Q&A Series: An Inside Look at Acacia’s Manufacturing Engineering Team

By Lisa Crewe | Posted on June 4, 2018

Discussion with James Baker, Director of Manufacturing Engineering department, and Senior Manager of Product Engineering Mike Shahine, Ph.D.

We are continuing our blog series spotlighting members of the Acacia team. It is an opportunity to share more about the Acacia manufacturing engineering process, our team’s work, and what keeps them up at night. Recently, we spoke with James Baker, Director of Manufacturing Engineering and Mike Shahine, Ph.D., Senior Manager of Product Engineering.

James and Mike
Mike Shahine and James Baker

Q: Why did both of you join Acacia?

Mike: We previously worked together at another optical networking company. We both wanted opportunities that would challenge us, expose us to new technology like silicon photonics, and to be part of a growing vibrant leader in the industry. We came to Acacia because it is an innovative company, especially in regards to advances in silicon photonics and Coherent DSP, and it presented the types of opportunities and challenges we were looking for.

James: When I first joined Acacia in 2015, I worked out of Hazlet, NJ in Acacia’s Silicon Photonics Center. Over time I shifted my scope to cover product engineering for module level as well. As my activities and teams evolved it made sense for me to relocate to the Maynard office.

Mike: After James joined Acacia we kept in touch. When James presented me with the opportunity to join Acacia and report to him – I accepted. I am excited to be a part of the Acacia team.

Q: What does your role entail on a daily basis?

James: As Director of Manufacturing Engineering, I work with teams across the entire Acacia organization with an emphasis on operations. I focus on engineering, quality, and managing contract manufacturers in Asia. I start the day on calls with Asia and then continue on with meetings with my other teams. Our discussions focus on a broad range of topics including PIC assembly processes, yields, debug/repair and making sure we are efficient as possible. When we talk about new products we discuss the full product life-cycle including the end of life transitions of products – cradle to grave. My position at Acacia keeps life interesting and energizes me.

Mike: As Manager of Product Engineering, I manage a team of five engineers. We are responsible for all module manufacturing improvements and product changes and we work with other groups to ramp product output. We focus heavily on technical issues and work closely with our contract manufacturers in China and Thailand.

Q: Talk to us about your team structure. How do they work together?

Mike: At Acacia, manufacturing engineering covers three areas: modules, PICs, and customer/RMFA support. The team is responsible at the module level – think AC400, CFP2-DCO, etc. – and for the silicon photonics stored inside. We work closely with our global co-workers and contract manufacturers in a collaborative environment.

I like that Acacia is a flat organization, meaning employees have the opportunity to work in several areas and become experts in certain products fairly quickly. Careers aren’t singularly focused on one specific area, which provides employees a broad view of available opportunities and the chance to map out their own career path; there is no rigid structure. This also means that we can find out what’s happening across the company by interacting with the employees around us.

James: Our team members often have many years of industry experience and when they first arrive at Acacia they are able to hit the ground running. We also value what junior engineers bring to the table and have seen an increasing interest from local college and university campuses in Acacia because our silicon photonics technology is exciting. Candidates are doing their industry research, identifying us as a leader in our industry and as a growing, vibrant company.

Q: What keeps you up at night?

Mike: Being proactive to keep things running smoothly.

James: Staying ahead. The Acacia executive team has their eyes on where the company needs to move to stay at the forefront. This maximizes the opportunities available for everyone in the company and improves our position as a leader of this technology.