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Changing technologies

The semiconductor industry seeks diverse techies

EE is the golden discipline, but IEs, materials engineers and even physics experts also find their niche in semiconductors

The SIA is funding a program to keep minority engineering students in school, and most companies are involved in mentoring programs for local kids

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Micron materials engineer Cynthia Bradbury interfaces with design engineers, vendors, production people and the kids she mentors.

Micron materials engineer Cynthia Bradbury interfaces with design engineers, vendors, production people and the kids she mentors.

Manufacturing engineer/IE Nathalie Gogue arrived at Applied Materials from Togo via the University of Quebec and Georgia Tech.

Manufacturing engineer/IE Nathalie Gogue arrived at Applied Materials from Togo via the University of Quebec and Georgia Tech.

Representation of minorities and women in the semiconductor industry has increased greatly in recent years, but more progress is needed in diversity recruiting.

"Our industry could hardly exist today without men and women from Asia, India and the Middle East who came here as engineers and scientists, or who were educated in the U.S. and chose to stay here," says John Greenagel, spokesperson for the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA, www.sia-online.org). "But I feel that African American men and women are still significantly underrepresented in our industry."

SIA is working to improve the problem of minority underrepresentation, Greenagel notes. The association recently awarded grants to five engineering schools to support programs to decrease a high drop-out rate among engineering students, especially minorities. The idea is to provide mentoring and leadership training, considered keys to success by many diverse engineers in the semiconductor industry today.

Micron helps nurture talent
JoAnne Arnold

JoAnne Arnold

Micron Technology, Inc (Boise, ID) has been producing semiconductors since 1978. Micron products are found in most of the devices considered essential to the modern lifestyle, like HDTVs, audio systems and MP3 players, digital cameras and mobile phones. The company makes DRAM, NAND flash memory, CMOS image sensors and other components and memory modules.

Micron knows it needs to recruit top talent, so it's helping nurture the next generation of techies. JoAnne Arnold, VP of human resources, takes a special interest in women students.

"When we help increase the number of females interested in math and science, our pool of qualified candidates increases," she says. "We support many student programs, including several that boost young women's awareness of career opportunities."

Cynthia Bradbury: materials engineer at Micron
When Cynthia Bradbury arrived at Micron ten years ago, she had already held a number of jobs in both the public and private sectors. She had lived and worked all over the world as the wife of a Navy officer.

She started out teaching science and math in California, Virginia, Spain and Japan. When she finished her MS in applied physics at Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA) she found a job with NASA, helping to develop composite materials for a space station.

Next she became a Navy civilian employee and spent six years analyzing aircraft component failures to understand what happened and how to prevent it.

One day she met some Micron folks at a professional meeting. "I started talking to people from their surface analysis lab, and realized that was the kind of work I was doing for the Navy," Bradbury says. "I was interested in the materials set and challenges I'd find in a high-tech company."

Today, as a Micron materials engineer, Bradbury interfaces with design engineers, vendors who implement the designs, and production people. She works on NAND flash memory, used in iPods and cell phones, and other products being developed for the auto and healthcare industries.

She's involved in exciting concepts for tomorrow's world. For example, there's a tiny device that you swallow like a pill. It sends out images of the digestive system as it passes through it. There's a camera that alerts drivers to stay in their proper lanes, and a sensor that notes passengers' weights to properly deploy airbags if needed.

Bradbury also spends time with young people in Micron mentoring programs. "There are so many career choices and you don't have a clue what most of them mean when you're in school," she says. "As a mentor, you can open the door for kids and show them how their interests can be applied in ways they hadn't thought of."

She does a lot of e-mail mentoring and participates in Micron's yearly "chip camp" for kids as well as conducting workshops for science teachers. "I always think it's important for kids to know there are people in the community who are willing to spend time with them and listen to them," Bradbury says. "It plants seeds for the future."

Intel: long-standing commitment
Rosalind Hudnel

Rosalind Hudnel

Intel (Santa Clara, CA) was formed in 1968 and began making history with its production of semiconductors. Today the company's chips can be found in hundreds of electronic devices, especially computers.

