How Jill Sciarappo Landed in Intel's Driver's Seat
Jill Sciarappo has worked at Intel for more than 25 years, holding many very different positions, but she's only ever formally applied for one job.
Instead, she's built a diverse and rewarding career that has spanned sales, HR, engineering and more often by working nights and weekends, volunteering for extra projects, researching developments outside the scope of her work and constantly networking.
Her constant willingness to volunteer and go above and beyond has led her to her most recent role as strategic marketing director for Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)'s autonomous driving division. It's an exciting job that means not only does her career keeps changing, but so does her day to day. (See Intel Brakes for Autonomous Car Data Sharing and What Drives Intel's Connected Car GM .)
"One thing I know about this industry is every day I wake up and I think I know what I will do but I get to work and it changes," she says. "There is seismic shift in the industry every day."
Women in Comms: Tell us about your background and how you got to where you are today.
Jill Sciarappo: Interestingly, I've only officially applied for one job through the formal process at Intel, when I was moving out of the technical division and into HR. I've always been handed or asked to do or volunteered for special projects not in my job scope. I'd be doing them nights and weekends behind the scenes. Every single one of them led to my next job, either through extended networks or people asking if I'd be willing to go do that focus as the next job. Even this job, I volunteered to help with an investors' day last summer and took the lead on it. Then when Kathy [Winter, general manager of Intel's automated driving unit,] was hired to be the new VP, she said she needed me to do strategy. I didn't have a strong background in autonomous driving, but no one really does. It's a new market and unless you've been doing research in academia, you won't have knowledge. It's very stressful but exciting at the same time to be in a role where I don't have 20 years of depth in autonomous driving, but do understand the industry.
WiC: How do you decide what new up-and-coming technologies are going to be game changers and plan your career accordingly?
JS : A couple of years ago, I was asked to lead a technical strategic session on wearables, and I was like, "Ughhhh wearables, here it comes again." But I ended up pulling in several teams to look at the technology. I think in this industry, there are certain technologies you need to be a player in because you are not sure what's going to happen. We went back and did research on the tablet and industry reports on it five years before they became big. Analysts were not predicting them to grow. Some didn't predict them to grow at all. If we only look at things analysts think will be slam dunks, we'll miss some cool things that will take off in the industry that we're unaware of. In IoT at Intel, we have the luxury of looking at product lines closely related to other lines we're doing anyway. Products we're doing for PCs or laptops or servers. What we do in my strategic role is look for industries highly correlated to technical needs to take advantage of engineering and manufacturing already going on internally. How do we use that investment and strength around those technologies to dip our toes into the water in other parts of industries we are starting to hear whispers about?
WiC: How do you look to the future while also meeting the demands of your present day-to-day job?
JS : I think volunteering to speak on these panels or do presentations or submit to technical conferences is a great way to see what's going on in the industry. The opportunity for men and women out there is overwhelming if we just open our eyes and look. It takes research, studying and work. That is the future of tech -- it's not just going to land in our lap. I definitely think it's outside of your day job. When I first started at Intel, I was in the Fab. I did the Fab12 startup in Arizona. All I ever knew was Fab, and I decided to try sales. I convinced someone to let me cover a sabbatical in sales in Toronto for two weeks. I was so clueless about Intel's products on the customer side, I had to study for four hours every night. I'd study and come in the next day with all my questions. It’s like going to school. You can transition at work or by going to school.
WiC: How were you able to move around so much in your career and take on new opportunities outside the scope of your work?
JS : That particular case I had probably called about ten jobs available on the Intel website. You had to call, not go online then. The first nine said to me they couldn't hire me unless I had sales experience or was a new college grad. So what I understood after these calls is I have to quit Intel and go to another company or go to school to do sales in Intel. My sales manager laughed, and said, "No, but you can cover a sabbatical." My boss said yes. Two weeks later I showed up in the sales office. He sat me down and introduced me to the guy I sat down next to who they hired for the role -- I ended up marrying him and moving back to Arizona. Sometimes you just have to say yes and go.
I think intel has been really good about that. A lot of people expect if they move to another job they'll get a promotion or this or that. I've done five or six major career changes at Intel, and they have been lateral, and I've had to study a lot in each of them. It's been the greatest career and the breadth of things I've been able to do has been phenomenal. It's like I've been in seven or eight companies all in the same one. I was also an engineering manager. I lived in Munich for a year at the end of 2000 after our acquisitions. Our job was to help bring the sales teams together and help infuse Intel culture into all the ones we acquired -- Fab, sales, HR, marketing, engineering, strategy.
WiC: Establishing a company culture can be hard, not to mention merging many different ones. How did you accomplish that?
JS : It was really hard at first -- really, really, really very hard at first especially because it was also a remote site. They had a hard time communicating with each other -- this is the communications industry. We had acquired companies across layer one through seven. They couldn't communicate across each other nor internally at Intel. We spent a lot of time with them. The hardest thing for any remote site is knowing who to go to to get done what you need to get done. What are the undocumented processes to get things done? Once we got through that, things got much better there. It's just like introductions. My daughter is always on this House Party app -- she's talking to a new person. The work environment is a lot like that too. It's our job is to continue to make those connections and help figure out where to go to get things done in a productive manner.
WiC: What is the culture like in Intel's autonomous driving division?
JS : The IoT group here in Chandler, the embedded group, has been around for almost 30 years, and what's interesting is that most of us have worked together for decades. We used to go out together since we were single. We have a lot of history, a lot of respect and you have a lot of reputation. A lot of people have long reputations here. We're also led by Doug Davis, who is probably the best leader at Intel. He's truly a phenomenal person. He sets pace and expectations of respect and hard work and speaking with facts and putting the customer first. He sets a culture that really fits with the group here -- IoT across the world and in Chandler. It's the same anywhere. If we go visit an IoT in Santa Clara or Penang, it's always consistent.
WiC: How does the culture support women, specifically?
JS : When you're the only woman in the room, you don’t see that you’re the only one sometimes. But we've had many meetings in the last couple of months, senior meetings, where there is only one man. [Davis] always points it out. Having been here my entire career, I have no complaints about the support and the help I received being a female in this workplace because technology is a very hard place to work especially if your spouse works too. It becomes more commonplace for one or the other to work, but if you both have careers you love, it's especially hard. Intel has been a great place and supportive to helping make it happen, across the board.
WiC: What is your advice for other women in comms?
JS : Don’t be afraid to say yes or volunteer whenever you can. I think we always find time to do the things we need to do. The important stuff always moves to the top, even as women and mothers and those of without children. If any woman is looking for a great company and like that flexibility, Intel is a great place to work.
— Sarah Thomas, , Director, Women in Comms