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Women in STEM are Innovative and Collaborative—talking with SWE Winner Chia-Hung Kuo

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Growing up in Taiwan, Chia-Hung Kuo went through the challenging national exam process and got into National Taiwan University. There she earned an MS and BS in engineering and science departments, respectively. Driven by her dream of exploring how computers change lives, she decided to pursue another master’s degree in computer science rather than accept various civil engineering Ph.D. admissions. I started my dream job at Intel as a graphics driver developer in 2000. 

Below, SWE winner Chia-Hung Kuo shares her experiences as an engineer and talks about why it’s so important for women to pursue STEM careers fearlessly. “We need more talented young women to join the party.” 

Tell us a little bit about what you do and what a typical day looks like. 

I am a principal engineer working on end-to-end system architecture flow and optimization. I lead a team across business groups to decompose new use cases into hardware, software requirements and create ideal system workflows via outside-in experience-driven methodology. I am responsible for understanding user paint points, architecting, and developing innovative solutions across different technology domains for multi-device experiences.  

Did you always know you wanted to work in technology? How did you decide to go into engineering? 

Growing up in Taiwan, I went through the challenging national exam process and got into the top university, National Taiwan University. There I received my MS and BS in engineering and science departments, respectively. I have been good at advanced mathematics and always been fascinated with computer systems and graphics design since college. Driven by my dream of exploring how computers change lives, I decided to pursue another master’s degree in computer science rather than accept various civil engineering Ph.D. admissions. I started my dream job at Intel as a graphics driver developer in 2000. 

Many women in the tech industry feel that their gender has affected how they are perceived or treated. Have you also felt this, and how did you handle it?  

Yes, I would agree that my gender has affected how I am perceived and treated. I have had multiple experiences in the past where I was given stereotypical roles for women at work. However, I feel that the tech industry, especially Intel, is evolving into a more diverse and supportive environment over time. As a working parent, I really appreciated the flexibility at work and the support from my management and teams. That mutual understanding and trust is critical for me to balance between work and personal life.   

What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry? 

In the tech industry, we deal with technical problems every day. As technical women, we are empowered to tackle the problems differently to provide a more balanced view. We tend to be more collaborative, listen to different opinions, and connect the dots together. For my system architecture role, bridging the gaps between different technology domains and creating innovative opportunities for the team is very rewarding.       

Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case? 

Yes, I do. Our community, including females, has certain expectations for women, especially for working moms. Although the tech industry has been trying to promote a more friendly environment for women, there are still barriers that we need to break due to stereotypes and pop culture. One way is to provide the right resources and guidance for young women to pursue STEM careers fearlessly. We need more talented young women to join the party.  

Many women in the tech industry consider themselves introverts. Are you an introvert, and if so, what is the most difficult thing about being an introvert in the tech industry? How did you overcome it? 

I am an introvert and not very social, so I fully understand the challenges. It is very natural for some people to start a conversation and make connections with co-workers at work, but I need some time to cultivate a relationship with the team. For a group of people I am not familiar with, it may not be easy for me to join conversations. However, I observe people, pay attention to others’ points of view, care about co-workers and do well during one-on-one conversations. In addition, I found technology is a common interest and language I can use to make a connection with co-workers. Once that initial connection is established, the deeper trust relationship will continue to build up, and it comes with long-term friendship as well.  

Is there a female technologist you admire who has influenced your career journey and choices?  

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a lot of amazing female technologists inside and outside Intel (co-workers, mentors, mentees, and technologists from other companies). I also have multiple female role models that I look up to for my career development. Their wisdom constantly influences my career choices. More importantly, they provide me with a friendly environment, strong support, and encouragement. My SWE leadership award was nominated initially by two amazing females and supported by a couple of female coaches. As I mentioned, I am super lucky to be in such an encouraging and supportive working environment.   

What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry? What do you wish you had known? 

Step out of your comfort zone! If you are passionate and curious about technology and innovation, let these drive your career. Do worry that you may or may not be successful. Learning from past experiences is another way to grow and tune your career path. Also, please take care of yourself, both physically and mentally, while you are advancing your career in the high-tech industry.   

Tell us about your recent patent and the impact your patent may have. 

My recent patent focus is on how to make remote collaboration experiences and remote teaching/learning experiences better by utilizing technologies to resolve some of the end users’ pain points. After the pandemic, it became a new norm for all of us at work or school. The recent patents will help with some innovative solutions to make these experiences better. 

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