"Building on our long-standing commitment, we are strengthening our focus with the goal of becoming the high-tech industry leader in diversity," says Rosalind Hudnell, director of corporate diversity. "We believe our business accomplishments are a direct result of our diverse workforce around the globe."

Daniel Cartagena: Intel product development engineer
Daniel Cartagena

Daniel Cartagena

Daniel Cartagena says some of his family lived in what is now the southwest U.S. even before Mexico sold that territory to the U.S. in the mid-1800s. "They never migrated to the U.S.," Cartagena says with a smile. "The U.S. migrated to them.

"I'm a Chicano who's descended from Mexican citizens who found themselves within the new U.S. border, and from those who later migrated across the border."

When he was a kid, Cartagena liked to figure out how things work. He started at Arizona State University as an ME major but changed to EE. In grad school at Arizona State he decided to specialize in control theory, an area of EE with applications in almost every other branch of engineering.

He got his MS in 2000 and immediately took a job at Intel. In five years there he worked on the company's first Itanium chip as well as the first Centrino processors. Today he's a senior product development engineer at Intel's Chandler, AZ facility, developing test methodologies for next-generation processors.

His group defines requirements for the chip's circuitry, which will self-test the chip. The job, he says, is "strategic in nature. I get to work with processors and ideas and technologies that are not going to be on the market for three or four years or more. It offers insight into the ubiquity of computing and how that's going to change things in our society."

Cartagena is currently working toward his PhD. "There's no better place to learn than at school," he says. "Universities are still more cutting-edge than industry. You get to look farther ahead."

He has noted a lack of diverse professors in the schools. "Industry has done really well in recruiting underrepresented minorities who graduate with BS degrees," he says. "But very few of them go on to become professors, and not having diverse professors hurts the students."

As a member of SHPE, he's doing his bit to change that pattern by contributing to mentoring programs. It's giving back, he says, and he feels it's very appropriate: he has benefited from mentoring throughout his career.

"I was in Inroads in high school, and I went through an engineering bridge program before college." He was a GEM Fellow for his masters, and his current PhD work is under a National Science Foundation fellowship which also has mentoring components. "The value of mentoring is phenomenal," Cartagena concludes.

Texas Instruments has a diverse history
Rich Templeton

Rich Templeton

Texas Instruments (TI, Dallas, TX) started in oil exploration in the 1930s, got into the electronics business in the 1950s, and invented the first IC in 1958. Today the company is forward-thinking in its diversity philosophy, creating diversity teams, networks and mentoring programs that benefit current employees and future techies.

"TI is a stronger company because of our diverse culture," says Rich Templeton, president and CEO. "Our ability to leverage all our available talent and develop diverse leaders is critical to our continued success."

Jerrell Carroll: three decades at TI
Jerrell Carroll

Jerrell Carroll

Jerrell Carroll has come a long way from tinkering with stereos as a teenager. And he's come a long way from where he started at TI, nearly thirty years ago, in the now-defunct time products division.

Then as now, TI was an exciting place to be. "I was studying electronic semiconductor processes at school, and the things we were working on were more advanced than the stuff in my textbooks," he recalls with a chuckle.

Today Carroll is the digital light processor (DLP) process engineering manager in DMOS 5, one of TI's larger wafer fabs. The wafers he helps produce go into DLP HDTV, front projectors and DLP cinema projectors.

Carroll is responsible for everything related to DLP production in the fab, including yield improvement efforts. His team also contributes actively to the product-development process. "We sit together with the DLP development team and help with process integration issues."

Carroll says managing his diverse team is the most challenging part of his job, but also the most interesting. He has sixteen direct reports, from new hires to TI Fellows, and he makes it his business to keep them motivated and moving along in their careers.

"I've always felt that it's very important to give back," Carroll says. "As I came up through TI, people took a genuine interest in what I was doing and recognized my hard work."

Many of Carroll's managers and mentors at TI were diverse: a female Hispanic engineering manager, a male Chinese American process integration manager, and a female Iranian American. "None of my managers and mentors actually looked like me," Carroll says. "That's a good thing in my book."

