AMD Chief Shares Her Secret Sauce Behind Successful Zen CPUs & Company Turnaround

Ramish Zafar
AMD chief and board chair Dr. Lisa Su. Image: Lisa Su/Twitter

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Advanced Micro Devices, Inc's (AMD) chief executive officer Dr. Lisa Su shared her thoughts about her company's current performance, the industry as a whole and the importance of employee productivity in an interview given to the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund. In her interview, Dr. Su also shared her favorite experiences while working at her company, and shared that the time when she receives a new product for the first time is one of her favorites. She also explained that working at AMD attracted her because of the company's ability to work right at the leading edge of technology development.

"All My Products Are My Proudest Babies," Says AMD Chief Dr. Lisa Su

The executive also shared some details of her childhood, revealing that her parents' focus on science and engineering shaped her interests. They encouraged her to get an education in these topics and made her believe that she could change the world with them.

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Speaking about her turnaround at AMD, the executive highlighted that some of the biggest decisions that she took as CEO included focusing the company on its products, analyzing which technology points were at an inflection point and building strong relationships with customers. The executive also delved deeper into her philosophy of extreme communication, which involves consistently repeating the goals, decisions and steps required to achieve goals.

Commenting on Taiwan's rise as a global semiconductor manufacturing hub, Dr. Su attributes this to the evolution of the industry from in-house to contract to manufacture due to the increasing complexity of manufacturing and the fact that it takes for investment in chip production to materialize. Dr. Su believes that Taiwan was smart enough to understand this early on, and now the island nation is reaping the benefits.

Dr. Su is also optimistic that the markets her company operates in, such as the high-performance and adaptive computing markets, are secular and will only see an increase in demand as time passes. The key to surviving in this industry, which has only a few players and strong competition, is to differentiate one's products from others and how value can be added when compared to competing products.

A key benefit of working at AMD is that the engineers get to make an outsized impact on the technology industry, especially since the company is not the largest in its industry believes the executive. Making people "proud" of their work, and keeping them focused on making their technology focus on customer needs is key to managing a highly talented workforce according to her.

Geopolitical situations are very important for AMD, and on this front, Dr. Su explained that:

Well I do think it is a first order consideration, and our goal is to balance..you know..of course you know all of the different pieces. I mean you know we are a U.S. company, and so from that standpoint, given some of the national security concerns, we are certainly very cognizant of that. On the other piece of it, we do operate in very global markets and we have a great set of partners across the world. And our employees are frankly all across the world. And so you know in this place I think we have very much tried to have the balance between all the various constituents and you know we continue to believe that's the way to operate in this, you know in this, current time.

Developing great products involves putting long term goals into bite sized chunks. When developing its Zen CPUs, AMD started five years prior to launch and focused on becoming a leader in the space by laying down stepwise goals and then measuring its progress against them.

"No one's ever perfect, and no company's ever perfect, but we can certainly learn from every experience, and as we do, you know we'll do it a little better next time" is Dr. Su's philosophy and it helps her focus her engineers on long term projects.

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