Saturday, February 11, 2023

Interview With Best-Selling Author & A Foot Soldier In The Fourth Industrial Revolution


America is amidst the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which combines advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other technologies. A man who was there, behind the scenes of some of the biggest hi-tech companies for nearly a half-century while these inventions were discovered and marketed, has written a unique business memoir that sheds light on the collective work that went into creating today’s advanced, disruptive technologies: Foot Soldiers In The Fourth Industrial Revolution, by Jeffrey Cooper. 

The amazon best-seller was penned by Cooper, who spent decades in finance and supply chain management for industry leaders GE Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, ABB, and ASML. It is one-part technology memoir, one-part computer history. It debuted as Amazon’s No. 1 new release in technology biography and No. 2 new release in computer industry history. 

“I was a foot soldier in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” proclaims Cooper. “When working on cutting-edge technology, the pressure from the global marketplace is intense. There were days when I thought I might die of a heart attack from the stress. Nevertheless, I am happy to have played a part in the inexorable march of technology.” 

Below is an interview with Jeffrey Cooper: 

1.      Jeff, what inspired you to pen your first book, Foot Soldier In The Fourth Industrial Revolution? Everybody has a story to tell. I feel that way about every person I meet. But each person is wrapped in mystery and hidden from me. In my perfect world, there would be a book similar to mine for every person I meet. All I would have to do is read their book, and the veil of mystery would be lifted. In writing my book, I wanted to reveal my life to myself, my sons, and anyone interested. Today’s world revolves around technology, and I was lucky enough to have spent my life working in high tech. Also, my life is a human story with struggles, victories, and hope for the future. My life was a story worth telling. 

2.      What is it about? My book is a technology biography, part human story and technology history from my birth until today. My father was in the Air Force, so we traveled in the US and Europe when I was growing up. While at Utica College, part of Syracuse University, I started working at GE as a computer operator, and this was when I realized I enjoyed business. After I graduated from college, I went to work full-time at GE and started their 2-year Financial Management Program or FMP. I was now hooked on hi-tech and spent the rest of my career at large Hi-Tech firms like GE, ABB, and ASML. 

3.      You uniquely combined memoir with business. What challenges did you overcome to pen a book that US Review of Books said is “an engaging read?” First, telling the truth about challenges in your life is emotionally draining. That was the biggest challenge. For example, I tell a story about one time at work when I had a panic attack during a big meeting. Also, difficult to think and write about my two divorces. But to tell the world what happened and why required me to think hard and dig deep into what happened and try to make sense of it. It doesn’t come naturally to me to talk about my feelings. So, dealing with emotion was the biggest challenge. Also, I had to talk to many old friends to get some details right because I didn't have any diaries.   

4.      You say your book offers an honest reflection on not just your professional victories but your personal struggles, such as when you overcame depression, anxiety, and divorces. Why is it important to write of such things? As Voltaire said, “My life is a struggle.” Struggle is part of the human experience. However, we don’t talk about our struggles in day-to-day life. When you pass someone in the hall, they ask, “How are you?”. They don’t want to hear anything from you except, “I’m fine.” As we grow older, people get hurt and have hard times. And often, we become jaded. We don’t trust just anyone. And we keep our feelings to ourselves because we don’t know if we can trust people with our inner feelings. We are afraid to get hurt. But we feel validated if we can read a book and see that someone else also had struggles. We are not alone. 

5.      As you reflect back on your long career in the technology industry, what would you say has surprised you the most about how technology is changing the world? I am surprised by two things. First, the pace of change keeps accelerating. Change is occurring at an exponential rate. Second, I, along with many people, have been surprised by the recent developments in artificial intelligence. AI as a field of study started in the 1950s, and then there was an AI winter in the 1970s and 1980s when very little was accomplished. This lulled most people into believing that AI development would be very slow and even questioned if AI would ever amount to much.  But recent developments have dramatically changed that perception, especially when Open AI released ChatGPT and DALLE to the public. ChatGPT is like Google on steroids, and DALLE2 creates amazing images on request. VC funding for AI is exploding.  

