Vice President, Texas Instruments Incorporated General Manager, RFid Systems
Inducted in: 1998
I was born in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, the eldest of three children born within a span of 15 years. We moved seven times during my first 13 years to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and back and forth; eventually settling in Texas.
Both of my parents are college educated. My parents valued education. They saw education as a key to open a door of opportunity. The expectation was that all of their children would be college educated. My father was a math and science teacher, a school principal and a stock broker. My mother was an English teacher and a librarian.
When I was young, my father insisted that I be a student in math and science. My parents had high expectations for me because I was their first born. So I have always been very focused on education and career success.
My mother grew up in Wisconsin and had a broad support system of family there. After marrying my father, she spent years moving a family around the United States without the family support system she was accustomed to. Early on, I became her support system as her oldest daughter. I learned leadership at a very young age. It was expected that I be responsible and help take care of my brother and sister, help my mother around the house and establish friendships with neighbors when we moved to a new city.
I learned to be independent, overcame my shyness and became curious as a young girl. I learned to take risks and try new things because when you relocate frequently, you are continually in a position compelled to form relationships, say goodbye and start new relationships. I have found these skills to be very useful in my life.
My mother is a very capable and determined woman. She earned her Bachelor's degree in English while raising two children when we were living in Ft. Lauderdale. When I was approaching high school age, she went to school in Texas and earned her Library Science Certification.
When I was 15, my mother gave birth to my sister, Susan. My new sister really changed my life. When my mother came home at night, she would ask me if I wanted to take care of Susan or complete a domestic task. Many times when I was given the option, I chose the domestic task. This made me realize I did not have an affinity for children and starting a family was not going to be a near-term priority. Ultimately, I decided to not have children when I married.
My love of animals led me to desire to become a veterinarian. But, when I was a sophomore in high school biology class dissecting frogs, I learned I didn't like blood. It was at that point I began thinking about what else I could do for a living that involved my most rewarding and challenging high school courses in chemistry, math and physics. My interests were balanced. I was also interested in the arts. I was on the oration and debate team (public speaking), basketball team (sports) and a band member for four years playing the flute, after six years of organ music inspired by my grandfather (music). My high school chemistry teacher suggested I look into being a chemist.
Unfortunately, the counselors at my high school didn't know much about engineering, so I started searching for careers on my own by looking through college catalogs. I did know that I loved math, science and chemistry and started by looking up those specific subjects. I also looked up salary ranges and, after watching my parents survive on two teachers' salaries, I wanted to earn a higher salary than a teacher. Chemical engineering starting salaries were in an attractive range. That was how I decided to pursue a job in chemical engineering.
After graduating from high school in New Braunfels, Texaco provided me a chemical engineering scholarship at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas; I went there with my best friend. I had little knowledge about the field of engineering. I knew engineering was a combination of science, math and chemistry, and I wanted to pursue applied science; not research.
There were very few women in engineering, but I believed I should reach my full potential. If science and math was my gift, I should try to be the best that I could be even if it was a man's world. I give a lot of credit to Texas Tech for helping me to be where I am today from a professional point of view. With my professors' help, I transformed my abilities and self-confidence.
During my college summers, I worked in different West Texas gas plants for Shell Oil Company in order to pay my way through college. The oil company environment, at the time, appeared to reward seniority over results. It did not appeal to me as a permanent job.
I also fell in love with a guy in my Chemistry class. Because Texas Tech was located in Lubbock, Texas, I had three career options to pursue after graduation and marriage in Lubbock: work in an oil patch; work at Frito Lay and make chips; or work at Texas Instruments (TI) and make another type of chip.
When I was 20, I graduated from Texas Tech, got married and started my career at TI. While that marriage lasted only three years, my career at TI continued for about 30 years. I worked at TI in Lubbock for four years. My first job at TI was in product engineering, which is the intersection of multiple disciplines. In this role, I needed to maximize product yield, profit and business growth by getting new products to market on time. I began to realize I was attracted to business leadership roles inside this engineering company.
Early in my career, I was a member of teams that worked to solve very complex problems, which exceeded our modeling capabilities. My first major technology contribution came when solving a complex corrosion problem. Working with a TI senior research technologist and a vendor, we solved an insulator glass process integration problem.
I always read a lot to solve a problem and try to recognize how other people solve similar problems. I found a book published in the 1930s that solved glass reflow problems and used this theory to solve our modern day corrosion issue. My solution enabled TI to convert a new insulator and eventually the industry did as well. We solved the problem, and saved TI and our customer a great deal of money. This became my first exposure to quality, reliability and customers.
Between 1979 and 1986, I worked for TI in Houston, Lubbock and back to Houston in semiconductor engineering leadership roles. In 1985, I married Bob England, who also worked for TI. In 1986, we moved to Dallas and I began working for TI's Defense Systems organization. I was promoted to Senior Member Technical Staff. From 1986 to 1990, we developed six patents that are co-authored by TI team members. From 1986-1993, we contributed to the military vision system on missiles that were used in both Gulf Wars. My team worked on the smart infrared eyeballs for the US Army's missiles. And shortly thereafter, I transitioned to management. I was promoted to Focal Plane Array Fab Manager leading a manufacturing organization. In this role, I learned to speak the language of management, money.
