“The software architects I work with are a very diverse group! The only thing they share in common is the passion to design things. They aren’t afraid of the unknown.”
Agnieszka Kowalewska is a Software Architect with over 15 years of experience in IT. Eleven of those years have been spent at Intel, where she now works in the Ethernet Products Group designing functionality for current and future Intel products. We asked Agnieszka to share more about her role at Intel, her professional journey so far and her experiences at Intel Poland.
What team are you on at Intel?
My team is part of a larger hierarchy at Intel. We sit within the Data Platforms Group’s Connectivity Group. My team, Ethernet Products Group, is responsible for the design and implementation of ethernet connectivity products. We work on two kinds of Network Interface Cards (NICs): Foundational NICs and Smart NICs. We also partner in building SoC-based products, which are used in all kinds of market segments, including data centers and telco providers.
What are some of the projects you’re working on now?
Some of our largest targets are data platforms computing, cloud services and 5G. We often customize products for these markets. Customers are looking for advanced customization capabilities. We have to ensure these products meet the customer’s cost and feature set criteria. The two main product parameters are speed and configurability. Complex cards can be programmed in countless ways, and this intelligence is essential for many of our customers. The purpose of these products is to transfer data from point A to point B. Some of our products are designed to transfer information between internal servers at a data center, but we also design cards that enable the transfer of data between one center and another.
Tell us more about your role. What do you do?
I’m a Software Architect designing firmware for Intel’s ethernet connectivity products. Specifically, I design link management functionality. Link management is basic functionality in all ethernet products, so I work on designs across a wide range of Intel’s products. I create the architecture (or high-level view) of the product and pass my designs to teams that will later write and validate the code. We have lead architects focusing on each product, but we also have feature architects who coordinate functionality. Each product has multiple functionalities that need to work together, so we team up, always working to ensure a successful overall product.
What is the biggest challenge in your current work?
Handling multiple projects in parallel is definitely a challenge. We work at an extremely fast pace, so it’s important to prioritize. Despite the speed and volume of the work, we have to stay on top of all the details and always be ready to propose solutions off the top of our heads. The pandemic has necessitated better connectivity in every industry, which has impacted the number of products that we are trying to build. Historically, new networking cards were produced once every five to seven years. Now, the cadence for releasing products has reduced to two or three years. We are also trying to find our place in the market as we address emerging segments. It really does look like there’s no limit to how fast and sophisticated this technology will become.
What excites you most about your role?
It motivates me to be challenged every day. The life of the products you design gives real-time feedback on your work; what you did well, what you did wrong, where you can improve. It’s exciting to see your work on the market. I also love that my colleagues in IT are really diverse. They have a lot of different hobbies. You can share these unique passions with them and become part of the IT community, inside and outside of work. It’s a privilege to work with such interesting and talented people! I feel that I belong perfectly to the IT community and I’m very happy with my career—it gives me a lot of satisfaction.
How did you become an architect? What did your journey look like?
I graduated from Gdansk University of Technology with a degree in Electronics Engineering. My first job was with a small Polish company, where I designed hardware, software, executed first power-on of the device, wrote code, assisted during functional and electrical validation and during attestation of external bodies. I also talked directly with customers. I was with “my” product from birth to maturity. Several years later, I moved to Intel. I grew as a developer and as a designer. Becoming a dedicated software architect was a natural progression for me. I spent three years leading the validation team, so I had choices. I considered going into management, but finally I decided to go the technical route. When a new team was created, along with a software architect position, I applied and got the job. After a few months, I moved from that team to a firmware architecture team. I’ve been in this role for nearly two years.
What qualities make the ideal software architect?
There is no recipe, because there’s no such thing as a perfect architect. The software architects I work with are a very diverse group! The only thing we share in common is the passion to design things. We aren’t afraid of the unknown. That’s where I feel comfortable. Though technical expertise is essential, you also need to be able to cooperate and communicate well. Part of this work is convincing people to believe in your solutions. We need to think critically, not just about the short-term, but also the long-term consequences of our decisions. Most importantly, I think candidates for this job should be open to learning every day.
What is special about working at Intel Poland?
When I started with Intel Poland, there were 200 employees. Now, we have more than 2000! It’s a dynamic environment that offers endless career opportunities; you can change jobs and projects without needing to change company! I’ve also seen the number of women in IT grow over the years. Intel recognizes that diversity is important for the wellbeing of the company and we are involved in many activities that encourage women to enter the world of tech. As a woman in this industry and mother to three daughters, I believe it’s my responsibility to build a pipeline for future female engineers and to show them that it’s possible to successfully combine their personal and professional lives. All in all, it’s special to be at Intel Poland because it’s a place where you can be challenged by the technical part of your job and feel happy to come to work every day.
What would you say to someone considering a career at Intel?
Give it a try! Don’t pay attention to stereotypes about tech. Go out and form your own opinion. Join us to find the technology, manager and team that fits you. This is a place where you can enjoy your career. You can become a manager, validator, engineer, project manager—the possibilities are endless! At Intel, you’re welcome to try anything and everything. You might just be surprised where you end up. Come find your place at Intel Poland!