Tim Burgess, European marketing manager at Renesas Electronics, talks to Steve Rogerson in our series of interviews for CIEonline. Burgess joined Hitachi in 2000 in the days before the 2003 merger with Mitsubishi that formed Renesas, initially working in Maidenhead in the UK before moving to Munich in June last year in his current role as European marketing manager for the company’s industrial and communications business unit.
Before that, he worked for Toshiba Electronics, a company he joined in April 1989 as an ASIC applications engineer and was promoted numerous times before becoming manager of the consumer, industrial and automotive business unit in Camberley, UK. His first job after leaving Plymouth Polytechnic in 1984 with an honours degree in communications engineering was as a senior engineer at Plessey in Maidenhead after gong on the company’s graduate training programme.
He is a drummer and pianist and played for two rock and blues bands when he was based in the UK. He likes to keep fit in the gym at least once a week and loves hiking in the mountains.
1. What changes did you see in the way Renesas operates following the takeover of NEC?
It wasn’t a takeover, it was a merger. There were not any fundamental changes but there has been some restructuring since. We had slightly different corporate philosophies and product lines that had to come together. We also had to reassure customers so they knew the product lines wouldn’t be neglected or interrupted. It was an uncertain time for them and we had to reassure them that their investments would be safe.
It was a bit similar in 2003 when we and Mitsubishi came together, so we had been there before and knew how to do it.
2. Why did you switch from pure engineering to marketing and did you ever consider a career as a musician?
When I worked in engineering, I was involved with the marketing contacts from our customers. I was doing ASIC design and interfacing with the ASIC marketing people and I saw that role was exciting. There are better engineers than me, but I enjoy the customer contact and I thought I could bring value to that. Translating engineering into what customers do I felt I was more suited to. It played to my strengths of getting out and about and working with customers on their problems. Doing straight engineering wasn’t suited to me. And you got a company car in marketing.
I loved music but I wasn’t good enough to make a career out of it. Playing once a month is fun but being creative with music eight hours every day is a difficult thing. Just doing it once or twice a month, I could enjoy it. To make it to the level to make enough money to live reasonably is quite difficult. But I still do it as a hobby. And coming home and thrashing a drum kit is very therapeutic.
3. How important will be the emergence of the internet of things for the microcontroller market?
The internet of things means many things to many different people. We interpret it as being all about connectivity and it is already with us today. Things are getting hooked up to the internet; it is a massive growth area, especially for the combination of microcontrollers and RF. You connect things together and then have to do something useful with that and it is microcontrollers that are doing the intelligence. It is an important business area for us.
The growth in microcontrollers is exploding. They are even talking about putting microcontrollers into clothing so the washing machine can detect what programme it should be on. You can also get more information on your energy usage from your different appliances.
The key is to understand the business model and how to make money. It might not be just hardware but some sort of service as well based on the data you get. There is a lot of hype at the moment but it is growing every day. There are a lot of practical benefits.
4. What’s the most interesting mountain that you’ve walked up and why?
I think it was Carrauntoohil, the highest one in Ireland. It was interesting because many of the other ones such as Ben Nevis and so on have so many people walking up them. Carrauntoohil was lovely because it was more remote, there were not so many people and the paths were not so worn. It was also more of a challenge to find your way because you could easily go wrong. It was not technically challenging because these are hikes, not climbing.
5. What are the difficulties associated with working in Europe for a company that is headquartered in Japan?
There is the physical one of the time difference. It is seven hours in the summer and eight hours in the winter. It is more of a problem for them because we come online at the end of their day so they have to work longer to support us.
The other is the communications because the languages are very different. You have to work to make sure messages are clear and understood. In your own language with a phone call you can quickly hone in on what the problem is. However, most of our counterparts over there speak English, but there is still a problem.
There are great benefits though because once your message is understood, the support and commitment is a lot better than you get with an American company.