Our interview today is with Steve Malony, the CEO of Belkin International (www.belkin.com), the consumer electronics and accessories giant which is based in Playa Del Rey (and soon is moving to El Segundo). The company recently announced an effort where it is partnering to open up a combined high school and college on its corporate campuses, so we thought we’d catch up with Steve and learn more about how, exactly, a high school ends up locating at the corporate campuses of a technology company, as well as learn more about where Belkin is nowadays and Steve’s experience so far taking over from Belkin founder Chet Pipkin.
So talk a little bit more about this effort to be a high school on your corporate campus?
Steve Malony: It’s more than high school. It’s high school, college, and career immersion, all in one spot. We love it, it’s intentionally diverse, and brings communities together with a personalized approach with students we want to cultivate and recruit, giving them the opportunity to find their own way, blaze their own trail, and find their own voice. Ultimately, it will help them find a career, and help the world. We are trying to give people the power to give control of their own career, their economic future, and their happiness. I think if we, as Belkin, can find a way to help the communities where we are, where we are living, by helping students grow and helping them with the challenges they face, that’s a natural thing with who we are and who we’ve become over the past 39 or so years. It’s a natural progression to go in this direction.
When someone says they’re putting a school on the Belkin campus, how does that work aside from just having space there?
Steve Malony: It’s interesting you bring it up. We’re in the process of preparing for a move to El Segundo, so there’s how it’s going to work now, and how is it going to work in the new location. I’ll focus on the new location. There is going to be a spot in our offices, where students look like they’re in a classroom. It’s segregated from where we are, but on campus in the same location, where they will be getting their education in that location. But, there will also be the opportunity to interact with the competency of people in our offices. Belkin facilities are built in a particular way for what we do. We care about consumer electronics, we care about consumer insights, we do a ton of engineering ourselves, and do most of the design of products ourselves. We have sales, marketing, PR, accounting, all in those facilities. So the students will not only get in class learning, they’ll have the chance to intern with us, and get real world abilities and competencies they can take to their careers. And, at the end of it, they get a diploma they can apply in their work life. It’s a combination of all of that thinking, which will allow them not to just come out with a diploma, but with some real world experience they can apply in their lives and create careers.
How did this all come about?
Steve Malony: We’ve had a long history of supporting education in our community. Whether it’s the Da Vinci charter school program, the Rise program we’ve been involved in, we’ve always been looking for ways to support the community. So, when innovative and new experiences are being created, particularly involving education, we’re eager to get involved. Plus, our founder has been involved in many of those programs over our history, so we’re very plugged into that community and aware of what these things are developing into. When we see see an opportunity like this to get involved, you’re going to see us engaged because we want to be involved in our local communities.
In the last few years, you went through a big merger, where Belkin was small and scrappy and then a large independent firm. What does it mean now with the merger with Foxconn?
Steve Malony Deep in our DNA, we retain that scrappy nature. Sure, we have a lot more people than in the early days, but the core of our DNA remains intact and the same. We’re about improving people’s lives as it comes to technology, and that’s why it’s such a beautiful in our acquisition by FIT, Foxconn Interconnect Technologies. We’re very aligned in our DNA around wanting to design great products, to bring them to market, and to help consumers have better experiences with technology. Yes, we’re a part of a much larger organization now — Foxconn is the biggest consumer electronics manufacturer in the world– but we are chartered to continue with our vision, which is to close the gap between what people want to do with technology, and what they can do with technology. Now, we just have a lot more muscle to put into that than we did in the past. It’s been an outstanding marriage/partners/acquisition, whatever you want to call it. That said, these things are always challenging. The last two and a half or three years have been really interesting for us, but I don’t think it could have gone better than it has gone.
You’ve stepped into some big shoes, taking over as CEO from the founder of a company. How has that gone for you?
Steve Malony : I’ve worked with, for, and around Chet for over sixteen years. I still have the fortunate pleasure of working with him. We’re still close, and he’s deeply involved in what we’re doing, but now has the freedom to pursue other things he wanted to do. But it hasn’t been a sudden event, and I’ve been working alongside him for years in preparation for this. We didn’t have the dicussion five years ago about this journey, but I have been exposed to all the things in preparation for this, training for it, giving me more experience and accountability for the business. That’s not to say it’s not without its challenges or “oh my gosh” moments, but it’s been relatively smooth because we’ve been so well prepared and working towards this for so long. I don’t think you can understate the impact that Chet has had on our business and industry as a whole. The man is an icon. So, I’m never going to be able to fill his shoes, I’m going to be Steve Malony, and do the best that I can, with what I’ve got, and take as much as I can apply the great things Chet has imparted on me into who I am, because that’s all I can do. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of great people in our organization to help me. The business is not without its challenges today, including component shortages and the COVID impact, and those sorts of things, but I think the future is very bright for Belkin.
Last question ,what is the biggest thing to look at out of Belkin in the next few months?
Steve Malony: There are lots of things happening in our industry. The transition from wired to wireless is not going to slow down, it’s going to continue. Within wired, there’s a generational change with how people charge their devices with high powered charging. Power, how people charge their devices, interact with their devices, wired and wireless, whatever is coming next is not going to slow down. How people interact with these devices and all the electronics they have in their home is changing, and we’re right in the middle of all of that. We are a connectivity company, whether wireless, wired, accessorizing, protecting, making those things better, and you’re just going to see a continued progression of us applying our consumer insights, engineering, and design we’ve built over years and years and years, and now we have that extra muscle of Foxconn and FIT behind us to leverage our growth.