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Roel Houtackers

Team leader embedded software development

ASML is rightly proud of its technological accomplishments. Some other technology companies could do the things we do - if they had the time. But we do it faster. Our lead time for development is very short. That's one of the things that first drew me to ASML: that time challenge and the buzz it brings.

I started at ASML in 1998 as a software developer. Then I became a software architect and now I'm a team leader. Creating embedded software isn't just about embedding software into a product. You're actually helping to shape that product; its electronics, its mechanics.

Right now, my team is developing a radically new sensor. The time challenge means hardware and software are developed in parallel. So we work closely with the hardware guys: what we can do in software affects what they have to do in hardware and vice versa.

That means our software has to account for characteristics of hardware that hasn't even been developed yet. You have to learn to live with that kind of uncertainty when time is short. How? Well, as a wise man once said "You can't describe the holes, so you have to describe the cheese around them!" In order to do so we often need to define and execute experiments to help us during discussions.

I really enjoy working at ASML because, although it is a very big company, it still has some of the benefits of a small company. You have the opportunity to try a lot of things, and grow to become a generalist in your specialist subject. And then you can move to a completely new subject. Up to now I've led three teams in three different areas.

You also have the chance to be an entrepreneur but you have to be able to sell you ideas to your colleagues. That sums ASML up in a lot of ways; you have lots of opportunities to develop yourself in areas you find fun but it is up to you to take those opportunities.

ASML brings together teams of people with completely different backgrounds: physicists, engineers, chemists. It's great to see their different approaches to problem solving. But we all have the same goals, so we have to speak the same language.

That's why communication is important. It's probably a team leader's biggest challenge (your team members handle the technical challenges). Everyone needs to know what's going on, but you don't want to over-communicate. People need time to actually do their job. So you have to make your communication very efficient.

As a team leader, people often come to me for advice. It's my job to solve problems in a way that benefits others and makes them enthusiastic about what they are doing. Helping others succeed is very satisfying. Probably the best part about being a team leader is seeing people you've coached grow, develop and go on to be successful in their own right

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