The design of new circuits is essential for fueling the development of smaller, smarter and more advanced electronics. Maxim Integrated has been developing, manufacturing and distributing both analog and mixed-signal circuits that can be integrated within a variety of devices, including autonomous vehicles, industrial tools, wearable technology, and much more.
Maxim offers a variety of solutions and products designed to enhance the performance, security, and energy efficiency of electronic devices. Among other things, the company’s circuits could facilitate IoT implementations and aid the development of more efficient tools for the payment industry.
Stella Or, a business manager at Maxim, has been working closely with the company’s design team to develop effective solutions that meet the rapidly changing needs of electronics manufacturers. Over the past ten years, she has primarily focused on devising effective solutions for IoT implementations and the payment industry.
Stella started her career as a developer, but she gradually shifted towards a more strategic and business-oriented role. This allowed her to develop a variety of skills, learning the importance of technical aspects of engineering, as well as communication with customers and strategic planning.
In the second chapter of our series dedicated to women in the EE Industry, Stella shares some of her professional experiences with us, highlighting some of the key challenges currently faced by electronic engineers and possible strategies to overcome them. Also be sure to check out our first installment in this series, in which Veronique Rozan discusses her personal journey into the EE industry.
Ingrid Fadelli: Before we begin, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and your key responsibilities at Maxim?
Stella Or: I'm originally from Hong Kong and I moved to Dallas two years ago. I attained a bachelor's degree in electronic engineering and then worked in the EE field for around 20 years. While I was working, I also took a part-time course and gained a master's degree in software technology.
At the beginning of my career, I worked as a development engineer. Once I joined Maxim however I became an applications engineer and started providing direct technical support to customers. Later on, I became a product definer and was asked to gather requirements from the market and work out the best solutions for individual customers.
In this role I had to consider all the features that my customers needed and evaluate their costs, in order to work out the best solution for them. Then, this April, I was promoted to the business manager position and I am now managing two product lines at Maxim.
IF: What inspired you to enter the engineering field and electrical engineering (EE) in particular?
SO: I think it just happened naturally. When I was in school I particularly enjoyed scientific subjects, such as maths, chemistry, and physics. In my free time, I also started to carry out my own experiments.
When the time came for me to choose what I wanted to study at university, I chose electronic engineering, as it is a field that always fascinated me. Until this day, in my leisure time, I enjoy fixing some of my home appliances, including remote controls, my kids’ toys, and other electronic devices.
IF: What was your professional journey like and how did you get to where you are now? What challenges, if any, did you have to overcome?
SO: At the beginning of my career, when I was still a developer, I worked on projects that involved products such as e-dictionaries and MP3 players.
Every day I just sat in the office doing some programming or working on hardware designs. Once I became an applications engineer, however, I was also expected to go out and face my customers. I think that this helped me to grow and advance in my career.
When I moved into application engineering, I started talking to my customers on a regular basis and was able to better understand their needs and their challenges. I would then make use of my past experiences and expertise to provide suggestions and help them to identify effective solutions to tackle their problems.
Becoming an application engineer greatly enhanced my communication and presentation skills, while also strengthening my problem solving abilities.
I’ve now moved on to a business position that involves focusing on products and engaging in roadmap planning. I feel that this role is helping me to improve my analytical skills, while also teaching me how to position a new product and how to achieve effective marketing for our offerings. Overall, I feel that every step in my career was characterised by its own challenges and opportunities for growth.
IF: What is a typical work day at Maxim like for you and what do you enjoy most about your role?
SO: My typical day basically entails answering emails; both customer emails and internal emails from our sales team or application engineers. I also take part in several meetings with Maxim staff members and customers, which can involve both technical discussions and product promotion.
I really enjoy talking to my customers, because it gives me a chance to promote and outline our technology, new products, and how different solutions can help them to solve specific problems or fulfill their needs. Sometimes I feel that they also educate me, particularly about new market trends and reasons why they need to meet a given requirement.
IF: What aspects of working in this field do you enjoy the most and find most gratifying?
SO: Engineering is mainly related to solving problems. Personally, I really enjoy seeing that a problem was solved, especially after all the efforts we put in. This is the same satisfaction that one might feel after solving a Rubik's Cube, a mathematical problem, or a complex puzzle.
IF: What do you feel are the key challenges currently faced within the EE industry and how could these be overcome?
SO: One of the key challenges currently faced within the EE industry is competition, as there are a lot of different companies working on very similar products. To tackle this challenge, we need to make sure that our products stand out and are somewhat different from other available solutions. Another strategy to face competition is controlling the cost of products, making sure that they can compete with similar tech produced by other companies. Another feature that we need to pay close attention to when it comes to product development is power efficiency, as now many devices come with a wireless interface, sensors and AI-based functionalities.
All of these components are ‘energy-hungry’, so we need to be mindful of this to carefully control the costs of a project and ensure its effectiveness.
IF: Considering that women make up approximately 18% of the engineering workforce, could you tell us a little bit about your experience working as a female engineer, particularly in the EE field?
SO: When I was studying at university, only 10% of students in my class were women, so I’m glad to hear that the ratio is increasing.
In general, I think that most women are great at focusing on details and they have good observation, communication and organization skills. All of these skills are vital for engineers, as they can help them to tackle the many issues they encounter every day, by organizing their work, analyzing a problem and identifying useful solutions.
In addition, communication and observation skills—which are often female characteristics, can guide engineers and help them to identify market needs, as well as devise strategies to address these needs.
IF: What are your hopes for your future professional development and for the development of the EE industry at large?
SO: The EE industry is a fast-changing landscape. As professionals working in this field, we thus need to keep looking for new areas to explore and new ways to promote our products for different applications.
I also feel that the invention of new technology is very important, as continuous advances in the field allow us to continuously develop smarter, smaller, and cheaper electronics. Ultimately, by creating new, innovative and more effective solutions we can help people in their daily lives.
As an individual, I hope to continue developing tools that the industry really needs. When I look at some products that were developed over the past decade or so, I sometimes feel that they did not really fit the industry’s needs.
In my future, I plan to continue focusing on how we can create products that truly meet the needs of our customers.
IF: Before we conclude the interview, would you like to share any ongoing projects that you’re personally involved in at Maxim with our readers?
SO: I have been working on projects related to the payment industry for Maxim for around 10 years.
This year, we are launching several new products designed to enhance security in IoT applications. Our upcoming projects are primarily aimed at enhancing security and we want to make the best use of our industry experience, applying it toi solutions for IOT applications.
Over the course of her career, Stella has acquired a variety of important skills that have allowed her to establish herself within the EE Industry. She has recently been focusing on the development of solutions that could enhance the security of IoT devices.
In addition to guiding Maxim’s design team in developing these solutions and proposing strategies to effectively design and launch new products, Stella also shared her expertise online, publishing several articles and blog posts. You can access some of her writing on Maxim’s website and Embedded Computing Design.