Lisa Su, CEO of the chipmaker Advanced micro-systemssaid in an online conference yesterday that the events of the past week have been “extremely disturbing” and racial divide and social inequalities in the United States must be corrected.
The remarks show that a Fortune 500 CEO and a technology industry leader believe that the troubles highlight a long-standing problem, that American society needs to change and that it is possible to do it now. She made the comments in an online conversation with Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which annually organizes the CES technology fair in Las Vegas. After Shapiro asked her what she thought about the events of the past week – which began with the death of a black man at the hands of a white policeman in Minneapolis and spread across the country in the form of protests and riots – Su responded candidly.
“It is shocking. It is extremely worrying. The anger, the frustration, the sadness of knowing where we are,” said Su. “This must be resolved. Social inequality must be combated. “tackle the racial divide. If you talk to most people, everyone feels it. The key for us as a nation is how to make change. This is an opportunity to make change.”
She added, “What we each have to do is within our sphere of influence. Help employees, friends, families deal with this and understand where we are. And it is really an opportunity for us to reflect on what will allow us to have systemic reform. The world has changed a lot. It’s an opportunity for us as leaders. “
While it is encouraging to hear such remarks, it is clear that Su is at the start of thinking about this subject, when she was speaking in a passive voice and was not proposing a concrete plan for change.
“I don’t know other countries, but we have a problem,” said Shapiro in response. “And it comes down to the fact that it’s difficult to be black in America because of our system. And it’s undeniable. It’s just tragic. And I don’t think there are any answers but I think we can agree on the problem. And that’s where I think we are, and it’s nice to see people like you and other business leaders stand up and say that c ‘is important. “
Su said she agreed and thought it was a responsibility to get something good out of a horrible situation.
“I really want to make sure that we are not just talking about a subject, but that we are doing something about a subject,” said Su. “And so my conversation with some of my team members is about what we do so we add to it and not [just talking]. I think we all feel this responsibility. “
Su is an MIT-trained engineer who has written dozens of technical articles. She became CEO of AMD in 2014, and helped move her from a PC microprocessor also to a formidable challenger to the market leader Intel. Keynote speaker at CES 2019, Su was appointed by the Harvard business review as one of the top 100 CEOs in the world, she sits on the board of directors of the Semiconductor Industry Association.
In the latter role, Su may have the opportunity to create jobs in the United States. Wall Street newspaper reported this week that the semiconductor industry association was seeking $ 37 billion in subsidies to build chip factories in the United States.
AMD designs its chips in the United States with teams in Austin, Texas and Silicon Valley. But its chips are made by companies such as TSMC, which has factories and supply chains in Taiwan and China. TSMC is reportedly exploring how to build a $ 12 billion contract chip manufacturing plant in Arizona.
This could create a considerable number of jobs for highly skilled technologists and construction workers in the United States at a time when tens of millions of people are out of work.
“The broader conversation is really about American leadership and technology,” said Su. “The United States is a leader in high performance computing technology. And that comes with the need for certain secure supply chains. And so it’s part of the conversation. “
It is an open conversation about how these advances and job creation can help the black community. And that is largely due to the emphasis on diversity and education. This means that the right people have to climb the management ladder.
“I like to think that my engineering background is really about how to solve problems,” said Su. “How can you analytically solve a problem and make it fun?” And that this is one of the key elements to make STEM interesting, especially for women and underrepresented minorities. “
Su said she got into management because she wanted to know what a lot of smart people could do together, like 100 people or 10,000 people. (AMD has more than 11,000 employees.)
The SIA has been trying to make the US semiconductor industry more competitive and create more jobs for many years. Su said he was making progress in recognizing the importance of the semiconductor industry, as well as the interest in creating secure national supply chains for the tech industry.
Su said she had made mistakes in her past and learned from them. For example, on some projects, she said that she did not fully understand the risks involved, such as how everything had to go well and arrive on time if the project were to succeed. She attributed this to inexperience. And that helped her focus on examining what she could have done better and raising the bar for the next time.
“My goal is always to make sure people learn along the way, but we also want to make sure that we protect the business,” she said. “And it’s not about whether it’s a good or a bad result, but how you could always do a little better.”