At Broadcom, Jennifer Chiao designs communications chips
Jennifer Chiao

Jennifer Chiao

Broadcom (Irvine, CA) creates semiconductors for wired and wireless communications. Its chips go into products for the home, mobile and enterprise markets, like cable modems, broadband gateways, servers, network switches, Bluetooth devices and the ever-present cell phone.

The company prefers to subcontract manufacturing, focusing its time and energy on R&D; activities that keep its products on the cutting edge. Jennifer Chiao is part of that process: she designs the input/output (I/O) that interfaces the chip with external components.

Chiao's group of about a dozen techies designs and tests at the request of customers or internal designers. Chiao herself usually works on one design project at a time, while supporting a number of existing products.

In Taipei, Taiwan, Chiao grew up in a family with strong math and science skills. When she was seventeen the family emigrated to the U.S. and she took her math skills to college.

"I understood basic English but not enough to really jump into school," she says. "Fortunately I knew enough to major in engineering, and I got on well because engineering is a universal language."

After graduating from Ohio State University with a BSEE and from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA) with an MSEE, Chiao held jobs at Motorola, Microchip Technology and STMicroelectronics. Then she joined Broadcom as a principal design engineer in the library development group. She's been there for seven years.

"I feel fortunate to work with very talented engineers," Chiao says. "At Broadcom you are challenged by your co-workers. I look forward to coming to work every day."

Although it's a male-dominated environment, she's never felt at a disadvantage or been treated differently. But, "As a woman engineer I had special decisions to make along my career path," she says.

The first one was whether she should stay home with her child for a few years when she became a mother. "I could see myself getting behind in technology and never being able to catch up, so I decided to keep working. I'm very glad I did."

Her second big decision was whether to go into management when the opportunity arose. She turned that down, too.

"To step up to a management role would be a lot of responsibility because I would represent the entire group," Chiao explains. "I decided that for the short term I would stay on the technical side and continue to support the entire company." But when her kids are older she may revisit that decision.

VP Dr. Palash Das helps Cymer make lasers for semi production
Dr. Palash Das

Dr. Palash Das

In the semi manufacturing process, powerful light is used to burn circuits onto silicon chips. As more and more circuits are required on a single chip, shorter wavelength lights are needed to place the circuits closer together.

That's where Cymer (San Diego, CA) fits in. The company's lasers make the dense chips that power many electronics today, Dr Palash Das explains.

Although Das is a VP in Cymer's low-temperature poly/silicon department, he still does hands-on engineering. "I spend half my time in the lab as a scientist," he says.

"The environment at Cymer is quite unique. It's rare to see a company where so many executives spend time in the lab."

Das has spent several years working on flat-panel displays. He likes to get to the job really early, usually before five am. That way he can get a lot of work done before it's time to consider his executive duties, he notes.

Das grew up near Bombay (now Mumbai), India. His parents valued education and helped him get into the Indian Institute of Technology for his degree in physics. After that he took his first plane ride, to the U.S., where he entered a PhD program at Ohio State University.

His arrival was a shock to him. "It was Friday night and I was in my room looking down at the street," Das remembers. "I never saw so many cars in my life. I had heard how it was in wealthy countries but I never imagined this. I thought there were more cars than people at Ohio State."

Putting cars out of his mind, Das immersed himself in his physics program. He was amazed at how advanced the field was in this new country. He had expected to return to India after he got his PhD, but couldn't pass up an offer to join a startup in Boston, MA.

The startup failed, but Das learned that Cymer was doing some fascinating work. He joined the company as a senior scientist in 1990.

"My part of the company is still run as a small business, separate from the mainstream business of Cymer," Das says. "I report directly to one of the founders and the idea is to be flexible and move fast."

National leverages diversity
Dianna Wilusz

Dianna Wilusz

National Semiconductor (Santa Clara, CA) designs and manufacturers analog devices and subsystems used in wireless handsets and displays, as well as the medical, automotive and industrial markets.

Dianna Wilusz, director of talent acquisition and systems management, says the company wants to hire the best techies it can find, especially diverse ones.

