Culture & People

New Faces to Brighten up the New Year of SK hynix: Interview with Three New Executives

By February 11, 2021 February 25th, 2021 No Comments
From changes in the global environment including an unprecedented pandemic to the fourth industrial revolution, the internal and external environment is changing rapidly.

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From changes in the global environment including an unprecedented pandemic to the fourth industrial revolution, the internal and external environment is changing rapidly. To respond to these changes, SK hynix is pursuing the “Financial Story”. This is SK hynix’s vision to create more economic and social values and actively contribute to human society by strengthening the environment, society, and governance (ESG) management, while strengthening business competitiveness through DRAM and NAND as two main pillars at the same time. In addition to this, SK hynix is putting more effort to realize the happiness of its members.

The newsroom team met three newly appointed executives who will work together to create a great company that improves the quality of human life through technology and contributes to solving global environmental issues. Ji Eun Jang (DRAM Development), WoongSun Lee (P&T), and Baek Mann Kim (R&D) talked about the path they have taken, their work philosophy, and their aspirations for the future, as well as how to write the SK hynix’s unique story in the future.

Ji Eun Jang, “To Participate in Solving Social Issues and Establish a Foothold for the Growth of Female Leaders”

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Ji Eun Jang, who was named on the list of SK hynix’s new executives last month, has been with SK hynix’s DRAM history for 23 years since she joined the company in 1997, and is now recognized as a DRAM expert. Among junior members, she is called “the mother of DRAM”.

Jang has been responsible for designing SK hynix’s flagship memory products ranging from DDR to DDR5. She participated in a task force (TF) for developing an innovative scheme to overcome the problem of data loss in certain parts of DRAM due to the miniaturization of semiconductors, and was awarded the SK Management System (SKMS) Practice Award. Afterwards, this technology was applied to all DRAM products across the company, providing an opportunity for SK hynix DRAM to take a leap forward. Recognized for her outstanding performance in the DRAM design sector, she served in her first leadership position as a project manager (PM) for 2Znm 4Gb DDR3 development project.

Jang, who had been in charge of memory products standardized for the specifications by the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC), has participated in a custom memory development project in 2018, expanding her business horizons.

“When I was involved in the custom memory project, it was very fascinating to closely communicate with customers at the customer touchpoints and develop products according to the specifications requested by customers. As the organization I will be in charge of also needs close collaboration with customers, I think this experience in the past will be a great help.”

With the ESG management which is attracting attention recently, “diversity” is one of the important factors in evaluating companies. In our society, however, an invisible barrier called the “glass ceiling” is often mentioned to refer to the difficulty in being promoted to high positions as female employees. How is SK hynix doing regarding this? Jang said, “There were some structurally inevitable aspects in the process of our society’s evolution and development, but it is improving.”

“SK hynix has a high proportion of engineering graduates due to the nature of its business. It is true that the number of female employees is small, reflecting the characteristics of engineering schools where the ratio of female students was only 1 to 2% in the past. That is why the size of the pool where female leaders can be produced is small. Now, you might ask where the female employees who joined the company in the past are now, and how the relatively small number of female executives could be explained. To this question, I would like to say that this situation was caused by a social and structural problem, rather than the existence of a glass ceiling in SK hynix. The number of female employees has increased a lot, and in the case of dual-income couples, both men and women are participating in work and childcare, but it is true that there are some difficulties still. It is because there’s a lack of social care in terms of system or space, for trustworthy childcare.”

Jang also has continued her challenging work life as a working mom. What she can confidently say about SK hynix, however, is that the company is moving in a positive direction to ensure the long years of working and work and life balance of the employees.

“Unlike in the past, many efforts are being made to relieve the difficulties of parenting through supplementing various systems. These include flexible working hours, in-house daycare centers, and the ‘Happiness Design Group’, where female employees who work and raise a child at the same time can design their happiness. Nevertheless, other than the basic welfare system, programs for developing female leaders are still lacking. As I feel the responsibility to think about these issues and improve them as a female executive, I’d like to play a role in inspiring the pride for female employees.”

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Jang describes herself as a “simple-minded person” and says that she tends to forget things quickly when she is stressed. Even for her, however, there were many trials and errors and difficult moments. While working, there was always a feeling of pressure. What helped her in such moments was solid teamwork, formed in the same direction, under a plan set with a clear goal. In fact, one of her major achievements is establishing an efficient workflow for each organization that she has gone through so far.

“Since DRAM is a core business leading the development of the global ICT industry, there was a pressure to create high-quality products and meet the deadline. What was most helpful in such moments was teamwork. It’s been the best way to check what needs to be done individually, use the system in place, and have confidence in product development. We were able to overcome the pressure by sharing the direction of what kind of product we will make.”

Finally, we asked her about her future resolution and plans as a new executive.

