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Gene pool engineering for entrepreneurs: Step #2: Define the skill-set necessary to address those risks (7/11)

To address the key risks within the company, the main tool available to a CEO or manager is the hiring of experts who have successfully solved similar problems in the past. In the example above, the mission critical risk involves the engineering of electronic devices, specifically next generation diodes and transistors. By bringing on experts who have experience in designing, fabricating, and testing these devices, the organization increases the likelihood that a new device based on the company’s unique technology can successfully be implemented at scale.

The company should consider hiring multiple engineers with diverse backgrounds to address a key risk area, especially if it is critical to success. The principle guiding this step is the collection of conventional wisdom and experiences across multiple companies and letting them collide in healthy discussions. The more varied the company background of the engineers, the more failures and solutions at disruption they will have seen by the time they all sit around their lunch table in their startup environment. At the same time, each hire must add to this ‘specialized diversity,’ while also fulfilling the functional needs of the organization (it makes no sense to have a diverse team of all vice presidents, for example). In this case, because the other four technical risks are interwoven with R1 (device engineering), we chose to hire a Vice President of Engineering with expertise in that field to oversee the entire project and three additional device engineers with competencies in the major facets of device engineering. For example, an engineer might be a world leader in the computer simulation aspect of semiconductors but weaker in translating the simulations to actual fabrication techniques. Bringing on three experts in this category allows us to balance the total skill-set across the group. It also lets ideas collide from different backgrounds and hopefully get resolved as more compelling and more innovative solutions.

The more varied the company background of the engineers, the more failures and solutions at disruption they will have seen

For ePowersoft, we also consciously built diversity of thought in the devices team by mixing more experienced industry luminaries with younger engineers. While the more inexperienced team members lack the breadth of knowledge provided by the veterans, they can offer a corresponding lack of industry biases and a fresh perspective on a problem. “Been there” or “tried that” can save lots of effort by eliminating experiments that are already known to “not work,” but can also limit experimentation and a bias towards conventional wisdom. A mix of collecting all the mistakes and learnings that have already been made in other organizations (ideally a diverse set of organizations in diverse industries) can combine with the younger folks with bright ideas and lack of institutional bias. Hence, the existing belief systems can, in our view, create a powerful mix to solve new and unique problems. The combination helps ensure we explore the full solution space.

The more inexperienced team members lack the breadth of knowledge provided by the veterans, they can offer a corresponding lack of industry biases and a fresh perspective on a problem

In addition to mixing the age groups, we also sought to mix the backgrounds of the engineers while keeping their proficiencies and competencies complementary. Specifically, we looked for engineers in areas with solar cells, LEDs, transistors, and others. This is because engineers working with these devices employ similar physics and speak a common language. Yet, by being from different fields, they cover a wider set of industries and problems encountered in each. This intersection of multiplicity of application and similarity of language is one of the key goals of gene pool engineering.

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