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1990, signaling world peace and the Cold War ended, we knew our defense electronics business would shrink or be consolidated. I decided to step out of my operations and engineering management role and became an individual contributor focused on strategic marketing as a signal to TI management that I was looking for a change into a business leader role. I felt being engaged with customers day-to-day is where I wanted to be.
After working on strategic marketing for a while, I considered a role leading TI's Digital Light Processing (DLP®) fabrication facility. I was one of the top three candidates for this position, but ended up not being awarded the operations leader role. In the end, I learned that I didn't get the job because I said I wanted to stay in the position for only two years and management was looking for someone who wanted to take on the position for a much longer term. This experience helped me realize that I really wanted to be a business manager at TI. At first I felt rejected, but then realized it was true. By going through this process, I realized that I wanted to work directly with customers and an external role touching the market place. I learned if your heart isn't in what you are doing, you won't enjoy it.
In 1993, I became a division Quality Manager at TI and sat at the table with peer business leaders. I had the opportunity to solve customer problems and found myself again in the intersection of several job disciplines: customer communications, translating customer problems into technology, engineering solutions and money.
Beginning in 1994, I became a Vice President at TI and was later promoted to lead the Semiconductor Group Quality organization. This was the top quality job of a business with revenues of about $7 billion.
After working five years in quality roles, in 1998 I became TI's Sun Microsystems (RISC processor) business general manager. I learned to grow a business very fast; we nearly doubled revenue in less than four years. I also learned to maximize a profit & loss income statement (P&L), take business risks, trust your team to do what has never been done before and developed executive customer relationships. I loved the business role and am proud, yet humbled, to be the first woman in a Vice President position leading a TI semiconductor business.
In 2004, I became TI's Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) general business manager. I really enjoyed this position because I experienced running a small business, responsible for the business strategy. I enjoyed running the business using an entrepreneurial business model because I had a focused, dedicated product line with more accountability.
In my career, my husband has been very supportive. My husband is an accomplished business man who has more business experience than I do. As a result, I have been able to learn a lot from him as well. He has been willing to share the responsibilities of marriage. When we were first married, he soon was promoted to an executive with TI and traveled almost 90 percent of time, mostly out of the country.
I have worked directly with two of TI's chief executive officers (CEOs) during an earlier part of their careers and have had the gift of observing several great TI leaders. I have worked closely with very good male leaders, who were willing to put me into very different responsibilities and disciplines with challenging roles. Their sponsorship has played a significant role in my career path, as did their mentoring. Conversely, I have never worked for a woman.
So it is no surprise that I have spent time at TI building a sisterhood. Not being isolated in a man's world is important to me. I believe women bring different perspectives, leadership, communication styles and approaches to problem solving. While I made a conscious choice to work in a male system, I have spent a large part of my life helping other women become successful. I prefer not being isolated; but rather sharing experiences and successes. I created a career workshop called "Have The Tools; Know The Rules"™, which I used in seminars across the company with over one thousand participants during a ten-year span.
I am willing to take risks to perform jobs that have caused me to jump from one path to another: engineering to operations manager, quality manager, then to business manager. These jobs did not fit into a traditional path, but I had managers who saw the talent in me and opened doors for me in unexpected roles that I would not have anticipated. Taking risk is saying "yes" when opportunities present themselves, even when you don't feel confident or believe you have all of the needed competencies. Growing your career often means you need to take chances, and stretch yourself in new directions.
I had some confidence that I could learn and was comfortable about building a team to accomplish our goals together. I believe ordinary people can come together and do extraordinary things. My team knew our skills complemented each others' skills. I learned I didn't have to be an expert about everything and felt comfortable saying "I don't know." My bosses and mentors encouraged me to take risks and reinforced that they believed I could learn the job quickly.
Community involvement has been a major part of my life. I believe in giving back to the community. I have learned a great deal from community leaders. I am a voluntary board member of the Texas Tech University College of Engineering Dean's Council, Georgia O'Keeffe National Council and Dallas Museum of Art. In the past, I have been on the boards of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society, Texans Credit Union, Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas for about five to six years each. I also believe in participating in my profession in professional societies (SWE, IEEE) and in industry trade associations (AeA, AIM Global, Eurosmart).
Likewise, fitness and health are a part of my life. I now work out several days a week lifting weights and doing cardio, after twenty years of playing racquetball. Next, I love to travel for the excitement of seeing and experiencing something new. I believe it is an important life experience to travel overseas and see cultures and people from a different perspective. It has helped me appreciate being an American citizen.
Also, I am also an avid gardener and landscape designer. I have studied North Texas horticulture as a hobby for over twenty years and have volunteered dozens of landscape designs for charities and friends.
It's important to me to continue learning, make the most of my natural talents and to make life the best that it can be. I encourage everyone to do the same, while making conscientious choices and having a passion for your work.
• Profile at the time of induction in 1998
WITI is the premier global organization helping tech-savvy women attain their professional goals. With a global network of smart, talented women & a market reach exceeding 2 million, WITI has established powerful strategic alliances and programs to provide connections, resources, & opportunities within a supportive environment of women committed to helping each other. WITI's mission is to empower women worldwide to achieve unimagined possibilities and transformations through technology, leadership and economic prosperity.