“The primary goal is to create an achievement as an organization. Of course, it is important to develop high-performance products in the process, but our aim is not to miss out on Double Bottom Line (DBL) elements that the organization can practice. To achieve this, we aim to create low-power DRAM that can contribute to solving environmental problems. We will keep pace with the DBL management philosophy pursued by SK hynix through this.

Also, I will constantly consider what role I can play as a female executive. I will contribute to the company’s advancement as a leading company in ESG management by establishing the foundation for female employees to grow as leaders and by securing diversity.”

WoongSun Lee, “To Develop Customer-oriented Business from the Perspective of Subscription Economy”

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SK hynix opened up the premium memory market last year by announcing the full-scale mass-production of the world’s fastest DRAM, HMB2E. HBM2E is an extended version of HBM2, which is the next generation of the High Bandwidth Memory (HBM)1 product developed by SK hynix using the through-silicon via (TSV) technology for the first time in the industry in 2013. SK hynix announced the mass-production of HBM2E only 10 months after the development, paving the way for another leap forward.

Behind the successful development and mass-production of HBM2E, there was the contribution of the wafer-level packaging (WLP)2 technology. WoongSun Lee, who has been leading the organization for about three years since the end of 2018, was appointed as an executive in recognition of such contributions, and he took on a big responsibility at an important time.

“This year’s goal of the WLP organization is to increase sales of the TSV product line. Among them, HBM2E will greatly contribute to profit creation. The volume of mass-production is expected to expand significantly from this year, and the top priority is to ensure stable mass-production capabilities. Rather than stopping there, we will put our efforts into preparing for the future. We will continue to identify the customer needs to lead the technology and solidify our foothold in the market. Also, we will constantly do our best for mass-production technologies required for product development so that the next product can be developed and mass-produced at the right time.”

Since joining the package development organization of the company in 2005, Lee has been building his career in the same field. In that process, he showed his splendid achievements by winning the SKMS Practice Award four times. He successfully led a TF for the flip-chip3 package conversion across the company, securing the fundamental competitiveness. Also, he showed the achievement of developing and supplying the multichip packaging (MCP)4 for the first time in the industry, which was mounted on innovative products of a specific client.

As the secret to these achievements, he cited the members’ Voluntarily, Willingly Brain Engagement (VWBE)5 spirit of challenge and the trust relationship built up by developing products with customers. He also said, “It is important to look at things in the perspective of subscription economy” in operating a business. The subscription economy, which is mainly used by business-to-consumer (B2C) companies, seems not so related to semiconductor companies dealing with advanced technologies, but he says its essence is related when you look closely.

“SK hynix is a manufacturing company, but it is also a company that provides services to customers. Customers are our important stakeholders and the ‘product-oriented business system’ that can respond to customer needs is emphasized in the company’s direction as well. The key values of the recent subscription economy are cost-to-performance ratio, cost-to-psychological satisfaction ratio, and scalability. We should provide products with an excellent ‘cost-to-performance ratio’ compared to investment costs and place importance on customer relationships to allow customers to have a great ‘cost-to-psychological satisfaction ratio’. We also need to secure ‘scalability’ that contributes to the creation of customer value by proactively implementing the next-generation products required by customers. I believe that only when these three values are well aligned, sustainable business can be achieved.”

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Lee also has experience in raising the team’s capabilities through communications. The WLP organization, a new organization at the time in 2018, was a “young team” as 60 to 70% of its members were new employees or employees who had joined the company only several years ago. He thought that sharing thoughts through communications was the priority to ensure that a group of more than 200 people can go forward in one direction. Based on this idea, he planned the “Empowerment” for new employees, where groups of 6 to 7 people are formed to share thoughts and work-related know-how freely for 30 minutes once a week. Through this, he transferred his “useful tips” he acquired through his long work life, such as how to write and read reports and how to analyze data. He says this has greatly improved the capabilities of the members and he hopes to have some time to communicate with the members after overcoming the COVID-19 crisis soon.

Also, the newsroom team asked him about his future resolution and plans as a new executive.

“As I am in a mass-production organization, I am highly interested in hyper-automation. Hyper-automation means establishing a more advanced system by introducing various cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to the existing automation concept. In the future, I would like to build a smarter and more efficient work environment by implementing hyper-automation in the actual field of the WLP organization.

As the concept of members has been extended to partners, our partner companies are also our family. For this reason, we plan to strengthen the semiconductor ecosystem through active technical exchanges and collaborations with our partner companies. We will create social values for mutual growth by securing competitiveness through localization of equipment and materials.”

