Thomas Sonderman, CEO and director of semiconductor foundry SkyWater, told Missouri University of Science and Technology graduates to envision the impact they want to make, the legacy they want to leave behind and the people they want to become during commencement addresses he delivered at two commencement ceremonies at Missouri S&T last weekend.
Sonderman, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Missouri S&T in 1986, spoke during Missouri S&T commencement ceremonies held at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, in the Gale Bullman Building on campus.
“When each of you started here at S&T just a few years ago, you probably started with this end – graduation – In mind,” Sonderman told the graduates. “Your hard work, dedication, and perseverance have led you to this moment. You’ve navigated the rigors of academic life at S&T, and now, you’re about to step into a future filled with limitless possibilities. As you take that step, I encourage you to again begin with the end in mind.”
After graduation, instead of going into a field related to chemical engineering, Sonderman went to work in the semiconductor industry. “And that’s right when PCs were booming, so the need for semiconductors was rocketing, and I thought that was incredibly exciting. Today, we live in an era where semiconductors are the unsung heroes of our modern lives.
“Let me tell you, this is your time,” Sonderman said. “The demand for skilled high-tech professionals is unmatched. The semiconductor industry alone will need 50,000 new engineers by the end of the decade.
“The world of high tech … requires resilience, adaptability and a relentless pursuit of innovation. And it’s this pursuit that will help you turn the impossible into the inevitable,” he said. “Once impossible, now inevitable. And in my opinion, that’s what it’s all about – making a difference in people’s lives. “
Sonderman of Apple Valley, Minnesota, was appointed lead executive of SkyWater and elected to the board of directors in 2017. As CEO, he oversees efforts to maximize shareholder value through collaborating with customers, partners and other external stakeholders to drive the company’s long-term vision for the future. He has been instrumental in leading the company’s successful business transformation and he led SkyWater’s initial public offering in April 2021.
Prior to joining SkyWater, Sonderman worked at Rudolph Technologies, GLOBALFOUNDRIES and AMD.
A widely recognized subject matter expert, Sonderman holds 50 patents and is a highly sought-after industry speaker.
In addition to his S&T bachelor’s degree, he also holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from National Technological University.