Analog Devices and 42 Silicon Valley: A Case Study

Analog Devices: Bridging Digital and Analog

With a focus on bridging the physical and digital worlds to solve the toughest challenges, semiconductor company Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI) is a global innovation leader in the design and manufacturing of analog, mixed-signal, and digital signal processing (DSP) integrated circuits used in virtually all types of electronic equipment. Since their inception in 1965, they have built deep expertise, collaborative problem-solving capabilities, and developed a cutting-edge portfolio of technologies that sense, measure, interpret, connect, power, and secure the world around us. Headquartered in Norwood, Massachusetts, ADI has over 4,700 patents worldwide, 125,000 customers, and a reported revenue of over $6 billion in 2018.

ADI contributes their growth to increasing integration, or putting more and more analog and mixed-signal functionality on a single chip.  The Precision Analog Products (PRA) group at ADI has a campus in San Jose, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. The precision amplifiers and control circuits that the PRA group develops can be found in portable defibrillators, PDAs and laptop computers, MRI and CT scanners, space vehicles, broadband network switches, cellular radio base-stations, sonar and radar systems and in specialized scientific instruments.

In 2018, ADI acquired OtoSense, a specialist in sound recognition via deep learning. Thor Whalen, Director of AI Research, is responsible for the exploration of sound and vibration data and building models that are able to produce meaning from this sound and vibration. This is mainly to do things like categorize sounds, detect sound events, identify outliers, etc. that help customers detect malfunctions or issues well before a potentially catastrophic event occurs. This technology helps improve their productivity, efficiency, and reduce equipment replacement costs or unnecessary routine maintenance.  

Whalen has been involved in the hiring of student interns from 42 Silicon Valley and shared insights into their process and how our students helped fulfill a hiring need.

The Challenge: Streamlining the Intern Hiring Process

ADI employees are driven to solve the toughest challenges for their customers, so they seek top talent who are driven to continuously learn and look beyond the immediate problem to better understand the entire challenge. The technical needs that the company has for interns changes quite often. Thor shared that in his division at ADI they have a reoccurring need for people trained in C, but that frontend (JS) and backend (Python) developers are something they are currently in need of. Whalen explained that before 42, they did what most do, hiring someone and seeing if it worked out during a trial period. That approach wasn’t working that well because they needed more of a screening process. Thor first heard about 42 after they had an intern from France who told him about the school. She mentioned that they may want to check out the students at 42 Silicon Valley and that they would most likely be interested in internships.

The Decision: Recruit Students from 42 Silicon Valley

Thor shared that when they decided to recruit students from 42 Silicon Valley for internships, they were able to develop a better hiring process, “With 42 from the beginning, I started to hire through a process that really worked well for us. I would come to 42 Silicon Valley’s campus and give a quick presentation of what our company was about. Then I  gave a 42 minute “impossible project,” basically something quite hard, essentially to see how they would react, how they would use their time and what choices they’d make. I also asked people to send me their CVs and there was a short list of people who would move on to an 8-hour test. The test is also quite hard but divided into steps, in case some were not able to complete the entire test. I asked them regularly commit their code for  the test on GitHub, with questions on a general slack channel where everyone could see the questions and subsequent answers. We would review the code and see who was interested in the internship.” According to Whalen, most of the time the internships work out and some of the 42 interns ended up moving to regular contracting work or getting hired. He explained that this basically allowed him to reduce the uncertainty of the entire process.  

Results: Hiring People Who Have the Ability to Get Things Done

According to Whalen, 42 has been his main source of interns ever since, “We recruit students from 42 for a variety of backgrounds and an emphasis on pragmatism rather than theoretical, and an ability to get things done.” The students of 42 tend to be task-oriented, collaborative, and know where to look, who to ask, what to ask, and what to learn to get the job done. When it comes to technical skills, there have been some strong profiles when it comes to coding skills. Whalen recognizes that it is important to have high-level technical skills in addition to having the basic bricks of development.  Thor shared how one of the first interns that they took on board from 42 Silicon Valley, Eung Bum Lee, has been successful in all the projects that have been given to him. He elaborated, “With a project for an autonomous vehicle, Lee worked on an online incremental outlier detector, translated models from python to C, wrote python wrappers for C code, and worked on backend processes for data. Overall he has worked on many different aspects, most recently a general IoT platform for edge devices.” Not only has 42 helped streamline the hiring process for interns at Analog Devices, but they also produce interns that are able to get the job done and have a more hands-on approach to learning. Because of this, Whalen said that they would be interested in taking on more 42 interns in the future because it has worked for him so far.

You may also download a PDF version: Analog Devices and 42 Silicon Valley: A Case Study


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published by Stacey Faucett – April 5, 2019