Lunch & Learn: Tim Jenks

Author: Ali Dawson

On Friday, November 18, we had our last Lunch and Learn session of the semester (which is crazy – the semester has flown by!). These have been a valuable part of our fall schedule and a relaxing way to close out the school week. We’ve heard from a variety of professionals working in STEM fields with unique backgrounds. It’s an open, candid conversation – they let us in on their successes and failures, what’s worked and what hasn’t in their careers, and are always eager to answer our questions.

Our speaker this past Friday, Tim Jenks, was no different. Tim is the CEO of NeoPhotonics, a Silicon Valley-based technology firm specializing in high-speed optical components for integrated computing systems. They design their products to enable cost-effective, high-speed data transmission with strong bandwidth over communication networks. As all of us ESTEEM students are interested in technology and how it applies to business, it was fascinating to learn about the work that goes into the design of NeoPhotonics’ products and how they are utilized in things we use every day like smart phones and Facebook.

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Ultimately, he made it clear that his business is like any other – without sales you have no company, and sales come from listening to the customer, understanding what they need and want, and being able to deliver that. Other “lessons from 20 years of entrepreneurship” that I enjoyed hearing about included being adaptable to change, differentiation is key, and create a culture in which every employee feels a sense of ownership and pride in the company.

Tim comes from an impressive background, having attended the Naval Academy and receiving a BS in Mechanical and Marine Engineering, a MS in Nuclear Engineering from MIT, and a MBA from Stanford. Much like us ESTEEMers, he discussed his interest in combining technical skills with entrepreneurship, which is evidenced in his career progression. He started working in engineering jobs as a Naval Officer on nuclear power surface ships, but realized he was passionate about being more on the business side of things. After receiving his MBA, he worked at Raychem Corp. and was offered to join then-startup NeoPhotonics 18 years ago. At the time, there were 7 employees. Tim has helped grow the company into a $400 million dollar publicly traded company with offices in nearly 10 countries. It was inspiring to hear his story and the incredible evolution of NeoPhotonics as a leading global technology company, and most definitely closed out the speaker series for this semester on a high note.