From the rice fields to technology leadership

Since leaving the rice fields as a young man and advancing his career, Jinrong Qian has been driven to be creative, solve problems, and do the right thing for customers and our company

10 Aug 2021

Jinrong Qian had one month to prepare for the test that would change his life.

For two years after he finished middle school, he worked in the mud, swatting mosquitoes, as a full-time rice farmer and watched in frustration as his friends continued their education. At the time, government policies allowed only one child per family to attend high school, and his older brother got the opportunity.

His parents and grandparents were rice farmers in their village about 100 miles south of Shanghai. Growing up, Jinrong assumed he would also spend his life in the fields. But he hoped for another future.

Then he got his opportunity. Two years after graduating from middle school, the government changed its policy to allow students who passed an exam to attend high school. For the next month, he worked in the fields during the day and studied late into the night. He passed.

“I was jumping for joy,” Jinrong said. “I can’t tell you how excited I was.”

Since he left the rice fields as a young man, Jinrong has been motivated to succeed, pursue opportunities to learn, and mentor individuals and teams who are determined to win. He earned a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and a doctorate in electrical engineering – all in record time and at the top of his class. He also worked as an assistant professor in China for five years before moving to the United States.

Today he is vice president and manager of our company’s Battery Management Solutions. He manages investment strategy and product roadmaps, drives operational improvements, and helps develop people. He holds 31 patents and has written or contributed to dozens of technical papers.

He recently answered a few questions about his life and approach to leadership.

Question: If you could return home and speak to the students at your high school today, what advice would you give them?

Jinrong Qian: I would tell them to never give up. You may feel that you are limited somehow, but you control your own destiny and your own career path. Some people give up when life is hard. But you have to be motivated by challenges and prepare for opportunities. And when opportunities come, you have to catch them and make a contribution. Opportunities are precious.

Image of Jinrong Qian leading a meeting
Jinrong Qian leads a meeting at TI in Dallas, Texas.

Question: After high school, you had the highest test score in your county on the university entrance exam. Why did you decide to study engineering?

Jinrong: On the farm, we didn’t know what college looked like. I didn’t know what electrical engineering was. I knew that I didn’t want to work as a laborer on the farm. I saw that the tractor was more efficient than manual labor, so I wanted to study automation and electronics.

Question: What motivates you?

Jinrong: I am driven by achieving results. I want to be creative, solve problems, and do the right thing for our customers and our company.

When I was a student at Zhenjiang University in Hangzhou, I went home often to visit my family, who lived in the countryside about 40 miles away. They were still planting rice in the mud and getting bitten by mosquitoes and other bugs. Then I looked at the university’s laboratory, where my professors were working on high-end research. I was motivated to do research to advance technology so that I could help my hometown, which was so poor at the time.

Image of Patrick Vanderpool holding rings

Question: When you joined TI, you became a member of the company’s prestigious Technical Ladder, which is a career path for technical leaders. Then you moved into a business leadership role a few years later. Why is it important for a business leader to have a technical background?

Jinrong: A business leader who has technical competence, knows the trends in technology and is able to make the right assessments adds more value to the team. When I visit customers, I can answer the technical questions, help solve their design challenges, look at the technology roadmap to define what devices they need and negotiate with them. I’m the decision-maker. I’m really proud of that combination.

Question: What is your view of the battery-management market in China?

Jinrong:  The requirements for battery management are stringent in China, which gives us a great opportunity to partner with our customers. Take smart phones, for example. A recent challenge was to reduce the time to charge a smart phone from three hours to 15 minutes. We accepted the challenge and solved the thermal issue. The BQ25980 charger has a 98.6% efficiency and achieved a 15-minute charging time from empty to full. People in China now are able to do that because of our technology.

Companies in China have product design cycle times that are very short, so time to market is important. As a result of this trend, our team continuously problem-solves to quickly find solutions to customers’ design challenges.

Question: How do you develop the next generation of innovators?

Jinrong: This is one of my most challenging jobs as a leader. I spend a lot of time coaching future leaders. I help them learn how to think about best practices, how to define products and how to make business decisions. I can’t give them a formula – there isn’t one. But I can help them learn how to improve their thought processes and how to see problems from different angles so they can win business and make tough decisions. I want to help others grow.

Question: Any last thoughts?

Jinrong: You have to start with your heart. If you love what you do, no matter how hard it is, you will feel good.

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