People and Culture – Factor Number One to Success
Patryk Urban serves as the IEEE Photonics Poland Chairman and is an IEEE Photonics Globalization and IEEE Photonics Industry Engagement Committee Member.
Today we interview Dr. Adam Piotrowski, CEO, VIGO System S.A., Poland, very successful Warsaw stock-indexed company focused primarily on photodetectors technology.
Patryk: What is the field of your interest in Photonics and how did it all start in your life?
Adam: It all started quite early on in my life. My father was professor at Military University of Technology, Warsaw, Poland. When I was a kid he used to take me to his laboratories where I spent hours listening to passionate scientific discussions. That’s where I first learned about semiconductors, detectors, and new inventions. He inspired my career path. In the 1970s my father and his team developed the technology of HOT IR detectors. His discovery laid the foundation stone for a dynamic development of infrared detectors technology, culminating in the creation of VIGO in 1987. 15 years later I joined as full-time engineer in the epitaxial laboratory. Over 30 years, VIGO System has grown from an innovative research-based company with a handful of employees into a global, medium-sized manufacturing company with around 170 employees, which produces the best in the world high-tech uncooled photodetectors.
Patryk: What do you consider to be your biggest achievement and contribution so far to the development of Photonics science and industry?
Adam: The detectors industry is a truly high-tech industry requiring highly specialized and skilled experts. We boast a number of top-notch specialists and R&D professionals who in many cases are pushing the boundaries of what is technically feasible. But the key thing is to provide solutions that are not
only technically feasible, but also commercially viable. My biggest achievement is that I have been able to translate VIGO’s unique research discoveries into practice. I have developed and implemented MOCVD technology which formed the basis for the production of VIGO’s MCT detectors. VIGO has in-house
capabilities for the entire development chain—from epitaxial growth, through device fabrication, to assembly of fully packaged modules and subsystems. We have also launched III-V epi-foundry producing epitaxial structures for photonic devices such as lasers and photodetectors, microelectronic devices and others. We are planning the acceleration and upscale of the detectors production, broadening products offer with new high
quality detectors and developing new applications for photonic devices such as PICs (Photonic Integrated Circuits). We also intend to control all key technology chain links including fabrication of semiconductor materials (MOCVD and MBE epitaxy) and epi-wafers characterization.
Patryk: What excites you most and keeps you motivated to further contribute to this field?
Adam: It may sound a bit pretentious but what truly excites and motivates me is the real impact VIGO can bring into
people’s everyday lives. After all, we all want to make a positive difference in the world. Our products find applications
in vital economy sectors: environment protection, science and medicine, safety and defense, chemical analysis, transportation. Our gas analysis detectors have even been used in Curiosity rover sent to Mars for space exploration. The opportunities and potential in the industry are near an all-time high. So there is so much more we can do.
Patryk: What are the main obstacles you and your peers experience when hunting for proper candidates?
Adam: The most challenging is to find candidates with strong technical background that meet the company’s
needs. And these can be broad. In our team we have specialists across the entire photonics/semiconductor production
chain, from epitaxy through processing and device assembly to final measurements. Photonics is truly highly
specialized and dynamically developing industry and it is quite challenging for universities to adapt to and serve this
Another issue is that even if universities can provide their students or graduates with the appropriate technical skillset, they offer limited preparation for tackling real life situations. Candidates need life skills as well as technical skills. They have to understand how to work in a collaborative environment, build meaningful relationships, communicate effectively, adapt to a variety of situations. For years our engineers were actively involved in supporting universities in skill development.
Patryk: You are a very successful entrepreneur with company share price sky-rocketing in Q4/2020-Q1/2021 as well as successful scientist in the past. Is there any piece of advice you would give to those looking for first jobs in Photonics or Photonics-related fields?
Adam: Photonics and photonic related fields is considered one of the key technologies of the 21st century with applications in just about every industry. Employment opportunities are excellent. It is also a dynamic and vibrant sector with long term work perspectives and great chances to deepen your knowledge, find and pursue new ideas. My piece of advice would be to look for innovative companies with strong R&D background with global presence. But those which provide not only possibility to participate in international research projects but also offer real-world applications-related experience. Having said that, not the innovative technology, the business plan or the access to funding is the key thing. Those are all important, but people
and the culture you create by and for those people are the number one factor to success. Another issue is that in many cases companies are looking for more experience than some recent graduates can offer. But I would say: “Don’t be discouraged”. Photonics technology progresses and photonics devices are becoming more and more ubiquitous, with countless opportunities for young applicants to find the right place for themselves. It’s a great time to be in the photonics industry.
Patryk: Adam, thank you very much for the interview. I am sure that your personal insights and advice will inspire others to develop their careers and contribute to the field of Photonics.