Director, Advanced Module Development, External Development and Manufacturing, Texas Instruments
Inducted in 2004
I was born in Stillwater, Oklahoma and moved with my family to Manhattan, Kansas when I was about a year old. My parents, both native Oklahomans, met as students at Oklahoma State University. My dad earned his Master's degree there, and then moved our family to "The Little Apple," to begin his doctoral work at Kansas State University. I have two younger brothers and we are all very close in age. My youngest brother is just four years younger than I am.
My dad's work was in Plant Pathology, an agricultural science that specializes in plant diseases. He spent most of his career working on wheat leaf rust for the US Department of Agriculture, while based at KSU. His passion was computerizing this research to improve its scale and efficiency, so I have vivid memories of him poring over decks of punch cards and the wide green- striped Fortran printouts in the evenings.
We were all involved in some way in Daddy's work. We kids often went to the greenhouse or lab with him to check up on things. In his student days, theses, dissertations, and such all had to be typed completely manually; and of course correction fluid, etc. was simply not acceptable. My mother did all of this typing and became a whiz at it. Once my Dad's PhD was complete she went on to have a nice home-based business of typing for other science students. Her other venture was making wedding cakes. This was an interesting process to observe - while over time, we did learn to keep a respectful distance during the final assembly of the cake and its move to the car. You can see that Mother has a wealth of patience and technical skills along with high standards; these provided another aspect of my early learning of how one does work.
A very important thing my parents did for me was to support my curiosity and interest in learning about a wide variety of things. I went to a lot of summer courses; science ones for sure, but also art, orchestra, and choir classes over the years. One chorus class was very memorable for me. It was a three-week program directed by a famous vocalist from Broadway. I first realized my interest in science and began to desire a technical career around age 8. At Christmas that year, my father gave me a book titled "All about Rockets and Space Flight" and encouraged me to learn more about science. That gift made a big impression, in part because it was out of the norm and not one that I expected. It is not overstating to say it started me on the path to my eventual career.
I learned to cook when I was about 11 years old and in the sixth grade. That year my mom took a seasonal job at a local department store, so I was the evening cook for the family every night for six weeks. I remember being really impressed with that responsibility although it is interesting that I do not recall much feedback about the actual results. I still love to cook today.
During my high school years, I played the violin in the school's orchestra and participated in many musical productions. I even was the concert mistress a few times. To this day, I still know almost all of the words of many Broadway musicals of the era. It might surprise you how handy this skill actually is!
In high school at that time there was very little career guidance, but I knew that I wanted to work in the science field because of my dad. My high school class of about 400 was very competitive, and grades were very important to me. Typically, there would be about two national merit finalists in each high school class. My class school had six or seven, and I was one of them. We were pretty competitive with each other, and being intellectually oriented was "cool."
I was on the debate team. A lot of times this involved a lot of determination on my part because of my shyness, but I think now it helped me a lot. The other thing that helped me push through shyness was my first job as a waitress and hostess at a busy steak house, "Mr. Steak." Quite a few times I had to psych up in the waitress station before approaching a party that (to my young eyes) was either demanding - or forbidding-looking, who had been seated at one of my tables. I learned to take the good with the not so good and to work with many different types of people.
I held this job for three years of high school, and several summers after that. The other way it influenced me was that the manager, Mr. Carr, had a lot of restaurant experience and extremely high standards for quality and execution of a task, and shared this information with us quite often. This is the kind of job situation you should look for when you are just starting out in the world of work.
When it was time for college, I went to York College in York, Nebraska for two years and earned my A.S. degree. While at York, I decided to pursue a chemistry major. In high school, chemistry had always been my favorite science course. I took my first chemistry class in the tenth grade and had a teacher who was larger than life - Mr Schweitzer. He loved what he was teaching and made the subject appealing. This had a lot of influence on me. Teachers who are passionate really do make a difference.
At York, I worked as a lab assistant and had the opportunity to clean out an old lab room. It was interesting to me because the room contained old lab apparatus built in the early 1900s. There were old electrical components in wooden cases - a single resistor was in a case about 8 inches square - and a lot of old test tubes and other chemistry lab equipment.
