If you were to have asked Lagacia Sims what the future held for her when she was a child, becoming a software engineer in a global corporation would not have been anything she dreamt of, even in her wildest dreams. Despite this, she’s now part of an Intel team that delivers discrete GPUs that power amazing laptop experiences. We talked to Lagacia about her journey from self-described “meager means” to her surprising career at Intel—and her advice for the next generation of engineers.
When you think back to your childhood, did you ever see being in tech as a part of your life’s journey?
Probably not. I came from meager means, so I’m very happy where I am today. I do think my journey is a bit different. When I was younger, I didn’t dream of becoming an engineer. I didn’t even really know anything about the engineering field or corporate America. I didn’t grow up around folks that worked within corporate America. I’m the first one in my family that does, and I think probably still the only one that does. There were some challenges, some growing pains, but nothing too difficult to overcome.
How did you discover engineering and decide to take this path?
I love math and I had an interest in computers. I never grew up with the computer. So they were new and exciting for me. I took a look at the list of potential majors that I could major in at university and blindly chose computer engineering as a major. I know that’s weird, but oddly enough, I was never truly clear on what I could do with such a degree. It just struck me as an interesting path to take, and I thought I could thrive in it. After I got into the major, that’s when I began to learn more about engineering, the different areas of engineering, and more about computer engineering.
What led you to Intel?
I attended a career fair at my university. The University of Florida, go Gators, and Intel had a booth there. I had a conversation with the rep, provided my resume. Through a bit of luck, in my opinion, I was contacted a few weeks later for a phone interview to be a lab tech in the Client Group at Intel.
I accepted that opportunity and completed a nine-month internship, and that internship is actually what truly opened my eyes to the variety of the different roles I could do with the engineering degree. Upon graduating, I returned back to the group that I had interned for years prior. I’d had so much fun during my internship at Intel, and I loved the company and culture, it was the top of my list to come back to as a full-time position once I was done with college.
How is Intel a place where you feel welcome to fulfill your engineering dreams?
Intel has an open-door culture, where essentially nobody has an office, nobody has a closed door. If I wanted to just tap on the cubicle of my general manager and say, “Hey, you want to go get some coffee?” We can just go get coffee. I could bump into the CEO when I’m visiting the Santa Clara offices and it’s not a big deal. Everybody is a person. We’re humans. We’re treated like people and not just an ant in an anthill just, doing our jobs and getting work done.
I also love the diversity of my specific group. Not just diversity in ethnicity and background, but diversity in interest level, in age, in college background. I came in as a software applications engineer. On the customer enabling side of engineering, not everybody has an engineering degree, which was interesting to me that we can all come from such different backgrounds and still thrive in the similar positions that we were in.
What do find most exciting about your career journey at Intel?
I’m steadily driven and excited by seeing the customer products I work on come to fruition and end up on shelves at stores. For me, seeing my work, my time, my sacrifices pay off in the end is what keeps me inspired and driven in this field.
What would you share from your experience for the next generation of dreamers?
I’m going to give a bit of a different answer because I could easily say, “focus on your education, focus on your technical skills, make sure that you have the best grades and do the best things.” But for me, I think what a lot of people don’t really hear is that you also need to focus on improving your social skills. Many put less emphasis on soft skills, but those skills, communication skills, listening skills, people skills, your work ethic, are essential for long-term success in any field. In a career within engineering, if you want to have a broader scope of opportunities available to you within an organization or within a company, forming relationships with people and working well with others can truly help to further your career in ways you probably don’t realize.
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