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.
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
"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."
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
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