Let me start by telling you a story of my childhood. I was four or five years old. On the weekends, I used to go to my cousin’s house. There, I saw a white box with a monitor attached to it. The box was quite important for my cousin as he barely let me touch it. There was a sticker in front of the box that read ‘Intel Pentium 4 Inside’. The sticker caught my attention and that’s how I got introduced to Intel without knowing a dime about it.
Fast forward to ten years later, computers hold a crucial part in my daily life. I am sure you have heard of CPU and somewhat have an idea of what it does. It’s a chip made out of silicon and other components that does most of the heavy calculation within a computer. In the world of desktops and laptops, we have two prominent manufacturers of CPUs. Their name is Intel and AMD. Both Intel and AMD are based in Santa Clara, California of the USA and are the major manufacturers of CPUs for PCs. Their market share is so huge that if you go out to the market to buy a desktop or laptop, you have no option other than to choose an Intel or an AMD based system unless you are planning to buy extravagant Macintosh computers and iPad Pro tablets. So, it can be said that the CPU market for computers is completely reigned by Intel and AMD. Let’s take a look at the timeline provided below to understand how these two companies got here.
Historical Low for AMD
If you go through the below timeline, you will get an idea of how AMD and Intel started and got here. The timeline ends in 2015. During that period, AMD became a complete mess of a company as a result of declining revenue since the late 2000s. It lost its position in the market completely. Even Intel, which was famous for providing high-end processors, took the reign of the budget segment of the market. The period between 2010 and 2015 can be called the ‘dark age’ for AMD. No, let me rephrase that. It should be called the ‘dark age’ for AMD and the consumers. Why consumers? Because the market was monopolistic. Without any viable competitors, Intel could do whatever they want. The consumers had to pay through their noses to get their hands on an Intel processor. Innovation was stagnant. Intel was selling the same products to the customers at a high price by changing the moniker and without improving much. As an extreme measure to stay afloat, AMD laid off more than 25% of its workforce. Nevertheless, its stocks lost about 60% of its values.
Then, the period of Salvation came from AMD. But before I go into that, let me ask you a question. If you are asked the name of some people in the tech industry, you will probably utter the names of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg.
These are the names that commonly come to our mind. However, it is sad to see that in this day and age of gender equality and women empowerment, hardly any women’s name came into our mind when asked the aforementioned question. But women are also making their mark in the field of the tech business. One such woman is Lisa Tzwu-Fang Su, commonly known as Lisa Su. Su was born in Taiwan and is currently residing in the USA. This 51-year aged wonder woman is a business executive and electrical engineer. Currently, she is serving AMD as its President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the roles she took over in 2014.
After immigrating to the USA, she completed her graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. After that, she earned a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Electrical Engineering. Her career is very glamorous. She successfully worked for Texas Instruments, IBM, and Freescale Semiconductors before joining AMD. Dr. Su developed a knack for developing new silicon manufacturing technologies and increasing the efficiency of silicon products. Her expertise at silicon technology peaked at AMD where she was the leader behind one of the greatest turnarounds in the tech industry. AMD was knee-deep in debt and was facing a possible bankruptcy in 2014 when Dr. Su took the helms of the company. She made some dynamic changes in the management of the organization. Under her charismatic leadership, AMD has regained the top spot in every segment of the CPU market, leaving Intel to the dust. Let’s take a look at some of the revolutionary steps taken by Dr. Su.
The Magic of Dr. Su
Dr. Su divided AMD into two distinct divisions. The first one got the responsibility of taking care of AMD’s computing and graphics division. The second division took charge of the enterprise, embedded, and semi-custom solutions. Under the leadership of Dr. Su, AMD started to invest in high margin and high growth opportunity markets, which was overlooked by Intel at that time. Dr. Su strengthened AMD greatly by partnering up Jim Keller as the Chief CPU Architect with Raja Koduri as the Senior Vice President and Chief GPU Architect. This dynamic decision enabled AMD to compete with Intel and Nvidia after more than a decade. The world realized the far-sightedness of Dr. Su this year as AMD overtook Intel in desktop CPU market share after 15 long years with the new generation of Ryzen processors. Since she joined AMD, the value of the company’s stock has increased by as much as twenty times and resulted in $100 billion market capitalization. In 2010, the average price of AMD’s stock was $7.9313. It declined to $3.6621, just before the era of Dr. Su began. Currently, the average price is $84.7758. The performance of AMD’s stock is visualized below:
The above graph provides a good overview of how much AMD’s stock soared in recent years. An upward trend from 2014 can be observed in the graph. This only proves Dr. Su’s vigorous management which leads AMD to the top of the market. In 2018, AMD was recognized as the best performing stock in the S&P 500.
The above figure shows how much AMD’s revenue increased since the presidency of Dr. Su began. AMD’s revenue has increased as much as $4257 million since 2014. AMD’s success is not limited to the consumer market only. With the release of the Epyc processors in June 2017, AMD got a firm grasp of the server market by providing better processors than Intel in terms of both quality and price.
For her contribution to the semiconductor industry, Dr. Su received the prestigious Robert N. Noyce Award in 2020, which is held as the highest honour in the industry. That’s not all. In 2018, she was given the title of ‘Businessperson of the year’ by Fortune magazine. The following year, she secured a position in the Harvard Business Review’s ‘100 best-performing CEOs’ in the world. Last year ended with her being elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
That’s how AMD and Dr. Lisa Su gave birth to one of the most memorable turnarounds in the history of the tech business. She will always remain a personification of women empowerment and leadership. And the next time you go to a market to buy a new laptop or desktop PC, don’t forget to say thanks to Dr. Su for bringing parity in the market.