By Tamara Heath-Underbrink | Vice President of Americas Regional Sales and Distribution, Infineon Technologies
Tamara Heath-Underbrink is currently a Vice President of Americas at Infineon Technologies, a top 10 global semiconductor company. Her career journey has not been easy, with challenges along the way, but the story is enlightening for young professional seeking a career in the semiconductor industry. She encourages young women, as well as men, who plan to work in STEAM to always accept a challenge and work for a company that makes a difference to tomorrow’s generation.
How it all started
Tamara’s story goes back to her first job in 1996, as a 19-year old office worker at a Ford Dealership in Portland, Oregon. When the office manager didn’t show up due to personal reasons, Tamara took charge of the daily activities at the dealership and kept the shop running seamlessly. An operations manager from a nearby WYLE Electronics distribution branch, one of the largest electronics distribution companies, saw this, gave Tamara her business card and said “call me.” It took Tamara three months before she gained the courage to make that call, but her journey to a leadership role in the electronics industry started there. The distribution manager gave Tamara a job to work with a customer using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), a set of standards and software for companies to exchange business data that used to be found in paper documentation. Without any background on EDI, supply chain or operations, Tamara took this challenge as an opportunity to build her skill set. Taking the initiative, she attended night classes to get her Supply Chain Certification, learning about Just-in-Time (JIT) inventory management and other supply chain processes. She then decided to study Electrical Engineering (EE), taking college EE classes at night, and eventually earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and Marketing while working with Wyle during the day gaining real life semiconductor experience.
After receiving her college degree, Tamara expanded her roles and responsibilities from individual customer accounts to managing strategic, top-brand accounts for leading semiconductor companies including IDT, Memec, Microchip and TI. She joined Infineon in 2018 and now is the Vice President of Americas for Sales, Distribution and EMS.
Tamara’s advice to her 18-year-old self is to understand that there is no linear career path, and to always accept a challenge. Every role she held was an opportunity for her to make a difference and to be challenged in that situation. The keys, in her view, are to trust your instincts and always select a role that enables you to make a difference. Your gut will tell you if that role will make a difference in the community, though a good rule of thumb is to look to join a company that has publicly advocated their technology or solution to help the world.
Confidence is also an important factor in moving up, so young semiconductor movers and shakers should remember to always celebrate your successes and accolades. Use these wins to fire yourself up, and the people you work with, to take the next challenge. And, of course, learn from the not so successful moments, treating them not as roadblocks but as opportunities to improve performance.
Semiconductors are cool again
Tamara points out that this is the most exciting time to have a role in in a semiconductor company. She is currently working with customers that use semiconductors in everything from refrigerators to security systems, dog doors, door bells, cars, handheld devices and much, much more. Her customers are revolutionizing industries with semiconductors; from farming to telecom, data centers, consumer markets and robotics. The electronics revolution touches almost every part of our lives today, and semiconductors are truly helping to make the world a better, safer and more efficient place.
A recent impact of semiconductors on Tamara’s day-to-day life shows what she means. She received a text on her watch that her freezer door was open, so she texted her teenager about the open door. What she didn’t realize was that her son was wearing ear buds and gaming with friends online, not paying attention to phone texts from his mother. So, when there was no response, Tamara used the Echo Dot in his room to tell her son to “close the freezer door.” Her son jumped up and responded immediately.
The theme of the story is that in those two small minutes every one of the devices she touched during this minor emergency was powered by semiconductors, which are literally everywhere and touch the world in all aspects. Specifically, Infineon is building semiconductors and solutions that will influence the lives of the next generation and make the world a greener, more convenient place. Infineon is contributing to society with innovative technology and looking for people that want to be a part of this change. Start your career journey by visiting: www.infineon.com.
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