I interviewed Jaya Singh, Director - Worldwide Hardware Development MSP, Texas Instruments. She’s been at the semiconductor design and manufacturing company for over 20 years. She has some interesting insights to share about her own journey as a woman in tech, and words of wisdom for future women techies to follow in her footsteps. Edited excerpts from my interview are below:
My journey in semiconductor began with my first job after college and picked up momentum once I joined Texas Instruments in 2001. This was the time when I discovered my passion for VLSI design and hardware technologies. Over the years, I have led global cross-functional teams responsible for TI’s product roadmap including architecture, digital design, verification & validation, physical design, product/test engineering, and other sustained engineering activities.
In my current role as the Worldwide Director for hardware development, MSP (Mixed Signal Products) I lead a global team of engineers who are responsible for architecting and developing differentiated products that deliver energy-efficient and superior analog and compute performance. These products make their way into several applications in key sectors such as automotive, industrial, and alternative energy around the world.
Looking back at my journey, I would say that I have been fortunate to work with the best minds in the industry and the right mentors who have influenced my career growth positively. I believe that with determination, grit, and timely guidance one can overcome self-doubt and push boundaries. Over time, I also realized the power of networking and how important it is to find your own advocates who can help you grow.
Currently, I am in a great place. I have a strong team of engineers with end-to-end ownership for the work we do in India and across regions. I hope to help nurture the next generation of technology leaders from my teams.
Technology permeates almost every aspect of society today. It is no longer a question of ‘if’, but ‘how’ best can we leverage technology for overall advancement.
When you look around, electronics are everywhere. Due to the investments made by leading semiconductor players like TI and the government's push to make India self-sufficient, the semiconductor industry is steadily picking up steam. With the electronification of the world, I see huge growth opportunities for engineers in the immediate future. Further, with the steady advent of AI/ ML, we see the demand for performance, power-efficient hardware and computing capabilities growing multifold.
India is the global innovation hub for companies like TI, whose engineers drive innovations that solve complex challenges across critical product lines. These teams are delivering end-to-end solutions in key sectors such as automotive, power delivery, factory & building automation, computing, appliances, and industrial applications among others.
More recently, the Ministry of Education in partnership with AICTE has announced the curriculum for two new programs B-Tech Electronics (VLSI Design & Technology) and Diploma in IC manufacturing, as part of the effort to ramp up India’s semiconductor engineering talent.
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 Texas Instruments (TI), our primary focus has always been on ensuring we offer our employees a diverse and inclusive workplace through our policies, as well as programs. One such key program is WiSH, a first-of-its-kind program where girls students in the second year of their engineering courses can avail a one-month-long, hands-on mentorship at TI. Additionally, we also offer the Women for Technical Leadership (WFTL) program, which supports women to pursue a technical career path with mentorship, guidance, and coaching from their managers and technical leaders. Further, the Women Engineering Network (WEN)at TI regularly invites women leaders within the organization to come forward and share their professional experiences and key learnings.
We also have a PRIDE Chapter and Ally program in India which aims to help TIers understand how they can be more mindful and help their colleagues bring their whole selves to work.
In the coming time, we also plan to launch a dialogue group, wherein larger discussions around diversity and inclusion issues can be facilitated between colleagues across levels and across the gender spectrum.
In addition to this, TI also works closely with the larger industry to encourage younger generations to consider pursuing education and careers in STEM. We do believe that there is a need to build awareness at the grassroot level – to provide guidance to students starting from the middle school level, so they make more informed choices as they grow up and enter the workforce.
Traditionally, when you view yourself as a mentor, there is a tendency to think of your relationship with your team members in terms of your seniority. Often this also means that as a mentor, you unconsciously believe that it is your responsibility to guide your colleagues. In the process, you might forget that as a mentor your role is to really act as a soundboard and support system for your mentees. As much as it is your responsibility to nudge people in the right direction and to help them understand their choices objectively, you also need to listen to them so you understand the pulse of the organization.
We currently see the emergence of ‘reverse mentoring’, where leaders also need to keep an open mind to exchanging skills, knowledge and expertise with their colleagues across the spectrum. This is important, especially in the current landscape where young engineers and entrepreneurs are disrupting the technology ecosystem.
