Chipping in to groom a new generation of engineers

By Engine Room Posted 2yr(s) ago Reading Time: A few minutes

They say a job should be about passion and in the case of ardent gamer Kenneth Chia, getting to build computers and gaming console chips at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is something of a dream.

Having grown from an entry-level Firmware Engineer to his current position as a Lead System Level Test Architect, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) alumnus has had an illustrious career with the American semiconductor firm. Here’s a glimpse of his journey, in numbers.

95 | The first Windows Operating System that sparked Kenneth’s interest in computer technology.

An avid fan of fighting games like Street Fighter, Kenneth often wondered how he could improve his gaming experience. He decided to try his hand at home-made upgrades, and this eventually led him to pursue a Bachelor in Computer Engineering at NTU. The AMD Athlon™ microprocessor became the first-in-market to hit one Gigahertz in 2000. AMD also created the world’s first x86-based 64-bit Opteron and Athlon 64 processor in 2003. In his graduating year, AMD’s success inspired him to send a resume to the local office. Fun fact: This was the only resume he ever sent! 

4 | The number of opportunities Kenneth got to travel to AMD's research facility in Austin, Texas, in his first year.

Each trip spanned two to three weeks, where global employees from India to Canada gathered for an intense but exciting download of the product pipeline. Today, in his role as a manager, Kenneth limits most of his overseas correspondence to conference calls, and instead offers these work trips to his younger colleagues. He shared that opportunities are awarded based on capability, and no employee is denied the chance to travel as long as their skills match the need. To date, all of the junior engineers in Kenneth’s team have been to the firm’s development facility in Austin, Texas. 

11 | The total number of engineers in Kenneth’s team.

The team comprises fresh graduates with just a year of experience to veterans who have been in the field for more than two decades. Together, they support the product development workflow of AMD Singapore, which involves identifying how chips run, characterising key features of various products and ensuring that products meet expectations in terms of power and performance.  

3 | The range of roles that Kenneth has undertaken at AMD.

Reminiscing on his first position, Kenneth said, “Being a Firmware Engineer is quite like our growing years in Singapore, where we know all about our city, but not very much about the world outside. This role formed the building blocks of my career, but over the years I realised what I knew was just a small puzzle piece in a much larger picture.” After seven years of devouring everything there was to learn in the role, Kenneth was given the opportunity to expand his portfolio, and quickly rose the ranks to become the System Level Test Architect Lead he is today.

14 years with the company (and counting)!

When asked what the secret to staying steadfast is, Kenneth shared two factors – passion and people. On the first, he explained that while the workplace is the same, no two days are identical and every project offers a new learning opportunity. On the second, he affirmed that nothing beats a supportive and encouraging team of colleagues and leaders. Over the years, he has developed strong camaraderie with his colleagues, and so close is the team that they make it a point to lunch together regularly during the work week. They also participate in fun bonding activities, such as breaking out of escape rooms and having a shoot-off in a combat archery arena.

45 interns employed by AMD Singapore on a yearly basis.

The organisation is big on training and development, and Kenneth’s colleagues shared that the man himself has an outstanding track record of converting interns to full-timers. Kenneth is of the view that young engineers of today are the changemakers of tomorrow, and never shies away from taking time to nurture them. When asked how he relates to junior staff, he explained, “You have to understand what they are looking for and where they find value in. You have to be someone they know they can trust.”

2 | The list of traits that Kenneth and his hiring team look for in new talent.

Rather than checking off a chronicle of characteristics, Kenneth zones in on just two attributes – a willingness to learn and a desire to constantly improve oneself. Kenneth shared that while technical skills can be taught on the work floor, soft skills like a good attitude is much harder to instill. People who are willing to learn always observe, listen and ask questions. This alone wins half the battle. The other half is won when they act on what they learn, and constantly desire to improve on their work.

In closing, Kenneth hopes to encourage aspiring engineers to just give it a go! He said, “If you like problem solving, making things and fixing things, this is something you will surely enjoy.”

If you like problem solving, making things and fixing things, this is something you will surely enjoy. - Kenneth Chia, AMD

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