When I was still in undergraduate school at Pennsylvania State University, I was trying to find a summer internship. Although I knew Western Electric was not hiring interns, I spoke with the HR person who was on campus anyway. We had a good discussion which led to her mentioning that Bell Labs had an intern program and she would send my resume to them for consideration.
This led to two summer internships with Bell Labs and an opportunity to get my Master’s degree at the University of California Berkeley with Bell Laboratories’ One Year on Campus (OYOC) program. My advice from this experience is that don’t assume that just because there is not a direct opportunity you should not pursue the possibility. The experience at Bell Laboratories also impacted the area of electrical engineering I was working in. The group I was part of focused on analog bipolar design, not the latest trend in digital CMOS design.
This lead me from designing circuits for landline phones to RF design for wireless phones. There are many cases where the next generation opportunity comes not from what is popular today but how to apply the technology in a new way. An important idea/concept to remember is that nothing is impossible, it just hasn’t been done yet. When we designed the first single-chip GSM transceiver (ISSCC 1995), we were working under the assumption that everyone else was trying to make the same thing happen. We didn’t realize until after we had the design that everyone else was using a two chip approach.
After I pursued an EMBA from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, I wanted to try something different and joined Texas Instruments, working for Gene Frantz. We were looking for new opportunities to use DSPs where they might not have been used before. While identifying several potential market opportunities, one that intrigued me was Digital Radio, due to my background in RF design.
When TI decided to pursue this opportunity, I became one of the first four people in the newly formed Digital Radio business. It has grown into a significant business for TI in the automotive Infotainment area. Because I was willing to make a significant change in direction from RF design to looking at the complete system solution, it opened up a whole new career with Texas Instruments. One final thought is that we all strive for perfection in what we do. But no one is perfect. The important thing is to accept mistakes and learn from them. The only true mistake is the one we do not learn from.