WITI Women

Padmasree Warrior
Vice President
Assisant Director of Digital DNA Laboratories

Padmasree Warrior is a vice president at Motorola, a world leader in communications and embedded electronics with annual revenues in excess of $28 billion. Warrior spearheads Process Technology development for Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector (SPS) headquartered in Austin, Texas. Warrior's focus is to drive a leadership technology roadmap that positions Motorola SPS as a premier system-on-a-chip provider. She plays a key role in transforming her company's technology innovations and intellectual property into customer-focused solutions that provide market value. She leads a large organization of technologists and innovators to deliver platforms that catalyze Motorola's SPS portfolio as the "Digital DNAtm, The Heart of Smart" in embedded electronics.

Warrior has extensive experience in all aspects of the semiconductor industry including manufacturing, operations and technology. She has a postgraduate degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University and an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, India. She is married and has a six-year old son. Her husband is also a senior executive in the high-tech industry and they share the challenge of integrating two dynamic careers with the joy of raising a family.

1. What was your first job in technology?
My first job in technology was in water process development at one of Motorola's semiconductor factories in Arizona. I was hired as a recent graduate to develop a new reactive ion etch process for dielectrics. At that time, my project had to be done in a large manufacturing fab due to short lead times to meet the market window. It was a tremendous challenge because it was my first exposure to the industry, I was the new kid on the block (the only female engineer in the entire factory) and I was under the gun to get the process ramped into manufacturing. I learned a lot on my first job both technically and socially, having to overcome gender and culture barriers. I formed many deep friendships which continue to this day. I would say my first job was the toughest but also the most rewarding. A year ago when I was appointed as Vice President I received several congratulatory notes from people that worked with me on my first job. The fact that they still remembered me meant a lot.

2. Who has been your most significant mentor? Why?
People have diverse skills. I collect valuable nuggets from almost everyone I work with, including the people that I lead. So it is hard to name a single individual as my mentor. Perhaps my most significant and lasting mentor has been from one of my earlier bosses. I will always cherish this experience because this individual taught me the importance of challenging status-quo, being creative and leading with passion and energy. This particular mentor made me realize that the possibilities are endless if you have the stamina to pursue the direction you believe in. To put it in a nutshell, my mentor pointed out the boundaries to me so I could move beyond them!

3. What has been your greatest challenge and what strategies did you use to overcome obstacles?
My greatest challenge has been one of my career assignments at Motorola. I was program manager for a technology called RFLDMOS. My job was to get the technology developed and transferred into manufacturing for revenue. That sounds easy enough, right? Well, it sounded easy to me until I started! It was then that I realized that the technology was immature and the business managers were not very receptive. They were making a lot of money with the older BiPolar technology, so why change? The manufacturing and technology organizations distrusted each other! The assembly operation in Malaysia was kept out of the loop! To top it all, I had no one reporting to me on this job. I was expected to lead a "virtual" organization. I had two choices, to quit or take it head on. I was young and foolish enough to choose the latter. In retrospect, I am glad I did. Today RFLDMOS is a winning technology for my company where we face little competition and I can look back and say - I did that! My strategies were simple - perseverance and influence. I worked hard at showing others the value of my mission, building strong teams and celebrating the results with everyone.

4. Who has been the most influential person in your life? Why?
I would say that there are three influential people in my life. My mother, father and husband. Each influenced me in their own special way. My mom taught me the power of love. I grew up with supreme self confidence knowing that no matter what I did my mom would be incredibly proud of me and welcome me home with love and warmth. I learned to focus on the long term big picture from my father. His sense of humor and light hearted approach always make me smile. Both my parents have a math and science background and instilled in me a love for these fields at a young age. My husband is a pivotal anchor in my life. We met at Engineering school in India when we were sixteen. Together, we built our careers and a family. We bounce ideas off one another and constantly debate issues. His influence encourages me to be independent and take risks.

5. What lessons have you learned that would be valuable to women beginning their careers in technology?
Be an expert in your field, know your stuff! Develop a clear, concise and distinctive communication style. Surround yourself with giants - don't be intimidated by brilliance from others, leverage it. Lead with femininity and grace - you don't have to be "one of the boys" to be recognized as a strong leader. Be professional and always treat people with respect. Be well organized in how you deliver and be thorough in what you do. Take charge of your career. Don't wait for the perfect opportunity to land in your lap--search for it with passion and daring. A lesson I learned from Bob Galvin is "Leadership is the ability to take people elsewhere. Lead with humility. Humility does not mean that one thinks less of oneself, it means that one thinks of oneself less". This is a nugget I will always carry with me.

6. What strategies do you use to maintain balance in your life?
I prefer to think of life as an "integration" of different aspects. To me the word "balance" suggests separate entities. If I think of life as a balance between work and family, I visualize work and family as incongruent and in conflict with each other. Therefore, I view life as a seamless integration of family, community, self and work. It's tough but I try to maintain this seamless integration.

My family - I make it a point to spend a lot of time with my six year old - we play hard. It's all about dragons, dinosaurs and Pokemon for us these days. Weekends are reserved for my friends to catch-up on music concerts, dance shows and have fun! We almost always take an annual family vacation and get away for a few days whether it is to the next town or some far off place. This is our time together to explore and share.

My community - I contribute time to the Texas State Higher Education Board and Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering. I serve as the Motorola executive liaison for Cornell University. My contribution to the community may not be much in time, but it's fulfilling. My self - I exercise at least four days a week. I enjoy arts and crafts and I meditate every day, a practice influenced by my Indian heritage. My work draws a lot out of me but then I draw a lot out of my work too.

7. What new technology do you believe will have the most positive impact on the world in the next 20 years? The most negative impact?
I think technological breakthroughs in the field of medicine will have the most positive impact on the world in the next 20 years. I am an optimist and believe that there will soon be a cure for cancer, AIDS and other terminal illnesses. It is just a matter of time before there is a technology-aided medical solution for these illnesses. Medical electronics and pharmaceuticals are advancing at an incredible pace. This will enhance the value of life.

The most negative impact will be from the abuse of military technology especially biological warfare which debases my concept of humanism.

On the lighter side:

1. If you could have dinner with any 2 people (living or not), who would they be?
The first would have to be Mother Theresa. I'd like to understand how she sustained commitment to her convictions for an entire life time. She dedicated her life in a purposeful way to help the poorest of the poor in a land that was alien to her. In the end, that alien land became her home and those destitute foreigners her children. I idolize her courage, determination and risk taking. These are important characteristics in business and technology leadership.

The second would be the English author P.G. Wodehouse. I have read all of his books at least ten times over!! I am a great fan of his character "Jeeves - the English gentleman's perfect valet". P.G. Wodehouse is fictituous to me. His intellectual brilliance and audacious sense of humor fascinate me. I would love to know that he is real. Dinner with P.G.W. sounds simply scrumptious!

2. Define success in 10 words or less.
Success is to make a unique, high impact contribution.

3. If you could only subscribe to 3 magazines, what would they be?
That's a tough one. I am an avid book reader but only thumb through magazines when I am on an airplane. So, I probably would not subscribe to any magazine! But if I had to pick 3 of my favorite magazines they would be Fast Company, Silicon India and Smithsonian. The last to stimulate the non-analytical part of my brain and awaken the latent artist in me!

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