"Our executive team recognizes the benefit achieved by leveraging diversity in perspectives and backgrounds. We focus on finding and retaining exceptional women and minority engineers to support our growing global businesses," Wilusz says.

"We've had phenomenal success in drawing a diverse group of technologists to the company."

Kevin Chen: apps engineer in National's audio group
Kevin Chen

Kevin Chen

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area, where high-tech rules, Kevin Chen believed that EEs were in great demand. But when he was about to complete his MSEE at Stanford University (Stanford, CA) in 2003, he found the job market rather tight.

"I interviewed with quite a few companies. National's offer was the first one I received so I took it quick," Chen says. "It's worked out really well. In retrospect, it was the best of all the jobs I interviewed for."

Chen is an apps engineer in National Semiconductor's audio group. The group designs audio amps that go into cell phones, handsets, TV speakers and home theater systems. Design engineers create the actual chip, but Chen handles the demo boards that let customers evaluate the chip's circuitry. Then he measures the chip's performance against the specs used to design it.

He also supports the field. "If a customer encounters a problem, we try to understand the application. If something in the application is causing the problem, we try to help the customer come up with a solution."

Chen likes this hands-on problem solving. And as National diversifies its product portfolio, he enjoys the new challenges that come his way, like a project for a high-powered home stereo application.

"I don't feel like a minority here," he says. "People here come from all kinds of backgrounds. I find the atmosphere very respectful."

ON Semiconductor: a variety of ideas and solutions
Colleen McKeown

Colleen McKeown

ON Semiconductor (Phoenix, AZ) spun off from Motorola in 1999. The company specializes in products that address power challenges, like power conversion, power control and protection. It ships some 30 billion units every year.

This kind of success "stems from our diverse workforce," says Colleen McKeown, VP of global HR. "Employees from around the world work together to create a variety of ideas and solutions for our customers."

Shilpa Rao manages parts at ON Semiconductor
Shilpa Rao

Shilpa Rao

The chips that ON Semiconductor product engineer Shilpa Rao works on are used in automobiles, cell phones, refrigerators and other home appliances. "I'm responsible for the health of the part and for its manufacturability during its entire lifetime," she says. "I am the glue between the steps and I am responsible for the part's welfare."

She makes sure there are no yield issues, the part is cost-effective and customers' questions are answered. "I interface with disciplines across the spectrum," she notes.

Rao and her family lived in their native India until she was nine. Then they moved to the United Arab Emirates. Rao's father had his eye on the U.S., but it took six years for him to get his green card.

After high school Rao returned to India for a year of college. Then the green card came, the family moved to Dalton, GA, and Rao started at Dalton Junior College. When the family moved to Atlanta she transferred to the Georgia Institute of Technology. When she graduated in 1992 with a degree in EE, she moved to Phoenix to start a job rotation program with Motorola.

She was a product and test engineer, then a design engineer, then a project manager. She liked the variety, and when Motorola decided to spin off its components section, she felt that another great opportunity for change had come her way.

"It was a time of excitement," Rao remembers. "We would be a startup."

Things are still very good. "I'm excited about where the company is today and where it's going," Rao says.

Freescale values inclusion
Jignasha Patel

Jignasha Patel

Freescale (Austin, TX) became a publicly traded company in 2004 after more than fifty years as part of Motorola. It designs and manufactures embedded semiconductors: chips for wireless, networking, automotive, consumer and industrial markets.

Jignasha Patel, director of global winning culture and inclusion, says the company wants all its employees to know they are valued. An employee feedback program called "Freespeak" is one way. "The program allows dynamic discourse between managers and employees and enables us to deliver innovative, world-class products and services," Patel says.

Michael Simmons is a project manager at Freescale
Michael Simmons

Michael Simmons

Project manager Michael Simmons was honored as a modern-day technology leader at the Black Engineer of the Year conference this spring. He notes that he gets inspiration from spending time with other black engineers. But when he builds a team, he looks at people's skills regardless of their backgrounds.

As a project manager Simmons works to define new parts that customers request. He rounds up everyone needed to build the product, like designers, product engineers and test engineers, and manages the resulting team of twenty to thirty techies.

