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Industry Person of the Week- Dr. Sirisha Kuchimanchi

Empowering Women in Industry
IPOW Dr. Sirisha Kuchimanchi

Industry Person of the Week- Dr. Sirisha Kuchimanchi

Our Industry Person of the Week is Dr. Sirisha Kuchimanchi, Speaker & Technology Strategist, TEDx Speaker, Semiconductor Executive, Podcast Host, and more.

Q: How did you get started working in your field?

Sirisha: I was in elementary school when there was an advertisement in the Indian newspaper to send a letter to NASA. This was exciting, so I wrote a letter, got an airmail envelope, fixed stamps and sent it out. The hope was that the international mail would reach NASA and I would get a response. I was waiting daily to see if the postman brought mail for me. Well a few weeks later (more like months) I got an envelope from NASA with pictures of space, astronauts, shuttles and flyers. I was so thrilled to receive them. Well, I still have that envelope at home. I was always interested in science and grew up in an environment steeped in academia. The educational campus was a STEM/Engineering institute so there was a clear way to step into STEM. I wanted to study Physics and not do engineering. During my Masters in Physics I started to do materials research. I found it enjoyable, a lot of problem solving, learning from faculty and graduate students. Also in all honesty I had reached the limit of understanding complex math. I felt it was starting to get too complicated and I enjoyed hands-on work. I came to the US for grad school to study Materials Science & Engineering and was able to do a Co-op for 6 months. Finding a job in Materials Science can be hard when you goto a job fair. The last booth I visited was a semiconductor equipment company. They worked on building and installing semiconductor equipment. I worked in a client site on implementing new processes in newly installed equipment and I was excited to be able to put my learning into action. I mainly worked with equipment, manufacturing and process engineers. Working at a client site made me learn not just technical skills but also polish my communication skills.

Q: What do you love the most about your job? What are you most proud of?

Sirisha: I am currently a speaker, entrepreneur and also work on strategy & workforce development. I love that no 2 days are the same. I had over a 20 year career in the semiconductor industry where I did various roles across multiple groups. On average I spent 3 years in a role though my last one was a bit longer. There are 3 things I love- Learning something new and solving complex problems, Collaborating with people with different experience and expertise, and hitting the goal – preferably exceeding it. In later years I worked closely with customers to understand their needs and resolve their issues. Building strong collaborative relationships with internal and external customers became a superpower. What am I most proud of? Well you asked for one but I am going to answer this from 2 different perspectives. As a manager, I am proud of building a high performance engaged team and getting 25% of my team promoted. On the leadership and technical side, I was able to turn fairly challenging customer relations into positive, engaging customer collaborations.

Q: What advice would you give to someone considering this line of work or new to the field?

Sirisha: It will be hard and it will be fun. You will get to work on interesting cutting edge issues, with a great group of people with some challenging deadlines. Manufacturing runs 24/7 so creating boundaries and systems that can work when you are off is important. You may not always have the luxury of turning off but you can still find a balance that works for you. You have to drive your career and own it. Make sure to understand what you like and what you can be good at – meet a lot of people for information interviews to understand what they do. Decide the roles you would like and don’t hold yourself back. Try for that leadership role and let your manager and senior leaders know what you are looking for. This can open more doors. We all need mentors, sponsors and allies at work. First look for a mentor, see who you look up to, respect, and work well with. Then build a mutually beneficial relationship. Sponsors will come together based on your performance, your results, communication and the critical conversations you have with your upper management. Look for allies and also be an ally to others. No matter that work can be competitive, we all still should and need to work together. There will be ups and downs at work and a career is like a game of snakes and ladders. Sometimes you may climb the ladder quickly, other times you may be suddenly swallowed by the snake and come down a few spots. The point is to understand who you are, what you do best and persevere on what brings you joy.

Q: Can you talk about a project you recently worked on?

Sirisha: I worked on critical customer challenges. One of the issues we had was our products were not meeting customer expectations. Beyond the technical challenges we had to understand, listen and figure out how to address the issue both internally and externally. By working across organizational boundaries, bringing different stakeholders to the meetings we were able to look at different solutions. Doing risk analysis, feasibility studies and coming up with fairly accurate timelines for execution became critical. . Then we had to communicate this with the customer, get their buy in and resolve the issues in a timely manner. Of course, there were hiccups but being as open as possible with the customer we built trust and engagement. It was a very satisfying experience for everyone as we addressed the technical challenges and also built a positive engagement.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

Sirisha: I have had a couple of career breaks- 1) a layoff early in my career, 2) taking time off to be a stay at home mom and 3) then exiting the corporate world. Make decisions that are important to you. Do your job well and build a strong network. A career break for me has turned out to be the best thing, made me more ambitious, more driven and more brave. Don’t hesitate to take a break if you are thinking about it, you can always reenter the workforce and be extremely successful.

I am a speaker and do speaking and workshops on leadership, career development and manufacturing. People can book time on my calendar:

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