Baek Mann Kim, “To Create Synergy through the Power Communication with Employees, who are the World’s Best Experts”

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Baek-man Kim joined the research center at SK hynix in 2001 and was responsible for the thin film6 process for 13 years, contributing to the SK hynix’s strengthening its technological prowess. After that, he switched his path to DRAM product development and was in charge of developing 1Xnm DRAM. During that time, he established a Tech Platform through innovation in the way of working for which he won the SKMS Grand Prize. In 2018, he was responsible for the process organization of 1Znm DRAM, continuing his career in product development. Kim named that time as the most rewarding moment since joining the company by saying, “The success of the 1Znm DRAM development gave me the pride and confidence that I contributed to the company’s establishing the foundation for producing world-class products.”

This year, after finishing product development, Kim returned to his hometown, R&D, in about seven years. He was recognized for his outstanding ability in the field of the thin film process and became the leader of a related organization under the R&D. As a leader, he will develop element technologies related to contact, which is a bonding of semiconductor materials of silicon (Si) and metal, and the metal wiring process called metallization, and takes responsibility for the future of this field in relation to SK hynix products.

“As semiconductors become more miniaturized, thorough preparation for the issue of contact resistance (Rc)7 is required. We need a group of experts who will intensively research the contact process suitable for memory semiconductors and we need to cooperate with experts in various process areas for process development. In the midst of that, our organization will play a role in coordinating the entire related processes.”

Kim has been successful in both fields of the thin film process and DRAM product development. There were a lot of trials and errors in that process, but there was one thing he realized while overcoming many difficulties. It is that SK hynix has the world’s best experts, and great results can be achieved only when the synergy is created by working together.

“I used to do things on my own in the past. As the work scope became wider, however, there were some cases where I couldn’t meet the deadline or I just gave up when a problem occurred. Now, I start working after I have identified what I need to do and what can be done by my fellow members for better results. I also think about whom to ask for advice if I get into trouble. It is because now I learned that the company members are the best experts in their fields.”

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What are the properties of an ideal leader that he thinks of? To this question, he said a leader who treats members as partners and draws out their capabilities to the fullest.

“The ideal leader I think is a leader who supports and encourages the growth of members while gathering the capabilities of members to achieve the goals of the organization at the same time. What I am trying to do is treating members as partners who seek opinions and help each other, rather than people who merely work under the given instructions. At the same time, however, I must not neglect the obligation to make decisions and be responsible for those decisions, as the ultimate head of the organization.”

Just like Kim’s gentle smile, he has a reputation for being a “friendly and kind” person. Kim thought that strong and cold-headed leadership to achieve a goal was a virtue for the position of an executive rather than soft and gentle leadership, so he thought that he was not the right person for an executive position. As the management trend is changing, however, he pledged himself to strive to become a leader who enables the balance of performance and soft leadership by emphasizing “humanity and justice”, reflecting the truth he realized his long work life.

While efforts to internalize the DBL management throughout the company continue, he is also thinking about how to create social value from the research stage.

“A lot of resources such as electricity and water are consumed during the semiconductor processes. In the processing field, I think that reducing the cost by decreasing the amount of resources consumed per wafer is the most basic and best way to create economic value (EV) and social value (SV) at the same time. These activities were performed only in the manufacturing stage in the past, but they are now increasingly going through shift-left and have been settled as major tasks from the product development stage. We will increase the speed of change to simplify the process from the initial research stage and improve the unit per hour (UPH), and internalize DBL.”

Finally, the newsroom team asked him about his future resolution and plans as a new executive.

“At the end of 20 years of working at the company, I got a new role and opportunity again. I will try hard to find and implement the ways to make the company more sustainable and contribute to the happiness of the members and myself.”


1 High Bandwidth Memory (HBM): A high-performance product where TSV technology is used to dramatically enhance data processing speed compared to conventional DRAM
2 Wafer-level packaging: Unlike the conventional method where chips are cut and packaged one by one after the wafer process, this technology cuts the chips after performing the package process and test at once in the wafer state to make a product, enabling the manufacture of a product with higher functionality compared to the previous one.
3 Flip-chip: A method of attaching a semiconductor chip to a circuit board by using bumps that act as electrodes on the chip surface, without using additional connection structures such as metal leads (wires) or intermediate media such as ball grid arrays (BGAs)
4 Multichip packaging: A semiconductor made by combining several types of semiconductors into a single chip
5 Voluntarily, Willingly, Brain Engagement (VWBE): Faith in the goal of pursuing SUPER Excellent (SUPEX), the highest level that can be achieved with human ability, through maximizing voluntary and willing brain utilization for valuing people and demonstrating the best capabilities of members to the fullest
6 Thin film process: A metal process that implements a path so that electrons that perform actual performs in all semiconductor chips can flow normally and smoothly; it acts as a barrier to prevent electrons from flowing in wrong ways.
7 Contact resistance (Rc): Electrical resistance that occurs at the contact surfaces of two conductors in contact with each other when a current flows through them