Ketan Patel joined Mini-Circuits in September 2020 as Global Vice President of Quality and Reliability, spearheading initiatives that uphold the company’s reputation for delivering the highest quality products and exceptional service to our global customers. In just his first ten months on the job, he has streamlined processes, led strategic discussions and rallied teams across the organization to create alignment around Mini-Circuits’ quality operations. He’s also full steam ahead building a new global reliability department.
We sat down with Ketan to learn more about his professional journey, how his career path led him to Mini-Circuits, and how he sees the company and industry evolving over the next five to 10 years—plus, what he’s doing to help lead us into the future.
What attracted you to Mini-Circuits for this next chapter of your career?
Many things, actually, but one of the biggest factors was how closely the opportunity at Mini-Circuits aligned with my background and career aspirations in the RF and semiconductor space.
After earning my master’s degree in applied physics, I searched and searched for a master’s degree program with a specialization in RF or electromagnetics. There were lots of electrical engineering programs, with maybe a few courses incorporating RF, but very few that focused solely on RF or electromagnetics. Finally, I found a masters in radio frequency engineering program in Scotland, where I was part of just the second cohort with only four other students.
That experience solidified my desire to pursue a career in the semiconductor industry—specifically, working in equipment manufacturing—and Mini-Circuits is a perfect fit. Not only does the company have a 50-year legacy and stellar reputation for the quality, reliability and performance of its RF products, but also an ambitious vision for the future. As we look to expand our product portfolio, the company is investing in and moving toward products that are linked to RF as well as semiconductors. Given that connection, it made perfect sense for me to join this organization.
I am also happy to be based on the East Coast, close to family.
How is Mini-Circuits different from other companies you’ve worked with?
First off, Mini-Circuits has such a rich history and legacy in the RF space, and with that comes a wealth of cumulative knowledge that is shared across the organization.
Mini-Circuits is unique in that our mission centers around our customers, despite the fact that we aren’t the ones operating the products. In many cases, a manufacturing organization will end the lifecycle of its product so that it can reallocate resources to new business. The fact that Mini-Circuits stands behind its products over the long term is a testament to their quality, reliability and performance.
The company also operates very much like a family. While there is an organizational hierarchy, everyone is accessible and approachable. If someone has a question and I’m in the office or we cross each other in the hallway, we can easily spark a conversation and solve the problem then and there, versus having to schedule a meeting or navigate layers of protocol. Based on my experience, that level of accessibility and the collaboration it fosters is rare for a company of this size and stature.
Everyone talks about quality. It’s almost taken for granted that everyone knows what that is. What does quality mean to you?
Quality is a standard to which we hold not only our products, but our people, our processes and our organization as a whole. This is what allows us to deliver superior products and service to our customers and partners.
At Mini-Circuits, quality is a department, but it’s really part of our DNA. How do you foster a culture of quality and engage teams across the enterprise in quality initiatives?
The way I think of it—and the way I explain it to my team—is that quality is the backbone of the organization. When we think of it in the context of the human body, the backbone is what keeps us upright and allows us to move freely. We can’t function without it—and neither can our company.
That is why it is so important for every part of the organization to be firmly connected to our quality management system and understand how their individual functions support the quality operations. Our quality management system helps to ensure our teams across the organization are working in unison and adhering to our stringent quality guidelines.
As far as engaging teams in new quality initiatives, I’m all about alignment and involvement. Coming in with a “this is how we’re going to do things” approach isn’t just a recipe for abrasion and disjointedness, but it also prevents the opportunity for critical collaboration and input in designing the system. Generally, I approach these types of projects by first aligning my team, then scheduling an alignment meeting with all the team members involved to lay out the project requirements and create a collaborative plan of action. This way, everyone has a hand in building the system and innately understands how to use it.
What are some ways you’re seeing customer expectations changing, and how is Mini-Circuits evolving to meet those expectations?
This is a great question and something I’ve been speaking about with the team at Mini-Circuits as well as previous teams I’ve managed.
There are three key areas today’s customer is focused on: performance, cost, and quality and reliability. Of course, different customers prioritize different factors. Most of the time, however, cost falls to the bottom of the list in favor of high performance and high quality, which is good news for Mini-Circuits. When I meet with new customers, their biggest pain point in dealing with other vendors is almost invariably quality and reliability. When I speak with current customers, their biggest praise is almost always the quality and reliability of our products.
Going forward, I expect to see the testing parameters for quality and reliability become far more rigorous (think from 1,000 hours of testing to upwards of 2,000). This is because quality and reliability are directly linked to human safety. For this reason, we are also raising our standards for human safety in the products we develop.
What does the future of quality at Mini-Circuits look like to you, five or 10 years down the road?
We will continue to lead the industry in quality and reliability by streamlining these functions so that they are part of the global organization and truly embedded in our DNA.
What’s important to you as a leader?
As a leader, I want to make sure that people feel comfortable working with me and also understand the strategies we develop in order to improve the organization. And of course, whatever we do, making sure our customers are fully satisfied with our products.
Mini-Circuits is thrilled to have Ketan’s expertise and leadership as we continue to grow and advance as a company. Learn more about Mini-Circuits’ commitment to quality.