A number of interesting biographies and management lessons-learned books have come out of Silicon Valley. Some of the most notable probably include Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, Andrew Grove’s Only the Paranoid Survive, and David Packard’s The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company. To list we may be able to add another title by Ray Zinn, founder of chipmaker Micrel. Zinn recently published a memoir that doubles as a handbook on leadership called Tough Things First, Leadership lessons from Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO. Zinn co-founded Micrel in 1978 with his own money and has the distinction of growing it without using any venture capital money.
Zinn’s book might hold particular interest for engineers because Zinn holds 20 patents and is known for “conceptualizing” the wafer stepper machine used to pattern transparent and opaque areas on the surface of a photomask during IC photolithography.
Zinn stepped down in 2015 after Microchip Technology acquired Micrel. Along the way, Zinn had his share of obstacles. On the eve of the company’s IPO, for example, he became legally blind. Nevertheless, he ran the company for another 20 years until Microchip acquired it. He also is credited with steering the company profitably through eight major economic downturns. The year 2002 was the only one in which the company failed to show a profit.
Zinn has the most to say to entrepreneurs “Nobody can be a successful entrepreneur without being willing and excited to find the biggest boulder and make it the first one you hammer into pebbles,” he advises.
This from a guy who, in his seventies, claims he can still do hand stands.
Filed Under: Motors • stepper