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Get To Know: Mark Lippett, CEO, XMOS

Get To Know: Mark Lippett, CEO, XMOS

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We caught up with Mark Lippett, CEO, XMOS, to find out what makes him tick…

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

I’ve always worked in teams, so it’s more difficult to pick out individual achievements. But XMOS has been a great success – it’s a growing company, and we’re moving it from a niche provider to a mainstream tech company with huge opportunity. Helping the team achieve that has been a tremendous experience.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

My father was a technologist and I’ve always been inspired by his ability to make things work. As a result, I’ve always been one of those people that takes things apart to see how they work and (sometimes) put them back together again. As a result, I had more mains electric shocks than I could count by the age of 10!

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

It’s a cliché to say you need to employ great people and get out of their way, but I do believe that. I’m all about facilitation – helping people to do their thing the best way possible. But I would add that while you need great people, you also need to give them a compelling vision to aim for and then to keep them safe – both psychologically and, just as importantly now, physically.

What do you think has emerged as the technology trend of 2020 and why?

For obvious reasons, we’ve seen a huge uptick in the use of touchless, contactless and voice technology, particularly for anything that traditionally has lots of people touching the same thing, for example taps and soap dispensers in public toilets. These trends are, in turn, also driving the need for more intelligence in endpoint devices to make them work seamlessly. Alongside voice assistants, we’re now talking about embedding intelligence into more devices that surround us every day, so that we can truly use voice, alongside other sensor technologies, as a control interface in a much more diverse set of applications.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

Again, for obvious reasons, the industry is seeing a lot more investment in infrastructure that allows people to work remotely. We are also seeing significant investment in making office spaces feel safer and more secure through voice-activated and AI technology. With xcore.ai, our latest crossover processor for the AIoT, we’re making AI tech accessible to a wider design community that, until now, hasn’t experienced it or been able to access it. XMOS is making it easy and affordable for embedded systems designers in a huge range of sectors to incorporate AI in their products, through economical componnents, software development kits and more.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside of the office?

Because I always like to work with my hands (I’ve never got out of that habit of taking things apart and making things), I always have my own project going on, whether it’s DIY or some kind of woodwork. I’m not an expert so I have to learn how to do it properly, but it gives me a nice escape to be in that world for an hour or two here and there.

If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?

I don’t tend to look back on anything with regret, but if I had to choose, I would have liked to have started my own company earlier. At the time, I felt I needed to do a stint in other people’s companies – but actually that’s not true. If you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s better to just get on with it and learn as you go.

What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Europe?

Technology in the west is a more mature business, especially with semiconductors. The excitement from the investment community is currently more muted. In China, however, semiconductor technology is just as exciting as fintech is in the west now. It’s easier to raise capital in China for semiconductor tech than it is in the west, where attitudes are a little more conservative. That said, it is a cycle. With the focus on software, it has been taken for granted that hardware will be able to deliver, but we’re coming to the end of that assumption. Now, there will be an inevitable refocus on hardware, driven by the demands of AI.

What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?

My role as CEO has not changed in terms of content but the manner in which I carry out my work has undergone a big change. The inability to travel, for example, has had a huge impact. Normally, I would spend a third of my time travelling – always meeting people – and while you may have an ‘anchor’ meeting that is the purpose of your trip, there are always other meetings you have around those. But those ‘incidental’ meetings often end up being the most important ones. Now though, all that has been replaced by Zoom, and it’s more difficult to convey empathy and earn people’s trust across video conferencing. Zoom facilitates more transactional conversations – not building trust.

What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?

There is a limit to how much you can learn about being an entrepreneur when you’re a small part in a big company, so my advice would be to just crack on and be an entrepreneur. And when you become one, you’ve got be hungry to learn and seek out new experiences to learn from. Also surround yourself with good coaches and mentors because every now and again you need people to ground you. We entrepreneurs do tend to be wildly optimistic at times, and coaches are key to bringing a level of sanity to our thinking.

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