PARIS EE Times has compiled an international list that celebrates women who are business and technology leaders in microelectronics.
There is no better time than a global economic recession to examine the keys to successful corporate governance, and EE Times is honored that the ten selected women called a brief halt to their frantic business schedules to share in their diverse experiences.
The discussions below paint a vibrant picture of the ecosystem and are an assessment of conventional business wisdom. They also deliver a powerful message of hope that could awaken scientific vocations in the coming years.
Editor's note: Each executive was asked the same questions, and names are listed in alphabetical order.
| Reynette Au|
VP strategy and alliances, Atheros Communications
Reynette Au, vice president of corporate strategy and alliances at Atheros Communications, Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.)
A conversation with EE Times
EE Times: What is the greatest accomplishment, pride in your career?
Reynette Au: Every job I have held has brought certain challenges, situations of great fulfillment, and times when I felt I had made a major mistake. Every step has given me something to learn. But, in terms of singling out just one achievement that brought me singular pride, I'd have to say it was leading a marketing campaign at ARM to evangelize the semiconductor IP licensing business model, and create and promote a brand for semiconductor intellectual property (IP). This was accomplished while I was vice president of worldwide marketing at ARM.
Prior to our achievements, the IP-licensing model was not well-respected and unfeasibly implemented by others. Why? It is because in the semiconductor business, the destinies of commoditization and price erosion are considered inviolate. Casting this rule of thumb aside, we created a brand of such notable value that we were able to set a new standard for a sustainable, growth-oriented licensing model that continues to lead the market today. During this time, we created the "Architecture for the Digital World" tagline. This work integrally established the ARM Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) as the de facto standard for low power embedded applications. Underlying this achievement was the premise that good business models enable and accelerate adoption of technology; without appropriate and sensible models, and technology even great technology can disappear.
Our work to promote and reinforce the viability of the semiconductor IP licensing model stimulated broad industry support for the ARM technology. But to me, the more significant impact was how this model influenced related industries such as fabless semiconductors, EDA, semiconductor foundries, library suppliers, ASICs, application providers and system OEMs. Semiconductor IP licensing is now a well established and thriving business model that fuels a phenomenal amount of innovation and addresses a multitude of market segments. When you think of the paths that have been opened for other technologies to proliferate with this business model, you can start to appreciate the necessity of the "vision" to understand the close ties between business models and technology adoption.
EE Times: You are what we call a "Woman of Vision". Can you describe the "vision" that has motivated your professional decisions and choices? Are you still implementing it or have you changed direction?
Au: I insist on viewing technology from a practical and user-focused perspective. This is both an intellectual strategy as well as an emotional sticking point. If I cannot convince myself of the usage, application, or benefit that a technology brings to people, I cannot put my strategic or tactical momentum behind it. This "formula" drives my vision, as well as my decisions. Technology is great when it enables people to be creative and productive at the same time, when it makes them more fulfilled, more functional, and happier. People pay a lot of money for things that bring them happiness, so if even the most mundane product can tap into those values, there is greater likelihood of financial success for that product. It sounds obvious, but it's not always that way in the technology industry, nor is it an easy goal to achieve. I continue to reference this view in all of my endeavors and it influences how I perform my work, my career, and how I balance my personal life with my business life.
EE Times: Would you say that the visibility of women in technological fields has been improving, albeit slowly?
Au: Yes, over the past 25 years I have seen an improvement in the visibility of women in technology. The number of women leading business meetings has been one indicator. However, it has been slow too slow and the number of women in leadership positions still does not correlate to the societal gender balance in university technical fields. More change is needed. Change starts with how we raise our daughters. It also is influenced strongly by how we raise our sons. I could go on about this topic for days, but to try to distill the concepts down to a few comments: Parents need to refrain from inadvertently erecting barriers to their children in what they can accomplish; they need to release their children from the shackles of convention and tradition. Then as kids grow up, they can see that the possibilities are limitless that they are not defined by their gender, but by their dreams, abilities, and hard work. Their natural curiosities can be explored. It is possible that men and women see things differently, but this is a good thing. Becoming a math whiz, a great builder or an inquisitive discoverer may have been traditionally ascribed to "male" propensities, but this was only because people valued perspectives in math, building, and discovery from the male perspective. Change the perspective, alter the approach, impact the value, and, voila, different personalities and a greater variety of skill sets come to bear on solving problems. Already, we have seen how women have changed and impacted "male" dominions with unique and complementary value-adds. If you change the rules of the game, different players can play, and more often than not, better things can happen.
EE Times: What should be done to encourage more women to become masters of technology and science and take on greater roles in tech in general?
Au: I certainly believe that applying a broad and multi-faceted perspective to how technology is developed and deployed spawns new avenues for innovation and growth. Technology gets "bigger" with every passing generation. By bigger, I mean more complex, more variables and unknowns, more functionality, higher performance. This reality means technologists and their leaders have to be more collaborative, more interdependent, and even more trusting as their work becomes part of an unimaginably variegated whole they may never fully understand. Just look at what it takes to put out an animated short film these days! So, to the extent that new ideas, resiliency against failure and adversity, incisive analytical abilities and intuition, collaborative tendencies, alternative capabilities to see bigger pictures and farther out in the future, well, these skills become immensely valuable. I think women throughout history have shown these abilities to a great degree. Not that men don't embody these traits, but on anthropological and societal scales, we sure miss out on a lot of talent if we ignore the abilities on the distaff side of our species. Women should be valued for their ability to bring different perspectives to this process. Leaders of technology companies should also proactively encourage, support, and acquire talent in this vein.
Reynette Au has served as Atheros' vice president of corporate marketing and alliances since November 2008.
Prior to joining Atheros, she served as vice president and general manager of the Portable Navigation Products group at Nvidia Corp. from 2006, and as vice president of the company's Business Licensing program from 2005.
Late 2002, Au was named president and CEO of Triscend Corp., a fabless semiconductor company developing field-configurable System-on-Chip (CSoC) devices and customizable microcontrollers.
Au joined Triscend from ARM where as president of ARM Inc. she helped build its network of licensees for the company's core processor technology and established ARM's market position as 'The Architecture for the Digital World'. Prior to joining ARM, Au held engineering and management positions at Advanced Micro Devices, AT&T Microelectronics, Arrow Electronics and IBM.
Au earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from University of Denver.