5 questions with Amber Huffman: From farmer to fellow, a happy accident

Real employees, real stories, real fascinating. Get to know the people who put the “Amazing” in “Amazing Works Here” with this new profile series, “5 questions with…”

Amber Huffman, Intel Fellow and the director of storage interfaces in the Data Center Group shares her career journey and insights into the importance of building trust and role modeling inclusive leadership.

At a basic level, what is your job now and how did you get into the field?

I define the interface between solid state drives (SSDs) and our platforms in collaboration with industry partners in the highest performance, lowest latency, lowest power, most awesome way.

I got into this field by accident. When I was studying engineering at the University of Michigan, I learned about a scholarship from Intel. That scholarship paid for my last three years of college and came with an internship—and the rest is history.

What helped you stick with it and thrive?

Rick Coulson (Senior Fellow) and Knut Grimsrud (now Intel Fellow) were my two sponsors. When I joined Rick’s group I was the only woman, an intern, and the lowest on the totem pole. But they always expected that I could do a ton and always gave me the opportunity. They included me in staff meetings and strategic presentations, and I learned by osmosis. I had a voice. What I learned from my sponsors is people will thrive in an inclusive environment.

It’s something I now try to role model. When, as a leader, you ensure people have a voice you create a good reputation and build trust. Collaborators know we’ll figure things out together and find a win-win.

How does your work make an impact to Intel and the industry?

In the Data Center Group we’re at the center of making new experiences possible. We made a huge transition from slow hard drives to super-fast solid state drives, and now Intel has done the first new memory technology in three decades with 3D XPoint™ technology. SSDs are enabling us to do things we couldn’t do before.

What do you want people to know about Intel and your role?

Intel is a place where we’re passionate about people. I’m personally passionate about unlocking the technologist’s voice for women and others, including underrepresented minorities. I was promoted to Fellow two years ago as only the fifth woman in the 48 years of Intel’s history. Dr. Genevieve Bell, Dr. Ruth Brain, and I worked with our male, inclusive Fellow allies to get another five women promoted to Fellow in 2017.

I’m excited about both the technology I’m working on and partnering with other senior technical women and inclusive, male senior leaders to have better conversations, make more things happen, and really change the world.

What else do you want people to take away?

Research shows that the success trajectory is correlated more with confidence than it is with competence. We need to help draw out people who are more introverted or humble. We need a stronger culture, both at Intel and in society, where we speak positively for each other and highlight others.

 

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