It may seem like something relatively simple, but flipping a circuit breaker to restore the power in her family’s house as a teenager illuminated the path towards an engineering career for Hui Li. Like magic, she was able to restore the lights. Now, as a Cloud Technical Program Manager at Intel, Hui feels like her chosen career path allows her to continue helping people in real life. We talked with Hui about how she got started as an engineer, what excites her most about working at Intel, and her advice for the next generation of engineers.
What is the story behind the magical moment that sent you down the engineering path?
When I was in high school, my dad was off work for the week and the electrical power went out. I turned the breaker switch on and off and then the whole house lit up. I thought that was what engineering was all about. I thought it was a pretty cool thing, the first time I thought I made something magically work. Before that, I wasn’t really into science or engineering. After that, it felt like this was really something that I could do to actually help people in real life.
I was also influenced by my father, who was an engineer. When I started college at UC Santa Barbara, I chose an electrical engineer major. I was a one of very few girls throughout my whole EE education. All the way to my PhD, I felt like every day there was something new. It’s an academic area that’s always been very innovative. There’s always something new, not only in school, but outside, out in the world, people are innovating engineering related things.
How did you end up at Intel?
Before Intel, I was working as an Engineer at another semiconductor company in the Bay Area. What got me excited to join Intel was a rotation program. As a young person I wanted to experience new things. Intel gave me the opportunity to be a part of the rotation program and try different kinds of jobs. I was introduced to different architects, different engineers, hardware, software, many different groups. I did four rotations including, software, engineering, and marketing. My last rotation was in the sales and marketing team. It was quite a diverse experience for me and through that experience, I expanded my network quite a bit.
Though the rotation program, I found where I best fit in, where I could show my talents and skills the best. During my last rotation, I saw that Intel customer conversations are quite technical and allowed me to see real life problems, concerns, and pain points. This is why I thought Intel was a great career choice. As a Cloud Technical Program Manager, I can help solve real life problems.
What excites you or inspires you in your career at Intel right now?
I’m really excited about my current project, because it’s very challenging. It’s challenging because of the competition that we face on the cloud side, on the data center side. Intel started with a very big footprint in data center hardware, but recently you see a lot of competitors coming into the data center space. I’m focusing more on the GPU, on the accelerators, in the data center and that’s the area that Intel is building more micro share footprints. We are putting a lot of engineering efforts into customer engagement and specialty software for enabling the ecosystem.
We have many good products for next year that will be very competitive. That is what excites me. I can help Intel bring those products to market, working with customers, and especially working on the software side. The software drives the ecosystem and then the ecosystem drives more developers and the developers drive more market demand. I’m excited to be in the center of this new era, the data cloud infrastructure, cloud services.
What is some of the best career advice you’ve ever received?
I think back on what one of my managers said. Every morning you wake up and you’re ready to work. Before you start reading your first email, think about what you want to achieve by the end of day, and think about what you want to achieve by the end of the month. The idea is that when people start working, they find that suddenly they are busy with daily work, and they forget what their real goals are and what they really want to achieve. This way of approaching my day helps me stay focused and not stray away from my own goals.
What advice would you give to the next generation of engineers?
Always be motivated and aware of new innovations. Innovations are happening every day and there will be a better idea tomorrow. It’s all happening very rapidly. You should always be prepared and want to learn new things—and be a little bit of a risk taker.
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