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Diversity in Your Career

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Note from the editor: Every time I scan our internal blogs, I feel a sense of pride. I’m proud to be affiliated with so many intelligent and inspiring colleagues, like Viji. Viji has been with Intel for over 8 years and is an engineering manager in the IT department with Intel India. She recently shared this blog post through our internal blogging platform, chronicling her career and experience thus far. 

VijiSteve Jobs once said “The greatest artists like Dylan, Picasso and Newton risked failure. And if we want to be great, we’ve got to risk it too”

Not sure when he said this or when I heard it; nor do I think I compare to the greats but I have a feeling my career is definitely inspired by the quote. In an era when more and more people are talking about diversity in the corporate world, I am grateful for the diversity of roles in my career – Intel has given me a variety over the past 8+ years and each and every one of them has been highly interesting.

Armed with a B.Tech in Metallurgical Engineering from IIT-M and a M.S. in Engineering Science from a US university, I was inundated with offers to start my career as an IT consultant, thanks to the C++ course that was prominently featured in my Master’s grade sheet. Running high on self-esteem and a deep interest and fascination for the semiconductor industry, I was too proud to let go of my background. The heart managed to withstand the constant pressure of the penniless purse for almost 4 months after graduation until I finally landed my dream job as a Fab Litho process engineer at a chip manufacturing company (not Intel).  And thus began my journey in the corporate world. I lived that dream for 7 beautiful years. I felt like an astronaut floating in space in a bunny suit that I wore diligently every day for those years. The sub-micron images that were cast on the wafer made me feel like Picasso. Troubleshooting yield problems was giving me the high that shots of tequila couldn’t—I know that sounds corny but that’s really how much I loved my job. I didn’t know how easily I could work 60 hour weeks without even realizing it. It seemed like I just batted an eyelid and here I was 7 years, a husband and 2 children later.

The best thing about working in a fab is of course, the intellectual satisfaction. It comes with a price though. The job is the most direct impact to the business of a chip manufacturer and hence, you are in the direct line of potential fire always. You have no life because you are on call 24X7X365. How does that work when you have a family needing to be nurtured? I am sure there are superwomen out there but that was my hard limit. It was a difficult compromise to switch jobs and leave manufacturing R&D but I considered myself very fortunate to be able to find a job that was a perfect balance: working in a fab, yet no giving your life to it. This was when Intel had come into my life and I became a technical negotiator in the capital equipment procurement space. I got to use my fab knowledge while learning a new skill. I understood the advantage “perspective” can have when you move to a new role – I got to leverage my knowledge of fab while understanding the intricacies of procurement process. My first attempt to seek diversity in my career helped me hone the ability to connect the dots – and I am eternally grateful for that. Life was good. I had nothing to complain about for a few years.

I had worked in the US for 10-11 years when the critical family decision of moving back to India happened. While this was an exciting idea, job prospects for my background were bleak. But Intel is a place of miracles. Intel found a fit where no one else could. I was moved into a role of strategic sourcing manager in the IT services space. What a company to work for! My fab experience went down the drain but it made me realize something—I could seamlessly transition into anything I had limited knowledge on and do a fairly decent job of it. I had spent a couple of years in the team picking up new skills and almost 6 years in procurement/strategic sourcing by then. But the problem was having to work late nights because the organization was US centric (and rightly so) and to me, the growth opportunities in a lean site was limited.

At a time when I felt that learning in this role was plateauing out, as serendipity would have it, I got hired into the IT organization as the business operations manager. I was picked to manage a team in IT within a year with absolutely no IT background. The real big challenge was to be leading a team that has a vast experience and far more domain and functional knowledge. But I think what works for me is the fact that I have seen such diverse roles that I am able to bring a different perspective to the role. In essence, I am in my third career, probably 7th or 8th role and going strong – I find that by seeking diversity in my roles, I have gained more confidence in taking up newer roles, provide leadership and direction to teams to see the big picture, a better understanding of organization I work for, made some great friends along the way and most of all avoided any boredom of monotony.

My 2 cents worth: Try new things and don’t be afraid to fail. Because to live a creative life, we must lose our fear of failing.

I am indebted to several people who have helped me through my difficult times. They will reside in my grateful heart forever.