What I learned from the Global Semiconductor Supply Chain Summit as a Management Student

Alie Tarawally

Alie Tarawally

Guest Writer

On 24th February 2023, which was a pleasant and sunny Friday afternoon, the Downtown area of Phoenix, Arizona, which is the #1 School of International Trade 2023- as recently ranked by QS-, Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University hosted a diversified group of business and industry professionals from the semiconductor and chip industry to spark conversations among the opportunities and challenges in the Semiconductor Supply Chain, which was courtesy of the Global Chambers and its partners. As this presented a great platform for students to meet and network with high-caliber industry professionals, it was equally an opportunity to learn about what is probably the most tech-advanced industry on the planet and how the state of Arizona is emerging as a global leader in what is arguably the fastest growing industrial market in the U.S.

What is transpiring in the chip industry right now is one exciting time in the state’s history, especially with last year’s announcement by the leading manufacturer of the most advanced chips made anywhere in the world: The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). TSMC invested $40 Billion in constructing its new manufacturing plant in Phoenix, Arizona. The state has had a long history with semiconductors, predating the 1940s when Motorola built its first plant in Arizona; today, over a hundred semiconductor companies are working in the chip business in Arizona. The good news is that this creates opportunities for not only the most brilliant engineers at the forefront but for business and management students like students in many other disciplines and me. The industry is complex to the point that there are a bunch of other companies who are not working in the manufacturing or designing of chips but specialize in other areas of the processes of developing the chips, either in the construction of sophisticated plants or production and recycling of water that is used for the manufacturing purposes, etc. There are opportunities for business and corporate leaders, lobbyists, negotiators, carpenters, construction workers, supply chain and procurement analysts, strategy, management, sustainability experts, and even communication specialists, along with many other technical and non-technical opportunities. 

While the state, through its successive leadership over the years, has lobbied and granted incentives as well as reduced taxes to encourage companies in the industry to bring their businesses down to the valley, one major point of concern was the springboard for developing the talent needed to run a complex industry like semiconductors as well as for its R&D. There comes the opportunity for Arizona State University with its Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, having over 30,000 engineering students specializing in diverse engineering fields. The school has, over the years, consolidated its position as a leading innovation hub in the United States. The industry of Semiconductor does not entirely depend on engineering expertise to excel but on a good business model, strategic corporate decisions, and global savviness, as was emphasized by Co-founder of American Battery Factory Paul Charles, who joined the summit via Zoom. He stated that it is good that a respectable business school like Thunderbird School of Global Management is hosting the 2023 Global Semiconductor Supply-Chain Summit, an industry that depends largely on global partnerships and international corporations to succeed. Currently, no one nation or company has all the capabilities in this industry, and even the most advanced chip manufacturing company, TSMC, depends on ASML in the Netherlands as the only company in the world that develops the lithography machines used by chipmakers to produce computer chips and circuits and the designing technology also comes mostly from the United States. Therefore, global business leaders play quite a significant role in not only negotiating deals or providing cutting-edge strategies but in the overall running and management of what has emerged as the world’s most critical resources. Therefore, a school like Thunderbird, with preeminence in global trade and one of the largest alumni networks in the world, is perfectly positioned to provide corporate expertise to companies in the industry. 

With my team in the class Global Corporate Strategy, we had a project wherein we were to analyze AMD’s acquisition of Xilinx. Professor Andrew Inkpen tasked us to examine the strategic necessity of the deal to figure out complimentary synergies (if any) and shareholder positions in terms of equity and the risks associated with the acquisition. This project, coupled with my interest in learning about chips and the semiconductor summit hosted at my school, further expanded my knowledge of the growing influence of chips as a national treasure and how its market is projected to hit a trillion dollars in this decade from $400 billion with growing investment and interest in EVs. As much as it is used in the production process of many things we use daily, chips with the help of AI are influencing the technological advancement of sophisticated military equipment and intelligence systems with supercomputers developed through the help of some of the most advanced chips on the planet. It is therefore going to be a key player in geopolitical policies and strategy in years and decades to come.

Thunderbird School of Global Management’s Dean, Dr. Sanjeev Khagram, was in the sky from Cape Verde during the conference but took his time to share his welcoming note to all guests at the Global Forum at Thunderbird and urged everyone, especially international participants who flew from countries like Japan, Angola, Taiwan, Singapore and from other states in the U.S to enjoy our state-of-the-art facilities at Thunderbird. Together with my colleagues Jack Wang (Taiwan), Matthew Pepper (US), Michio Kuroda ( Japan), Yen Lin Liao (Taiwan), and myself from (Sierra Leone), we walked our way down to the Japanese Friendship Garden to enjoy the Japanese hospitality and food as well as to interact with the guests and professionals, of which, a couple were Thunderbird alums and were extremely excited to share their journeys and were also curious to hear our experiences. The highlight of the evening was when we engaged with a couple of business leaders and, lastly, took a photo with a T-bird alum from Japan who encouraged us to visit Japan and San Diego, where she currently resides.

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