My 90-Day Plan | Cypress Semiconductor
My 90-Day Plan
Hassane El-Khoury is a Consulting Advisor to Cypress and Infineon.
My story isn’t just a path to CEO, it’s a path to be the best version of myself. Welcome to my blog series #KnowOurCEO. The purpose of this blog is to explain who I am and what made me into the person I am today. If you missed my last blog, I told you about automating myself out of a job at Continental, and my first challenges after joining Cypress.
"Everyone can create that awareness. Selling is not just the transaction. It is the customer journey and it starts with awareness."
After moving to San Jose as a program manager, I remember sitting in building four, in the cube directly across the aisle from Augusto’s cube. He continued to help me refine my plan and eventually we got it approved. With the approval, I headed out to begin talking to customers. I spent six or seven weeks a quarter travelling through Europe and Japan.
It was ambitious, I’ll admit. I was asking for more than just no more mechanical buttons and knobs – we were literally talking about changing the culture of the car.
During my travels, I collected the concerns and comments from each customer I spoke to and noted all of the requests for features and issues that arose for having touch in cars. I’d always go back to my office, create a proof of concept and then get back on the road with more boards and more demos. Over and over, this was my story; I received more “’no’s” than I care to remember.
Eventually, touch became the prominent interface in the consumer market and drivers expected the same in their cars. Once everyone realized this market shift, the customers I met while on the road had my business card and knew what Cypress could do.
It was at that moment that I understood what people mean when they talk about building brand awareness. The lightbulb had come on in the customers head, and I wasn’t sitting in front of them, but they remembered me.
That is exactly why I always say: Everyone sells but selling is not just the transaction - it is the customer journey that starts with awareness.
At this point, I was consistently digging at getting Cypress into human machine learning (HMI). I eventually started defining my own job as a business development manager. I took on many of the responsibilities and the title followed later. When I officially became the business development manager, we were in the midst of expanding our customer engagement. I quickly realized that I needed to hire and spend money on projects to build the infrastructure needed. That meant I had to learn profit and loss (P&L) to understand and manage finances.
Within a few years, I started as the business manager for Automotive. I can honestly say that I learned everything I know about P&L from Dana Nazarian, who I reported to at the time.
I remember one Saturday, Dana and I were preparing for our quarterly review with T.J. We were doing a dry-run and he asked me a few questions on the P&L.
I remember this so vividly - like it was yesterday - because I didn’t know the answers to his questions. He looked at me and said: "You better get to know your business, or you will not make it in this job."
What a wakeup call that was coming from a mentor. Well that’s exactly what I did - I took a step back and realized that if my heart was really in what I do, I needed to understand ways that I needed to grow.
"Being genuine is admitting that you’re not always right and that sometimes you just need a kick in the ass to grow – and that’s okay!"
One day, T.J. called me into his office to ask me if I would run the Programmable Systems Division (PSD). I said yes, of course, without hesitation. It was now September 2012, and my first ‘to-do’ was to reposition the division on a profitable track. That was the sum of my 90-day plan.
We achieved this by focusing on our assets and stopping all side projects unless they had solid ROI. Unfortunately, this also came with a headcount reduction - one of the steepest in the company to that point. This was the most difficult thing I had done in my career. Some of the impacted employees were peers, engineering colleagues and people I knew personally. But regardless of the difficulty of the situation, it had to get done, so we did it.
"For one to be open to learning, you need to be confident in what you know, and admit to what you do not."
What most people don’t know about me is when I went from managing 20 people to managing hundreds, I worked with an HR business partner to find a coach to help guide me through the organizational shift. I didn’t know how to manage the transition.
At this point, I knew that leading an organization of 300+ people would be drastically different than managing a group of 20. I worked with a coach - not on how to do my job, but how to communicate what I need to get done, to get alignment and not leave anyone behind.
This was tremendous help and helped me manage such a huge transition. It was at this pivotal point that I learned for one to be open to learning, you need to be confident in what you know, and admit to what you do not. I had to genuinely consider what this transition meant to the hundreds of people in its wake zone.
In March 2013, T.J. consolidated the business to three divisions and merged our Consumer and Computation Division (CCD) with our Programmable Systems Division (PSD). Once again, I had to make a 90-day plan. In the first 90-days, I had to restructure the business, focus on what matters and set the team on a vector of success.
Unfortunately, the market had evolved, and we were lagging in our TrueTouch business. The business ended up being divested in July 2015, shortly after our merger with Spansion in March 2015. Cypress kept the Automotive TrueTouch business and I had just inherited a large Automotive MCU organization in Japan, which needed to be integrated.
This was the same story - we had a business with tremendous potential that needed to be turned into a profitable organization. Once again, my responsibilities increased, and I needed to take stock of what I knew and where I needed to focus to make sure we were successful. I surrounded myself with business unit leaders who knew their business and markets better than I did.
In August 2016, I became the CEO of Cypress. In addition, I was named as a member of the company’s board of directors. With this role, I recognized the incredible responsibility placed on my shoulders – but realized that all of my experiences to this point provided the foundation needed to lead some of the most innovative and talented employees. Sometimes belief in your own ability and strength to rise to any challenge is the only thing needed to give you the confidence to move forward. Again, I will attribute my success and the success of Cypress to our worldwide team, and the trust I placed in the best executive staff group in the industry.
Looking back, I have faced many trials, sleepless nights and struggled more days than I’d like to admit. But while I have faced failure in both my work and personal life (i.e. divorce), my priorities remain the same. My story is me trying to be the best version of myself - for myself, for my daughter, Lea, and for you.