11 March 2022 11:33:05 IST

AMD India chief Jaya Jagadish revisits her engineering days

Jaya Jagadish, Country Head, AMD India

Jaya Jagadish heads the India arm of US-based chipmaker AMD. She is an electronics engineer from BMS College and holds a master’s in electrical engineering from University of Texas. Her first stint immediately after completing her master’s was AMD Austin in 1994. She moved on from AMD to work with Mentor Graphics as a senior consultant from 1997 to 2000, followed by Analog Devices as a Senior Design Engineer till 2004. After returning to India, she joined AMD in 2005 and was one of the first team members of AMD India’s development center in Bangalore. 

In the early 2000s, when the knowledge about engineering design was limited in India, she played an instrumental role in building a strong team, that today is responsible for designing the very core of AMD CPUs. Over the years, she mentored and nurtured this team to successfully execute complex programs in AMD’s roadmap.  

Jagadish became part of India’s leadership team in 2011 as Director and three years after that, she was entrusted with the responsibility to lead the engineering teams in India. As a woman in a leadership position in the STEM field, she has risen through the ranks to become a role model for many young women entering the engineering field.  

How has your engineering degree helped you in your corporate life, if at all?
Engineering was a natural career choice, mainly because of my love for math and science. I have always associated engineering with problem-solving and innovation. I was fascinated with the creativity that engineering offered. Around the time I started, very few women took up a career in hardware engineering, but I was passionate about building and designing products. I knew from the start that this was my calling. 
What have been the key learnings from your engineering education for you?
Here are the five crucial lessons, I learned during my engineering degree and career so far: 
Challenges are the biggest opportunities that will help you learn and grow. Never let go of an opportunity for the fear of failure!
Do not hesitate to take tough decisions when needed
Don’t just state problems; come up with possible solutions when you are projecting a problem
Listening to and respecting others’ views is very critical if you want to grow as a leader
Prioritise your company’s goals before your own aspirations 
Where do you draw inspiration from/ what do you do to generate ideas?
From my early childhood, as I pursued my education in STEM, I was motivated by my parents to identify and challenge stereotypes and biases that surround women in society. They instilled in me, the confidence to speak up and be assertive even if I am a minority in a setting. Throughout my career, I have also strived to encourage other women to fight any typecasting or biases which deter them from pursuing their dreams. 
From my own experience, I know for a fact that there is no person better than an empowered woman to empower and support another woman. I was personally mentored by my organisation’s CEO, Dr Lisa Su, a stalwart in the semiconductor industry and one of the most powerful women in business across the globe.
I also get to work and interact with many highly talented senior technical leaders at AMD who inspire me each day.
What have been the best and worst moments in your career? 
There was a clear opportunity to increase our sharing of information and collaboration between groups. To enable more growth and stability in the region, it was important to unite the teams and work towards the vision of “One AMD India”. This prompted the formation of the India Leadership Team (ILT).
ILT was given the mandate to focus on AMD India as one cohesive entity and strengthen collaboration between teams. I was asked to lead the ILT. This role gave me an opportunity to make a big difference to AMD India and came with a whole set of challenges.  
I had to work with other leaders who were my peers and learn the art of influencing without authority. Earning the trust of the peer group, bringing various teams together, driving several initiatives with focus on India and getting executive attention on the region were some of the biggest challenges.  
This experience has been the most challenging but also the most satisfying in my career. It taught me several leadership lessons, the most important being how to influence without authority.
What would be your advice to young women engineers who are joining the corporate sector? 
Throughout my journey, I have come to learn that the onus of success lies with women employees. It is important to build your confidence, as well as understand and play to your core strengths. The semiconductor industry is a very fast-evolving space. It is important to be abreast with the latest technological innovations and be willing to learn new things. 
My advice to women engineers is that they should lead the way by standing firm on what is right, question the status quo, and not shy away from making bold decisions.  
Women should embrace their femininity as a core strength. We tend to be more caring and that helps us bring in the much-required sensitivity to understand, comprehend and resolve people related issues at work. 
My personal mantra is that I do not want us to look at ourselves as ‘woman leaders’ but leaders!
What would you advise young grads to read or watch?
I prefer to read biographies and autobiographies of people as they present a very insightful and comprehensive view of their lives. It gives me fresh perspectives on several aspects.
Are you happy with the way engineering is structured/taught today?
There has been a lot of improvement in the education system, but there few gaps between academia and industry expectations. The pace at which technology is progressing and evolving is posing a challenge to academia.
Here, it becomes critical for industry leaders to work with institutions and education systems to introduce relevant courses and programmes which also stress the importance of practical applications of technology.
For example, one way to do this would be to make final-year engineering projects more hands-on and industry-relevant.
Aside from the technology, it is also important for students to be given an understanding of corporate ethics and how they can cope with corporate culture. I believe all of us need to make a more joint, equal effort to narrow this gap. It is an ongoing process, and there is a long way to go.