Even though the world has changed and men and women now have equal rights, stereotypes about women in technology persist. Furthermore, it is unusual to come across a woman working as an electrical engineer.
Then there’s Lisa Su, who defies all stereotypes by demonstrating her abilities as the world’s best CEO and the Chip Queen. She showed that women can perform just as well as men, if not better. She is the first female to be awarded the IEEE Robert N. Noyce Medal.
Though being appointed at a difficult time for AMD was not an easy task, Lisa Su completely changed AMD’s fate forever with Ryzen in 2017, and the story has only gotten better since then.
As AMD was on the verge of bankruptcy, the board of directors, led by Nick Donofrio, identified Lisa Su as the organization’s savior. Donofrio knew Lisa Su through her work at IBM. He tried to hire Su, but almost every executive except himself opposed her hiring.
“Lisa Who?” was the universal response. In Silicon Valley, there was and still is a glass ceiling for women entering the technology sector. Despite the numerous objections, Donofrio offered Su the position of Senior Vice President, which she accepted.
She oversaw one of the most dramatic turnarounds in technology since Apple. A rare female tech CEO who became the first female CEO of a significant semiconductor company upended the status quo. Here’s her story:
Lisa Su was born on November 7th, 1969, in Taiwan. When she was three years old, her family relocated to the United States. Her parents, Sandy Lo and Su Chun-hwai, encouraged her to study math and science when she was younger.
Her father, a retired statistician, started testing her on multiplication facts when she was seven years old. Her mother, a former accountant who later started her own business, introduced her to business ideas.
At a very young age, her fascination with how things worked inspired her to pursue a career as an engineer. She began disassembling and then repairing her brother’s remote control cars when she was 10 years old.
She learned about both aspects from her father, a statistician by profession, and her mother, an accountant turned entrepreneur. Lisa Su began her elementary education at the Bronx High School of Science in New York.
She finished high school in 1986. She then attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study electrical engineering (MIT). In 1991, she obtained a Master’s degree in the same field from MIT. She didn’t end there. She pursued her Ph.D. in electrical engineering at the University of Massachusetts.
According to the MIT Technology Review, Su was one of the first researchers to examine silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology as a doctoral candidate. At the time, SOI technology was an unproven method for improving transistor efficiency by stacking them on top of layers of insulating material.
– Texas Instruments and IBM R&D She began her career at Texas Instruments and IBM R&D in June 1994, joining the company as a technical staff and working there until February 1995 at the Semiconductor Process and Device Center (SPDC).
She continued her career at the company as a member of the research staff and then as vice president of the company.
Su played a “critical role” in creating the “recipe” to use copper connections with semiconductor chips rather than aluminum, which “fixed the issue of preventing copper impurities from contaminating the devices during production,” during her time at IBM.
Since the introduction of copper technology in 1998, new industry standards and up to 20% faster chips have been produced.
– IBM Emerging Products division
Su was hired as the technical assistant to IBM CEO Lou Gerstner in 2000, and she later became the director of emerging projects. She established the IBM Emerging Products division, led it as head, and quickly hired 10 staff members to concentrate on biochips and “low-power and broadband semiconductors.”
A microprocessor that extended the battery life of phones and other portable electronics was their first creation. MIT Technology Review named her a “Top Innovator Under35” in2001, in part because of her work with Emerging Products.
She also represented IBM in a collaboration with Sony and Toshiba to develop next-generation chips through the division. Ken Kutaragi assigned the collaboration the task of improving game machine processor performance by a factor of 1,000.
Su’s team eventually developed the concept for a nine-processor chip, which later became the Cell microprocessor used in products like the Sony PlayStation 3. She was still serving as vice president of IBM’s semiconductor research and development center in 2006, a position she held until May 2007. – Semiconductor Freescale
She left IBM in 2007 to become Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Freescale Semiconductor. She received a promotion in 2008, becoming senior vice president and group general manager of the company’s networking and multimedia division.
– Collaboration with AMD
Su worked at IBM for 13 years before joining AMD in January 2012. She was appointed as AMD’s senior vice president and general manager, with responsibility for the company’s global business units.
One of her most noteworthy accomplishments in the position was collaborating with Sony and Microsoft to create chips for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles. Su took over as AMD’s new CEO in October 2014, succeeding Rory Read.
For three years, Read was the company’s CEO and a member of its board of directors. Su was assuming control of a failing business. The company was actually on the verge of bankruptcy, and AMD stock was at an all-time low.
Despite AMD’s terrible position at the time, Su was willing to make “bold bets” to turn the company around, bets that would not pay off for at least another five years. Su’s bet was on selecting the right markets and creating products that consumers would use year after year.
A good example is when Su and AMD executives announced in 2016 that the company would be creating chips for a new line of microprocessors, accelerated processing units (APUs), semi-custom chips, and graphics chip designs. A year later, AMD released the Ryzen x64/x86 microprocessor, which quickly captured nearly 11% of the market.
AMD’s rise would continue in the coming years, ultimately leading in 2019 when it became the top – performing stock in the S&P 500, increasing 150% in a single year.
The feat was made all the more impressive by the fact that the tech sector was collapsing due to the US-China trade war and the economic effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, which caused its shares to soar up to 1,300% in mid-2020.
AMD generated $9.76 billion in revenue in 2020, a 45% increase over the previous year ($6.73 billion). Since 2015, the company’s annual revenues have increased, and it employs over 11,000 people in 38 different locations around the world.
The current AMD product lineup consists of x86 microprocessors, embedded and server processors, and semi-custom System-on-Chip (SoC) items primarily used for business and gaming solutions.
Lisa Su has received numerous honors and accolades.
– MIT Technology Review named her one of the “Top 100 Young Innovators” in 2002, and the YWCA honored her the following year for outstanding business achievement.
– Su was named a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 2009 after publishing more than 40 technical articles. At the EE Times and EDN 2014 ACE Awards, Su was named “2014 Executive of the Year.”
– Su was named one of the World’s Best CEOs by the financial magazine Barron’s in 2019 and was named one of Forbes’ Most Powerful Women in Business the same year.
– She received the Spirit of Silicon Valley Lifetime Achievement Award and the Robert N. Noyce Award from the Semiconductor Industry Association in 2020.
– She also has the highest-paid CEO of any S&P 500 company, with a net worth of $95 million as of July 2021. And there are many more on the list.
Few people can match AMD CEO Lisa Su when it comes to leadership personified. Su’s legacy has already been established, especially in light of the challenges she overcame to revive the tech company and the fact that the business is currently operating at its peak performance.
In an interview, Su stated that leaders are developed rather than born when leaders are allowed to pursue career planning and training opportunities, and their chances of success skyrocket.
She focused on the company’s future needs and devised the best strategy for growth. What happened next is history. This demonstrates that anyone, with the right focus and perseverance, can change the world. As a result, it makes no difference if people object to your hiring or if things get difficult. Just keep going and staying focused!
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