Enter the Supplier Ecosystem: With Infineon’s Chris Thibeault Reflecting on Lessons from Amazon’s Wendy Bauer

Enter the Supplier Ecosystem: With Infineon’s Chris Thibeault Reflecting on Lessons from Amazon’s Wendy Bauer

Sign up for The Automotive Leaders Letter

Watch the full YouTube video - click here

Automotive buyer-supplier relationships are no longer linear. In the transition from ICE to BEV, vehicles are increasingly software-defined, and it’s nearly impossible for OEMs to source every electronic component on their own. Enter the supplier ecosystem.

Following up on her interview with Amazon’s Wendy Bauer, Jan seeks to learn more about the partnership between tech companies and traditional automotive. Chris Thibeault is the partner and ecosystem senior manager at Infineon, and he shares his expertise on the complexity of sales relationships in the semiconductor industry.

It’s a new value chain. Chip manufacturers have to work with third-party partner technologies to meet customer requirements, and automotive leadership requires a new level of confidence and humility to keep the relational web intact.

Wendy Bauer described how she often saw tech companies and OEMs talk past each other. Chris sheds light on how this happens and explains what company leaders must do to bridge the gap. Trust is only the beginning of a healthy working relationship. A thriving ecosystem requires more traits from its leaders.

In a wide-ranging discussion touching on the people who’ve inspired them and the books they’re reading, Jan and Chris take a broad view of innovation, business dynamics and the new style of partnership required for modern vehicle production.

Themes discussed on this episode: 

  • Understanding the new supplier ecosystem
  • The central importance of the semiconductor industry
  • Networking tactics for modern buyer-supplier relationships
  • Choosing the right partners to meet customer requirements
  • Lessons from Amazon about the power of cloud computing
  • How OEMs and tech companies can thrive together
  • The leadership qualities required in a successful business partnership

Featured Guest: Chris Thibeault

What he does: Chris is the partner and ecosystem senior manager at Infineon Technologies. His deep experience in sales and product management gives him insight into buyer-supplier relationships. As a semiconductor company, Infineon has redefined partnerships with third-party companies, combining technologies and skill sets to create innovative solutions for customers.

On leadership: “Adding to listening is empathy. Listening is obviously very, very important […] but it’s also the feeling that you are able to connect with the people you're trying to lead.”

Episode Highlights

Timestamped inflection points from the show

[1:02] The supplier ecosystem: Jan recaps her interview with Amazon’s Wendy Bauer, and Chris introduces a new meaning of “partnership” in the world of software and electronics. It’s increasingly difficult for OEMs to source every component on their own.

[3:40] All about that chip: Software-defined vehicles rely on semiconductors. Chris explains how the chip industry has effectively become a Tier 1 and the implications for the wider OEM-supplier landscape. Jan raises a question about the role of purchasing departments in the kind of partnership Chris has described.

[6:14] Defining terms: Chris explains how he thinks about his organization as a collection of ecosystems. He explains the necessity of choosing the right partners and names the specific technologies involved.

[10:00] Caught in the middle: In her interview, Wendy described bridging the gap between OEMs and tech companies like Amazon. Chris explains why this happens.

[11:27] The prisoner’s dilemma: Jan recalls HEVO founder Jeremy McCool’s discussion of consultative selling and nurturing the OEM relationship. Chris relates to Kate Vitasek’s book “Getting to We” and highlights the economic impact of upfront collaboration. 

[14:48] ‘The product is the relationship’: Business partners rarely discuss how they’re going to work together. Jan and Chris talk about the groundwork companies should lay before pulling out the contract.

[17:57] It starts with trust: Chris admires Wendy’s personal leadership style, but he also expands it by naming other qualities that come into play once a partnership is formed.

[19:39] Head in the cloud: How does Infineon drive a culture of innovation? Chris describes what it means to digitize the entire external world — and stay humble while doing it.

[24:10] Advice for auto industry leaders: Chris challenges automotive corporations to think about each piece of the puzzle. No one company can fill every customer need.

[25:10] Closing comments: Chris reveals Infineon’s early mistake that companies should avoid as they look for new partnerships.

Top quotes

[6:35] Chris: “A bee and a flower make honey; it's an interdependent relationship. So, in a sense, that is an ecosystem. We tried to take that analogy into our business and explain to our organization that every application is its own ecosystem and every product is its own ecosystem with its own needs that it has to take to market from a partner perspective.”

[15:07] Jan: “The product is transforming in a way where we now need partner ecosystems. Therefore, the relationships and the leadership model and the culture needs to change along with that. And that's the bit that I think we're missing.”

[22:22] Chris: “Feeling safe to raise your voice in a meeting is an extremely important aspect of innovation. If you're in a cutthroat type of culture, you're not going to collect all of the data in order for a leader to make decisions.”

[24:32] Chris: “Each company is going to provide a piece of the puzzle. From a system aspect and what your customers need, what is it that you do not have? This is, by definition, a need, and then you can translate that into a partner need.”

Mentioned in this episode:

Download the 21 traits of authentic leadership e book