Simmons works primarily with automotive applications. "It's pretty incredible. There are so many tiny, intricate details that need to be put together for it all to work," Simmons says. "Once you actually get the chip and put it on the tester and see that it's doing what it's supposed to do, you get excited."

Simmons' desire for a technical career began when he was five years old. After a ride on the train at the zoo he decided he wanted to be an engineer.

It was later discovered that what young Simmons really wanted was to wear the engineer's hat and blow the whistle. But when he got to school he excelled at math and science and went on planning to be an engineer.

After his freshman year in high school Simmons was picked to attend a minorities in engineering program. He liked it and went back three more summers.

When he completed his BSEE at Purdue University, Simmons found his job with Motorola. "I had rotations in sales, quality, product engineering and device engineering," he recalls. "The product engineering rotation was the best because you did everything: design, marketing and quality. It was more people-centered and you could interface with customers."

After completing his rotations Simmons stayed in product engineering for fifteen years. He also spent a couple of years in program management before moving to his current role, project management. Simmons has been at Motorola and Freescale for a combined twenty-two years now.

After work, Simmons has been giving back for more than twenty years. Through the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering, he works with grade school and high school students, speaking at assemblies, tutoring, mentoring and helping the kids with their science projects.

Applied Materials: embracing different perspectives
Applied Materials (Santa Clara, CA) supports the semiconductor industry with sophisticated manufacturing technology. There are several hundred different steps in the chip manufacturing process, and Applied Materials gets involved in almost all of them. The company's equipment is also used by manufacturers of the flat-panel displays used in notebook computers, desktop and TV monitors.

Applied Materials employs more than 12,500 people in a dozen countries around the world. "Our growth and innovation are directly related to our ability to embrace the different perspectives of our diverse workforce," says Jeannette Liebman, VP of global HR at Applied Materials.

Nathalie Gogue: manufacturing engineer at Applied Materials
Nathalie Gogue

Nathalie Gogue

As a manufacturing engineer at Applied Materials' main manufacturing site in Austin, TX, Nathalie Gogue helps the company improve its manufacturing lines. She assesses how new products will affect line capacity, and introduces new tooling to make assembly easier and faster. She also works with designers to help streamline the manufacturing of new products.

Gogue grew up in Togo in West Africa. She was good at math and science, and liked the idea of engineering because it would be a challenge. And she was well aware that not very many women choose engineering as a career.

Going into engineering was a careful decision. But her specialty of industrial engineering was a fluke, she reports with a laugh.

"I applied for civil but my application got sent to the industrial department and they accepted me. I thought as long as I was in I would start with industrial and switch after the first year, but I never did."

She got her 1998 BSIE from the University of Quebec-Trois-Rivières in Canada and her 2001 MSIE from Georgia Tech. She started at Applied Materials the next year.

Gogue is active in the community. She visits local schools and encourages students to pursue engineering. She also belongs to the company's black affinity group, which supports community activities and offers professional development training for employees.


Tara Swords is a freelance writer in Chicago, IL.

Check the latest openings at these diversity-minded organizations.

Company and location Business area
Applied Materials
(Santa Clara, CA)
Nanomanufacturing technology solutions for the electronics industry
(Irving, CA)
Design of semiconductors for wired and wireless communications
Cabot Microelectronics Corp
(Aurora, IL)
Polishing materials
(San Diego, CA)
Excimer laser light sources for semiconductor manufacturing
Freescale Semiconductor
(Austin, TX)
Embedded semiconductors
Intel Corp
(Santa Clara, CA)
Microchips and microprocessors
Intersil Corp
(Milpitas, CA)
High-performance analog semiconductors
Micron Technology
(Boise, ID)
National Semiconductor
(Santa Clara, CA)
Analog semiconductors
ON Semiconductor
(Phoenix, AZ)
Power solutions
(Munich, Germany; Raleigh, NC)
Memory chips for computing and consumer electronics
(Santa Clara, CA)
Broadband communications and storage semiconductors, firmware and software
Texas Instruments
(Dallas, TX)

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