On April 1, 1974, 19-year-old Leslie Serrano stepped foot into Microma (an Intel-owned watch company that created the first LCD watch face) to start work as an operator in the casing department. She took the job to get through college and become a preschool teacher. Serrano had no intention of spending a few years at Intel—let alone her entire career.
On Friday, September 10th, more than 47 years later, Serrano retired from her position as a failure analysis fault isolation (FAFI) technician at Intel headquarters in Santa Clara. When Serrano started in the seventies, there were about 3,000 employees at Intel. She left as the longest-serving active employee in Intel’s history.
On her arrival to Intel (Microma)
When Serrano’s previous employer—another watch company in the Bay Area—went out of business, she came knocking on Microma’s door. Back then, she recalls, “it was very informal. They asked me, ‘Can you start Monday?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’” Serrano also recalls her starting wage was $2.45 an hour—a whopping 15 cents more than her previous job. “I thought, ‘Oh that’s good, I even get a raise.’”
After a few years, Intel got out of the watch business, and Serrano applied for a job in Fab 2 as a PC control operator. She says the one thing that sticks in her mind from all those years ago was Intel’s emphasis on safety. Serrano has a vivid memory of her first day in the fab: “I remember the safety film we watched. It had someone throwing a raw chicken into acid to symbolize what was going to happen.”
From the fab to the lab
After about ten years working in the fab, Serrano applied for a technical role. Though she never finished college, she took various Intel-offered classes and training to grow her skill set, which helped her land multiple positions across the company, advancing her career.
Leslie also credits the collaborative engineers she worked with who were hands-on in teaching her new skills.
“I always listened to those who were training me or giving me advice,” says Serrano. “If you really listen and pay attention, you learn so much; there’s so much value you can gain.” During her 16 years as a FAFI technician, she gave back whenever someone asked for helped.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Serrano recalls the camaraderie among the fab employees: “They worked so hard and worked as a team. There was no one telling them to be a team. We just automatically did it; everybody relied on each other.”
She adds, “I am glad Intel is trying to get back to that [culture] because I think we lost a little bit of that team spirit for a while. It seems like Pat and others are trying to express that again, and I think it’s very good for the company.”
“I think it’s all coming back, and people are more than willing to share, help, and work together. And I hope to see that continue—because it is a great place to work.”
If Serrano could change one thing at Intel
“I think we need to be more open about the day-to-day processes and what’s going on all the way through the ranks. Managers need to be available and have an open-door mindset, as well as relay everything that’s going on in their group.”
She adds: “I know Intel is such a huge company now compared to when I started, but we used to have more quarterlies and get-togethers to understand what’s going on. I would kind of like to see some of that coming back.”
Serrano recalls a problem that arose in the fab many years ago. The fab manager suited up, came in, walked through each station, and immediately identified the problem. Serrano says she remembers this moment because “he didn’t send someone else in, he came in and did that himself.”
“I understand you can’t do everything yourself, but, in this moment, it was good to show up, suit up, come in and help find the problem. It made me feel confident in the people that were leading, and I see that a lot in Pat since he came back. He’s excited to get into things, and that reminds me of the old days of Intel.”
Exemplifying Intel’s values
Leslie’s former manager, Peter Yuen, says that “Leslie exemplifies Intel values. She is a wonderful and caring person who has a positive attitude, even during challenging times.” He adds, “I enjoyed the anecdotes that she shared from her experiences, as she’s seen quite a bit throughout her 47years at Intel.”
Road to retirement
Of her retirement, Serrano says she’s most excited to sleep past 4:30 a.m. on what used to be workdays.
Leslie is also looking forward to spending more time with family and getting more exercise. “When I joined Intel, I wasn’t married. Now my oldest grandchild is 24, and probably not too far down the line I will have great-grandchildren. I look forward to enjoying them and having a little bit more time to do other things, including exercising more.”
Advice to those 19-year-olds out there
“Go to college (and finish) and get into technology—you’ll probably enjoy it. And if not, there are so many other non-technical opportunities at Intel,” says Serrano.
In describing her career in one word, Serrano says: “Awesome.”
“I am amazed by the people here. And I think that’s what really kept me here. I enjoyed my job, I enjoyed what I did—but if we didn’t have so many amazing people working at Intel—I probably wouldn’t have stayed.”
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