TAMEST Member Profile: Lisa T. Su, Ph.D. (NAE), Chair and CEO, AMD
As Chair and Chief Executive Officer of AMD, TAMEST Member Lisa T. Su, Ph.D. (NAE), has helped transform one of the fastest growing semiconductor and adaptive computing companies in the world. Born in Taiwan, she immigrated with her family to New York City when she was just three. After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science, she attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), earning a bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering.
Dr. Su spent the majority of her early career at IBM in engineering and business leadership positions, then moved to Austin to join Freescale Semiconductor as their Senior Vice President and General Manager of Networking and Multimedia in 2007. She joined AMD in 2012 because she knew high-performance computing would play a vital role in shaping the world.
AMD was founded in 1969 as a Silicon Valley start-up with dozens of employees who were passionate about creating leading-edge semiconductor products. Thanks to leaders like Dr. Su, AMD has grown into a global company setting the standard for modern computing, with many important industry firsts and major technological achievements along the way.
In 2018, Dr. Su was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and became a member of TAMEST. In 2021, she was recognized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) with its highest semiconductor honor, the Robert N. Noyce Medal and was appointed by President Biden to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Semiconductor Industry Association.
TAMEST connected with Dr. Su to learn more about her passion for mentorship and powering the products and services that help solve the world’s most important challenges, and to discuss what AMD is doing to transform the semiconductor industry with artificial intelligence.
Please tell us a little about how you found your path into electrical engineering and technology innovation.
I’ve always had a fascination with how things worked for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, my brother’s remote-controlled car stopped working one day, and I started taking it apart to reconnect the wires and fix it.
When it came time to choose my college major, I settled on electrical engineering because it seemed like the most difficult subject and I wanted to take on that challenge. I first fell in love with semiconductors while working in a semiconductor lab during my freshman year in college, and I loved the idea that a chip the size of a small coin could change the world.
It has been incredibly rewarding to be in an industry that has become so essential to everything that we do.
You were born in Taiwan. How did you end up living and working in Texas?
My family immigrated to the United States when I was three, and we lived in New York City.
After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science, I went to MIT where I earned a bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. in electrical engineering. I spent the majority of my early career at IBM, then moved to Austin to join Freescale Semiconductor in 2007. I joined AMD in 2012, so Austin has been home for over 16 years!
You are the Chair and CEO of AMD. Talk about your role at the company and how you’ve helped transform it into one of the fastest-growing semiconductor companies in the world.
My role is to lead the incredibly smart and talented team of AMDers to push the leading edge of innovation in high-performance and adaptive computing. I joined AMD in 2012 because I believed then, and think it is even more true now, that high-performance computing plays an incredibly important role in shaping the world.
AMD was one of the few players in the industry that could really lead in this space with the technology, IP, people and talent. When I became CEO, I thought it was very important to focus the company on what we could be best at and ensure we put in place the right foundation to deliver a leadership roadmap that spanned multiple product generations.
We knew it was going to be a journey, and I think it still is, as there is so much more we want to accomplish in areas like AI where AMD products have the opportunity to help solve the world’s most important challenges.
What makes you most passionate about your work?
The opportunity to build technology and products that make an enormous impact on the world. AMD technology powers the computing needs of some of the most important applications across the datacenter, embedded and client markets.
With AI, there is so much more we can do – to advance research, provide better healthcare, improve business productivity and so much more. We’re at a critical inflection point where the whole world needs AI, and it’s very exciting to be part of a company that is leading the innovation in this space.
Talk about the role of mentoring in your career. As a long-time executive and industry leader, why is it important for you to give back and help the next generation of engineers?
I have had great mentors throughout my career. I spent a large part of my early career at IBM, so I had the opportunity to work with then-CEO and Chairman of the Board Lou Gerstner for a period of time and watched how he spent his time and made decisions in a large company. It gave me an inkling of what it would be like to be a CEO.
My mother was also an important mentor for me. After our family immigrated from Taiwan, she decided she wanted to become an entrepreneur and started a business in the United States. So, I saw how hard she worked and how important it was to build relationships and make good business decisions.
It is on all of us to give back and help train the next generation of leaders – I especially enjoy encouraging women in engineering and business leadership – as we need a diverse set of voices sitting at the table to build great products and businesses.
The TAMEST 2024 Annual Conference will focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning, with a presentation from AMD’s Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Technology and Engineering Mark Papermaster. Talk about the influence AI and ML is having on society and at AMD.
We are still in the very early stages of the AI era, but it is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and experience life. At AMD, we believe AI will be more transformational than the Internet or the mobile phone, both of which have radically changed modern life in profound ways.
AI can actually make each of us smarter, more efficient and more capable. It can bring up personal productivity, company productivity and societal productivity. In the future, we’ll see generative AI used to help doctors diagnose illnesses faster and discover new drugs more quickly; power climate research and study ocean currents; and even transform the semiconductor industry by helping design, build, test and validate chips to accelerate time to market.
With AI, we have the opportunity to raise the level of productivity across the world in a profound way.
How will that influence change in the next 10 to 15 years?
I think the influence of AI will only grow as we embed high-performance AI engines in a wide variety of devices.
As the technology industry has demonstrated time and time again over the last 50 years, once a technology becomes available broadly, there will be no shortage of innovators who will leverage these new capabilities to create new products and experiences that were simply not possible before.
You were elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2018 for your contributions to silicon-on-insulator technology and industry leadership. What does being a member of NAE and TAMEST mean to you?
I was very honored and proud to be elected to the NAE, and I feel the same way about being a member of TAMEST. It is wonderful to have organizations that bring together the best and the brightest across broad disciplines to work on tough problems, and I look forward to all that the NAE and TAMEST will do to move science and engineering forward.