Working with a diverse group of innovators on the latest technologies across sectors at TI helps me learn something new every day. I have the habit of listening to technology podcasts and audiobooks during my commute to work. I also follow the industry and technical news regularly through and whenever time permits I attend industry events and conferences, which keeps me abreast of developments in the technology world.
Self-doubt continues to be a major deterrent for many women in pursuing their career dreams and ambitions. In order for others to have faith in your capabilities, you need to start believing in yourself first! Women need to be self-confident and aspire. If one has aspirations to become leaders, only then will you draw your path to growth. Girls need to imagine themselves as leaders, mentors and role models. Providing mentorship on the technical and career front will help build their confidence and hone their technical expertise.
As an industry, we need to encourage more women to participate in technical conferences. Further, women should reach out to other engineers in the industry and exchange their experiences. Often, as women balance their personal and professional responsibilities, prioritizing networking becomes a challenge. You end up focusing your energy on the work at hand and are not able to make time to network. However, it is increasingly important for women to recognize the power of networking and its benefits.
Take the example of WINTECHCON (Women in Technology Conference). Initiated by TI India in 2018, this event was conceptualized with the intention of providing a technical forum for women leaders across the semiconductor industry in India to present their work in emerging areas. Every year, the conference attracts participation from hundreds of women technologists under one roof in Bengaluru. It is an exciting forum where several discussions take place focusing on deep technical work in both silicon design and system software domains. Over the years, the platform has gained traction and created a shared space for women to exchange their ideas and experiences.
There is no alternative to hard work and constantly reskilling yourself. Understand the technology you are working on and stay abreast of the latest trends. Sharpen your skills and core competencies by taking on new challenges, and step out of your comfort zone to do things that don’t come easily to you. Looking back at my career, the assignments that challenged me were the ones that taught me the most. I also feel that women need to be ambitious and seek higher technical or management positions.
Many of us or most of us, at times deliberately, decide to slow down in our careers due to some personal commitments. Women need to understand that a career spans 30-35 years, and going slow for one or two years will not create a dent in the long run.
Fortunately, at TI, I’ve always had very supportive supervisors and my success has been determined by merit, capability, and performance. I firmly believe that irrespective of gender, it is your work that speaks for you. Personal and professional challenges and barriers are a part of one’s journey, however, it is possible to stay focused and tread the journey of a successful career.
It is a well-known fact that years of conditioning have assigned specific roles to women, dictating our life choices. For several generations, we have been bred on gendered ideas of our natural abilities. For example, boys are more ‘left-brained’ i.e. scientific, analytical, mathematical, and logical, and girls are more ‘right-brained’ – creative, emotional, intuitive, etc. This kind of social conditioning defines the toys we choose to play with, the concept of ‘self’ we develop, and eventually the career choices that we make.
Even as young women choose to pursue their passion in STEM, they are often deterred by stereotypical views. For example, many still think that semiconductor engineering is more apt for men. But the fact of the matter is that this is easy for any engineer having a strong understanding of the basics of analog, digital, or software engineering.
We need to break out of these cultural notions that have been, consciously and unconsciously, imprinted upon us for generations. We need to stop defining roles based on stereotypes of masculinity and femininity and see people for who they are and what they are capable of.
The biggest motivation for me to stay in this industry is knowing that the technologies I work on every day are helping build products shaping a sustainable future. From energy-efficient microcontrollers to smart grids and electric
vehicles, the breadth of solutions that TI delivers go into products we see in our everyday lives. Even as we do this, we are helping our customers reduce their carbon footprint globally.
On a personal note, the education of girl students is something I am very passionate about. I have been working with NGOs to sponsor education for girls from underprivileged backgrounds to the best of my capacity.
I believe passion and determination go a long way to succeed in any industry. To become good leaders, women need to hone their ability to take calculated risks. Believe in yourself, no matter what. Believe that you can innovate and hold the power to make a difference. Playing safe always is never a great recipe for success and neither is being reckless - you need to arrive at a middle path. As you build your confidence, dream big and think long-term.
At the workplace, I would encourage women to speak out their minds. They should not hesitate to ask for what they want. They should use the constructive feedback shared by seniors and colleagues to continuously improve their skills and competence on the work front.