Culture & People

Interview with SK hynix CEO Seok-hee Lee, “curiosity has shaped me”

By October 10, 2019 May 14th, 2020 No Comments
Celebrating the launch of the global newsroom, Seok-hee Lee, Chief Executive Officer of SK hynix, talks about his philosophy and affection for company members.

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“People say sleep is better than medicine, but I can’t sleep much these days.”
It was the first word of CEO Seok-hee Lee we met in his office. He is busier than ever with his tight schedule, such as overseas business trips and external and internal meetings, to find new business opportunities in the rapidly changing domestic and foreign environment these days. He joked that he did not sleep well as he returned in the morning from an overseas business trip even on the day of the interview. He did seem tired, but he gave an earnist and witty interview. He also made the most out of his short time, showing himself honestly and throwing important messages.

Leader who breaks through the front with technology competitiveness

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Seok-hee Lee, who took office as CEO in last December, is about to celebrate the first anniversary of his inauguration. As the external environment changed rapidly, huge projects to influence our future were completed, such as the start of M16 fab, completion of C2F fab in China and P&T4 fab in Icheon, Korea, and the signing of an agreement to build a semiconductor cluster in Yongin, Korea. Although he had to have a more dynamic time than ever, his words were surprisingly calm.

“It feels the last 10 months have passed faster than ever of the last seven years I spent at SK hynix,” he said. “All new projects for the company’s mid- and long-term future made a soft landing, paving the way for our leap forward. The “changes” we have stedaily emphsized have led to great results, and it feels very rewarding and fulfilling.”

This year, semiconductor companies are suffering from intensifying competition and fluctuating demand, along with external conditions such as global trade issues. CEO Seok-hee Lee gave candid answers to such sensitive business-related questions.

“We are responding appropriately to weak demand and oversupply issues through flexible investment and production adjustments. At the same time, we are focusing on fundamental improvement. In the past, technology development and product delivery based on specific devices were necessary, but now the market is shifting to derivative products that require a variety of performance and power characteristics for each customer. Internally, we are defining this change as a “product-centric business system” and working to change the role of each organization and how it works accordingly.”

He added that, while the influence of international conflicts is a factor difficult to predict and control, he is doing his best to minimize any impact of such external variables on the business. In addition, he presented a clear direction for making SK hynix that is not swayed by external variables in the future.
“The best strategy to minimize the impact of external variables is to strengthen the fundamentals. As the economy worsens, we need to focus on technology development to make quality products and try to cut costs. That way we can move ahead fast when the economy recovers. We’re still using a lot of energy to prepare for the future.”

Amid the fast-changing environment, SK hynix is steadily enhancing its technology competitiveness to prepare for the future. This year, these efforts have led to notable achievements, such as the world’s first 128-layer 1Tb TLC 4D NAND and HBM2E DRAM.

A leader who always communicates and leads the pursuit of happiness

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SK hynix CEO Seok-hee Lee aims to create greater happiness through “communication” instead of focusing only on “performance.” It is part of his effort to continue to meet customers and directly listen to their voices, as well as to consistently spend time with diverse members of SK hynix, since his took office.

The area that CEO Seok-hee Lee is most interested in recently is the happiness of the employees, and he is communicating with them in new ways. He has also created rules of practice to get closer to the members. First, he abolished a dress code for executives and removed unnecessary protocol.

“It is said that the more difficult the situation gets, the more quality communication is needed. As long as there are challenges and higher goals, I will never neglect to continue to communicate with our members and work harder for happiness together. If I keep expanding communication with the members and doing small things one by one, won’t the happiness index of the members continue to rise?”

To the last question to define “Seok-hee Lee as the leader of SK hynix,” the CEO answered that he was a “representative member of SK hynix in pursuit of happiness.”

“Even though I’m in a poistion to be responsible for important company decisions, the days of top-down decision making are already over. I believe that the real change can occur when members do their best in their roles, and when it becomes a culture of the company. So I always emphasize that, as a representative member of the company, I should talk together with and persuade our members to change and participate, even if it takes a long time.”