The vice-president of the processor manufacturer talks about success, trends, innovation and benchmark fairness

Roy Taylor made his fame and fortune commanding the memory market in Europe, taking Nvidia to a fortune company, being a catalyst for and recognizing early stage innovation. Now, as corporate vice-president and head of global channel sales, he’s driving AMD to the top.

I had dinner with him in January at the international CES in Las Vegas. I found him charismatic and entrepreneurial with a string of major successes. For this reason, he was tapped by AMD. His ideas are interesting, especially on fair and independent benchmarks which led to this podcast interview — portions of which are extracted here.

QL Roy, can you share highlights and useful lessons learned from your long successful history with entertainment, technology sectors, and entrepreneurship?
A: “….In my twenties I won a very large contract from IBM Microelectronics to be their sales marketing rep company in Europe which at the time set a lot of records…..In my thirties I went to work for NVIDIA, set up their business in Europe from scratch and then turned that into a 300 million dollar business….During my forties and my tenure in America with NVIDIA I developed a number of worldwide programs which helped propel them to record sales….In terms of lessons during that time….The ability to think boldly and act big and not be intimidated I think are important lessons certainly from my career’s success….”

Q: As a notable top leader, what are your top leadership tips?

“Get the right people….Try to work with small teams. I believe that small teams can move faster and communicate better than big teams, so I always prefer to work with teams that are no larger than 100 people wherever possible….Always consider that velocity is the key.

“A wonderful idea that takes too long to get to market stops becoming a wonderful idea….That brings us to the caveat to the need to have velocity and move fast (if you have a company which is successful at having velocity and moving fast, understand that sometimes crashing is the inevitable result of moving quickly), so build that into your ethos and the way you lead your teams.”

Q: What are your top five tips for innovation and entrepreneurship?

“Remember that it is the difficult ideas that are the most interesting and the most exciting ones to try and solve….Always start with really great people….Something that I refer to as STOP. Before you jump into action: Stop, Think, Observe and Plan.

“My fourth tip is don’t rely on your memory. I know it sounds like an incredibly simple thing, but keep a notepad and keep notes….Never have any sacred cows. If something is not working, if something won’t react to the forces you’re applying to it, move on.”

Q: What are AMD’s current plans and future goals and more importantly how will they be executed?

“I think the most important part of our current plan is that we are embracing change….Some of the upheaval taking place has yet to be fully appreciated….so as part of that we continue to invest in our core competencies where we have leadership. As well as investing in the technologies we have we are also going to expand and extend them….In the final analysis and using independent verifiable data we do have leadership and we do have wonderful products, so another part of our plan is to take that narrative to tell the story….We believe that technology by its own sake isn’t of and by itself enough, we want to take the technology we have and use it to help society and further human experience.”

Q: How does AMD differentiate itself?

“If you step back and you look at the portfolio of IP that AMD has, we are unique inasmuch as we have a tremendous breadth of technology from CPU, GPU, APU, x86 architectures and ARM architecture and we have a portfolio of patents across all of those and in audio and connectivity and so on.”

Q:What are your views on global challenges?
“The expression ‘global challenge’ is an interesting one. At AMD I believe our global challenge is to take the narrative and explain what we have….It is our policy and part of our message to promote the use of benchmarks and companies like Futuremark. Futuremark is an independent company in Finland and they produce independent benchmarks for the analysis of performance in PCs for 3D in gaming (something they have called 3DMark), and in IT in computing and storage (something they have called PCMark), and they are also working on independent benchmarks for servers.

“If these benchmarks are used then we believe there would be benefits for governments and countries around the world and for consumers in being able to make a fair and correct assessment about the technology they are purchasing…..”

Q: Are there other areas or ecosystems or market conditions that continue to surprise you?

There are three areas that continue to surprise me after more than 30 years in the industry. The first is that AMD is not used more widely, that is a surprise to me. I really do believe that our products should be and I’m certainly going to try very hard to see that they are. The second surprise is the pace of change.

“The pace of innovation is not only showing no sign of slowing down, if anything it’s continuing to speed up. The third thing that surprises me is how much fun it still is. I’m having a tremendous time and most people who I know that work in this industry also continue to really enjoy it.”

Q: What do you see as the top five upcoming disruptive innovations?
“The five areas: Semiconductors with HSA; Standards (the embodiment, encouragement and growth of Standard bodies of Open Compute); Experience through virtual reality and the work Oculus is doing; Health through form factors and the company MC10; and the Intention Economy through the interaction of big data and little data.”

Q: There is rapid growth in free content – what are your views on that?
“I believe that if we can get that content to people the way they want to consume it (Netflix is showing the way), and if the IT industry and Hollywood can help each other to get people’s stories to them in the way they want them, that is a great thing for people and also a great thing for the IT industry and computer industry which will help provide some of the formats for them to consume the stories.”

Q: Can you talk about what are the top ICT growth regions internationally?
“It’s beyond doubt that China, although it slowed a little recently, still is a huge market and still growing….The second growth area is what I consider to be new Europe, which is Russia and Turkey….We also see tremendous opportunity in Africa. Interestingly Africa has almost skipped PCs in terms of notebooks and gone to mobile phones and the phenomenon there with mobile phone money is very well understood.

“The last area of growth which may surprise you is America. Over the last year we have seen the American economy bounce back and that includes in IT and the PC business, and I remain extremely optimistic about America’s ability to continue to innovate and to bounce back.”

Q; There is this whole idea of crowdfunding which is just exploding worldwide. In fact the World Bank did a report on it in 2013. What are your views on that?
“I think it’s going to continue to do for IT what the invention of the stock exchange did for big business in the last century. Crowdfunding isn’t only about inventions and about IT when you look at something like crowdfunding for micro funds for Third World countries. I can’t personally visit some of the cities in India and invest in some of the entrepreneurs there but I can contribute to a micro fund that can and I think that is a tremendous thing for IT, innovation and it’s also for the good of all people.”

Q: From your extensive speaking, travels, and work, please share three stories (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).
“This second story is going to seem incredulous to any millennial. Before 911 it was possible to sit at the front of the aircraft during takeoff and landing. There’s a small jockey seat which goes between the pilot and the co-pilot and in those days if you asked very nicely (very politely) they would let you go to the front of the aircraft to do that and I was fortunate to do it around about a dozen times.”

Q: If you were conducting this interview, what 3 questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
“‘What are your favorite books and authors?’….’Who are your heroes?’….’If you are a young engineer in IT, electronics, semiconductor or computer industry today where should you go, where should you set up your career?’….”

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