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Teresa McLaurin manages design for test at ARM

Communication across a global company is a big part of her job. She's set up a DFT consortium to spread the word
Teresa McLaurin: devices inside the silicon with DFT.

Teresa McLaurin: devices inside the silicon with DFT.

Communicating her ideas is Teresa McLaurin's challenge, and her passion. She's a consulting engineer, technical lead and manager for design for test (DFT) at the Austin, TX office of semiconductor designer ARM Ltd.

ARM is a leading provider of 16/32-bit embedded RISC microprocessor solutions. It licenses RISC processors, peripherals and system-chip designs to electronics companies worldwide, for portable communications, handheld computers, embedded solutions and the like.

DFT, McLaurin's area, puts devices inside the silicon itself, she explains. That makes testing easier and faster and allows higher test coverage, reducing the chance of failure in service.

Propagating solutions
The hard part of her job is "propagating solutions across the company," McLaurin says cheerfully.

With other design centers in England and France and offices worldwide, her ideas have a lot of territory to cover.

"I'm looking for feedback and buy-in," she says. "It's making sure people understand everything that has been agreed to so far, and getting better communication."

To improve communications, McLaurin started the ARM DFT consortium. Representatives of ARM groups like CPU design engineering, chip testing, and hardening confer periodically by telephone. McLaurin hopes that each consortium rep will become an emissary, sharing the news with colleagues.

McLaurin has another responsibility as well. She's in charge of the testing of ARM's test chips.

It started with a kit
This intensely technical career was far from McLaurin's mind as she grew up in Arizona. She entered college as a language major because she wanted to travel. Instead, she left college to get married and have three children in three years.

Her husband works in IT but she didn't know much about the field until her father-in-law gave the family a computer kit for Christmas. "Building that computer fascinated me," she says.

Her interest took her back to school at night. In 1987 she graduated from the University of Houston (Houston, TX) with a BS in EE technology. Being the only woman in class didn't make any difference, she notes. "I got top grades so everyone came to me with questions."

Testing devices
She got out of school in the depth of the oilfield downturn, and felt lucky to find a steady job putting computer boards together. The next year the family moved west, where she started work at the Irvine, CA site of Western Digital (Lake Forest, CA).

McLaurin was hired as a characterization engineer. Her job involved testing devices in areas like frequency range and temperature range to see what they could do - to "characterize" them. It was her introduction to DFT.

A few years later the family returned to Texas, where she worked for Motorola, first as a product test supervisor and then in DFT. "Design for test was starting to really take off," she says. "I presented papers and met people throughout the industry."

Knowledge in DFT is shared among peers, rather than taught in school, McLaurin notes. "The best thing is to network with people at my level and find out what they are doing."

This was where her passion for communications got its start. She instituted weekly meetings to keep everyone informed. "It gave us a good time to talk things out," she says.

Arriving at ARM
Then she learned about an opening at ARM. The company lacked DFT expertise, and "It was an opportunity for me to lead them in what I thought was the right direction," she says. "It's been a lot of fun for me."

ARM currently sends her to three conferences a year. She's also the only woman on the IEEE P1500 standards committee task force.

Now that her children are grown - her middle child, a son, is studying EE at Texas Tech University - she's interested in getting more involved with high school students. "I had no exposure to math and science in high school, nothing that told me what engineering was," she says.

She'd like to show the kids what wafers are and explain how they work. After all, "Much of my job is about mentoring and teaching people what has to be done."

Sharing her knowledge with others is her natural gift, and an asset that ARM appreciates.



– Kate Colborn & Chritstine Willard