Executive Interview: Wendy Shu, CEO of Eravant
1. When we interviewed you in February 2020, you had recently become CEO, and the company's name was changing from SAGE Millimeter to Eravant. At IMS in Atlanta, you told us the rebranding was directed as much internally—maybe more so—as externally. What was your goal internally?
We’ve been fortunate that rapid growth has been our dominating narrative since we were founded in 2011. Great product propelled us, but we knew that to keep pace with our success, we’d need to figure out how to scale our team.
Becoming Eravant gave us the opportunity to establish a cultural identity internally. Our team defines culture as “the way we behave when no one is watching.” As we increasingly get it right, we see team members acting in a way that transcends procedures, playbooks and even experience. We can move in sync without excessive process and bureaucracy, which is extraordinarily powerful for maintaining momentum. It has been rewarding work that is laying the foundation for our next chapters.
2. Turning to your customers, what did you want the name Eravant to signify to them? Did rebranding accomplish that goal?
Often rebrands are associated with big investment and large infusions of capital. Although that’s not what inspired our rebrand, we wanted our decision to represent shareholder commitment to reinvest in the business. Our plan is to continue to explore big tools, improve capabilities and find the best people for our team.
The transition has been smooth because we worked hard to preserve the things customers loved most about the SAGE Millimeter experience. Feedback from the industry has been positive, and as we work more closely with customers post-COVID, our renewed commitment will be even more palpable.
3. 10 years ago, your parents founded the company, its mission to focus on mmWave technology and products. During the past several years, mmWave technology has gone mainstream—now embedded in the flagship 5G smartphones—and the rapidly growing commercial supply chain has overtaken the defense, scientific and T&M segments that gave birth to the technology. Where does Eravant fit in this expanding universe?
Written in our mission statement is the important goal of enabling the engineers and researchers to realize the technology of the future. The rapid pace of technology implementation has given us the privilege of seeing our impact in real time.
Eravant specializes in supporting commercial industry, which operates at a very distinct pace. We often say that we were the first to deliver on the “highs and lows” demanded by the new mmWave customer: high mix, low volume, high precision, low cost. Today, Eravant continues to empower customers with both traditional and nontraditional applications by helping them set higher expectations for their mmWave suppliers.
4. More specifically, what product areas and services are you focusing on to enable your growth?
After 10 years of matrix-style product development, our portfolio of active and passive components is largely complete through W-Band. Always a proponent of organic growth, we’re continuing our engineering focus in the adjacent areas of sub-terahertz, commercial space and test and calibration products and services.
The thing that excites me most about these developments is that they were all initiated by direct market feedback. Our customers working on 6G were inspiration for our move toward 330 GHz, and our interest in space-ready products comes from our growing presence among the A&D community. Our partnerships with test and measurement key players spawned our many developments for the lab environment like our VNA extenders, calibration kits, Proxi-Flange™ contactless flanges and ;Wave-Glide™ rail system.
5. Tell us about some of your new products, such as the Proxi-Flange and Wave-Glide rail.
Both products were initially created from our own necessity. Our engineers and technicians, facing familiar challenges of tedious alignment and data uncertainty, were our first users. The Proxi-Flange contactless flange and the Wave-Glide rail system save time and help deliver consistent device under test results by eliminating the need for perfect mechanical contact during testing. The product engineers took extra care to design the Wave-Glide rail system to be as universal as possible. It is compatible with numerous VNA extender modules across OEMs, including our own, and additional rail configurations for port variations are being designed in conjunction with automated control features. We truly believe these two products could revolutionize the testing experience at mmWave frequencies.
6. You've said one of the cornerstones of Eravant is engineering leadership. What is your strategy to achieve and maintain leadership?
The choice of words for this question is telling. Many engineering companies face the challenge of not only achieving but also maintaining leadership. The key for us has been realizing that the former requires innovation while the latter requires proficiency. It is difficult to pursue both simultaneously, which is why we deliberately separate the two directives.
We do this by structuring the engineering team thoughtfully. The R&D team takes in feedback from the customer and our technical leaders to create the strategic product roadmap. When the new technology reaches a certain maturity, it is transferred to the product team for scale and continuous improvement.
7. As the new CEO, you faced added challenges from the pandemic. How did Eravant fare? Were you able to maintain your operations and supply chain?
That was certainly a defining time for me, but it was also an opportunity to tap into elements of our business continuity plan and stress test our company as a whole. Thankfully, we experienced minimal impact to our operations and actually found more efficiencies through the process.
This was because the pandemic gave us some time to rethink our approach to things we had taken for granted. We really took the time to gather ourselves, and I was extremely proud of the way that our team members responded to the changes happening inside and outside of the business. We maintained our flexibility, ramped up communication and emerged from the experience stronger.
8. Despite the pandemic, you moved into a new facility last fall. Tell us about the new building and your capabilities there.
We’ve been in our new home for less than a year, and we’re still adding new amenities and equipment week by week. Yesterday, we just completed work on our library—which houses copies of Microwave Journal that date back to the 1980s!
The facility is a brand new 60,000 square foot build-out that was designed with our operations and our team in mind. It has an ISO 8 cleanroom, two anechoic test chambers and a high performance lab with VNA measurement up to 330 GHz, noise figure measurement up to 170 GHz and power measurement up to 1 THz. We also designed it to be a beautiful, agile workplace with lots of natural light and creative comforts for the team. Our basketball court, which we named “The Mamba Court,” was just installed two weeks ago, and we’re currently recruiting corporate baristas for our café.
9. While the microwave industry has drawn engineers from around the globe, it has been dominated by males—particularly company executives. You're one of just a few women CEOs and, uniquely, a new mother. How is this experience shaping your views of “work-life” balance, and how could your experiences shape a company's culture?
Great partners and good planning are essential when finding balance for work and life. I’m lucky to have the former and have been adjusting my process for the latter ever since my first child joined our family last month. Although I’m at the height of refining my method right now, the new experiences of motherhood only confirm what 10 years of building this company has already taught me: there is always a way to make room for the important things. That idea shines through in some of our team mantras like “troubleshoot busy” and “choose for yourself,” which emphasize free will, taking control of the day and spending time to make personal decisions about what matters.