Joining Intel Amidst a Pandemic: The Journey and Experiences of Three New Hires

Ask anyone about their life milestones, and it’s very likely you will hear stories revolving around education, work, career, family, and retirement. These are exciting and defining chapters that many of us will experience as we journey through life.

In this feature, we converse with three new hires at the start of their careers at Intel. Hema, Hanna, and Hateley joined the Assembly & Test Manufacturing (ATM) department in Intel Malaysia early this year in the midst of the raging COVID-19 pandemic and needless to say, the circumstances surrounding this milestone have been unprecedented and extremely challenging.

But their story is also very much about finding hope, silver linings, and seizing opportunities: the struggles of three individuals who took a big leap at the unlikeliest of times, and an industry that continues to adapt and thrive during a trying period in our lives.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to Intel?

Hema: Growing up, I didn’t really have any aspirations apart from knowing I wanted to be good in any chosen field and that planning ahead would be crucial to that success. I was halfway through a graduate trainee program in the aviation industry last year when it was cut short due to the pandemic. So, it was back to the drawing board for me—until the opportunity to join Intel came along. It took me a total of seven interviews across a whole year to get here!

Hateley: I’ve always perceived life to be a bit like playing a game—you have to take it one level at a time. Born and raised in Kuching, my journey as an engineer started out with stints in the solar and wood industry. Being a very hands-on person, I opted for mechanical engineering. Although my current role in the company is more supervisory, I saw this as an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and to learn something new.

Hanna: I was born in Penang but moved a lot due to the nature of my father’s job—my family is currently based in Melaka. Having lived in boarding school for the most part of my schooling, I decided to take a year-long break to be with the family after my undergraduate studies. When I found out about a job opening in Intel, I didn’t think I would get it, but one phone interview led to the next, and I eventually got the job. Now I’m back in Penang.

What do you love most about your current role?

Hema: Being on the production floor, dealing with different types of people, working on products that make a difference and diving into deep technical knowledge. As a person, I love learning new things and understanding the “why” and “how” they work. I get to experience all of these from my role as a process equipment engineer.

Hateley: I’ve only been around for about one month, so I’ve been mostly training. There are lots of systems and policies in place to get familiar with; it’s a steep learning curve. One thing that has stood out for me is the culture. People are really helpful here, all I have to do is ask, which is great for my new role as a manufacturing supervisor!

Hanna: It’s definitely the collaborative spirit here at work. I’m shy in nature and am generally reluctant to ask for help from others, but my role as a mechanical integration engineer has really taken me out of my comfort zone—I have got no choice but to ask in order to learn and solve problems.

Talk us through your experience of joining the company. What was it like, with the pandemic?

 

Hateley: Being from East Malaysia, the biggest challenge for me was the logistics. Because of the blanket travel restrictions and quarantine enforcements, returning was even harder than leaving. It’s a long road to Kulim: a flight from Bintulu to Kuching, then a flight to Kuala Lumpur, followed by the flight to Penang, and capped off with the drive to Kulim. Planning the trip was time consuming. The cost involved is high, permits take time, and I’ve done six PCR tests to date!

Hanna: The nationwide lockdown came into effect just as I got the job. I received a call from my manager saying I didn’t need to go on site and that we would be working from home. So that was on-boarding for me: at home and through a screen. I spent the first three months just focused on training. It took a while getting used to everything being virtual, and it was a first for the team as well. Although it was tough, as I didn’t know anyone apart from my manager and buddy, the team did their best to get me involved. Also, having other new hires as companies made it easier for me to adapt with the new norm.

Hema: I’m definitely the luckiest among us three. Day one for me was on the production floor, and I had access to the office, so the transition was definitely a smoother one.

What role did your team play in your transition?

 

Hanna: I couldn’t have done it without the help of my buddy and manager. They were so generous with their knowledge. My buddy’s been in the company for three years, and I know I’ve asked many questions but was never made to feel like it! They’ve welcomed me with warmth and more importantly, gave me the confidence to carry my role.

Hema: Similar to Hanna, my buddy is truly a gem. On days where I feel discouraged, he’s always there to check in. For me, what really helped was the spirit of togetherness: the feeling that everyone in the team is learning, growing, and also taking on the pressure together. I also really appreciate the strong presence of women in the team, from my manager to colleagues. Diversity and equality can really transform workplace culture positively and I for one feel much more confident.

Hateley: One could say that I came in at a good time, because there were other new hires who joined just before and after I did. This made learning and fitting in much easier because we could exchange knowledge and help each other out.

What are the things that you observe happening at your workplace to cope with the pandemic?


Hateley: Things move fast and decisively. In anticipation of the latest lockdown, there was a need for yet another revision of workplace policy and this was implemented by the upper management within one week. This helps us who are on-ground plan ahead.

Hema: While the general advice is to maintain a minimum social distance of 1 meter from others, we observe a minimum of 2 meter instead. We’re given the flexibility to work from home and take pandemic leave as and when needed. I appreciate how the organization has found a sweet spot between ensuring the health and safety of the workforce and keeping the business running smoothly.

Hanna: Being in production, we’re mostly required to work on site. But as Hema said, with all the added stringent precautions in place, I work with a peace of mind. Wearing face masks has been made strictly compulsory, even when alone, and meetings have to be virtual past a certain number of attendees.

Any closing words for those who are considering joining Intel during this period?

 Hema: If it’s employee safety you’re worried about, you can rest assured you’ll be fine here. There’s flexibility to work from home, mental health assistance, and our general well-being is prioritized. This truly is a place to grow and thrive, and I’m so glad I persevered to get this job.

Hanna: As Hema said, it’s that feeling of being in good hands and being under compassionate leadership. The workplace culture and environment will help you discover your strengths. I was doubtful during the application process because my results were probably, in my own opinion, not up to the par. But my manager saw that I retook the class and did well. Don’t feel like your results define who you are. Your attitude and how you push through adversity matter too.

Hateley: What I really appreciate about Intel is that the company is people oriented. This is institutionalized and not just spoken of. Even seemingly tiny details like how we sit on our chairs are thought about. I’d say consider the company for its culture—especially the way it welcomes diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. I never imagined working with silicon and it was never my expertise but being here has really opened up a whole new world for me.

Looking to be part of the new hire’s network for Intel Malaysia? Check out open opportunities here. 

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