Real employees, real stories, real fascinating. Get to know the people who put the “Amazing” in “Amazing Works Here” with our new profile series, 5 Questions With…
How did you get into this career field?
Originally, I’d been accepted at the University of Nairobi. The thing that’s hard there is that you don’t actually get to pick your major. Based on how you’ve done in the national exam, the government decides what school you go to and what degree you do. And the government at the time had decided that I was supposed to do anthropology.
For me, math makes so much sense and it fits my brain, so I’d always wanted to do something math or engineering oriented. Also technology fascinated me. If I’d stuck with the University of Nairobi, I knew that I wasn’t guaranteed to graduate within four years because riots occur frequently and can extend when you graduate. Based on those two major factors, I really wanted to look outside the country. My sister had family friends who were willing to help because they knew my family could not afford it, so they helped me apply to different schools here.
I went to University of Arizona for my bachelor’s in computer engineering. At that time, I needed a company to sponsor me to stay here legally through the H-1B visa. I ended up working for Micron Technology as a Memory Validation Engineer. That’s where my career began and it’s been my background my entire career.
What do you think potential recruits should know about your role and your group?
Intel IA is a good basic. We’re actually taught that in our bachelor’s program. Having those fundamentals makes a really big difference.
Also the importance of being flexible and adaptable. The work that I do is very pathfinding. It’s on products that don’t come out until 2020 or more, so it’s very upstream. There’s a cycle [with long-term road mapping], and I’ve seen [pending] products actually canceled or shifted to something else and I’ve seen canceled products brought back in because customers were looking for an alternative.
As long as you have that keen interest to learn very quickly and move onto the next thing. You need to adapt quickly to change and be okay with it.
With that kind of landscape and road mapping shifts, how do you build your resilience skill set?
A lot of it is sometimes experience. The more you experience certain situations the better you become at it.
I’m not from the U.S., I’m originally from Nairobi, Kenya. I came to this country with only $100, believe it or not. I was 18 years old, and I came here for school. I was by myself.
Being able to adapt quickly to a new culture [was critical]. Even with college, there were a lot of major cultural differences—the change in language, the way teachers taught, just being able to survive in that environment. Without resilience, I wouldn’t be able to do that.
Another example is that I have a one-year-old son. You have to be resilient when you have a baby. Being able to juggle motherhood at home and also work. Having a baby, you don’t know day-to-day how things will work. You have to be very adaptable to the different changes and move along with changes as you go.
I’m a very social person. I love being able to interact with friends and do different activities. And I love learning, even outside of work. Every time I encounter a new thing outside of work, I am always trying to figure out how it works.
My son was my first baby, and I was completely clueless. I had no idea about it, so I decided to tackle it like an engineering problem. I read a lot about babies and how they develop, and it gave me more confidence in thinking I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.
When I came home with him he had the nights and days mixed up, and I couldn’t function. I read a lot about it, and it was as simple as putting him on a schedule. I’m very schedule oriented, and it was very easy for me. So after that I was able to see him sleep through the night and got my life back. That was the most important thing, especially before coming back to work. People warned me not to get used to it, but he’s been sleeping through the night since he was seven weeks old.
Given your journey to get to where you are involved a lot of challenges, how would you encourage others to stick with their education and stick with STEM?
I’ve definitely encountered some challenges along the way, from coming here with very little money to my mom passing away six months later and not being able to afford a ticket back home. What got me through college was the fact that I had put my mind to it.
In engineering, there’s a concept that we talk about—divide and conquer. Even though the problem looks very big and very intimidating, if you just take baby steps, step-by-step and slowly-by-slowly, you’ll be able to attack the problem.
Believe in yourself and know that, regardless of what your circumstances might be, just know you can always solve a problem a bite at a time.