Intel headquarters in Santa Clara, California.
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Intel, the maker of silicon chips and other computer components, helped define Silicon Valley. For a corporate giant with $34 billion in sales last year, it has a modest world headquarters, a box of blue glass in Santa Clara. What's more impressive is the diversity of faces and accents among the company's California-based employees.
We're in Intel's sprawling, brightly-colored cafeteria and espresso bar. At tables here and there, employees with company-issued IBM ThinkPads hold morning meetings in small groups.
At one table, a half-dozen men sit and stand in a tight cluster, peering at an image on a laptop and having a technical debate. They're a mini-United Nations. One man appears to be South Asian, two or three East Asian, one perhaps Middle Eastern, and there's one white guy with a North American accent.
"We don't even notice that sort of thing. … Because it's the way it is, it's just the way it's been for so many years," says Frank Spindler, Vice President of Technology Programs at Intel. He says the company that was co-founded by an immigrant in the 1970s never stopped finding talent from across the globe.
"A small company may be able to draw from resources in one area," says Spindler, "but Intel has over 80,000 people, and we want to get the best 80,000 people that we can anywhere in the world."
U.S.-based companies, and the American economy, increasingly rely on foreign talent. Hans Mulder came to California from the Netherlands in the mid-1980s to study electrical engineering. He now leads some of Intel's cutting edge technology research.
"When I went to Stanford," says Mulder, "roughly 50 percent of the graduate students in the engineering Ph.D. programs and computer science Ph.D. programs were foreign born. Now it's 70 percent. So it only has intensified."
Even so, a lot of American economists and business leaders worry the United States is losing its edge in science. While other nations increase spending, and train more and more engineers and scientists, the United States is cutting government support for research and science education.
The people sipping espressos and leaning over their ThinkPad laptops at Intel are at the leading edge of the world economy. Still, they have one thing in common with those rice farmers in Bangladesh who fear getting pushed off the land to make way for a shrimp farm.
"Yes, absolutely, we're paranoid," says Spindler. "That has not changed, I don't think that will change at Intel."
Frank Spindler says insecurity is a real feature of the globalized world for almost everybody.
"Because we're always assuming that there's something around the corner that's going to make what we're doing today obsolete," says Spindler. "So we want to be the ones that find that technology around the corner. We want to be the ones that build it."
Spindler says the kind of person who gets a job at Intel embraces insecurity and thrives on the need to stay one step ahead of the competition.
We ask if that aspect of the culture translates when you set up overseas, say in China or India.
"It's absolutely not an American-only type of a trait," says Spindler. "Today, almost half our employees are outside of the United States. We have large facilities, over a thousand people, in places like Israel, India, Russia, China."
Continue to part 2