Merging their way to the top
KLA-Tencor was formed in May of 1997, the product of a high-profile merger between two big names in the semiconductor biz. Based in San Jose, California, KLA-Tencor is the leading manufacturer of equipment used by semiconductor companies to detect and reduce the number of faulty chips. The company sells its systems to nearly all of the world's semiconductor manufacturers, and is currently the top supplier of such systems to the wafer and reticle inspection and optical equipment markets.
Founded in 1975, the KLA side of the merger introduced its RAPID reticle inspection system in the late 1970s. The company went public in 1980, and introduced the WISARD automated wafer inspection system in 1984. In the mid-1980s, KLA escaped the semiconductor slump in the U.S. by expanding its grip on international markets. Pouring money into R&D efforts, the company came out with faster and more powerful products throughout the 1990s. Already an industry leader, KLA's 1997 merger with Tencor Instruments was valued at about $1.3 billion. Tencor was created in 1976 to produce semiconductor measurement and test instruments, and moved into the patterned-wafe inspection market in the late 1980s. Tencor's top products include the Alpha-Step film layer profiler and the Surfscan laser-based particle contamination detector. New products from KLA-Tencor include an automated inspection system for use in the data storage industry, and first process module control solution for copper interconnects, and the most advanced inspection system for in-line wafer monitoring.
Tough times in Asia
In 1998, KLA-Tencor suffered a 200-person layoff, or about a fifth of the company's workforce. Company officials said economic trouble in Asia and problems with Asian chipmakers led to the slump. In Korea, which had represented about 10 percent of KLA-Tencor's business, sales nearly disappeared. But KLA-Tencor officials say that sales bottomed out in September 1998. By early 1999, the company said it was back on track and expecting new sales based on upgrades in chip design and manufacturing.
In 2000 KLA-Tencor went on a buying spree, acquiring Finle Technologies, software developer Acme Systems Inc., Ultrapointe, and Fab Solutions. Combined these new acquisitions will enable KLA-Tencor to help manufacturers improve device yields, respond to parametric data, make adjustments, and maximize performance.
Trouble in San Jose
KLA-Tencor can't seem to keep away from the courthouse, as it is now engaged in another lawsuit with semi-conductor equipment supplier Therma-Wave Inc. KLA-Tencore instigated the series of lawsuits in 1998, alleging patent infringment. Therma-Wave responded with a counterclaim, which is still pending. Then KLA-Tencore filed another claim for a different patent in 1999. Now Therma-Wave has turned the tables, and filed suit again KLA-Tencor for patent infringement. The case has not yet been settled.
KLA-Tencor looks for smart and adventurous people, who want to work on something that's never been done before. Visit the "Careers" section of the company web site for details on openings, qualifications, and the current college recruiting schedule. Applicants can send or fax resumes to the San Jose headquarters, though the company prefers resumes submitted online, via the web site.
Hard work, sweet rewards
Working for KLA-Tencor is hard, but most agree, it's worth it. "It's by no means an easy place to work, people sometimes burn out, but it is an exciting place with really top-notch people," one insider reports. "I think it's a great place to work, and I highly recommend it." Another employee notes: "We work hard, but the rewards here for doing a good job are great. There are lots of recognition programs, and we're more than adequately compensated for our efforts - including pay on the high end of the scale, an excellent benefits package, and world class profit sharing."
Party down on Halloween
Though most employees work 10+ hours per day, the company maintains a laid-back culture that wins kudos from employees. "We work hard and play very hard too (our Halloween parties are epic!)" a contact gushes. Another notes, "if I had to describe the company culture in a few words, they'd be unique, exciting, flexible, interesting, and friendly. If you like working for a company that is vast in cultural, ethnic, and knowledge resources, we're the place for you."
Pros and cons of a global profile
On the subject of a global work force, employees report strong ethnic diversity. However, one notes, "there are lots of minorities working here, but probably not enough women in upper management positions, which is something we are working hard at fixing." KLA-Tencor's recent global expansion has caused problems for some, insiders report. "As do all fast-growing companies, we have our share of problems. We seem to have a very hard time managing our growth; many of our basic business practices are antiquated and just don't work well. We continue to organize and re-organize, which can be hard on employees." However, proving that growing pains have been kept to a minimum, the same person notes: "All in all, I think KLA-Tencor is a great place to work. The technology is fascinating and the people are very hard working and dedicated. I would recommend it to anyone." Perks include top-notch benefits packages, 401(k) plans, stock options, and abundant travel opportunities.
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