Second time's the charm
Dallas Semiconductor was created by four top execs from the now-defunct DRAM chip maker Mostek Corp. With a very small series of products and an even smaller set of customers, Mostek was forced to shut down in 1981. CEO Vincent Prothro and his colleagues learned from their mistakes, and went on to create a much more diverse business. Dallas Semiconductor has introduced more than 300 products in 16 years, including devices used in computers, telecommunications systems, electronic security, and industrial equipment. DS also has a much wider customer base than its predecessor - serving more than 15,000 customers compared to the five served by Mostek. For this reason, the company has managed to stay healthy amid volatility in the chip industry. According to observers on Wall Street, DS's broad base will enable it to weather the storm.
The company's present strategy is to concentrate on the production of devices with higher profit margins and longer shelf lives. Until 1997, DS's PC clock devices had been a bestseller. But when Intel included timekeeping in its chips, DS needed to find new product lines to promote. With the upsurge in Internet data transmission, DS has been enjoying brisk sales of its T1/E1 switches. T1/E1 sales have been climbing, but the company is not totally dependent on them. Sales have increased in all major categories thanks to the new products coming from DS's development team. Cell phone battery packs, CPU supervisors, temperature sensors, silicon timed circuits, and digital potentiometers are examples of DS's other products that have the company on pace for record revenues in 2000.
DS's iButton is another promising line. Introduced in 1992, the iButton is a small device that looks like a watch battery - it contains an 8-bit microprocessor, a co-processor, and memory. It encrypts and stores information, and boasts multiple applications. One application is making remote Internet connections between two users of the technology safer. Widespread use of the iButton in PCs could also lead to increased e-commerce, enabling credit card numbers to be transferred without worry. The technology is already in use in countries including Turkey, Argentina, and Russia as a memory device that stores cash electronically for small transactions. It is employed for mass transit systems, parking meters, gas pumps, and vending machines. In the U.S., the postal service plans to use the iButton to replace the current postal meters that companies lease to stamp their mail. Eventually, business customers would be able to refill their meters over the Internet. iButtons may also be installed in wallets to be used instead of cash and in jewelry as security passes and identification bands. They are also used as high-tech "Medic-Alert bracelets," to store important medical information in case of an emergency.
DS expects this technology to surpass the performance of the Smartcard, which has had limited success in North America. The iButton is more durable, contains a real-time clock to monitor transactions, and contains security provisions to prevent unauthorized access to stored information. The company released an updated version, called the Crypto iButton, in March 1998. The iButton contributed significantly to company sales by 2000.
In May 2000 DS introduced a new multi-supply micromonitor, the DS1831. The product facilitates control over individual power supplies in multi-voltage systems by monitoring four system voltages simultaneously.
Resumes and cover letters may be sent to Dallas Semiconductor's staffing department via e-mail or regular post. DS also recruits on college campuses.
The interview process varies from one department to another, but in general, prospective hires meet with different people from a specific group. There is usually "one escort -- whose responsibility is to take you around to the different people and most likely take you to lunch." For engineering positions, "the interview process is a bit more on the stressful side," and includes "several technical sessions with several people." But sources say interviewers "are more interested in finding out how candidates go about solving problems they do not know the answers to." Another source notes that "since we basically hire right from college, we don't expect a person to have a large skills matrix from which to draw."
Appreciate your manager
DS employees say they love working in this "highly technical," "very entrepreneurial" environment where "the CEO, CFO, and upper-level managers are still very much involved in the everyday activities of the company." Insiders say "there is no micromanagement," and appreciate the fact that their "ideas are considered very seriously." "There's not really a rat-race mentality," explains one insider, "because the company has been growing quickly and there are always opportunities for people to move up if they're ready." Though the whole industry has been hard hit by the Asian crisis, employees feel pretty secure that DS will ride it out. "They have a very conservative financial and marketing plan," one insider remarks, "and they stick to it." Instead of laying off workers, "DS simply scaled back production and cut expenses by making factory operations more efficient."
Flexible hours and dress
The Dallas HQ is on a 40-acre campus with more than 20 buildings -- "depending on what your job is, you might make a habit of going to at least five or six of those every day." Work hours are flexible, and "Dallas tries to work around any reasonable time conflicts like school or family issues." Official work hours for engineers are 8-5, but in general "the latest they come in is 10, and no one leaves before 2 p.m." The corporate culture is "relaxed for the high-tech talent," and the dress code is comparable. Those in research and development are "definitely not suit and tie." "Jeans are fine," and one source reports seeing co-workers in shorts. Employees in the corporate and marketing departments dress more formally.
Superb benefits = loyalty
Employees enjoy "really great" benefits, including 401(k) with 6 percent matching, profit sharing, stock options, and relocation assistance. One source who's been around the high-tech loop says "I have been treated with so much more respect and freedom here that I have stayed for three years." Salaries are "comparable to other companies in the industry."
Trouble in the diversity deparment
"I found that women and minorities were not treated especially well," says one source from the Dallas HQ. Though there are many female engineers and several female managers, "there are no women above the director level." As for ethnic minorities, sources say they "interact with people from all over the world every day." Not surprisingly, however, "there is only one minority SVP" in the Dallas office. Considering there are more than 1,500 employees, "that ratio is not the best."
4401 S. Beltwood Parkway
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