Innovation Saskatchewan is responsible for implementing the province’s innovation priorities and helping grow Saskatchewan’s tech sector. Effective April 2022, this includes operation of the Innovation Place technology parks in Saskatoon and Regina.

Mentor is Ready to Scale Up in Saskatoon

Interview with Director of Engineering Jeff Dyck

The unpredictability of the pandemic has reached new levels across the globe and in Saskatchewan, and its uncertainty was definitely an initial challenge for Jeff Dyck, Director of Engineering at Mentor, a Siemens Business, a tenant at Innovation Place in Saskatoon, and his team. Now, while the pandemic has certainly not gone away, the Mentor team in Saskatoon has beat their sales targets by nearly 400% and are ready to scale up and launch some ambitious projects.

We spoke with Dyck about why now is the right time to expand, how they achieved it and what the future holds. Read more below! (And, psst, Mentor is hiring! Check out our Tenant Job Board if you want to be a part of their team.)

Saskatoon represents the research and development site of Mentor, A Siemens Business. Tell us a bit about the company and the work specific to Saskatoon.

The Saskatoon site of Mentor began in 2005 as Solido Design Automation, a venture capital-backed startup. We recruited a world-class technical team and built disruptively differentiated computer-aided design (CAD) tools for semiconductor chip design. Our products changed the game, making verification tasks orders of magnitude faster and more accurate, which in turn enabled chip designers to make faster, lower power chips for less money.

We focused on winning the top 40 semiconductor companies as customers, and we grew into one of the fastest growing tech companies in North America. In 2017, we were acquired by Mentor, a Siemens business.

Today, almost every new electronic device contains chips that were designed with Solido technology. We are unique within the Saskatchewan landscape, as we combine the benefits of a rock-solid 400,000 person company with the fast-paced, unstoppable, scrappy culture of Solido.

Mentor is currently hiring multiple positions to expand its team in Saskatoon. Scaling up during the pandemic is an impressive achievement. What challenges did the pandemic initially present?

Uncertainty. That was the big one at the top level at Siemens. It was really hard to plan when we didn't know if our customers would keep buying. Siemens took a careful and committed approach and waited things out, with no layoffs, but also conservatism for new spending.

How did you and your teams adjust?

Zooming in to Mentor (Siemens' ~8000 person electronics CAD software division), our semiconductor customers did pretty well overall through the pandemic — lots of them were way up due to shifts in consumer habits to more digital services (e.g. the pandemic is a great time to watch more Netflix and play more games), and some were down (e.g. who needs a car when you're working from home?!), but the semiconductor industry as a whole didn't really miss a beat. Mentor had a great year, and we solidly beat all of our targets that were created before the pandemic.

Zooming in all the way to the Solido Saskatoon team, we absolutely kicked butt this year! Our sales were WAY higher than anyone had forecasted, and we beat our sales targets by AHEM! nearly 400%. That's really good. Like really, really, really good. This was hard to keep up with — we had a pause on hiring during this super fast growth period, and had to get awfully creative to keep the growth train chugging along.

Why is now the right time for Mentor to scale up?

So, fast forward to today, and the uncertainty is way lower at the Siemens level, we have seen how the semiconductor industry has thrived at the Mentor level, and we have seen how we have grown like mad through this at the Solido level. We're absolutely ready to scale up, especially here in Saskatoon.

What will bringing on these new jobs mean for Mentor and the work you do? Any plans for the future?

We are scaling up the whole Solido Saskatoon operation to support our growing customer base, who have an endless appetite for new features and improvements for our existing products.

We also have some really exciting new products in the cooker that are being driven by the Solido team in Saskatoon — technically ambitious stuff that will again change the game, because that's what we do ;)

Anything you would like to add?

For anyone interested in being a part of our next growth spurt, feel free to reach out to me directly. I'm always glad to discuss what we do and whether it would be a good fit.

Subscribe to the Scene newsletter for the latest information on Innovation Place and our tenants.

- December 4, 2020