Kim Vo ’98, SM ’99, a corporate vice president at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), joined the semiconductor industry for three reasons. “First, it’s extremely cool technology; it’s cutting edge. The second is all the products we create: they touch everyone,” she recently said in a talk at MIT. “And the third reason is because just like at MIT, I get to work with some of the world’s smartest people.”
Vo revealed her motivation during her keynote presentation at the Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA) Women’s Leadership Initiative networking event, co-sponsored by MIT.nano and hosted at MIT on April 6. Called “Design the Solution,” the two-hour session brought together MIT female engineering students and women in leadership roles at GSA member companies to discuss career opportunities for women in hard technology.
“Events like this are unique in their importance and their mission,” said MIT Professor Asu Ozdaglar, head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and deputy dean of academics at the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing. “It gathers talents and wisdoms of women leaders who have risen to the top ranks of the semiconductor industry. Their experiences provide inspirations and insights that are bound to propel the next generation of women leaders, scientists, and engineers.”
Vo, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in materials science and engineering at MIT, opened the event with an overview of current projects at AMD and a narrative of how she got to where she is today. She advised current MIT undergraduate and graduate women to rely on four pillars for success: continually learn, partner with everyone, find sponsors, and have fun.
The afternoon proceeded with a panel discussion featuring Elif Doğruer, senior product marketing specialist at Infineon Technologies; Eve Borden, lithography process senior section manager at GlobalFoundries; Amrita Anbarasu, SoC [system on chip] design engineer at Intel; Kari Crane, DRAM design engineer at Micron Technology; and moderator Namrata Sharma, global partner leader, semiconductors at Amazon Web Services.
The speakers shared their career trajectories, highlighting the wide variety of roles in the semiconductor industry that are not always the first to come to mind — sales and marketing, foundry management, and design engineering. They spoke about moving up the corporate ladder, the transition from academia to the workforce, and what an average day looks like for them.
“The biggest difference I've noticed when transitioning from a student to an engineer in the semiconductor industry is that you really have to keep up with the knowledge curve,” said Anbarasu. “Make sure you apply all that you learned in school. And also, realizing that you're part of a product development that's actually going out in the ecosystem and creating an impact. That's pretty cool.”
Following the panel discussion, students were invited to meet with representatives from AMD, AWS, GlobalFoundries, Infineon, Intel, and Micron. This event was one in a series organized by the GSA Women's Leadership Initiative and hosted at universities across the country to highlight the global impact of a career in semiconductors and recruit more women into the hard-tech ecosystem.
“Have fun and enjoy your journey,” concluded Vo. “Don’t stress about making the wrong decision … It’s OK if you take a job and it’s not where you want to be; you can change it. Don’t worry — if you find something you love and you are determined, you’re going to succeed, whatever that success is to you.”