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Building a Career in SoC: “As the Chips Grew, I Grew with Them”

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Meet Intel’s SoC Engineers in this blog series highlighting the talented team creating and testing the technology at the core of our products.

A little over 28 years ago, Prasanna Shah joined Intel’s rotation program as a new college graduate. He says it was sheer luck—and the help of a few mentors—that landed him in the burgeoning chipsets domain. “I ended up rotating into four different functions of the chipset: RTL design, product engineering, mother-board design, and back on RTL design. I was the first to do all four rotations in the same business group. This became the basis for why I stayed in chipsets for rest of my career.”

As a generalist, he was able to gain an understanding of the many different aspects of chipsets. “I stayed within design, but with my generalist start-point, I engaged with product development engineers, mother-board designers, and post-silicon validation. Back then, the chipsets were very small and the whole RTL design team was made up of four people, so it was easy to stay in touch with everybody. Today’s chips have tens of thousands of times more transistors compared to chips of 1992 and require collaboration from hundreds of engineers. As the chips grew, I grew with them.”

Now a design manager, Prasanna is focused on design execution. But, always a generalist at heart, he says there’s no boundary to the teams he works with. Indeed, he acts as the glue for chipsets, from engaging in the definition of future products to providing support to post-production issues on past products—all while executing today’s projects. He relishes being the go-to-guy on chipsets. “Any issue that comes up anywhere, part my job is to either solve it or to connect with the right experts who would solve it. An exciting part of my job is to be a fire fighter for running emergency projects. At each new, larger fire fight, I feel like I was just training for it until then. This is my dream job!”

A forward thinker, Prasanna takes pride in tackling problems and providing next-level solutions. When the chipset team was tasked with achieving a 10x power reduction, they achieved a 15x power reduction in the same timeframe. That his work directly impacts Intel’s future is what keeps him motivated to achieve ever greater innovation. “The entire world has PCs with features that would not have been possible without the work my team has done. During my time at Intel, we have sold billions of PCs with my chip in it. Each experienced chipset team member has the same pride – ‘billions of PCs with my chip.’ What other company than Intel can offer you the chance to make this kind of positive impact on the world by leveraging your engineering skills? Consider the multiplication factor, which is how many chips you sell. At Intel, that multiplication factor is hundreds of millions per year.”

And Prasanna says the multiplication factor extends way beyond just the sheer number of chipsets sold. “The most satisfying part of the job I do right now is that it provides a path to maximize my positive impact on the world. I truly believe that there is no other job in the world that can leverage my skills and passions and have higher positive impact on the world than what I have today.” And that wouldn’t be possible without a world-class team. He credits his career-defining tenure in chipsets to enjoying what he does and who he does it with—and he’s not alone in that. I looked up to many mentors and leaders who had worked in other teams or companies and noticed that once they came to chipsets, they stayed here through retirement.” When he shared this observation with mentors, he learned that that “equally motivated colleagues” are the most important factor for job satisfaction and happiness. “They came here, and they found a home here. Fortunately, I started here, hence I stayed here.”

What else has made his incredible career possible? Prasanna believes Intel’s unique work culture is what makes amazing things happen. “Being surrounded by the right people who support each other and work toward the common goals is key. We may argue about technical things, but our goals are common. The culture of the team and the caliber of the colleagues is what keeps it all going.”

Interested in shaping future technologies with a career in SoC engineering? See our current openings!
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