TSMC’s U.S. Engineers Are “Babies” Say Taiwanese After The Former Leave For America

Ramish Zafar
TSMC Founder Morris Chang
TSMC's founder Dr. Morris Chang (Zhang Zhongmou) during a keynote in April last year. Image: Lin Xunyi/United Daily News

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After the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) announced earlier this week that it will conduct the groundbreaking ceremony for its Arizona chip fabrication facility soon, American engineers sent to Taiwan for training have started to return to America to operate the plant. These engineers experienced a strong culture shock in Taiwan, with their experiences also matching TSMC founder Dr. Morris Chang's belief that operating a plant in Taiwan is easier than in the U.S. due to different labor attitudes and low costs. After the Americans left Taiwan, locals shared their thoughts on social media, with a variety of viewpoints ranging from calling the engineers 'babies' to stating that they will now sell TSMC's secrets to Intel.

TSMC's U.S. Engineers Start Departing Taiwan After Spending More Than A Year In Training

TSMC's Arizona fabrication facility was announced in 2020, and at the time, the firm announced that the facility will manufacture chips on the advanced 5-nanometer semiconductor manufacturing process. Since then, construction has proceeded smoothly, and the latest bit saw the company announce earlier that a groundbreaking ceremony will be held in December this year as the first machines have started to make their way to the plant. The company's statement came after rumors surfaced that President Biden and Speaker Pelosi would also attend the ceremony, but TSMC refrained from confirming this; going on to simply state that government officials would also be present at the event.

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Now that the American engineers have started to leave Taiwan, comments on the website PTT are not flattering, to say the least. They range from complaining that the salaries in the U.S. are higher when compared to Taiwan, to advising TSMC to give them a Buddha figurine as a complimentary gift.

A snippet from PTT shows some thoughts shared by locals in Taiwan. 

Company reviews of U.S. engineers working at TSMC have also surfaced consistently since they made their way to the island. An anonymous engineer called the company having a "military culture" earlier this year. He also said that while the pay is above the industry average, it is also accompanied by long working hours and that not only did he feel that management feedback was unappreciated, but that taking vacations was also discouraged since they might affect performance reviews. TSMC's shares were hit with short selling in October when its chief Dr. C.C. Wei encouraged employees to take their allowed vacations off.

The engineer also went on to state:

Advice to Management

TSMC is building a fab in USA but 95% managers are from Taiwan local. All of them have been influenced by military-like culture for more than 10 years. Most of them refuse to adopt US culture because that is not how they got to their high level position. Will need more US managers to build fusion culture

Commenters on PTT shared that their American counterparts continued to smoke in the facilities despite rules prohibiting them from doing so and that the area "from the dormitory to the pantry is full of smoke." Others called the U.S. engineers a "group of giant babies."  Others however taunted that "[s]laves are used to being slaves, and those who demand normal welfare in the eyes of slaves are giant babies." 

By the time the Arizona fab becomes operational in 2024, TSMC will have entered mass production of the leading edge 3-nanometer technology and will have only a year left before the next generation 2-nanometer technology also enters production. It is not clear whether the U.S. plant will also upgrade to these technologies; however, it is more likely for it to do so than not since several of TSMC's largest customers are located in the U.S. The 2-nanometer manufacturing will also use advanced machines, and since the process of equipping a facility with them starts years in advance, the facility should not start to immediately being producing the latest chips.

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