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Intel's Processor Boss Shares Lessons Learned

Sarah Thomas

Shlomit Weiss has received the Intel Achievement Award, built Intel's second-generation core processor and was responsible for its sixth-generation core processor, which CEO Brian Krzanich called the "best processor ever." But 26 years ago she was convinced she didn't even get the job with the chipmaker.

Her first interview at Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) was a disaster, she said, and she turned her efforts elsewhere after not hearing back for two weeks. Turns out, though, that after a month's delay, the job was hers, and she's now been with the company 26 years, filling a number of different positions along the way. In October, Weiss became vice president of Intel's Data Center Group and general manager of silicon engineering, which has her managing a team of more than 600 engineers spanning three parts of the world -- Israel, Europe and the US.

As a leader, she takes her responsibility to deliver results very seriously. But she also sees herself as responsible to the families of all 600 of her employees, motivating them, enabling them to be successful and to have a work/life balance at the same time.

She recently talked to the Women in Comms community about how she approaches her career and leadership, as well as how Intel is making diversity a priority, on a recent WiC radio show now archived on the site here. Read on for more of her insights, gathered from a long, varied career at Intel.

Shlomit Weiss, General Manager, Network Platforms Group, Silicon Engineering, Intel
Shlomit Weiss, General Manager, Network Platforms Group, Silicon Engineering, Intel

Intel will be speaking at the upcoming Women in Comms one-day conference in Austin, Texas, on May 23. Register here to join for free, and stay for the job fair!

On her career path: I must admit I didn't know I'd get to where I am. It was not as if I had a plan upfront. After school, like everyone in Israel, I went into the army. I wanted to do something interesting, so I did computer programming in the evening. I enjoyed IT and computers. My first interview at Intel was a disaster. I had no answer in two weeks so I knew it wouldn't be easy and started interviewing elsewhere. After a month, I got an invitation for another interview. I've now worked there 26 years.

After three years, I got my first management assignment, managing a small design team. Here, a guy in the group asked me how it was possible I was a woman and his manager, when I was less knowledgeable and experienced. I paused and then moved to the technical discussion we were having. Inside me, I had to prove how it was possible. It was possible. I progressed in management. I am now the GM of silicon engineering for network platform group. I like to work with people, see the big picture and put it all together and see the results.

On a defining moment in her career: After I delivered the second-generation core processor, which sold 160 million units in the first year, I was in NYC with my niece, a teenager, so we went shopping. We saw an electronics store and I saw our processor. My niece was telling her friends that her aunt made that in Israel. This is when I was really feeling the pride of our work when even teenagers can recognize it. Those small moments of seeing the impact is a big satisfaction and joy for me in the work. Going into management enables me to work with more and more people, see the biggest picture, to have more to manage and have a bigger impact.

On her leadership style: I have three major principles. The first is around people. I believe people are the most critical asset that is enabling our success in business. Of course, without the people, we cannot do anything. This is the critical vector I always make sure we invest in to develop in the right direction. The second principle is around results. All the work we are doing, especially in high tech, is about results. For me, results are delivering quality on schedule. Without those two, it's very difficult to monetize results. To have something delivered on time without the quality doesn't work. To have something very high quality but late is not needed, so we're really about quality on schedule. The third major principle is the spirit. If we're doing our work with care and love and really using our heart, not just our brain in day-to-day work, we're getting better results with a better atmosphere and better collaboration. When we do leadership classes inside Intel, I always tell managers we have very talented engineers. What sets you apart is using your heart in addition to your brain.

On Intel's approach to improving diversity: Intel's CEO made a clear commitment that he wants to drive equality by 2020. There was a large investment of $300M associated with it to enable the different programs to get there. In terms of the strategy of how Intel is doing the program, one focus area is on hiring and retention. There are many different ways that Intel is investing in hiring to increase diversity. In Israel, we have a program called "Friend Bring a Friend." If you get a person on board who is successful, the Intel employee gets an award. We changed the program a bit and if an employee brings a woman who is accepted, the employee gets rewarded. It's those small changes that help us to get to a more diverse population.

