what is the best piece of advice you received from him/her?
My Dad was a very positive person and always saw the glass half full. His optimism gave us a strong sense of optimism and resilience. I was also very lucky to have worked in London at Savills, a UK brokerage group. The company instilled a strong team culture during that period. That experience made me think about the kind of team I wanted to lead. Right now, I am taking a lot of lessons from the younger people on our team, including my daughter who’s been with us over seven years. Learning from them, I now understand that our industry would really benefit from being more representative.
What personal technology could you not be without? (i.e., mobile phone, laptop, Alexa/Google Assistant, Oculus headset, exercise tracker, Peloton, etc.)
My mobile phone still gives me an incredible set of tools for my day-to-day work. The demise of Blackberry remains a huge disappointment to me! Zoom has allowed us to maintain an effective global presence without needing to spend so much time on the road. We have always used calls like this effectively, and now we see our clients and our team taking this to a new level. Of course, nothing replaces meeting in person when it is called for and we are now much clearer about under which circumstances that really makes a difference.
What book do you read over and over again? OR what book are you currently reading?
I set myself a goal of reading more fiction and on the same theme of learning from young people. I have a novel called Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart on my nightstand. It’s about a boy growing up with his alcoholic mother in 1980s post-industrial working-class Glasgow. I’m also digging into Caro’s recent autobiography on Lyndon Johnson.
What has been the highlight of your career to date?
I remain proud of the transactions the ATREG team has completed that keep semiconductor fabs going and manage to maintain jobs and workforces in local communities. The Texas Instruments’ purchase of Micron’s Lehi, UT fab meant that over 1,000 jobs were preserved. That means a lot.
Who has inspired you most in your life/career?
I am inspired by the members of my family who have devoted their lives and careers to public service, both as professionals and volunteers.
Have you taken up any new hobbies during the pandemic?
The pandemic allowed me to read more and like many others, I watched some really great television. I did not grow up watching soccer, but since my kids started playing, I have become an avid soccer fan, including both MLS and the Premier League. Best of all, during the pandemic I became a grandfather which is hands down the best hobby ever.
Who is your favorite musician, writer, or artist?
This is betraying my age, but I came of age in an era of some great musicians. I still have a very soft spot for James Taylor and my family indulged me recently with tickets for an outdoor concert in New York on the original Woodstock site!
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?
I owe our early business success and legitimacy to Japanese firms (Matsushita, Sony, Fujitsu, NEC, SUMCO) who entrusted ATREG with the disposition of their fabs in five of our first six deals. When we were expanding globally into Japan, I was very uncertain as to whether we would be taken seriously given our American identity. Renesas hired us to sell three of their front-end fabs in 2011 in Japan. In addition to hiring a Vice President for Asia in Tokyo, my wife and two of our five children agreed to relocate there. A six-month only stint, I sold them on. We stayed two years and in the process grew to have great affection for the Japanese culture and established an Asian and global footprint for the company.