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REP: Guard this Package with Your Life

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Hello readers!

I just finished up my first Intel Hand Carry assignment. “Hand Carry” is the term for assigning to one employee the task of safely transporting a few silicon wafers with a brand-new design to wherever they need to go. In my case, those wafers are First Silicon, an important step for a new product. For the first time, the design is made physical and we can turn it on and watch months of hard work pay off with huge performance boosts. But doing the actual Hand Carry is a bit more mundane. It’s like being UPS, but with more of a “guard this package with your life” kind of mentality. I got the honor of performing the hand carry by speaking up when my group was polled for volunteers for the position. Once I had confirmed that I was “Hand Carry Guy”, I started booking the perfect flights on the Intel jet as well as commercial travel. Because with Hand Carry transportation, every hour counts.

Since every hour counts, I’m going to give you an hour-by-hour log of how I played my part in this adventure.

3:35 AM, PDT – Wake up. Grumble about getting three hours of sleep. Make coffee. Stop grumbling.

4:20 AM, PDT – Drive to Intel campus. Consider that if I shifted my work day five hours earlier, I could really avoid traffic.

4:55 AM, PDT – Around this time, I arrive at the Intel campus and meet with the engineers who have the wafers ready for me. I stride into the lobby from the dark and rainy Oregon morning. I am greeted by two gentlemen in white lab coats, one of whom cradles a pink bubble-wrapped bundle about the size of twenty stacked LPs. “Wafers, duffel. Let’s get this started,” I said while opening the top of my wafer-carrying duffel bag. One of the fab guys gently places the pink bundle into the duffel, and I’m on my way.

5:10 AM, PDT – Arrive at Hillsboro airport, send email to everybody saying that the first wafer handoff has been successful.

6:10 AM, PDT – Board Intel’s corporate jet, fly to Arizona.

8:50 AM, MST – Touch down in Arizona, get on the Intel bus that will to take me to campus.

9:20 AM, MST – Deliver the pink wafer bundle to a man who has clearly been up all night. Getting first silicon turned around seems to be incompatible with adequate sleep. Anyway, I’ve successfully transferred the wafers to the Arizona lab, where men in electrically conductive smocks will process the silicon for a few hours.

12:00 PM, MST – Lunch with Arizona friends! As long as there’s no silicon in my hands, I’m free to work on my day job and enjoy my lunch.

12:50 PM, MST – I get a call during lunch that the silicon is done being processed. Time for action! I drive back to the Intel lab to pick up my crystalline payload.

1:05 PM, MST – Upon my return to the lab, a besmocked man from earlier makes eye contact, recognizes me, and hands me a very precious bundle. It’s changed while in the lab, the huge discs have been cut up into neat little squares and lined up in trays that protect the assembled parts like eggs in a carton. I return the eye contact and give a slight nod before striding away.

1:30 PM, MST – The silicon is now clutched like a football under my arm. I dial into a meeting and update my colleagues that the payload is secure and it’s coming home soon. This Hand Carry is going really smoothly. Just one more flight to go.

2:55 PM, MST – I take the Intel bus back to the airport. Time to hop on the corporate jet again!

3:45 PM, MST – I place the silicon into its duffel and board the jet. It spends the ride safe in the overhead storage area, and I spend my ride drowsing happily.

6:45 PM, PDT – Back in Oregon! I drive the silicon to one of our labs for inventory.

7:10 PM, PDT – Each part logged and accounted for, I take the lion’s share of the parts and head to the Power-On Lab, where dozens of engineers are champing at the bit to try and turn these parts on for the first time. Because these are First Silicon, the engineer that can first get these out of reset and performing useful calculations will essentially be breathing life into a product that will deliver untold millions (or even billions!) of dollars of profit to Intel. So that’s a big deal.

And that’s the role I played in the Hand Carry. Kind of a crazy day, but it’s one of those Intel Experiences that I’m glad to have had. Have you had yourself an Intel Experience? Let me know in the comments!