For Keysight’s customers, innovation isn’t an option; it’s a necessity. The electronic measurement company works with clients whose business depends on developing, testing, and harnessing cutting-edge technologies. “We’re innovating at the pace of our customers,” says Marie Hattar, chief marketing officer at Keysight.
From 2014 to 2020, Keysight doubled down on this vision. During that time, the company increased R&D investment from 12% to 16% of revenue. Since the company grew significantly over those six years, the actual dollar amount spent on innovation nearly doubled. As Hattar says, “To spur innovation, you have to invest in innovation.”
It’s commitments like this that have allowed Keysight to continue developing first-to-market solutions—and that have helped it earn recognition as one of Fast Company’s Best Workplaces for Innovators.
A 5G BREAKTHROUGH
One focus area for Keysight over the past few years has been 5G, the next generation mobile network. In 2016, the industry lacked a way to measure the performance of mobile devices operating on the new high-frequency bands. Unlike with previous networks such as 4G, performance couldn’t be measured using a traditional broadband connection.
In January of that year, a researcher in Keysight’s central research laboratories visited a large 5G customer in Europe, where he realized that a 5G testing solution would have to be faster and much more compact than previous ones. The researcher, who studied optics in graduate school, hypothesized that the same lenses and mirrors used by opticians could be used to measure 5G devices. Keysight put together a team to research and implement the idea. A few months later, they had developed a prototype, which was refined over the next few years. Today, the Keysight F9650A Over-the-Air Compact Antenna Test Range chamber provides the most accurate over-the-air measurements for 5G NR millimeter-wave test.
Innovation cuts across all areas of the company. So does its culture that actively values diversity across gender, race, age, and areas of expertise. “We’re really into the concept of dynamic resource allocation. Whether it’s software or hardware solutions, we bring in whoever is needed to participate in a project,” Hattar says. “This opens up the possibilities of engagement and allows people to shine across various projects and disciplines. Instead of innovation being siloed, it’s broadly shared.”
Teamwork—both within the company and with customers—is vital to Keysight’s success. Employees are encouraged to bring their specialized knowledge to bear on different projects. As a result, employees tend to stick around; Keysight’s 6% attrition rate is about half the industry standard. And because people stay at the company for a long time, they gain valuable industry-specific knowledge.
Keysight is also dedicated to sharing this knowledge with new generations of employees and students around the globe. From its Emeritus program, which allows employees nearing retirement to work part-time and focus on mentoring the next generation of engineers, to STEM programs for underrepresented K–12 students, the company is committed to expanding the pipeline of future engineers and ensuring the innovation practice remains vibrant for years to come.
What’s next for these up-and-coming researchers? 6G, of course—as well as new autonomous driving sensors, AI test automation software, and quantum computing, among other technological frontiers. As Hattar says, “If you’re trying to think about what’s next, the standards often haven’t been developed. You’re just imagining and then realizing the future.”