The things I liked about my tenure at Intel

After spending 22 years doing anything, one is surely bound to have some opinions about it. On balance, I’m happy about the time. There are things that I liked and those that I didn’t. For fear of being some grumpy old curmudgeon, I’m going to lead with some of the things I liked. 1

Israel

I got paid to live in Israel for two years and 8 months. Some of the best of my life. For a while I considered staying but in the end I’m too American and I’m not Jewish. Israel is a wonderful country with lots to see. There’s history, there’s geology 2, the people are great, the work environment was awesome, learning the language was a fun challenge. The list goes on.

I spent the first year and a help as a part of the Timna project, which was Intel’s first attempt at a low-cost cpu. It was well run and everyone enjoyed it. In the end, it never sold due to memory shortages, 3 but it was followed by the Banias, Yonah, and Merom projects which were incredibly successful. Those were the first Centrino lines. I remember lots of evenings working late. Intel provided dinner and the crowd was always jolly. Israelis are great at managing stress. We didn’t mind the hours.

If I had to pick a favorite part of my career with Intel, it’d have to be Timna.

Outside of work, Israel was great too. I had a caring Hebrew teacher, Esti who also helped me navigate the differences of the culter. I managed to date two amazing women, Michal and Shlomit. I spent a lot of time mountain biking. It was a period that I lived within one time zone of my mom.

 

Autonomy

Throughout my whole career at Intel, I can’t remember a time when I was told what to do. I was always pointed in a general direction and had the freedom to use my judgement. This was also true in my younger, junior years. I remember there was one time 4 when my manager came to my cube and asked “what are you working on. it’s been really quiet and that usually means you’re cooking something.” When I worked in Israel, my manager there was not very familiar with what I do 5 During idle times, or just when I didn’t feel like doing anything, I’d walk around talking to the mask design folks that I supported. I’d shoot the breeze with them a bit and eventually ask what they were working on. “why are you doing that?”, “how are you approaching it?”, “why not do it this other way?”. Usually, their answers were nothing I could improve on, but often enough, my response was “I can fix that”. We’d go back and forth on the interface and I was motivated to work again. Back to my cube to write some for loops.

Changing the world

For the first half of my career, the world anticipated the next wizbang CPU we’d release. Photoshop, excel, games,surfing… all of it benefited from more processing power. The more we provided, the more wonderful things everyone was able to do their machines. Eventually, the improvements didn’t matter as much in laptops and desktops. It was easy to forget the new other side of things. The servers. Facebook, google, twitter,… those became the glamorous companies. They don’t exist without our stuff running on their racks.

The excitement of the leading edge

During the first half of my career, there was a pronounced buzz of pushing the limits. Everyone around me was reading and discussion the latest books on computer science, and software development. Trying new things. Exchanging ideas. Being surrounded by other focused and intense developers really helped us all grow. Sadly, this spirit has been largely absent in recent years, but I compensated for it by mentoring the more junior members around me. The atmosphere of sharing is what I enjoyed then and I enjoy it today. I will miss the contact with the younger folks.


  1. I have no plans to do a post listing only negative things.

  2. that’s how the Dead Sea came about

  3. Willamette also used the same RAMBUS memory and the company didn’t want to have a negative impact on those higher margin parts

  4. not in band camp

  5. We were starting a local support group and the stuff he worked on was “front end design”, logic stuff. I was a physical design guy, pushing polygons

Restarting after long hiatus

img004

It’s been several years since I’ve posted to my blog. Life has gotten in the way. Well, life has changed. As of May 1 (next Friday) I will no longer be an Intel employee.

Having kids, a full-time job, a wife and other interests can really keep one busy. Recently, it’s felt like life was passing me by and it’s been difficult to be present. I had already been talking to my management about cutting my hours, but then my division decided to offer voluntary separation to anyone who wants it. Since I’ve been with Intel almost 22 years, it’s a nice sum of change.

img007I’m not looking for a replacement at this time. I’m approaching the coming year or two as a journey of discovery. Other than internships or campus jobs, Intel is the only place I’ve worked. The world is a different place from 22 years ago. I still like writing my for loops. The question is what will they do and who will I write them with.

So I’m restarting my blog and I have a bunch of topics I’d like to write about:

  • img006At Intel, everyone is required to write a weekly update. The frequency is no longer weekly, but the concept is still strong. Most weeklies are really boring, mine included, however I’ve been in the habit of including a “random” section with thoughts about whatever. I’ll post some of those here if they are still relevant. My random thoughts were rarely Intel specific
  • As an MIT alumn, I have volunteered to be an interviewer in the admissions process and I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a little over 40 applicants in the 4 years I’ve been doing it. 5 have gotten in. I have some thoughts on what traits do or don’t get one a golden ticket to the ‘Tute. I can at least comment on what I’ve been impressed by and what I generally find almost boring.
  • img005Also for MIT, I volunteer in the Office of Minority Engineering’s mentoring program. I plan on posting edited versions of the mails I’ve exchanged with my mentee.
  • I would like to try my hand (er voice) at podcasting. I’ve approached two friends that I think are a good fit for me.
  • Leaving Intel is not easy and it’s triggered extensive soul searching. I have both negative and positive thoughts about Intel’s career opportunities, values, and the extent to which I’ve capitalized on the opportunities available to me.
  • Perhaps this falls under the “random” category, but I’ve settled on a particular set of questions that I always ask in work interviews. The scrolling portion of my logo above is my answer to one of these questions.
  • Whatever else comes to mind

 

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