How we work: collaborating with tech start-ups

A traditional manufacturing company may seem out of place in the technology hub of Silicon Valley, but GKN fits right in while joining forces with RocketSpace and global start-up companies.

Picture of Thomas Michaeler sitting down in a park in California

Thomas Michaeler, GKN Sinter Metals IT Innovation Business Analyst, traveled from Italy to California for collaboration with resources and companies to build GKN’s global footprint as an innovation leader.

RocketSpace connects companies with big ideas to corporations that have the means to realize them. Back in Italy, Michaeler shared with us his experience in Silicon Valley and the perspective of innovative entrepreneurship. 

How did you interpret the culture and environment of Silicon Valley?

The best part about the people in this environment is their entrepreneurial spirit, where no challenge seems impossible and dreaming big is encouraged every step of the way.

What is a takeaway from collaborating with the start-up companies?

Silicon Valley and specifically the tech start-ups have this mindset: the most important thing is to change the world right there and then. Instead of thinking about how an idea might fail, the focus lies on making things work no matter the obstacles. At the same time, startups need to deliver quickly in order to prove their worth and stay afloat in a highly competitive environment. 

Did GKN feel like a fit in tech-centered Silicon Valley?

I was actually surprised to see such a positive reaction from the community in Silicon Valley. GKN has a longstanding history of being a traditional manufacturing company, but we came to Silicon Valley with an open mind to learn from start-up companies, educate ourselves on different ways of working, and find new approaches to tackle challenges in our business. 

What did you find rewarding during your time in California?

It was fulfilling to host colleagues, see them open up to the idea of startups, and watch them transform their ideas. Some colleagues took hours, some took days – but each one was motivated to be a part of GKN’s changes.

We came out of meetings with new ideas and insights ready to implement them back home, whether that was through improved tools or innovative office spaces.

How could our colleagues at GKN benefit from a trip to Silicon Valley?

I believe that a drastically different environment fosters creativity. Our colleagues would benefit from soaking in the openness and transparency of companies working alongside each other.

Silicon Valley is the perfect place to think outside the box and step out of the office for a bit. GKN is at a beneficial time to let employees do this: we’re building on our innovation, and we need to be in the hub of that.

What did enjoy the most about California?

I really enjoyed the culture of the area. It was embraced that everything is possible, and nothing or nobody will stop you if you don’t let them.

In California, there’s no fear of dreaming too big - the only thing that matters is how big an idea can get. GKN is starting to adapt this innovative mindset. I’m sure there was a lot to take in at RocketSpace.

What has stuck with you the most?

I was amazed at how much new technology is already out in the market, and how easy it is to learn about new concepts and ways of working.

Whatever we picked up from a conversation will often come up again in an unrelated scenario, no matter how irrelevant the information seemed in the beginning. Encounters are important – retain all that you can.