Semiconductors & electronics:
vital industries still need the best
“We are always on the lookout for talented analog design engineers and others with strong analog skills.” – Steve Marsey, Linear Tech
Most companies in these fields have a global outlook, with diversity both accepted and encouraged
By Sue Marquette Poremba
While the semiconductor industry, like so many others, has been hit hard by the economic slowdown, semiconductor and other electronics hiring is by no means at a standstill. It’s simply more selective.
Lauren Carr, HR VP at Microchip (Chandler, AZ), is looking for a mix of experienced engineers and new grads, particularly EEs. “When looking for experienced engineers, we look at those who have worked in the semiconductor industry,” she says.
Steve Marsey is HR resource director at Linear Technology (Milpitas, CA). “In the current challenging market conditions we are not actively creating new jobs to be filled. But we are always on the lookout for talented analog design engineers and others with strong analog skills,” he says.
Diversity is essential
Hewlett-Packard (Palo Alto, CA) concentrates worldwide on increasing the representation of women and, in the U.S., of people with a variety of ethnic backgrounds. In addition, the needs of an aging workforce require an emphasis on new models for employee retention and flexible work arrangements, says Debby McIsaac, director of global inclusion and diverse talent.
Fred Wise, director of global staffing for National Semiconductor (Santa Clara, CA), notes that “National takes real pride in being a global company with a diverse employee base. Bringing together a diverse mix of people enriches our products and our employees: at National Semiconductor you can be heard, you can contribute and you can succeed.”
Lothar Maier, CEO, sums it up for Linear Technology. “We believe that a diverse workforce gives us added strength as we engage with our highly diverse customer base throughout the Americas, Asia and Europe,” he says.
Tommy Velez: PM in LAN access
development at Intel
It was his love of radio equipment that made Tommy Velez select a career in EE. “I used to have a shortwave radio,” he says. “I wanted to work with equipment on the analog side because my ambition was to own a radio station.”
He decided to focus on digital electronics in college, and the radio station never materialized. Instead, Velez has been with Intel since he received a BSEE from his hometown school, the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, in 1984.
“Two weeks after graduation I joined a program for recent college grads at Intel in Puerto Rico,” Velez explains. “Now I’ve been with the company for twenty-five years.” For the first nine years he worked in a variety of engineering functions. In 1993 he became a manager, and from 1997 to 2001 he was engineering manager for the whole facility.
In 2001 he transferred from Puerto Rico to Austin, TX as program manager within the R&D; group. “My group is in LAN access development,” he says. “We’re responsible for planning and executing new product releases for the company. It’s a job that requires a lot of interaction with other functions at Intel, like engineering and marketing.”
Velez supervises eight people, all of them based in Oregon. “I’m based in Austin, and now I’m also helping integrate a company Intel recently acquired,” he explains.
One of the interesting products his group is working on involves the next wave of Ethernet. His job is in management, but he still uses his technical skills regularly. “A lot of what I follow up is related to electrical design,” he says. “We also work closely with software engineers. My background helps me better understand the way technology is developed.”
Velez also mentors several employees at Intel, and he expects to be involved with an Intel mentoring effort for Hispanic professionals. Outside work he’s helped minority middle school students, and he’s an Intel liaison with the engineering school at the University of Texas-Austin. He’s also the direct contact for the school’s SHPE chapter. “I want to enhance the participation of underrepresented minorities in the engineering workforce,” Velez declares.
JoAnna Vetreno: hardware engineer
with the analog group at Plexus
JoAnna Vetreno entered Lafayette College (Easton, PA) thinking of becoming an ME. Her plans changed abruptly with her freshman “introduction to engineering” course. “I fell in love with the project we were working on: circuit design and construction,” she recalls.
Vetreno graduated from Lafayette in 2006 with a BS in EE and computer engineering and went on to North Carolina State University for her 2008 MSEE. “At Lafayette my thesis advisor was the analog professor, and I really got into what he was teaching,” she explains. “Grad school seemed like a great way to immerse myself in the subject so I could make a bigger contribution to a company when I started a job.”
She started with Plexus Corp (Raleigh, NC) at the beginning of 2008 and is now a hardware engineer I with the analog group.
Plexus, Vetreno explains, “gets contracted by other companies to do work, so there are always different projects going on. There’s a lot of change in what you’re doing from month to month.”
Vetreno’s job is designing and testing electronic circuits for products being built at Plexus. “You build them up in simulation software to make sure they work correctly; then you design a board to test them in the lab,” she explains.
