By Jumana Muwafi, Sr. Vice President of Engineering, Solutions Group, Synopsys

When it comes to career management, two important truisms have served me well. One: it pays off to recognize and seize opportunities. Two: it’s healthy to step out of your comfort zone. We often overlook the capacity we have to play in our own growth. Let’s take a closer look at how we can all do this.

First, consider taking a more active role in your career development. Throughout my career, I’ve been able to expand my responsibilities and learning opportunities by identifying and stepping up into areas that are overlooked. Management usually appreciates this, because these overlooked areas are projects that could be falling through the cracks and do need to be addressed. As Madam C.J. Walker wisely put it, “Don’t sit down and wait for opportunities to come. Get up and make them.”

Second, build your confidence by stepping out of your comfort zone. When we do this, we’re frequently met with our inner critical voice questioning our ability to succeed. It’s healthy to recognize the fear that often holds us back from realizing new opportunities, but it is essential to empower ourselves to break through that fear barrier and acknowledge that challenges and stumbles are a part of the learning process. By working through the difficulties, we gain knowledge, develop expertise, and achieve personal growth. Over time, the acquired skills will become a part of your new comfort zone from which you can conquer new goals and achieve professional success.

There is no learning without challenges, without effort. At the beginning of your career, in particular, it’s important to solidify your knowledge and start to build expertise in one area before you move on to another. As you move up in the management chain, it becomes easier to take on new areas. Having a very solid foundation gives you credibility to broaden your reach. Your background will allow you to ask the right questions and to make the right decisions as you manage areas where you may not have a chance to delve into too deeply.

Learn, Expand, and Grow
By taking opportunities to learn new things and expand upon my responsibilities, I’ve been able to grow into a position of leadership in the semiconductor industry. I’ve been at Synopsys for 23 years now, getting my start as a senior staff engineer and advancing into management roles. Today, I’m senior vice president of engineering in the company’s Solutions Group, responsible for a team of engineers who develop intellectual property (IP) cores that provide proven building blocks for silicon chip designs.

There has never been a dull moment in my organization—it’s been quite a dynamic environment. We have experienced growth along different axes: the breadth of the IP portfolios we develop, the expanding global customer base, and the heterogeneity of market sectors we service – 5G mobile, automotive, artificial intelligence, consumer, and data center applications. Scaling our business to support our growth was not easy, but we quickly adapted our processes and infrastructure to keep up with the complexity while maintaining a high level of quality and efficiency.

Quality is one of the most critical criteria in our development because our products are going into our customers’ most advanced chips. Our customers rely on us for differentiated IP that will work first time in silicon. We gain their trust through the quality of our products and our support model.

Through a comprehensive customer management lifecycle, we support our customers in selecting the IP product targeted for their application, customizing it to their needs, assisting them with integration and verification, and taking their silicon from bring-up to volume production. It’s been quite an interesting journey to experience how we’ve been able to scale successfully.

Working at the Bleeding Edge of Technology
IP is becoming more and more prominent in chip designs, as customers choose to license these fundamental building blocks so they can focus on the core functionality that differentiates their product in their specific application. At any time, my team is pushing the edges of technology. We’re usually the first to design at the leading process nodes—there’s great achievement in being able to do that. The complexity is compounded when you’re doing that simultaneously across multiple foundries, while tracking the development to an evolving standards specification. Interface IPs have the added challenge of having to reliably and robustly interoperate with a variety of link partners. In any week, we have our test chips taping out while we support dozens of our customers with their own tapeouts. Managing that complexity and building the infrastructure to design these products with quality and predictability is a feat that also brings me a sense of pride.

Just as my team has built an infrastructure for quality product design, I’ve also built such a framework for career progression. It’s a foundation based on the truisms I discussed earlier: seizing opportunities that are out there and stepping outside of my comfort zone despite the doubts. Doing these two things has helped me progress from taking my first coding class as an undergraduate to eventually earning a master’s in computer engineering and then embarking on a fulfilling technical career. Today, I’m proud to lead a team whose work our customers trust and rely on as they strive to innovate in this always changing, always challenging industry.

Jumana Muwafi Bio

Jumana Muwafi is senior vice president of engineering for the Solutions Group at Synopsys, where she is responsible for a team of engineers who develop intellectual property (IP) cores that provide proven building blocks for silicon chip designs. She has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the American University of Beirut and a master’s degree in computer engineering from Syracuse University.