Two years later, I transferred to Harding College (now Harding University) to earn my Bachelor's degree. I chose Harding because it was a private college that emphasized values important to me, but also because of its very good Chemistry program. In my core classes such as physical and organic chemistry, there were four to five students, and everyone except for me was a pre-med student. Like the students at my high school, they were determined to earn an A on every assignment. The only other girl in our group was the student body president. In this group of high achievers, I had to be prepared, and earned very good grades.
When I first got to Harding, I worked in the school cafeteria; in that place where the kids would throw their used food trays in the window. I also worked in the snack bar making shakes and cones. More lifelong skills! Between my junior and senior year, I completed a National Science Foundation fellowship at the University of Arkansas. During the fellowship, I worked with a professor and a graduate student. I later ended up working with the graduate student in my first professional job. It was quite a coincidence.
During that summer in Arkansas, I made some friends in the Electrical Engineering program. After graduating from Harding, I was planning to go into a Polymer Chemistry graduate program at a state university in the South. But I had been quite poor all of my college years, particularly as this was in the 70's era of high inflation. In grad school I would earn only $2,000 a year and I would have no car. Shortly before I left, one of my U of A Electrical Engineer friends, who was now working at Texas Instruments (TI), called me. He was working on a missile program and thought TI would hire me. He told me TI used chemical processing to make semiconductor chips. I sent him my resume and soon got a call from TI.
I didn't know anything about chip processing in 1978, so I went to the library and looked up semiconductors, from a physics standpoint. I learned everything I could. Soon after, TI asked me to travel to Dallas for a job interview. I interviewed with a Dallas wafer fabrication facility ("fab") and, coincidentally, with another man from TI Houston who needed someone to work for TI in Lubbock, Texas, where a new fab facility was just opening. I interviewed with his team the next day in Houston for the Lubbock job and decided to take it, mostly because I was from a small town that made Lubbock seem like a large city to me. When I went to Lubbock and saw the inside of the fab and looked at a wafer under the microscope for the first time, I was totally blown away. It is hard to describe the feeling of a whole new miniature and real world opening up before your eyes.
My first job at TI was as a New Products Engineer. I worked in the production wafer fab trying to get the next generation of technology ready. I did that for a few years and went into the mainstream of the fab to become a regular process engineer. Both were good experiences because the first one gave me an overview of how the entire process flow worked together, while the later gave me the responsibility for all aspects of one process step in complete depth.
After about eight years at TI, I became a manager of the Lubbock fab's "Etch / Metallization Module," meaning I was the leader of a group of about 75 process engineers, equipment engineers, and production operators working together to meet all of the production, cost, and quality goals for a set of related-but-different process steps. This job was a key step in my career development because it was my first opportunity to lead others doing jobs I had not done myself, and pulling together a team of people in diverse roles to achieve common goals.
I met my husband, Tom, at TI in Lubbock and we were married in 1981. Tom worked in TI projects leading large manufacturing teams. Observing and talking with him was another helpful dimension to my leadership learning. Both our son and our daughter were born while I was working at TI in the mid-1980s. At that time, the semiconductor industry was very much a man's world and I was one of few women engineers working in our fab. I really stood out when I became a pregnant engineer. Even then TI was very progressive and had very good policies about how the situation was handled.
In 1989, my husband and I left Lubbock and moved to Dallas. I wanted to work on the most leading-edge technical projects and to have the opportunity for more career development at TI's headquartering location. At this time, my children were very young, which is one reason I traded a managerial role to become an individual contributor again - it made my schedule more manageable. I remember my supervisor was very flexible with the hours. I would come in to work at 5:00 a.m. and he would let me pick up my children after school.
I thought it was a risky career move to change from being a manager to an independent contributor, but it ended up working out very well. I couldn't transfer to a similar job in Dallas because they didn't have the same organization structure there. I became an etch process engineer again, but this time on the 64M (64 megabits of memory) DRAM Development Team. By working as an individual contributor again, I gained more bandwidth to learn about doing process development and the most advanced DRAM technology. An interesting note, my first two years in new product work had been on the 64K (64 kilobits of memory) DRAM. This shows how far chip technology advanced in 10 short years.
