Meet Ann Mathews, one of the brains behind Intel’s Haswell and Broadwell chips

The next in the Women In Tech series revolves around a woman whose love for tech started when she was a kid

Show an Intel Haswell or Broadwell processor to a geek, and you'll see a look of recognition. Ask them who Ann Mathews is, and they'll probably draw a blank. We shall not stand for this, because Mathews is someone you should thank for the amazing speeds you enjoy on your latest laptops and tablets.

Mathews, for those who aren't aware, is one of the people responsible for the design of Intel’s Haswell and Broadwell chips, as well as a variety of other processors. That might seem all serious and geeky to you, but her love for technology was cultivated from many years ago.

As a child, Mathews used to get her hands dirty while helping her father, an antique car collector, tinker with some of his automobiles. That gave her a brief introduction into the world of components such as radiators, pistons, chassis, etc.

What deepened her interest in tech was when she received her first Compaq PC at the tender age of 12. In this day and age, that might seem like something very common (we know of 12-year-old kids that own gaming devices, smartphones, and tablets) but back in the day, especially for someone that lived in a plantation, it was a big deal.

Mathews used to take the unit apart and fix it when it was spoilt, and added RAM modules to it when it started lagging. So the fact that she ended up working on computers and other electronic components should come as no surprise.    

“When computers came along, I was so eager to own one that my parents bought me one for my birthday! I started opening it up and doing simple fixes and tweaks like adding RAM, cleaning the fan, etc. My childhood experience drew me closer into engineering, and I eventually took up a degree in electronics engineering majoring in computer engineering,” she said.

Becoming what she dreamt to be

Obviously, Mathews has come a long way since then. Fast forward a few years and she’s now the SOC design validation manager at Intel. Leading a team of 15 people at Intel’s design and manufacturing site in Penang, Mathews is in charge of testing and making sure none of the microprocessor designs Intel works on is flawed.

All in all, she’s contributed to the design projects of five Intel microprocessors since she started her stint as a university intern at the company in 2003, and a full-time employee in 2004. The most recent chip she worked on is Broadwell – used in 2-in-1 devices that also eradicate the need for noisy cooling fans.

“I started out working on the Pentium CPU processors, and most recently on the first Intel Core M processor, codenamed Broadwell. My team in Penang works closely with the US team to deliver the Design for Testability validation for Broadwell, among others,” she added.

Being in a leadership position

And as a young female manager, Mathews adopts a management style that isn’t authoritative (yes, many still do rule with an iron fist) as she believes in trying to be a friend and manager and having a two-way communication instead of maintaining a strict hierarchy.  

“There is a senior female vice-president in my parent US organisation who has inspired me on her leadership style and focus on people. To me, effective leadership places a big focus on people and great results can be achieved when your team believes in you,” she quipped.

As for future goals, she intends to contribute back to society, in addition to accelerating her career and adding value to her role at Intel.