Sergio Galbiati

Hubruzzo / Sergio Galbiati

The doubt, listening and the urge to make connections between abstract and concrete

Sergio Galbiati, Vice President of Lfoundry Avezzano

When I was a kid I used to be so very thankful when I could grasp the profound connection between abstract concepts and concrete situations.

The enthusiasm of finding unusual concatenations brought me to emotional excesses. I used to express all my happiness to my professors and classmates. I could perceive Archimedes’ marvel when he had transformed his intuitions into shouting ”Eureka!”

Then one day, I got a real gut punch from a friend of mine, who told me: «” Do you really think to have an answer for everything? No doubts? It wouldn’t hurt you to learn a little humility!”. By nature I had always been introverted. Why such a spiteful disapproval?

For years I have been thinking about that moment. A lesson that influenced my attitude when I became a businessman and a team leader:

«Your noblest intentions can be misunderstood. Your enthusiasm could turn against you. When you take on something challenging, don’t take for granted that the journey will be exciting for your companions. Listen to them and question yourself. Above all, do not ask to others what you would not do in first person ». These were the considerations that I developed after that gut punch.

I had my first experience as team leader when I was 27 at SGS now STMicroelectronics. But I faced the real challenge in 1989 at the Texas Instruments, after a year spent between Japan and the USA, where I gave my contribution in creating the initial team of 250 Italian engineers and technicians, who, quickly thereafter, would have constituted the team of the headquarters in Avezzano, the largest and most advanced European plant of semiconductors for silicon memory chips.

Since then many things have changed. In 1998 Texas Instruments sold to Micron Technology. I soon became Chief Executive Officer of Micron Technology in Italy. In 2013, however, Micron left the offices in Avezzano: 1500 high-profile people were about to objectively risk loosing their jobs because no significant player were willing to purchase the offices.

Only a very small company named Lfoundry, with a challenging past, stepped up. Micron seemed incredibly willing to proceed with the sale. There was a lot of fear and the confidence in the buyers was low.

What to do? I made a connection from the abstract to the concrete. I asked to my team: “ How would you consider the idea to become co-owners of the plant and take the direct responsibility of its future?”

Lfoundry buyers supported my idea, but they wanted me to be part of the game too. I thought to myself: “Don’t ever ask others to do what you wouldn’t do in first person” and I accepted.

At the beginning my travel companions didn’t seem to be very convinced; and at that moment the lesson of the past was recalled in my memory. I didn’t insist. I listened to their doubts that after all, were mine too. And here the unexpected: the most fragile but also most reflective part of myself had an impact on the team. At that point everyone was part of the game.

So we started Marsica Innovation, in joint venture with Lfoundry and we purchased the plant in Avezzano from Micron, engaging all the first level managers as shareholders, selling 2% of the shareholding to each of them, committing ourselves to sharing all the future benefits deriving from the industrial success of the operation with all the employees.

In 2016 Lfoundry received the purchase request from SMIC, Chinese industrial colossus, stabilising the jobs of 1500 managers, engineers, technicians and operators, becoming the most important centre in the world for the production of image sensors.

John Nash stated that the equilibrium is obtained when each of us searches what is the best for ourselves as single persons and for the group. I have been spending my life listening to my group, without never asking them to do what I wouldn’t have done in first person, finding connections between abstract and concrete, often telling myself: “No doubt? Then there is a problem”.