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Alumnus Steve Bakota Helping Lead TI’s Next High-Tech Era
August 16, 2013
Innovative Leader: Electrical engineering alumnus Steve Bakota is in charge of a team that develops, produces, and markets innovative semiconductor products for Texas Instruments. He received the Alumni Association’s Career Achievement Award earlier this year. (Photo by Terry Miller)
It’s nearly impossible to innovate in one area without having an impact on another—enabling even more innovation. That’s where Steve Bakota finds himself as product line manager for Texas Instruments.
The 1993 electrical engineering alumnus is responsible for a line of semiconductors that regulate power in one way or another. Rapid changes in the auto industry have created new challenges and opportunities in power electronics. One emerging trend in vehicles is referred to as “start-stop,” which shuts down the engine, rather than idling, while the vehicle is stopped at a traffic light. It’s a great idea that improves fuel economy, saves money, and helps the environment.
However, this innovation has the potential to interfere with the car’s electrical system--all the restarting causes serious fluctuations in the voltage supplied from the car battery. Semiconductors created by Bakota’s group solve the problem, enabling a constant voltage that keeps the car’s electrical and electronic components functioning properly. Without TI’s chips, the innovation of the “start-stop” technology wouldn’t work.
That’s just one example of the need for the products Bakota is responsible for developing, producing, and marketing. “There’s lots of demand, growth, and challenges in power electronics, and we’re in the middle of it,” he says. All the things that plug in or power on-demand power semiconductors represent opportunities for innovations in Bakota’s product development team.
A new product idea may come from within Bakota’s group or through collaboration with customers. He is accountable for the profit/loss decision on the product. “It starts with a great product definition,” he says. “At some point, we make a gut call. Do we think that this is something we can achieve, and is it a good investment?”
Bakota’s team takes the product from definition to development, onto production and the customer, and then focuses on driving market penetration. “It requires eight to nine different engineering specializations just to develop a single integrated circuit,” he points out. What does it take to lead that kind of team? “It’s all about having a solid strategy, working hard, and finding ways to enable really smart people to do what they do best.”
Rose-Hulman’s Alumni Association recognized Bakota’s leadership skills by presenting him with the Career Achievement Award earlier this year.
The northwest Indiana native developed an appreciation for the value of innovation, collaboration, and teamwork on campus. He became interested in electrical components during a year off from college to work for General Electric. That provided the career clarity he needed. He has spent the rest of his profession at Texas Instruments, and is now married and has three young children.