Xiaolin’s tenacity and passion for networks improves technology and people

Aug 04, 2020
 

When innovators like Xiaolin develop technologies to collect, analyze and process data, our customers can improve connectivity to make the world safer and more productive.

Xiaolin sees networks everywhere. They’re in everything from smart electric grids to the connectivity that makes our modern homes, offices, factories, hospitals and vehicles possible.

“We’re surrounded by data,” she said. “It’s a brain for the way we live, work and learn. When everything around us is connected to data networks, we will use data analytics to solve problems, which will greatly improve productivity.”

As a technical leader at our company for more than two decades, she has made significant contributions to the technology underlying those networks. 

“I solve problems related to low-power or battery-powered devices and the robustness of wireless communication in harsh industrial and automotive environments,” she said. “That’s my specialty.”

For example: A wireless network of sensors, microcontrollers and power-management circuits that she developed collects temperature, humidity, lighting, motion and pressure data every few seconds to help manage predictive maintenance, remote monitoring and asset tracking in some of our company’s and customers’ labs, factories and offices. These networks monitor equipment efficiently and alert factory managers before critical – and expensive – repairs or adjustments are needed.

And the innovation has potential to reach beyond the factory floor. It can be applied in building automation, automotive and electrical vehicle battery management systems, high-speed railways, smart homes, farms, parking lots, street lights and more.

But beyond the technology and connectivity that help keep us safe and productive, she focuses much of her energy on strengthening another critical type of network: A network of engineers – especially women engineers – whom she has mentored and coached during her 22 years with our company.

“There have been people in my life who have helped me grow,” Xiaolin said. “To help other people grow, in turn, I have to view myself as an enabler. The approach shifts from ‘I make an impact’ to ‘I and others together make an impact’ to ‘I enable others to make an impact.’ I, as an individual, can only contribute so much, but if I give young people opportunities to grow, that’s powerful. You become a ladder that others climb to accomplish their goals and make an impact.”

Her technical capabilities, innovations and drive to build know-how in younger engineers has propelled her career from her first position at our company as a software and system engineer to her role today as TI Fellow and as a senior leader at Kilby Labs, which is our company’s applied research-and-development group. 

Driving research vision and strategy

Sometimes it can take seven or eight years for an original idea to become part of a product that makes a difference for our customers. Xiaolin loves the painstaking process of seeing this through. 

“Anything big doesn’t come quickly,” she said. “During the process of innovation, there are many ups and downs. It’s important to have a dream and a vision, and to not give up on it.”

Recently, she helped launch our company’s breakthrough bulk acoustic wave (BAW) resonator – an industry-first technology that will help pave the way for the next generation of ubiquitous connectivity. It radically improves the performance of internal clocks, or the heartbeat-like signal of electronic systems that help components stay perfectly synched. Almost any electric system depends on a clock to know when and how to function. 

When Xiaolin and her team developed breakthrough BAW technology, they unlocked the potential for our customers to radically improve high-performance communication to help the world become safer and more productive. 

This could mean a newborn with a heart condition may go home with her family rather than remain in the hospital because the doctor can check her vital signs in real time over a wireless network. Or data collected by semiautonomous cars today can enable more autonomy in tomorrow’s vehicles. And automated buildings can help us increase productivity and make our lives greener. 

“With BAW technology, our customers can improve everything from faster data center systems to building automation and even virtual healthcare,” she said.

While leading the BAW team, she tapped her knowledge of networks and technologies to set priorities, oversee planning, drive efforts to develop products for our customers and ensure that our research investments align with business needs. 

In her role as a technical leader, she drives the vision and strategy for research activities in the areas of connected sensors and timing and clocking technologies for the industrial Internet and for automotive applications. But her experience ranges from developing technologies that enable systems for the smart electric grid to long-distance sensors.

“Xiaolin’s passion for innovation and drive for execution offer a unique blend for the success of multiple key projects in Kilby Labs,” said Ahmad Bahai, our company’s chief technology officer. “She articulates her vision effectively to rally support from technologists across many disciplines, which is critical for an advanced research organization.”

She is the author or co-author of 62 U.S. patents and 10 patents from elsewhere in the world. 

“There are a lot of people who have a vision for technology that’s new and different,” said Danielle Griffith, a TI Fellow. “But vision is not enough. You have to have persistence, and not many people have that. Xiaolin doesn’t let go when other people would give up. It’s a part of her nature.”

Xiaolin has been recognized with the 2016 Asian American Engineer of the Year Award and has been honored by the Society of Women Engineers and the National Women of Color. She gives keynote and plenary session speeches at technical conferences around the world, contributes technical papers, and regularly engages with customers and other technology companies to influence the semiconductor industry’s direction.

Xiaolin Lu at her deskXiaolin Lu at work at Kilby Labs in Dallas.

Developing the next generation

Today, in addition to her technical leadership, one of Xiaolin’s priorities is to develop the next generation of women to drive breakthrough innovations. She typically mentors women who are early in their careers and who show great promise as technical leaders. Her efforts to strengthen people networks include: 

  • Mentoring employees from our company who show great technical promise.
  • Serving on the TI Technical Ladder Leadership Council, which oversees the technical career track for employees. She also champions efforts to increase gender diversity on the Tech Ladder.
  • Speaking and hosting events for university recruiting initiatives.
  • Involvement in community activities such as United Way.

Her passion to excel in everything she does comes through in her interactions with other people, said Abha Singh Kasper, an engineering and product development director at our company.

“Xiaolin has a fire within her to rise to the next level and the passion to see projects through,” Abha said. “She’s energizing, motivating, genuine and honest. You can have complete trust in her. A discussion with her becomes uplifting.”

Living our passion to create a better world

Improving connectivity is an example of how our company is living its passion to create a better world by making electronics more affordable through semiconductors. This passion is alive today as we continue to pioneer advances in integrated circuits. Each generation of innovation builds upon the last to make technology smaller, more efficient, more reliable and more affordable – opening new markets and making it possible for semiconductors to go into electronics everywhere. We think of this as Engineering Progress. It’s what we do and have been doing for decades.

Xiaolin’s 3 lessons to help others grow

As she has mentored other engineers through the years, Xiaolin has emphasized several key themes that have helped them grow and develop their careers. Here are three:

  • Set your career goals early. “I encourage new employees to look at the more senior roles, decide what they want to achieve and find out what it takes to get there. Identify gaps and grab opportunities to grow as quickly as possible.”
  • Build a solid foundation. “Seek opportunities that give you depth and breadth in multiple technical areas. Be persistent and adapt to changes.”
  • Be a team player. “Develop communication and interpersonal skills so that you can make a larger impact for your organization. You can be nerdy and social at the same time.”