Gimme Five – Stefan Skarin

Stefan Skarin, chief executive officer at IAR Systems, talks to Steve Rogerson in our series of interviews for CIEonline. Skarin was appointed CEO of Nocom Drift, now IAR Systems, in 2000 after establishing a track record of sales and corporate development in the IT software industry. In 2003, he turned Nocom around from bankruptcy to its best profit in 20 years. He went on to double the company’s profit year over year in 2004 and 2005. In 2005, he acquired IAR Systems and went on to make a further 24 acquisitions and investments in Europe.

Skarin started his career at Ericsson Mobile in 1985 when the Ericsson mobile phone was launched. He moved on to Oracle Nordic starting out as the finance director in 1987. At 29 years old, Skarin became the youngest CEO in Oracle when he became CEO of Oracle Eastern Europe in 1992.

After Oracle, Skarin served as CEO for Interleaf Nordic and then worked as sales director at Adobe, where he established Adobe Finland. His successful sales accomplishments resulted in two personal awards for the two biggest global deals in Adobe’s history.

Skarin has served on the board of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL) in Sweden for three years, global SoL for two years, and is a founding member of Academy for Change. He has also had a number of speaking engagements with organisations including Save the Children International and World Wildlife Fund International in the USA, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

He runs marathons, has a daily meditation routine, travels a lot and is an online addict.

1. Do you think there are too many standards in the embedded industry?

From a customer point of view, there needs to be more simplicity. It is getting more complex, but there are not too many standards. This is part of having a consolidated market – that creates a demand for more standards, but I don’t think there are too many.

The customer can get the knowledge fairly easily, but most under-estimate the effort needed. Take the medical world for example, they are just not aware of the effort needed to understand the standards. It is the same for other industries. It is a question of understanding the standards and how to implement them. Once they do that, it is OK.

But I don’t want more standards; I think there are enough.

In the medical field, the Asian-Pacific countries are looking at the standards in the USA. They want to comply with those so they can be a global company. But there are different regulations in different countries and it is very complex. The standards in Asia-Pacific are very different to those in the USA. They should keep the standards they have and look for ways to have global compliance.

2. Silicon Labs has just bought Energy Micro. Is increasing consolidation in the industry good or bad, and why?

I have been speaking about the fact that there will be more consolidation, especially among the Arm companies. I think there is a need for consolidation. There is a fight to find a niche in the Arm market and for the chip vendors it is hard to find the niche. Energy Micro had a niche, but others are finding it hard.

Many customers want the market to standardise with fewer chips. There is normally a choice of eight to ten microcontrollers out there and they want that down to three or four. We thus haven’t seen the end of consolidation. There are more players that need to join forces in the Arm market. Outside the Arm field, there is less need for consolidation. In the Arm field, the speed of consolidation is speeding up. People are asking who will be next.

3. What is organisational learning?

Organisational learning is where you actually believe that you build your company on continuous learning. You don’t need to recruit more people to bring in expertise. Look at your own organisation and learn from each other. There is a lot of knowledge in an organisation, but it is not that disciplined. It is an untapped market and we should focus on using it.

We try to learn something every day. We have a lot of tools to help us do that in our organisation. If you take the Energy Micro merger, we are looking at what we can learn from that. How does that affect us? Do we need to change what we are doing as a result? We are always learning.

4. How does meditation help you do your job?

It makes me more focussed, more relaxed. I have more energy. In my job, I spend half my time on the road in Japan, the USA, China, Germany, and the meditation helps me focus on what I am doing and not lose my orientation. It also helps me keep up with sleep. Running for an hour is also like meditation. This is my lifestyle and it helps me.

I normally spend between ten minutes and half an hour most days. It depends on opportunities. Sometimes it is twice a day, sometimes less. When you are jetlagged and wake up in the middle of the night, it is a god-given opportunity to meditate. Meditation helps me get over jetlag.

5. Will the increasing use of connectivity cause security and safety problems?

I don’t think so. There will be more need to know how you are connected and that you are connected. One customer told me they thought cars were getting too safe because of all the warnings they give you and we need to stop that trend.

We are getting to the point where your coffee machine knows you are coming. We really need to know how much information we are giving out. If you put something on a person that measures insulin and transmits that to a doctor, then what happens if someone else gets hold of that? Is that a risk? There is a lot of information out there about you as a person, but there is no real risk.

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