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Striving for More: The Dragon Boating Journey of Ben Choi

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Ben Choi, a Platform Application Engineer (PAE) in the Automotive group, has excelled in both his career of 20+ years at Intel and his passion outside of work: dragon boat racing. As a 2023 world champion in the sport, Ben’s story is a testament to what’s possible when individual determination and fearlessness come together with teamwork and collaboration.

When Ben Choi and Team USA approached the starting line at the dragon boat world championships this August, it was the culmination of eight years of dedication and effort. Ben was first introduced to the sport through Intel’s Great Place to Work program in 2015; to make the national team, he applied the same drive and collaborative spirit that has supported his career on the leading edge of autonomous driving technology.

The result: three world championship medals, including a gold for the 2km race.

“Making the U.S. National Team was a dream ever since I first started in the sport,” says Ben. “Winning a world championship is a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

 

Dragon Boat Racing – A Dream Achieved

Ben’s path to this achievement was nothing short of remarkable. This past year, Ben hit the gym four to five times a week and went to daily practices, working to qualify as one of the fastest paddlers in the country. He devoted much of his free time to improving his physical fitness, tirelessly training in an effort to represent the U.S. and Intel on the world stage.

“The most difficult part of the journey was the mental component, with the long hours of being in the water or at the gym,” says Ben. “Especially during those cold, dreary, freezing 6am January mornings when everyone else was sleeping in a warm toasty bed, or having to hit the gym late Friday evenings.”

This personal passion is closely connected to his journey at Intel. Ben first started competing in dragon boating through the Great Place to Work program, when Intel sponsored two boats to compete in Arizona’s annual corporate Dragon Boat Festival. He and his colleagues beat 30 other teams in their first-ever competition to take home the gold medal. Now, eight years later, the Intel Blue Dragon Boat racing crew is the 4-time defending state champion.

 

Charting a Career at Intel

The same strengths that make Ben a great dragon boat teammate also help him succeed in the lab. Ben is a Platform Application Engineer for Intel’s Automotive group, where he enables software defined vehicles. His role entails publishing design collaterals, assisting with customer board development, and debugging issues – including support for Waymo’s Early Rider pilot.

Over the years, Ben has embraced ambiguity and uncertainty to grow as a team member and engineer, with a deep commitment to customers. He reflects on a customer debug project that required his team’s in-person attention early in the pandemic: “Not a lot was known about COVID during these early days, so as a precautionary measure, we donned Tyvek hazmat suits while hosting a three-company debug effort in our Chandler labs. Fortunately, we resolved the issue in less than a week, and we received a nice letter from their CTO for our efforts!”

His hard work and dedication have paid off. He was recently promoted to Tech Lead. A move he describes as both exhilarating and challenging, given the role’s novelty within the automotive business unit. Ultimately, this places Ben one step closer to reaching his goal of becoming a Principal Engineer at Intel, where the synergy of vision and Intel's collaboration with automakers fuels his enthusiasm.

 

Ben’s Message: Encouraging Others to Dream Big – with Balance

Ben credits the support from his team at Intel as the key to balancing his career with his passions. The flexibility afforded by Intel, he says, “has allowed me the ability to shine both at work and on the water. My management was supportive when I worked from Hawaii for the month of Jan. 2023, to assist my parents move back for retirement. I was able to train with the best paddlers on Oahu, while continuing to support my customers remotely from the island.”

These dynamics – managing work, passions, and family as life changes – come together in Ben’s advice for others at Intel: “It’s never too late to pursue your dreams! As my time commitments and priorities have shifted, I can now pursue things I couldn’t earlier in my life and career. Now is my time!”