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REP: Not Your Typical Office Space

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There are two important milestones in my life that I associate with songs. Moving for college and moving for work. The week I packed my life into two suitcases and one large duffel bag, and left for MIT, the song “Boston” by Augustana played almost everyday on the radio. Similarly, the day I set out for Chandler, AZ, I couldn’t dial to a pop station without hearing the song “Good Life” by OneRepublic. As silly as it may seem, I took these songs as somewhat of a predictor for the chapter that lay ahead in my life.

As a Texas native, I found that attending college in Boston was all about “starting a new life”… where “no one knew my name”. And, I am coming to find that joining Intel’s Rotation Engineer Program (REP) and moving to AZ “has gotta be the good life”. But, I didn’t quite understand the truth behind these lyrics until I embarked on these journeys— most recently, moving to AZ. And, I can sincerely say there is no better, or more appropriate, word than “journey”.

But, before I jump right in, let me preface my story by saying I used to be rather hesitant about graduating from college and starting work. The whole “real adult”, Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm gig wasn’t appealing to me. In particular, because I thought I would spend the rest of my life stuck in a monotonous cycle that would not satiate my desire— my need— to learn. And, I was worried I would end up working for a large company that would give me small, and not meaningful or challenging, projects. I also imagined said company to be rigid, risk-averse, and slow-paced— much like the fictional software company from the movie Office Space, called Initech.

To my pleasant surprise, I found that quite the opposite is true. Intel and the REP are two of the best things that have happened to me since ballet flats and skinny jeans… okay, actually, since receiving my acceptance letter and graduating from MIT.

Let me explain. One of Intel’s six core values is “Risk Taking”. Intel places heavy importance on “embracing change” to “foster innovation and creative thinking”. Intel also encourages and, get this, even “rewards informed risk-taking”. I have learned that it’s practically impossible for Intel to be one of the leading semiconductor chip makers without taking risks and constantly challenging the laws of materials science and physics. In fact, I’ve found that Intel embodies the technical agility of a small company but maintains the luxury of many resources, like a large company— the best of both worlds, if you ask me.

What about my insatiable desire to learn while making meaningful contributions? That happens too. How? Take the work I am performing during my first rotation (Note: RE’s complete three six-month rotations). I am investigating methods to help avoid materials corrosion of a Cu-Ni pedestal that is used in tools which tests our microprocessors. I am also path-finding alternative materials to make this part. What sort of responsibility does this involve? In short, I define the scope of my project, all of the possible variables and outcomes (yes, there are a lot, and I am learning how to statistically streamline this), create designs of experiments (DOEs), and refine the scope of my project, according to the data I collect. Ultimately, this could help save Intel $3 million+, result in a published paper, and affect the way our tools are run at the factory level.

Did I mention I joined the Intel team mid-July with a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering? Needless to say, I can happily report my fears of reliving Office Space have been laid to rest.

“So, the work is good, and you enjoy your project, but what about the people? Let’s not forget Ron’s Initech boss or the stapler guy, and the fact that Ron lived a pretty monotonous life outside work,” you say? Well, a picture is worth 1000 words. Lucky you, you get two

MIT-thumb-600x401MIT REs: Posing for the camera, and giving props to our alma mater (MIT+Intel=Awesome^2). All the other REs had fun doing the same…but trying to spell out some letters, like “SC” to represent Santa Clara University, is tougher than it sounds.

Sacred Heart REP-thumb-600x450

REP 2011 Sacred Heart Community Service: On our last day of “Boot Camp” (orientation for new program members) we volunteered at Sacred Heart Community Service, a nonprofit that fights poverty and helps empower the poor. True story: we automated the food bagging process, and steam-lined it from 1min to 12s! I guess that’s what happens when you give a group of engineers a task.

Augustana and OneRepublic didn’t tell me how hard and rewarding my journeys would be, or, are proving to be. But their lyrics did instill a certain hope in me. I am realizing the opportunities that come with receiving my college education and working for Intel, allow me the ability to create change. I probably won’t make a guest appearance on perezhilton.com anytime soon for my “fashion blunders and wonders”, but I do hope expect to help revolutionize technology. I only wonder if that will happen before or after my sabbatical (Intel’s two-month paid time off, offered to employees in the US for every seven years of service)… hmmmm