Actionable Career Advice for Semiconductor Success—Cathy Lego "On Top of Your Game" Series̵

Hillary Barnhart

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Cathy Lego has deep roots in the semiconductor industry, as a board member of multiple companies, as a venture capitalist, and as a business leader.

She has immersed herself in the semiconductor ecosystem for more than 30 years, today serving on Boards of Lam Research, SanDisk and Fairchild Semiconductor, while also heading Lego Ventures. Our WITI WIN is incredibly fortunate to have Cathy on our Advisory Board. A few weeks ago, she shared her perspectives on semiconductor industry trends, and actions you can take to develop your career.

Cathy Lego (CL): Leadership is product leadership first, working with today's, and tomorrow's, customers by responding with cost-effective solutions to their challenges. An operational leader needs to understand her costs in engineering, product development, marketing, and manufacturing. Essentially, you must know what's happening in all the industries around you that will drive changes in the semiconductors you produce.

Hillary Barnhart (HB): What are some of the steps one can take to gain such insight?

CL: Get out and meet new people! Meet people above you, and below you in the supply chain; those who buy and sell semiconductors will be important to you in the decisions that drive your success and your company's success. Look toward your customers and suppliers for trends; look up, down, left, and right! Ask questions and listen.

HB: What are the most important trends that will take place in the semiconductor industry in the next 10 years?

CL: The Internet of Things (IoT), industry consolidation, and the emergence of China as a dominant player all come into play. The cell phone has become the center of life, and there will be higher and higher bandwidth consumed per person.

We'll see more requirements for off-device data storage.

HB: In navigating my career through corporate and industry changes, what should one look for when choosing mentors?

CL: Find people with experience, who can provide meaningful wisdom. Seek out mentors who will be available for you and who have a broad, strong industry network. Maintaining a strong network of people who can help you in your career is important. Keep it current, reach out to them, and let them know what you're doing. View your network as a valuable asset.

HB: What advice would you give someone looking to grow in her career in the semiconductor industry, while making time for her family?

CL: Build a great support team. Find a good husband, someone in your life willing to trade off with you. You won't necessarily be the "best" at any one of your roles, but the net sum will yield an optimal result. Know that it is okay to ask for help. Hire your help well. In some situations, your nanny will be more important to your ability to succeed than your most valuable engineer. You don't have to do everything by yourself.

HB: What do you love about working in the semiconductor industry?

CL: It's amazing how fast-moving and changing, the semiconductor industry is, and how I can see the products my friends and family will use, years before they have them. I remember how exciting it was to realize that people would have digital cameras and music in their ears, all from a tiny box.

HB: What kind of people and skills are best suited to the semiconductor industry?

CL: Passionate, capable, and innovative people, who are willing to change, can succeed. If you refuse to engage, you get stuck and hit a dead end in your career. I think that's the most important thing, to keep your skills current. Always keep learning to maintain your value in the organization. What people need tomorrow is not what they necessarily have today.

About the Women in Semiconductors and Embedded Systems WIN:

The WITI Industry Networks (WINs) is about women helping women; connecting, mentoring, coaching, and fostering leadership development. WIN participants share similar experiences in the workplace, with their backgrounds working in similar industries, or with similar technologies.
WINs are not in a fixed location, region, or country, and everyone can contribute to the industry network, no matter title or level. The WIN Leadership Team is planning a full calendar of virtual and physical events, workshops, articles, discussion boards, and forums.

If you are a company, conference, or industry organization and would like to partner with WITI WINs—please contact [email protected].