Dr Lisa Su: One of the World’s Best CEOs
Purnima Narang || The CEO Magazine
An immigrant, a mathematics expert, an engineer, a business executive, a CEO, Dr Lisa can be identified by various tags while she heads Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) as a president and a CEO. Born to a statistician by profession father and accountant turned entrepreneur mother, she gained knowledge of both aspects. With the curiosity and passion towards engineering, she attended the Bronx High School of Science in New York City, graduating in 1986.
Su began attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the fall of 1986, intending to major in either electrical engineering or computer science. She settled on electrical engineering, recollecting that it seemed like the most difficult major. She worked as an undergrad research assistant during her freshman through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).
An expert in semiconductors today, she was first interested in the project during her summer jobs at Analog Devices. After earning her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, she obtained her master’s from MIT in the year 1991 and completed her PhD in 1994 under MIT advisor Dimitri Antoniadis.
She initiated her career at Texas Instruments and IBM R&D in June 1994, as she joined the company as technical staff working at the company’s Semiconductor Process and Device Center (SPDC) until February 1995. She continued her tenure at the company by further being a research staff member and further as vice president of the Company.
Su played a crucial role in the IBM especially in developing “recipe” to make copper connections work with semiconductor chips instead of aluminium, “solving the problem of preventing copper impurities from contaminating the devices during production”. The cooper technology revolutionized the industry standards due to the faster operations.
Su oversaw AMD’s global business units as she became the senior vice president and general manager in 2012. She also led the “end-to-end business execution” of AMD’s products. She played a prominent role in pushing the company to diversify beyond the PC market, including working with Microsoft and Sony to place AMD chips in Xbox One and PS4 game consoles.
Becoming the CEO of AMD
Dr Lisa Su’s positions as the official President and CEO of AMD replacing Rory Read were announced on 8th October 2014. Her plan for the company involved focusing on making the “right technology investments” streamlining the product line and continuing to diversify, also asserting that she wanted to “simplify” the company and accelerate the development of new technology.
From joining AMD in 2012 to 2015, the sales of the company from non-PC markets, such as video game consoles and embedded devices increased to 40% from 10%. Su presented a long-term strategy for the company focusing on developing high-performance computing and graphics technologies for three growth areas: gaming, data centre, and “immersive platforms” markets.
Awards and Recognition
She currently serves on the board of Analog Devices, as well as the board the Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA) and the U.S. Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). As of 2016, she has published over 40 technical articles, and she also co-wrote a book chapter on next-generation consumer electronics. She was recognized with several awards throughout her career including being selected as one of the “Top 11 Young Innovators” by MIT Technology Review, Outstanding achievement in business by YMCA, “2014 Executive of the Year” at the EE Times and EDN 2014 ACE Awards.
She received “50 Most Powerful Women in Technology” award by the National Diversity Council in 2016 along with “Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business” with the Pinnacle Award by the Asia American Business Development Centre. In 2017, she was named “People to Watch” by HPCWire, “Top Ranked Semiconductor CEO”, by Institutional Investor Magazine and “World’s Greatest Leaders” by Fortune. In 2018, she continued to get recognised as she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and Fortune’s #6 “Businessperson of the Year”. In 2019 Su was named one of the “The World’s Best CEO of 2019” by Barron’, Fortune’s #44 “Most Powerful Women in Business”.