Sondrel focuses more on capabilities than experience

Satish Sunkari, Regional Engineering Head, India

I joined Sondrel in 2017 through the acquisition of IMG works where I was working at the time. In 2018, I was promoted to an associate director role in physical design. Based on my performance, I was soon assigned complete responsibility for the whole Hyderabad engineering team and made regional engineering head of India in 2020. So, in the span of just three years, I went from being a senior team leader to being made regional engineering head. I was able to be promoted so quickly because Sondrel focuses more on capability than experience and they invest heavily in employees’ growth through support and quarterly reviews.   

There is a fundamental difference between Sondrel and other companies in India. Generally companies are set up in a way where engineers don’t get overly exposed to the things that are happening throughout the whole engineering process. They have a job role to do and usually don’t get to explore anything other than that role which prevents them from progressing and learning anything new. For example, in physical design, there is a script which is already in place and engineers run these scripts and focus on just doing their clearly defined job. Whereas, in Sondrel, engineers are given an opportunity to write those scripts and are encouraged to explore what is happening in the background. They get a chance to go into the script and see what are the switches being used and what they actually do. By doing this, they get to work on the technology aspect as well making the work interesting, stimulating and challenging. Often this sparks other interests that they can try, which is encouraged and supported by Sondrel to develop their careers.

In a lot of big companies, the career path for engineers is slow to develop and follows a set path usually based on years of experience in a job function. It is completely different at Sondrel as we value capability over experience. There are people doing the same level of work with only 3 years’ experience at Sondrel that has taken 10 years’ experience for an engineer at another company to achieve. I think this is Sondrel’s main attraction for engineers as they want to get stuck in and have job satisfaction, knowing that they are progressing and learning as fast as they want to. At Sondrel, there is no prescriptive route to career progression. We invest heavily in each engineer’s growth. We really encourage people to go the extra mile, learn things from scratch and to change disciplines if they want to add to their skill sets. The more that an engineer understands all the different aspects of chip design, the better they can contribute to each design project and the more job satisfaction they have.

We have contractors working for us on some projects and one said that the kind of work that he is doing at Sondrel he has not done in all his 22 years of experience. He is developing the architectural specification so he is basically architecting the complete chip. We encourage people to take on challenging work and we support them. This is the culture we have. It is so unlike other companies and sets us apart, bringing in new engineers by word of mouth who want to be in a nurturing environment where they can grow at their own pace. I have seen engineers go from having little experience in physical design to owning the complete project, which just doesn’t happen in traditional companies. Sondrel is dedicated to fostering the growth of each employee.

Along with the career progression, Sondrel has a very friendly, flexible and transparent environment. We believe that, if the team is successful, the whole company is successful. We ensure that nobody is left behind. If someone is struggling, we make sure to address that with HR or engineering, wherever they need that extra support from. We make sure that we come together as a team and help each other. I make sure to support my engineers by giving them work that they are comfortable with but also challenges them to improve on their skills at a pace that suits them.

What motivates me is the impact Hyderabad team is creating in Sondrel’s overall growth. When you have a team with multiple disciplines, it brings many challenges especially as it’s a team of almost 40 engineers. I am a person who strongly believes in one thing and that is challenges bring opportunities. Every day there are different kind of challenges in my current role and each is an opportunity to work harder and improve skills. I enjoy that these make a difference and that the UK management recognise and tangibly acknowledge them.

One thing that I particularly admire about the way that Sondrel works is that, in a traditional company, staff have an annual appraisal to review progress or raise any concerns with career progression and explore new career directions. In Sondrel, we have a quarterly appraisal system. This not only gives financial rewards to engineers for hard work quickly rather than annually which is really motivating, but also gives a very good opportunity for both engineers and managers to raise any concerns without a delay of many months till the annual review. This creates a vibrant and dynamic work environment with quick feedback that is really motivating for engineers to excel and take on new challenges. Of course, we have regular 1:1 meetings too, where employees and managers can raise any issues and the quarterly reviews are in place to set objectives and goals. The reason why these quarterly appraisals are important are because they keep engineers focussed. If any engineer is falling behind, they always have a chance to catch up in the next quarter as managers are always trying to help all engineers keep their careers moving. Apart from quarterly review system there are different employee recognition programmes like Sondrel Star and Sondrel Plus where best performing engineers a rewarded quite often and also provide opportunities for faster career progression.

It is a very exciting time for Sondrel India as we are investing heavily in our growth here and recruiting more engineers. Since 2017, the Hyderabad office has grown from 4 to 45 engineers and we aim to have 120 by 2024! Although our head office is in the UK, India will be the company’s biggest engineering team so these engineers will get the chance to work on bigger projects and enhance their skill sets. One of the best things about Sondrel is that it is a multinational company so engineers get to travel to other locations worldwide to work and get to know other members of the Sondrel global family. Sondrel has organically grown over 20 years and now has six offices worldwide, two in the UK, one in India, one in China, one in Morocco and one in the USA. If an engineer has an aspiration to work in one of the 6 centres worldwide, that can be accommodated depending on the project they are working on. This encourages engineers to build stronger relationships with their colleagues overseas, they get exposure to the whole company and how different design centres operate, and this keeps them motivated and engaged.