Reflections from a Leader — IPC President & CEO Denny McGuirk Final IPC Interview

Denny McGuirk will leave IPC on November 1 to join SEMI as its new president & CEO. SEMI is a global industry association serving the manufacturing supply chains for the microelectronic, display and photovoltaic industries. IPC InTouch staff sat down with McGuirk to discuss his accomplishments over the past 12 years as well as his outlook on the future of IPC and the industry.

Q: Hi Denny. Let’s jump right in. What are you most proud of in your time as IPC president and CEO?

A: When I first came on, I went to my first IPC Board meeting and I remember presentations and much discussion about IPC building a new headquarters from the ground up. When I started doing my own research and talked with IPC staff — and I give a lot of credit to IPC staff for helping steer us in the right direction — we felt it wasn’t a good fiscal decision. Today, after surviving two serious recessions, we are in a solid financial position, partly because we did not pursue this building.

I’m also very proud of IPC’s global expansion. In 2001, IPC’s Board said we needed to be where our members were and we needed to be more global. After much research, planning and work, IPC opened an office in China. Starting a new subsidiary was an incredible experience for all involved.  Now we also have the office in India and a European representative. In the past seven years, we’ve seen the percentage of members from outside North America increase from 24 percent to 33 percent. And I have to emphasize that we increased our North American members during that time as well, so it hasn’t been at the expense of North America. Membership today is at the highest it’s ever been. We’ve greatly expanded IPC’s presence through training centers and distributors all over the world.

I think the thing that’s been the hardest to convey is that IPC becoming more global helps all of the members. The industry — and it follows, the association — can’t think regionally any more. Our Board was completely on the mark when they saw that a decade ago.  For domestic members, IPC going global is not a zero sum game. No membership program for domestic members has suffered as a result of IPC expanding globally. As a matter of fact, our programs for domestic members have increased.

Another achievement I’m proud to have been part of was bringing two trade shows – IPC Printed Circuits Expo and IPC APEX — together under one tent. It didn’t make sense to have two separate shows for the PCB and EMS sectors when they were so complementary. It took some persuasion and discussions with the board and trade show committees and there was a bit of resistance, but from a survival standpoint, the two shows would not have worked on their own.

Q: Has IPC experienced any growing pains since you’ve come aboard as president and CEO?

A: Lead free has been a learning experience for all involved. Some have argued that IPC could have put up a better fight against legislation. Our Board, correctly in my opinion, agreed that the situation was inevitable once the consumer OEMs got behind it. They directed us to assist our members through education and preparation. At times, we have to pick battles where we think we can win. We’ve been with them almost step-by-step through the implementation process by serving as an expert on the issue and becoming a resource they could rely on.

Q: What is IPC’s greatest strength?
A: Our members are IPC’s greatest asset. The contributions of time and talent our members give IPC is incalculable. The spirit of giving is alive and well at IPC.

From a program perspective, our core competency and our greatest strength is our standards development process. IPC was founded on the premise that we need standards for our industry and this core value remains today. Through standards development, IPC can bring members of industry together, often competitors, and have them sit at a table and work on a standard that’s useful and acceptable for all industry segments. These are all volunteers; they do this on behalf of their companies, but it’s their time, sometimes on their own nickel to make sure their voices and their company’s voices are heard. Because of their expertise, IPC standards are used worldwide and have great authority and recognition.

IPC is also a great networking resource for our members. Conferences, professional development courses, committee meetings, certification programs, trade shows, face-to-face interaction is what it’s all about.

Q: What have you liked best about being president of IPC?

A: The involvement and interaction with the board of directors, our staff and most importantly, our members around the world has been personally and professionally rewarding for me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with our members, from the board designers to the presidents and CEOs. Meeting with members at trade shows has been wonderful. Where else can you meet with everyone under one roof?  

Q: Any predictions for industry and IPC?

A: There’s no doubt that environmental policy issues and restrictions will continue to have a huge impact on the industry. Halogen free, conflict metals, and more RoHS restrictions have occupied our committees and staff quite a bit over the last few years. On all of these issues, IPC has been very consistent in calling for science-based regulations. We were very pleased when this paid off earlier this year when we were successful in keeping additional substances from being added to the RoHS Directive. We do a stellar job of alerting members to issues facing our industry. Take conflict metals, for example.  For nearly two years, IPC’s government relations staff has been immersed in staying up-to-date on developing conflict metals regulations and providing members with information they need. 

I also see IPC getting involved in other areas.  Currently, we’re working on solar standards development relevant to our members. Printed electronics is growing. We’re looking at standards and we will have a substantial track at the IPC APEX EXPO conference on printed electronics. Most importantly, I believe IPC will remain relevant and strong. IPC resides in the electronics space. Technical developments never stop and we can’t stop either. We always need to be open to new ideas and new challenges. We have to meet the needs of our members.
Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for your successor?

A: Don’t be afraid to fail. You can go through this job without taking any risks and just be an administrator. Don’t be afraid to be criticized. To quote Warren Buffet: “In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” You can always look back and think of a way you could have done it better. But if you’re going forward, the only thing you can look to is what’s in front of you. The job of a good CEO, in my opinion, is to make a decision on the best available data. You can’t always wait for 100 percent of the data— making a decision is sometimes based on the unknown.

On a parting note, I would love to thank all the volunteers who devote their time to IPC. Because of the support of Board, staff and members, IPC is in a good position.  A good association accomplishes as a group what you can’t do alone. And in IPC’s 50 plus years, it has accomplished quite a lot and I’m very proud to have been part of it.

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