Lifetime of Achievement: Dr Lisa Su

Dr Lisa Su has led AMD’s transformation into a high-performance computing leader and one of the fastest-growing semiconductor companies

Chief executive and Chair of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Dr Lisa Su has become a highly respected figure in the technology industry, known for her strategic vision and leadership in semiconductor engineering. Since joining AMD in 2012, Su has led the company’s transformation into a high-performance and adaptive computing leader and one of the fastest-growing semiconductor companies in the world.

Born in Tainan, Taiwan, in 1969, Su emigrated to the United States at a young age, exhibiting a strong aptitude for mathematics and science which led her to pursue a career in electrical engineering.

Su earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1990. Following her undergraduate studies, Su continued at MIT to complete her Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in the same subject.

Su's professional career began as a member of the technical staff at Texas Instruments, where she worked in its Semiconductor Process and Device Center. She joined IBM in 1995, firstly as a staff researcher where – according to Forbes – she helped design chips that run 20% faster by using semiconductors with copper circuitry instead of the traditional aluminium.

During her time at IBM, Su held various engineering and business leadership positions, including Vice President of the Semiconductor Research and Development Center, responsible for the strategic direction of IBM’s silicon technologies, joint development alliances and semiconductor R&D operations.

In 2007, Su joined Freescale Semiconductor, serving as Chief Technology Officer. Her role involved overseeing the company's technology strategy and research and development efforts, further honing her leadership skills in the tech industry. Su's experience at Freescale cemented her reputation as a leading figure in semiconductor technology and management.

AMD, a company facing significant challenges, appointed Su as Senior Vice President in 2012. Her arrival at AMD marked the beginning of a transformative era for the company. In 2014, Su was named CEO, becoming the first woman to lead a major semiconductor company. 

“I would walk into rooms where there were, like, 25 people, and I might have been the only woman,” she recalled of her early engineering days in an interview with Forbes. “Where I have a lot of passion is young women engineers—keeping them in engineering.”

Under her leadership, AMD has undergone a remarkable turnaround, revitalising its product lineup and regaining competitiveness in the market against industry giants like Intel and Nvidia.

Su's strategy for AMD focused on developing high-performance computing and graphics products, targeting sectors such as gaming, data centres and artificial intelligence. This shift was a significant departure from the company's previous focus and required a restructuring of its product development processes. Su's decision to develop partnerships with other technology companies, including a landmark deal with Sony for the PlayStation 5, has been instrumental in AMD's recent successes.

Under Su's leadership, AMD has seen a resurgence in its financial performance. The company's stock price and market share have grown substantially, reflecting the success of Su’s strategic initiatives. Her focus on innovation, particularly in the area of high-performance and energy-efficient processors, has positioned AMD as a leader in the semiconductor industry.

However, Su's impact extends beyond AMD. She is a role model for women in STEM, breaking barriers in a traditionally male-dominated field. Her leadership style, marked by a focus on collaboration, innovation, and strategic thinking, has been widely praised. 

Su has published more than 40 technical articles and was named a Fellow of the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers in 2009. In 2018, she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and received the Global Semiconductor Association’s Dr. Morris Chang Exemplary Leadership Award. In 2020, Fortune named Dr Su #2 on its ‘Business Person of the Year’ list, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Science and received the Grace Hopper Technical Leadership Abie Award. 

In 2021, she was recognised by the IEEE with its highest semiconductor honour, the Robert N. Noyce Medal, and was appointed by President Biden to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Su has been a member of the board of directors of Cisco Systems since January 2020 and also serves on the board of directors for the Semiconductor Industry Association.

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