Markt&Technik: Georg Steinberger, the concept of the new electronica Experience, as the name indicates, is aimed at letting us experience employers with their products. What is Avnet actually planning?
Steinberger: We want to make the sense, the meaning of engineering and technology understandable. Why is there a lack of engineers? The course of study is very hard compared to other disciplines. And at the same time we’re competing with role models, you might call them, like YouTube. Today’s millennials or generation Y are more or less inseparable from their smartphones, but cannot appreciate the brilliance within them. For them it’s the application, the app that’s important. We want to counteract this at the electronica. At electronica Experience we have a booth and 50 square meters of demonstration space on which we want to show technology. It’ll probably be applications from robotics, that’s what we’re currently arranging with our customers. Plus start-ups with whom we’re cooperating in part very closely from idea through to mass product. Robotics is very suitable because there are already many applications, and it’s not as abstract as internet of things, where use-case theories still dominate.
The intention besides experiencing technology is to illustrate career opportunities. Is the saying “once distribution, always distribution” still true? EBV was always the exception to the rule for instance, known for the fact that its field application engineers can always speak on a par with developers.
EBV is just one of our business units, but the same applies throughout Avnet. If we’re looking for field application engineers and technical competence, we don’t necessarily seek only school-leavers or university graduates but also experienced professionals who were engaged in a customer’s application development. They can advise the customer better than someone straight from university. And yes, there are cases where someone moves back from us to the producer. In the last two years alone producers have wooed away field application engineers from distribution. So I’d no longer underwrite the old headhunter saying. A field application engineer isn’t an “engineer light” but has the possibility in distribution of spanning a whole bandwidth of technologies and applications. Perhaps they don’t always have the same depth as a developer, of course. But the technical background together with experience from many customer projects make them attractive for industry.
What kind of profile, what skills are interesting for Avnet?
In addition to competence in technical detail, our engineers also need a great deal of commercial feel. They must understand the customer’s market if they’re to make the right recommendation. Avnet is an interesting employer, but for many still an unknown giant on the market. So we’re also using electronica Experience for employer branding. Momentarily we’re considering together with human resources whether we should even leave our booth entirely in the hands of trainees and young professionals. To ensure that people who call by are addressed in the right way to convey our message. It would take a little more effort but it’s well worth trying.
You criticize electronics as being much too masculine.
Yes, in women I see the best leverage for more skilled personnel. At the forum as part of electronica Experience we’ll have a number of slots. One will deal with the internet of things; here we need someone who can make this clear, describe it to young people. For the second slot I imagine a female engineer who can put over how thrilling our industry can be for women. How a woman can make a career. What the conditions are for equal opportunities. We want to reach the women who don’t want to become a lipstick millionairess on Instagram. Instead those who can be fascinated by technology. Of course we won’t reverse the lack of women in our sector just by one electronica. If two, three or maybe four later take up a technical profession we’ve achieved something.
Avnet is a diamond sponsor at electronica Fast Forward. What’s the Avnet position on start-ups?
Start-ups are important, at Avnet Silica and EBV Elektronik there are start-up initiatives. We have people who take care of enterprises with potential. These can be start-ups or small businesses. As long as they’ve got a good idea that they want to take to market. As part of Fast Forward we’re starting our international design contest called “Board Games”. For participants there are 450 free development kits. The best ideas aren’t only awarded prizes, they may also be further developed with our assistance to create a product. Our initiative is running for a longish term but maybe we can already present one or the other promising candidate at the electronica. As a distributor we want to support the customer from the idea through to the end-product.