Dr. Scott Meikle, BSc’84, PhD
International Career Achievement
Senior Vice-President of Global Customer Operations at Lam Research in Fremont, California; former president of Inotera Memories Inc. in Taiwan
It’s become a classic what if? moment.
If Dr. Scott Meikle hadn’t spotted the “Study in Japan” poster tacked to a McMaster University bulletin board, he may never have taken his PhD in engineering physics at Shizuoka University. If it hadn’t been Japan, Meikle may not have developed a passion for Asia and a love for language that drove him to write his thesis in Japanese and launch into a long career of all things Asia. And without the passion — Meikle certainly couldn’t have found himself leading teams of workers in Japan and Taiwan in a business that spanned the Far East.
Today, with a home in Boise, Idaho, and an office in California, Meikle continues to hopscotch the globe for work, a seasoned veteran in the memory devices sector of the semi-conductor industry where he’s toiled in numerous positions for 28 years. Lam Research, where he works now, and his previous employer, Inotera Memories Inc., represent complementary elements of a sprawling high-tech ecosystem, one that produces computer chips for phones, computers, cars and so forth. Some 90 per cent of Lam’s customer base is Asian.
“Which is why speaking a foreign language is so important,” if you are going to work overseas, says Meikle. “Mores, customs and nuance change in foreign lands, but the fundamentals of leadership are always the same. Leadership is entirely about gaining the trust of your team by showing them courage. People will stand beside you through anything if they see you are standing with them, accepting the same risks.” And he adds with a laugh, “especially if you’re willing to converse with them, even with your bad grammar.”
Citing Abraham Lincoln and explorer David Thompson as his childhood heroes who exhibited foresight, chutzpah and intelligent leadership, Meikle credits his undergrad degree at UCalgary for teaching him (1) the foundations of Western science; (2) his limitations: “In my third year, I struggled to balance swimming for the Dinos with studying,” he says (he gave up swimming in his fourth year); and (3) self-confidence: “I studied with people much smarter than me and swam beside Olympic athletes. I didn’t measure up the same way, but I saw that I could keep up.”
In fact, it was the gruelling balancing act between athletics and academic work that Meikle maintains gave him his intense work ethic — one that often keeps him awake.
“Sleep has never been my forte,” admits Meikle, adding his thoughts in the middle of the night can be a complex mix that stray from eclectic leadership styles to global positions of power.
“In my industry,” he says, “I’ve watched a ceding of industrial leadership to our friends in the East and I wonder if we in the West assume too much. Our approach to industrial policy looks too clever by half. The same is true for science where we take our leadership for granted. The East has an agreement on how to move themselves forward which we seem to have lost. What is the long-term implication for all of us, for my kids and their kids?”
Having resided in Japan, Taiwan, the U.S. and Canada, we had to ask Meikle his favourite place to live.
“I’ve liked every place I’ve lived,” he says. “In Japanese there is a saying, ‘sumeba miyako’ which translates a little bit like, ‘there is no place like home,’ with the added nuance, ‘wherever home might be.’”
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