Lessons From West Point Shape TSMC Leader

After graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Rick Cassidy received a bit of wisdom from a friend’s father. “Let me share the secret of success: It’s taking care of your men.”

Cassidy heeded that advice. As president of TSMC North America, Cassidy strives to support his team and give them the tools that they need in order to thrive.

Founded in 1987 by Morris Chang, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSM) is headquartered in Hsinchu, Taiwan. It’s the world’s third-largest semiconductor company.

Cassidy, 63, has run its North American business, based in San Jose, Calif., since early 2005. He joined the firm in 1997 as a vice president.

“A leader’s job is to figure out the obstacles that your people face and to remove those obstacles so that they can run as fast as they possibly can run,” Cassidy said.

The Power To Persevere

In 2012, TSMC sought to meet surging chip demand by ramping up production. That set in motion $2 billion in capital spending.

“Facing overwhelming demand for our products, we rallied as a company and tripled our capacity,” Cassidy said.

TSMC’s leadership team seeks to empower its workforce of over 41,000. Roughly 1,700 of them have PhDs, so part of the challenge is unleashing everyone’s intellectual firepower.

When a manager at a TSMC manufacturing facility realized that the loading dock lacked sufficient space to transport huge scientific instruments into the building, he cut into a wall to create a wider berth. Moving machinery thus became easier.

The manager’s bold action embodies another lesson that Cassidy learned at West Point: Persevere to overcome challenges. He seeks to instill that mentality in his team.

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“You were taught, ‘Never fail,'” he recalled. “You have to have the mental fortitude to keep after it.”

TSMC’s core values — integrity, commitment, innovation and customer trust — cascade down from its senior leadership. Cassidy credits Chang, TSMC’s founder, for emphasizing what matters most.

“Our chairman (Chang) reinforces our values,” Cassidy said. “They’re infused in all our employees. It’s a message repeated almost like a mantra.”

TSMC confers with its customers on chip designs. This collaborative process often begins years before TSMC’s manufacturing begins.

“We’re just a foundry, so we don’t compete with our customers, partners and suppliers,” Cassidy said. “It keeps our heads clean and our hearts pure. We’ve got a singular focus on our customers and their success.”

By involving design partners in what TSMC calls “a grand alliance,” the company offers an open innovation platform that spurs teamwork. Amid increasing complexity, the company seeks to develop a robust ecosystem that begets cutting-edge products.

This business model reflects yet another lesson that Cassidy took away from West Point.

“In the military, it’s usually a ‘you win, they lose’ kind of deal,” he said. “It’s fighting over pieces of the pie. Here, the pie is bigger for everybody, so it’s a win-win.”

View more information: https://www.investors.com/news/management/managing-for-success/tsm-executive-rick-cassidy-partners-with-customers/

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