Most of her time with the company has been spent on one long-term medical-related project. “It was more research-oriented than design,” she says. She got deeply involved in test circuitry and statistical analysis. But now that work is completed and she’s begun on an aerospace project.
Plexus has a strong mentoring program to help new engineers, Vetreno notes. “I was matched with a mentor who worked on my first project with me, and he’s been great, teaching me how to be an engineer in the real world. I can go to him to work through technical questions, and he also helped me learn how to interact with customers.”
Willie Goolsby: senior
process engineer at Microchip
Service in the military sparked an interest in electronics for Willie Goolsby. So after completing his Army duty he finished an associate degree in electronics from DeVry Institute of Technology (Phoenix, AZ) in 1993 and went to work in Silicon Valley in California, building and repairing semiconductor equipment.
“It was my chance to get my foot in the door,” he says. He worked for several companies, including Intel, getting a broader understanding of semiconductor manufacturing processes. That led him to Microchip (Chandler, AZ) in 1999, and he’s been with Microchip ever since.
Today Goolsby is a senior process engineer in the physical characterization lab. “I conduct research using focused ion beam technology, a scanning electron microscope, a transmission electron microscope and energy-dispersive X-ray to debug and prototype semiconductor devices,” he says. “This information is used to make recommendations for corrective actions.”
On a day-to-day basis Goolsby is responsible for the operations of his lab. “As the lead person, I also direct the actions of my colleagues,” he says.
He’s happy that his job is both hands-on and technical. “I like keeping my hands on the pulse of technology.”
Goolsby also supports other positions within the company. “I provide information that helps others make judgment calls on solving problems or developing innovations,” he says with pride.
Goolsby thinks that working in a team atmosphere is one of the most important skills he’s learned. It took all the experience he’s accumulated to prepare him for his highly specialized job, he adds. “I wouldn’t have been ready for this job right out of college,” he says with a chuckle. “Coming out of school, you have a lot to learn.”
He enjoys being in an industry on the cutting edge. “Semiconductors are a driving force behind computer technology,” he says. “There are always changes in the industry, and I’m always learning and growing.”
Amir Abdul is a senior product
engineer at Linear Technology
After community college, Amir Abdul worked for a security company that sent him to Linear Technology (Milpitas, CA) as a contract security guard. He liked the opportunities he saw at Linear and moved to a job there as a production operator. He continued in production while he completed his 1993 BSEE at San Jose State University (San Jose, CA), and “When I graduated, Linear suggested that I apply for a job as an associate engineer,” he says.
He’s now a senior product engineer at the company. Linear introduces more than 100 products every year, and as they’re completed, it’s Abdul’s job to pull together data specs for some of the products and present them to management. “I do this when I believe a product meets Linear Technology standards and is ready for release,” he says.
Abdul and his team are currently working with high-speed data converters that can handle better than 3.5 mega-samples per second. The products are used in base stations in cellular networks; their low power needs offer a huge advantage in energy conservation, Abdul notes with pride.
Abdul was born in Ethiopia and lived there until 1977, when he moved to Egypt. He came to the U.S. in the early 1980s, and got interested in electronics in community college. “I did very well in math and science, and my counselor encouraged me in that direction,” he says.
Humair Khan: tech marketing
at National Semiconductor
Not every dream comes true, so it’s good to have an alternate plan. Humair Khan’s childhood dream was to be the first Pakistani American player in the National Hockey League. He played for the University of California-San Diego during his freshman year, “But I finally realized I wasn’t pro material and I’d better focus on my other passion, electrical engineering.”
When he graduated in 2006 with a BSEE he landed a job at National Semiconductor (Santa Clara, CA). As a technical marketing engineer, he manages a portfolio and defines a product strategy to make sales and create revenue.
“This work really interested me coming out of college,” he says. “There’s a lot of responsibility right off the bat, which is definitely a challenge. Because National Semiconductor is a technical company, it brings in EEs to make sure the marketing people are able to converse on a technical level with customers, who are mainly design or software engineers.”
Khan came in as part of a marketing rotation program. “In your first year you are put into marketing positions for different products, so I got to see many sides of National, including product lines targeted at energy-efficient lighting and personal mobile devices,” he says. “After learning so much in school about semiconductors, it was great to see them being manufactured.”
During that training year Khan also spent several months in sales. “In marketing, we often deal with the sales teams, so that experience helps us communicate and drive strategies through sales.”
Although his father was an EE, Khan had never realized all the options available in the field. “By the time my senior year came around I was trying to decide if I wanted a design job or an application job,” he says. “I did a research project that year that drove me in my current career direction.” The project involved eye exams for children in which pictures of the eyes are taken with a customized camera, then run through a software program that captures possible medical issues. Work on the project involved a variety of engineering skills.
