ASML is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of chip-making equipment. Headquartered in Veldhoven, the Netherlands, ASML employs more than 21,000 people.
As an Application Start-up Engineer, I help customers get their manufacturing process working on their new ASML systems as fast as possible. To do that, I work at the customer's site, typically for up to six months, getting to know the process and making sure the system is configured to run it.
Like most of the Application and Business Support team in our Customer Support department, my role is unique to ASML in the lithography industry. Other manufacturers don't offer this kind of support. Many customers aren't used to working with someone who is trying to understand their production process. However, this is necessary to be able to help them to get the most from their ASML system. This requires the ability to build a relationship with the customer and to create layers of trust. Hence my picture with a Chinese artifact that represents trust.
That takes strong communications skills. Not only to build trust, but also to convince the customer that you can bring value and valid solutions. And you often need to convince your own colleagues that a problem or potential system improvement is important. So you have to be able to bundle information and fine-tune your message to suit the audience you're talking to.
A strong technical background is also a must. You have to be able extract meaningful information from the vast amounts of unstructured data you get from the system and the customer. At the same time, you need to hold your own in discussions with experts from a wide variety of disciplines.
My own background is in Applied Physics, and my studies included time at the European particle physics lab CERN. I think ASML and CERN have a lot in common. Both are at the pinnacle of technology in their respective fields. But the pace at ASML is higher because of the interaction with customers and strong competition in the semiconductor industry.
When I started at ASML, I had a three-month training program to get up to speed with ASML systems. Then I was straight on a plane to my first customer site. I had a further three-month take-over period with an experienced Application Start-up Engineer, after that I was on my own.
My first "solo flight" was a system evaluation at a brand new customer. There was an issue that prevented them running a new process. They were ahead of the pack in what they wanted to do with our system and we had to find a solution fast. This led to changes to future generations of that system to allow similar processes to run - which is becoming a competitive advantage. And the customer must have been happy, as they have just received their commercial delivery from us.