The Faces in Photonics series shines a light on experts from all over the world whose work is reshaping the optics and photonics industry.
This month, we feature Debbie Gustafson, CEO of Energetiq Technology.
Justine Murphy: How long have you been in the industry?
Debbie Gustafson: My first step into the photonics industry was when I joined Energetiq Technology in 2005.
JM: What attracted you to photonics?
DG: I joined Energetiq to work on extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light sources. At this time, EUV (13.5 nm) light sources were challenging and a promising market. Energetiq started the company with a novel idea to make a more stable EUV light source. I love working on “bleeding edge” technology. My background was in plasma processing in the semiconductor industry. It was challenging to transition from working with plasma to process materials vs. using plasma to generate high-brightness light. I had to learn a whole new vocabulary regarding how to measure and produce light. My first Photonics West exhibit hooked me on the industry—so much energy and excitement and so much amazing technology! This energy continues today, and a lot of it has to do with the rapidly changing digital world. There is photonics in so much of what we touch on a daily basis.
JM: What do you enjoy about the industry, and what do you find challenging?
DG: The technology is constantly evolving and the markets are very broad, which enables companies to expand and diversify. Many markets are growing rapidly, including the semiconductor market. I am on the Executive Advisory Board of SPIE, which allows me to work with an amazing network of executives from the top photonics companies. I am constantly learning how photonics contributes to new technology.
As a CEO, the last few years have been challenging due to COVID and now supply constraints. Communication within the company while many were working from home became critical, and learning ways to communicate effectively was a necessity. I began having weekly all-hands (virtual) meetings to make sure everyone continues to feel part of the team. I have continued having these virtual meetings because our employees enjoy being aware of all that is happening in the company, and everyone has a chance to be heard and contribute to our growth.
JM: What are you working on now?
DG: Energetiq is working on ways to use our broadband Laser-Driven Light Source (LDLS) with integrated technologies. We recently released a new product, the Chromatiq Spectral Engine (CSE), which is a sophisticated light source capable of matching real-world lighting conditions, emulating illuminant standards, and creating custom spectra. The CSE technology integrates our LDLS with a Texas Instruments digital micromirror device (DMD) using sophisticated algorithms and dynamic optics design. Development of this product has brought our technical team to a new level, again on the “bleeding edge.” At Energetiq, we are continually looking for new ways to innovate and keep our team challenged and learning.
We are always working to enhance our corporate culture and place great emphasis on diversity, equity, inclusion, and retention. Innovation is the backbone of Energetiq, and we know diverse teams are more innovative and creative, which in turn makes us a better place to work and a more profitable company. Our dedication to creating a truly inclusive atmosphere enables us to retain this diverse team. This is something I feel very passionately about, and I spend time speaking and educating others in the industry about eliminating unconscious bias and the importance of mentoring others for success.