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Multi-Disciplinary: From Farm to Tech

Jul 19, 2022 4 min read

When Mark Ford, senior director of platform engineering at KLA in Newport, Wales, was growing up in a cottage near his father’s dairy farm, he dreamed of taking a different path in life. It was the 1980s and technology was an emerging industry.

“It was expected that I would continue in the family business, but I knew agriculture was tough and aspired to do something different. So, I set off to pursue a career in technology and left the farm on a journey that would eventually take me to a leadership position at KLA. Thirty-six years later, I’m still energized to be here and have taken on a role of helping to develop our next generation of technologists.”

Mark Ford, senior director of platform engineering, SPTS division
Mark Ford likes to talk with young people, including his daughter, about careers in technology.

Building a Career Path at KLA

For Mark, being a role model begins at home – literally – in part because of his parents’ support more than three decades ago when the emerging world of advanced electronics first excited him as a career opportunity.

“I have a daughter who is 12 years old and in her first year of secondary school, and I love to talk to her and other young people about the industry to plant seeds for the future,” he says. “And there are so many paths to get there. I’m also a strong advocate for apprenticeship and graduate programs, because we need a steady flow of talent that will continue to transform KLA and humanity.”

Mark’s own career journey began with an apprenticeship. After completing secondary school, Mark came to the company in 1986 when he applied for a manufacturing apprentice role with SPTS, which became part of KLA when the company acquired Orbotech in 2019. He started as a test engineer, then moved into the research and development division.

While working in various roles, Mark completed his university studies, earning an honors degree in electrical and electronic engineering in 1995.

He got to work on plasma-based etch solutions, one of the key processes used in producing semiconductor devices.

“I was always keen to learn new things, and it was an exciting time to be exploring new frontiers of technology,” he recalls.

Mark followed his then-manager into PVD engineering and, for the next 11 years, worked in hardware development, often visiting customers to see their requirements were met.

Moving into Management and Transforming for the Future

After 36 years, Mark continues to enjoy working on next-generation solutions for the global semiconductor industry.

In 2006, SPTS went through a reorganization and Mark moved into management, helping to establish a core software and hardware engineering team and developing wafer handling tools as well as software solutions used in all product lines. He thrives on solving technical challenges and delivering on customer commitments.

Mark continues to work on hardware and software automation solutions, developing new product lines for semiconductor wafer handling and processing, which has been the sweet spot of his career. He also has responsibility for technical training and publications.

“Working on so many facets of technology that help change the world continues to motivate me,” he explains. “It can be easy to get complacent, but when I show new recruits our cutting-edge technologies and see their excitement, it reminds me of myself when I walked through the door.”

When he’s not developing advanced solutions for KLA customers, Mark takes to the track for some kart racing.

Diversity is Critical to the Future

Mark says the main reasons he has stayed with KLA so long is the diversity of people he works with – and particularly enjoys mentoring younger hires to help them develop and advance in their careers. He also works with global teams in Italy, Germany, Israel and other countries when KLA sites require support for wafer automation solutions .

“We’re like family both here in Wales and globally where we easily express ourselves technically without cultural barriers,” he says. “We have very diverse and collaborative teams, and I believe inclusion and diversity provides us with better results and continuous opportunities to learn and grow.”

New hires, Mark says, often tell him that KLA’s clear commitment to inclusion and diversity is an important reason they chose to work for the company.

“Having a diverse and engaged team is essential for continued growth, and it’s a key success factor for the company’s future,” he adds.

To start your career at KLA, a World’s Most Admired Company, browse our job openings in Wales and our many European locations. Also, check out a recent KLA location spotlight on our Newport, Wales site.

And be sure to catch up on our previous employee spotlights in our Opportunity Ahead, Multi-disciplinary, Making the World a Better Place and Inclusion for All series, and don’t forget to check out the KLA careers page for the opportunities ahead for you.

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