“Working with different disciplines, organizing the effort, pitching your work and justifying why you are doing it really interested me,” he says. “When I saw the product-line rotation program at National Semiconductor, I was reminded of the research project. That’s when I realized I could do this for a living.”
Khan’s product line is mobile devices, and he deals with handset customers. “These days I’m defining products that will prolong battery life in handsets,” he says. “The top five handset companies in the world all work differently.” His challenge is to devise strategies to win over a wide variety of customers.
Lalitha Oruganti: supplier
manager for Arrow Electronics
Lalitha Oruganti completed her BSEE in India and was accepted at Florida State University for her MSEE. When she graduated in 1998 a variety of jobs gave her the chance to live in different parts of the U.S.
Her first move was to San Jose, CA as a product and test engineer. “The technical job was fun and challenging for the first year or so,” she says, “but I had very little idea of who our customers were and what they would do with the products. I wanted to tie technology and end applications together and I felt isolated from that.”
Next, her husband’s transfer moved the couple to St. Louis, MO. In 2006 she found a job in technical sales in the St. Louis office of Arrow Electronics, Inc (Melville, NY), a global reseller of electronic components and enterprise computing solutions.
“After a couple of years the job of corporate supplier manager opened up. That was a great opportunity for me to bridge technology and business,” she says. She moved again and is currently based in Atlanta, GA.
Her corporate supplier manager position is a business function. “I manage two of the top ten suppliers in the U.S. and Canada,” she says. “I am their single point of contact and am responsible for driving sales.”
Her engineering background is a great strength on the job. “My understanding from a technology standpoint is essential. It helps me differentiate between products and articulate the business value they have in the market,” she explains. “I am also able to explain to our management and sales team why it’s important to support certain products.”
Right now Oruganti says her biggest challenge is finding creative ways to market her suppliers’ products in the slow economy. “I work with them from a marketing standpoint and from a strategic sales standpoint. It’s very interesting.”
Dr Stefanie Chiras:
systems and technology at IBM
“We’re coming to the end of how small things can be,” declares Stefanie Chiras, PhD. If miniaturization is actually reaching its practical limit, then the selection of materials for semiconductors will be even more crucial. The prospect excites Chiras, who has a BS in engineering sciences from Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) and her MS and PhD in materials from the University of California-Santa Barbara.
After she completed the PhD in 1999 Chiras moved on to Princeton University for post-doctoral work. But she decided that important research could also be done in the corporate world, and joined the Yorktown Heights research division of IBM (Armonk, NY) to do back-end of the line processing: “true semiconductor work,” she notes.
Next she managed a team working on unit process development of “advanced materials for next-generation products.”
She’s currently with the systems and technology group, managing a team of fourteen making processor tests on mainframes. “I took this role because it is very close to product,” she explains. “It directly impacts the chips that go into the product, and we provide guidance on multiple things.”
Some of the team works on the actual processors that go into current and next-generation systems, while others deal with reliability issues and resiliency of products. “This job lets me be very technical, but also gives me management opportunities,” she says. “I used to be a real lab rat, but I’ve found that the addition of management work is interesting and rewarding.”
Chiras chose ME as a career because she thought it would be a good way to link physics and working with tools, both of which she enjoyed. “Then I did an internship at NASA, and that introduced me to materials,” she says. “You aren’t just limited to electronics or aerospace; materials work can be applied to any interest you have.”
She views the semiconductor world as a materials scientist’s dream. “It has ceramics, metals and polymers: every possible interaction is there. And you have the added aspect of working with very small dimensions, which is fascinating because your material properties differ. Every technical challenge exists!
“If you look at the changes in the semiconductor industry, many of the big leaps were in the materials. The move from aluminum to copper interconnects, for instance, brought about completely different benefits and problems.”
DIVERSITY-MINDED ELECTRONICS AND SEMICONDUCTOR COMPANIES
See websites for latest openings.
|Company and location
|Arrow Electronics (Melville, NY)
|Electronic components and computer solutions
|Hewlett-Packard (Palo Alto, CA)
|Information technology and computers
|IBM (Armonk, NY)
|Semiconductors and computers
|Intel (Santa Clara, CA)
|Linear Technology Corp (Milpitas, CA)
|High performance analog semiconductors
|Microchip Technology, Inc (Chandler, AZ)
|Microcontrollers and analog semiconductors
|National Semiconductor (Santa Clara, CA)
|Plexus Corp (Neenah, WI)
|Electronic manufacturing services
|TriQuint Semiconductors (Hillsboro, OR)
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