6.      Your experience in supply chain management and finance could have come in handy during the last few years. Please explain why there are so many things in short supply in the U.S. - -and why can’t we make anything here? Historically US wages were so much higher than other low-cost countries like China that it was cheaper to outsource our manufacturing to China and other low-cost Countries. Last year we saw a critical shortage of chips. The two largest chip manufacturers are Samsung in Korea and TSMC in Taiwan, and TSMC makes 90% of the world’s most advanced chips. The chip shortage of 2022 affected many products, but the most obvious one was cars. An advanced car today can use over 3000 chips vs. a handful of chips back in the 1960s and 1970s when they were first introduced in cars. As a result, the Chips Act was passed in August 2022 with $52 billion in funding to promote chip manufacturing in the US.  

7.      You say that the pressure from the global market is intense when working in the tech sector. Why? At my last company, ASML, we designed and built lithography tools for the semiconductor industry. The latest tools use extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light and are the most complex system ever made by humanity. For example, if the mirrors in an EUV system were enlarged to the size of Germany, their biggest imperfection would be a tenth of a millimeter. It took 20 years and thousands of technological developments to develop the system. One hundred percent of the most advanced chips in the world are made with an EUV tool. I worked with ASML engineering and suppliers on developing high-precision, high-speed motors, and robots used in every EUV tool. All of today's advanced technologies would not exist without semiconductor lithography tools.  

8.      What does a Fourth Industrial Revolution mean to society now? The Fourth Industrial Revolution combines advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other technologies. Let’s take Robotics and AI as an example. Assembly and factory workers started to be replaced by robots in the 1950s, and a robot or AI can replace any job which can be automated. According to the World Economic Forum, automation will replace about 85 million jobs by 2025 globally, but the future tech-driven economy will create 97 million new jobs. Currently, 30% of all tasks are done by machines, and by 2025 that will change to a 50-50 share between humans and machines. People should start preparing now to work in 4IR jobs.  

9.      You identify in your book the many milestones in tech during your lifetime and career. In looking forward, what should we expect next? Of all the 4IR technologies, AI has the most potential to make dramatic changes to our lives in the near future. AI is already being used in 37% of businesses in 2019, resulting in 40% improvements in productivity. Self-driving cars using AI have the potential to replace bus, taxi, and truck drivers in the next five to ten years. Facial recognition is an AI capability for security on our phones, airports, and high-security businesses. Many of us use digital assistants like Alexa and Siri every day. Some estimates suggest that as many as 375 million jobs could be displaced by automation by 2030, but it is also expected that many new jobs will be created due to AI and other technologies.  

10.  What are some of your career highlights and achievements that come to mind? I was part of a ten-person start-up team to design and build a new 100-million-dollar electronics manufacturing business for GE Aerospace in 1990, which was very successful. When I worked for ABB in 1997 as a manager of the Supply Chain for North and South America, I introduced improvements in the supply chain, for example, the first internet ordering system for $300 million of overhead-related supplies and services. In my last position at ASML, I worked on developing a new 200-million-Euro Extreme Ultraviolet lithography tool, the most complex precision system ever made by humanity. The world’s latest chips are made with this tool, and all of the latest technologies depend on these chips for computing power. 

11.  What was it like working at a world-class company like GE in the 1970s and 1980s or ASML more recently? Luckily, I worked at GE during its golden age when Jack Welch was the CEO. I worked in GE Aerospace, where we developed cutting-edge radar and sonar systems for the Air Force and the Navy. I had great pride in working for GE at the time. It was a very well-managed company. I was considered a high-potential employee at the time and was honored to be able to attend management training at GE’s management training institute in Crotonville, NY. I spent the last 14 years of my career at ASML, the 33rd largest company in the world by market capitalization ($265 billion). ASML was also a very well-managed company and well-respected. It was a great privilege, challenging, and fulfilling. 

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About Brian Feinblum

Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2023. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This award-winning blog has generated over 3.2 million pageviews. With 4,400+ posts over the past decade, it was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 years as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Susan RoAne, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, IBPA, Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, NewsdayThe Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult:

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