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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *