AMD CEO Lisa Su on early strategy, lessons learned at IBM

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,059   +153
Staff member
The big picture: AMD promoted Dr. Lisa Su from her role as chief operating executive to CEO in October 2014 and hasn’t looked back. It was a brilliant hire in hindsight as Su has managed to bring AMD back from the edge of irrelevance, transforming the company into the viable competitor it once was by going toe to toe with rival Intel and branching out into new markets. She’s also made stockholders very happy, boosting share value more than 900 percent since taking office.

In a recent phone interview with Barron’s, Su said that one of her main goals when taking over as CEO was to “focus on the right things.” She believed high-performance computing was a great market that was only going to become more important moving forward, so they focused on it.

Also instrumental to success in tech, she said, is to make bets far out in time.

"The decisions that we made in that 2015 to 2016 timeframe were very important technology bets that are now playing out in the roadmap in 2018 and 2019. It’s things like betting on 7-nanometer technology and being early in that, really investing in our core IP and our core foundation."

Equally as important was deciding on what not to invest in. Su said there were plenty of areas they thought were interesting but wouldn’t make or break them so they decided not to pursue them.

Su is well aware of AMD’s up and down history but said she has always been attracted to solving really tough problems and if we’re being frank, AMD was in a tough position when she took over. The company had long lost its place in the fight against Intel and the outlook looked grim.

As a young engineer at IBM, one piece of advice Su picked up was to run towards problems because “problems actually create opportunities.”

“When you look at the opportunity that we have in the markets that we serve and the customers that we’re partnered with, there’s no better opportunity in the semiconductor industry,” she added.

Permalink to story.

 

MikitaM

Posts: 22   +28
Deeply respect Lisa. We were really loosing AMD as a high tech company, which would had led to sad consequences for all us pc enthusiasts. Glad she found her way to save it. Of course, it involved many hard choices, and she had to cut many corners, but the whole picture in 2019 is a ton better than it was in 2014.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,526   +6,357
IMO, Lisa Su is a brilliant woman in technology and business. Making her CEO has got to be one of the best decisions AMD has ever made.

Thank you Ms. Su for bringing competition back to the CPU market place! I, for one, look forward to the day that AMD GPUs compete in the gaming market. For now, though, GPU competition in the HPC market will have to do.
 

quadibloc

Posts: 353   +237
Wanting to know more about her, a few days ago I looked at the article about her on Wikipedia. It seems that she was working on the Ryzen project at AMD before she became CEO. As well, at IBM, she was working on the IBM/SONY CELL processor, an innovative design, if not successful in the market.
 

R00sT3R

Posts: 619   +1,808
You also got lucky, Lisa. Intel screwing up an entire process node was not something anyone would/could have predicted, giving AMD a free 2yr shot at catching up. In normal times you would have never caught a break like that.

...but credit where its due, you have to make the most of others misfortune and she's done that.
 

zigi1337

Posts: 8   +5
You also got lucky, Lisa. Intel screwing up an entire process node was not something anyone would/could have predicted, giving AMD a free 2yr shot at catching up. In normal times you would have never caught a break like that.

...but credit where its due, you have to make the most of others misfortune and she's done that.

dont be foolish... they got greedy, didnt push for 7nm manufacturing, they pumped up the prices because they could... in my book they failed. AMD took the risky technology bet and beat them fair and square.
 

Footlong

Posts: 153   +82
The only thing I want from AMD now is a decent GPU. I mean some are glad only with RTX 2080Ti performance. I can't afford it. I'm more interested in a GPU that offers RTX 2070/80 performance with a lower price, of course.
 

Dosahka

Posts: 219   +83
The only thing I want from AMD now is a decent GPU. I mean some are glad only with RTX 2080Ti performance. I can't afford it. I'm more interested in a GPU that offers RTX 2070/80 performance with a lower price, of course.
I think AMD wants to secure the "best overall" first, then aim at HEDT later, which from AMD's point of view with Ms. Su as a CEO makes perfect sense to go with. Intel screwed up and abused AMD too much, same for NVIDIA and now they are getting bullied by AMD.
AMD still behind in some areas, but catching up really quickly in the last couple years, others might seeing it as a "hit or miss", but it's more like getting slowly but surely up from the bottom.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,526   +6,357
I think AMD wants to secure the "best overall" first, then aim at HEDT later, which from AMD's point of view with Ms. Su as a CEO makes perfect sense to go with. Intel screwed up and abused AMD too much, same for NVIDIA and now they are getting bullied by AMD.
AMD still behind in some areas, but catching up really quickly in the last couple years, others might seeing it as a "hit or miss", but it's more like getting slowly but surely up from the bottom.
I mostly agree, however, I would not call honest competition bullying.

Like @zigi1337 said, sIntel raised prices because they could. As I see it, sIntel got way too overconfident and then either consciously or unconsciously decided to slow further development of anything really meaningful. Honestly, I have an Ivy Bridge proc that is not much slower than today's sIntel parts including some of the way overpriced ones. To me, that is the definition of milking their product, and subsequently, their customers.

And, IMO, because of sIntel, $2K for a HEDT part is acceptable - think the latest versions of Threadripper...

Some would also argue that AMD does have the HEDT market now. As I see it, that is workstation territory and AMD's MT performance is better than sIntel in many cases ATM.

To me, nVidia is playing that way too overconfident game ATM, too.

I just hope that if the trend continues and AMD gets to the top in all areas, they do not fall into the way too overconfident trap.
 

Reehahs

Posts: 1,297   +970
You also got lucky, Lisa. Intel screwing up an entire process node was not something anyone would/could have predicted, giving AMD a free 2yr shot at catching up. In normal times you would have never caught a break like that.

...but credit where its due, you have to make the most of others misfortune and she's done that.

Free 2 year shot? Last time Intel innovated was with core architecture. Everything else has been incremental piece meal overpriced products requiring switching the whole platform unnecessarily after every tick-tock cycle.

Before Lisa AMD did Phenom and Bulldozer, with Lisa we got Ryzen.
 

ghostf1re

Posts: 414   +265
Deeply respect Lisa. We were really loosing AMD as a high tech company, which would had led to sad consequences for all us pc enthusiasts. Glad she found her way to save it. Of course, it involved many hard choices, and she had to cut many corners, but the whole picture in 2019 is a ton better than it was in 2014.

Yup. Even if you're an Intel person, she made it better for everyone. By closing the gap between the two companies, she is helping to drive better competition. Everyone wins in this situation. They make money and we get better products. Even better than that, we get choice. I'm personally an Intel person myself, but no matter how you look at it, it's good for everyone.
 

Soaptrail

Posts: 40   +47
You also got lucky, Lisa. Intel screwing up an entire process node was not something anyone would/could have predicted, giving AMD a free 2yr shot at catching up. In normal times you would have never caught a break like that.

...but credit where its due, you have to make the most of others misfortune and she's done that.

In that case you have to give Intel credit because had they not announced the Itanium and created the vacuum intel would not have made the Althon and beat intel ~20 years ago.