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MIT Technology Review

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  • Lisa Su

    Age:
    32

    People often ask Lisa Su why she works for IBM—after all, aren’t startups where the glamour is? Su’s response: “I can run a group that’s like a startup, yet I have the resources available at IBM.” Her Emerging Products group focuses on low-power and broadband semiconductors as well as biochips. Its first product is a microprocessor that improves battery life in handheld assistants and cell phones. Su hired the group’s 10 employees and says their role is to develop broadband products that will “give my mom instant, unlimited access to information, anytime, anywhere, in any form.” After joining IBM in 1995,Su, who has a PhD in electrical engineering, played a critical role in integrating copper connections into semiconductor chips, solving the problem of preventing copper impurities from contaminating the devices during production. The technology, unveiled in 1998,led to chips that were 10 to 20 percent faster than those with conventional aluminum connections. Su showed she had management acumen and was allowed to start Emerging Products. “Lisa became an IBM executive in five years,” says colleague Scottie Ginn, “quicker than anyone I’ve ever seen.”