The other direction is building the pipeline inside Intel to see how we promote and help women in the organization to get to the next level. Intel is looking at the external supply chain and helping them get to equity as well. This program looks at many different forms -- large focus on education in high school, looking into how early we can start the pipeline. By the time they choose where they want to go to university and choose where to work, we'll have a big population for the high-tech industry.

Internally, at Intel we have Pay it Forward, a small group that is usually led by females. Intended to be small groups of discussion, sharing experience, getting to know each other and networking. They meet every month or two. Discussion is open. It enables women to hear about experiences with others. If they are good -- how to go there; if they are not so successful -- how to prevent them, and also helping to create a wider network. It's enabling a wider view and more progress. Those are a few of the external programs and inside Intel.

On improving the pipeline: We recruit students from college. But the focus on college and high school is to expose more women to want to go into this mathematics, science -- all those areas where they have opportunity to join later. We are helping them to be really thinking about what they want to do and where they want to go and to not be shy to go into those areas.

On Intel's company culture: Intel has a very strong culture. It is known. The Intel culture in general is about what we do and how we do things. We have values that are basically building our culture. On my first assignment in Oregon, I didn't know what to expect, but everyone said, "don't worry, it's the same culture." Intel culture is very strong but of course there is the local culture. Not everything is exactly the same, but in general the Intel culture has a very high focus on how we are doing. The culture is changing around it. We are looking at data actually and indicators -- where we were two years ago, where we are now, what is changing, how we are making progress. Intel increased the percentage of women joining Intel by 40% in 2015 compared to 2014. It's part of culture and discussion. It becomes the day-to-day culture in addition to everything we had before.

On the importance of mentoring: Mentoring is a very useful way to gain confidence and to network. To have a good mentor, it shouldn’t be someone working on your same team. That's my strongest recommendation. When you pick a mentor, it's nice to have a coffee to figure out if you guys are really meshing. If it's something you feel comfortable and open, you will be comfortable and understand each other. It's critical. If you have that, if you have a program, you want them to be happy with you.

On advice for women in the workplace: In a sentence, it's to get excited and care and love what you are doing. We are in a very challenging environment. It's always changing. There are always new opportunities. There is always growth. Everyone in this industry is spending many hours at work and around work thinking about this. I believe we really need to love and get excited about what we are doing. Maybe you don't like everything you are doing but you like parts of it. The next point would be don't give up, even if there are difficulties. Even if you don't always get what you want or think you deserve. When you believe in something, drive it and good things usually happen. That's my belief.

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Director, Women in Comms

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User Rank: Light Sabre
5/13/2016 | 5:32:27 PM
Re: Multinational culture
Wow, 26 years! Also, interesting to note the philosophy includes a "major principle is the spirit. If we're doing our work with care and love and really using our heart, not just our brain" It's refreshing to see that statement in there from someone who's been around a long time.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
5/9/2016 | 3:08:01 PM
Re: Multinational culture
Woah, you would think there would be a lot of international differences between those two regions, but that is when you know your company culture is strong and deeply ingrained! My friend spent three months in Hamburg Germany with Google, transferring from the Chicago office, and said the same thing. Google is, unsurprisingly, a company with a strong, consistent culture. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/9/2016 | 12:34:05 PM
Re: Multinational culture
Nice article. I had never before really put a lot of thought into what Intel's culture might be like. It's good the company puts so much thought into this since it matters more than most people realize. 
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/9/2016 | 11:37:37 AM
Multinational culture
Corporate culture is a common thread running through the biggest multinational companies. I remember being told a story by an employee of a global multinational who was transferred from a major US city to Saudi Arabia. He felt like he was living on another planet – until he got to the office, when he felt right at home. 
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