Women’s Day: AMD India’s Jaya Jagadish interview on Women in Tech in India

By Jayesh Shinde | Published 07 Mar 2023 06:51 IST
Women’s Day: AMD India’s Jaya Jagadish interview on Women in Tech in India

When the opportunity to interview Jaya Jagadish, Country Head and Senior Vice President, Silicon Design Engineering, AMD India, came along, I obviously wasn’t going to say no. She’s a tech industry stalwart, and her insights and comments are priceless for not just future women techies but all of us to learn from and ponder over. Edited excerpts of my email interview with AMD’s Jaya Jagadish follow below:

Can you describe your journey to becoming a tech industry leader? 

I am from Bangalore, and I did my Bachelor's in Electronics Engineering from BMS College. I moved to the U.S. to do my M.S. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Texas. Engineering was a natural career choice mainly because of my love for Math and Science. Back in the day, Engineering and Medicine were the mainstream career choices. I took the former as I always associated engineering with problem-solving and innovation. I was fascinated with the creativity that engineering offered. 

I joined AMD as a Design Engineer, right after my Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas. AMD works in the niche semiconductor space and very few women take up a career in hardware engineering, but I was passionate about building and designing products. I knew from the start that this was my calling. 

After a short stint at Mentor Graphics and Analog Devices, I returned to AMD and was part of the founding team that set up the company in India. When I joined AMD in India in 2005, we had very limited talent in the CPU design space. We hired fresh graduates and trained them internally to build the talent pipeline. One of the high points of my career has been building a high-performing engineering team at AMD India - grounds-up. Today, we are a 500+ strong silicon design engineering team. Over the years, this team has successfully executed complex programs that have been crucial in AMD’s roadmap. 

In my current role as Country Head, I am responsible for giving strategic direction to AMD’s growth in India and fostering a culture of innovation and inclusive growth among our 6,000+ employees in the region.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?

Since it is less common to have women in leadership positions, it is not always easy to be accepted as a leader. There are times when you have to doubly prove yourself to earn the respect and position of peers. But throughout my career, I have come to learn that the onus of success lies with women employees. 

As I rose the career ladder, I worked with other leaders who were my peers and learned the art of influencing without authority. Earning the trust of the peer group, bringing various teams together, driving several initiatives with a focus on India and getting executive attention on the region were some of the biggest challenges. After 6+ years in this role, this experience has been the most challenging but also the most satisfying in my career. It taught me several leadership lessons, the most important being how to influence without authority. 

How have you seen the tech industry evolve?

It is the best time to be a part of the technology industry especially, the semiconductor industry. In my 25+ years in the industry, I have seen it evolve from being a chip under the hood to the centre of mainstream conversation. Today almost everyone realises the importance of semiconductors to drive the digitised world. In India, this focus is getting sharper because of the Government of India’s strategic vision to build a self-reliant semiconductor ecosystem in the country.

What do you see as some of the biggest opportunities for growth in the future? 

One of the biggest opportunities lies in AI. As AI becomes pervasive across the world, it will drive smart technologies in retail, cities, factories, healthcare etc. You can see its significance even with the recent government announcement to set up centres of excellence for Artificial Intelligence in top educational institutions to 'make AI in India’ and 'make AI work for India’. 

What steps have you taken to ensure a diverse and inclusive workplace, and what have been some of the outcomes of these efforts in terms of impact?

At AMD, we firmly believe that our company’s success is strengthened by our employees, having a strong sense of “belonging”. Diversity connotes statistics and requirements while “belonging” connotes attachment and connectedness. We believe “belonging” is what every employee desires in a workplace. Driven by this thinking, we have renamed the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) group at AMD to the “Belonging and Inclusion” (B&I) team.

We have institutionalised mechanisms to reduce unconscious bias in the workplace. We run a “Multi-voice” initiative to educate our global workforce about the power of multiple voices in the recruitment and promotions process. We are driving efforts to recruit diverse talent and sensitise everyone towards an inclusive culture, where the best ideas “win” regardless of the individual’s gender.  

What is your approach to mentorship and supporting the development of future women leaders in the Indian tech ecosystem?

From my own experience, I know how an empowered woman can positively impact and support another woman. I was personally mentored by my organisation’s CEO, Dr Lisa Su, a stalwart in the semiconductor industry and one of the most powerful women in business across the globe today.

I pass on the light by mentoring women managers through formal and informal sessions within and outside AMD. During these discussions, we touch upon various aspects related to problem-solving, decision-making, people management, work-life balance, career planning, personal goals and so forth. 

What are some of the biggest myths and stereotypes about women in tech that you've encountered or heard of?

I recall, as a young engineering student in the 90s, one of my professors told me that “I am wasting a man’s seat in the tech industry” as I will soon give up my career. I fought this bias, tooth and nail. 

Another aspect that I have observed is that often women are not as vocal and aggressive when it comes to asking for pay hikes or bringing up concerns about disparities at work. We tend to focus on the task that needs to be accomplished and believe other things will be taken care of. Fortunately, I have not encountered this kind of bias at AMD. The only criterion that we base our pay on is performance. So, building awareness of parity and being open about discussing pay biases at the workplace, will help address this issue at an industry level.

What advice would you give to women who aspire to leadership roles in the semiconductor industry, particularly in India?

My advice to women is that they should embrace femininity as their core strength. When the going gets tough, lead the way by standing firm on what is right, questioning the status quo and do not shy away from making bold decisions. It is important to recognize that challenges are the biggest opportunities that will help you learn and grow. Never let go of an opportunity for the fear of failure!

How do you stay current with emerging technologies and industry trends, and what resources do you rely on?

Semi-conductor is an industry driven by innovation. You have to have the foresight to plan ahead and see where the industry is heading based on current trends. So, I stay abreast of developments in the industry by subscribing to online journals, news publications and upgrading my skills through online programs like those offered by Udemy. Another important avenue for me is networking. As country head for AMD, I get to be part of many industry conferences and discussions with stakeholders including academia, industry peers and government bodies. These engagements help get a strong pulse of the industry. 

Can you discuss any initiatives or projects you have been involved in to give back to the community?

In my personal capacity, I am actively involved in doing my part to further STEM studies in schools. I volunteer time at a government school in Bangalore to teach science and maths to students. 

And at work, I am involved in various CSR work undertaken by AMD to give back to the community. Our focus areas include furthering STEM studies and helping youth find gainful employment. We support computer and science education in government schools by refurbishing school infrastructure, computer centres, science labs as well as rural childcare centres. We host training sessions for teachers, science exhibitions and field visits for students, vocational courses to help youth learn new skills etc.

Jayesh Shinde
Jayesh Shinde

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