It didn't take me long (3 years) to become a manager again. I would advise anyone to not rule out the option of returning to an individual role, especially if you are interested in changing fields or to more advanced technology.
My career at TI has taken me in many directions, however since the early 90's move to Dallas; all have focused on leading-edge process technology. After working in several process development roles, I was promoted to the position of Process Engineering Manager of DMOS5, TI's first 200-mm wafer fabrication facility. Process Engineering (PE) was a major functional group within the organization that ramped the factory from a cleanroom under construction to TI's largest, most advanced factory, producing 42,000 wafers per month. I held this job from 1995 to 2000, growing the PE team from about 15 to about 120 engineers and technicians. We introduced four completely new technology generations ("nodes") during this time, and were responsible for setting up and improving the all steps of the wafer processing to meet yield, quality, and cost goals that allowed TI to be a world-class supplier of CMOS chips.
In 2000, I moved to a position leading TI's Silicon Technology Development (SiTD) 90-Nanometer Process Engineering team, which was focused on the timely delivery of new and cost-effective silicon process technology. It was a great fit for my background since fabs like the one I had just worked in were the customer for my new work in creating capability to produce new technology nodes. I greatly enjoyed the chance to focus most of my efforts on fundamental decisions such as design rules and process equipment choices.
This process capability is a key enabler of TI's continued competitive strength in digital signal processing (DSP) and other CMOS SOC products. I continue to work in this field today, as Director of Process Modules Engineering in External Development and Manufacturing (EDM) at TI. Now, we accomplish TI's goals through working with external fab suppliers, called foundries, to achieve TI's world-class performance and cost goals. Knowledge of how fabs work, high standards of executing tasks well, and leadership skills, are just as important as ever for me.
This latest job also has brought some fascinating new experiences such as traveling extensively in Asia and studying Mandarin. The timing has been good for me since our now-adult son lives and works in Beijing.
Always while a leader at TI, I have cared about the workplace role of women and workplace diversity. Mentoring other women has been a constant for many years, and just plain fun! One project was co-founding the SiTD Women's Network in 2002. I am also a Founder of the Women of TI Fund, which is a donor-advised fund held in partnership with the Dallas Women's Foundation. The Women of TI Fund aims to close the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) professions by increasing the number of girls graduating from high school who then enter a university-level technical degree program. I am an alumnus of the 2004 class of Leadership Texas.
In my time away from work, I enjoy gardening, home decorating, and cooking. My husband and I live on a 78-acre ranch near Dallas that is complete with cattle, goats, a donkey, and chickens. We love to have guests and parties and as my husband says, entertaining is our main hobby. Very important to us is our church life, and much of our entertaining is for our church community and its outreach efforts.
For the past two years, I have been on the Board of Directors for a non-profit organization called Real Options for Women. This year, I am the Treasurer. This pregnancy resource center in Plano, Texas is focused on counseling women who have an unplanned pregnancy and are trying to figure out what do. I help with fundraising activities as well as many leadership decisions, and use a lot of learning from my work at TI to guide the inputs I make.
Another board I have served on, for four years, is the Technology Grant Advisory Board chartered by the State of Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. We are also sponsored by the Texas Engineering and Technology Consortium, a group of companies that have a big presence in Texas and work to influence government to support technology and engineering education. I chaired the board a couple of years ago and supervised the process of awarding grants. As part of this responsibility, I get to visit the universities that are running grant projects for project reviews. It is a great privilege to talk with current students and their professors about their technical education experiences. I also had the opportunity to testify at the THECB session where I talked with leading Texas educators about how the grants have helped improve science student retention.
I have always loved reading, and continue to do a lot of reading today. Recently, a childhood friend reminisced that when I was young, my favorite pastime was making a tent using a sheet draped over a table as a cozy place to read. My parents took us to the library every week. The maximum number of books one could check out was 11 and I hit it every time. Now, besides Bible reading almost every day, I am interested in a variety of fiction books and in theology books. I also love food magazines, decorating magazines, and finding recipes on the Internet. This year I plan to cook more Vietnamese and Chinese food.