Weili Dai is one of the most successful women entrepreneurs in the world today. Widely considered a technology visionary, she is the only woman cofounder of a global semiconductor company, and since it began in 1995, she has helped Marvell rise to become one of the top semiconductor companies in the world. For her contributions to technology, Newsweek named her among the “150 Women Who Shake the World,” Forbes named her one of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women,” and UC Berkeley selected her as the first woman commencement speaker at the College of Engineering graduation ceremony in May 2012.
What are the biggest challenges you face on the job every day as a woman in high tech?
DAI: The world has changed dramatically and women have moved beyond the traditional roles of wives and mothers to also become leaders in every industry. Yet there are still many challenges. For example, women still play the traditional roles of wife and mother in today’s society, and balancing those demands with work is a challenge. For me, I personally take pride in my responsibilities as a wife and mother raising two sons who both are Ph.D. students at UC Berkeley now while also working very hard to lead our global company over the past 18 years. Because of my passion, my determination, and my dedication for my family and my company, I make it work – and a “48-hour day” is good for me.
How do you overcome those challenges? What or who is your inspiration?
DAI: I was fortunate to have a great upbringing by my lovely parents and an education that provided me with a strong foundation. I believe the key elements of one’s success start with passion, integrity, intelligence, and hard work. My philosophy in life has always been about achieving a “win-win” outcome. And that is the approach I bring to my customers and partners and employees. My parents are my source of inspiration. Growing up, my mom was the “glue” for our family, taking care of my dad, my brothers, and, of course, me. I believe that being a caretaker is a part of a woman’s natural talent and should be embraced with pride. I am also thankful for the excellent education I received from my teachers and professors. In my everyday life and practice, I believe that “passion and integrity” are the foundation for all success; “fair and care” are essential principles of all successful leaders.
How can more women be prepared to enter traditionally male fields such as engineering?
DAI: I have always believed in the power of the female mind and the unique perspective we bring to problem solving in business and engineering. I believe if we can develop environments that engage more women and leverage their natural talents, we’d be able to practice business in a more beautiful way. For example, technology is embedded in the everyday lives of consumers globally. It is ideal for utilizing women’s natural talent for designing the look and feel. I believe it is a passion of women to learn and turn “nerdy” technology into fashionable and user-friendly Smart solutions for the new era of the “always-on, always-connected lifestyle.” By embracing this passion, a woman can create her own ecosystem to contribute and add great value to the high-tech industry.
How do you recognize when a new technology or application is one your company should invest/innovate in, versus a technology that will experience fast burnout?
DAI: Since I cofounded Marvell in 1995, our strategy has been to focus on investing and building a strong technology foundation throughout our invention and innovation for long-term impact that advances the high-tech industry and makes the world a better place for all. Today, Marvell has delivered numerous breakthrough semiconductor solutions to enable our global Tier 1 OEM customers’ and partners’ success. Marvell is a top five fabless semiconductor solution provider in the world, with broad technology diversity for storage, networking, computing, and mobility. In order to empower the always-on, always-connected Smart consumer, we have built depth and breadth of end-to-end semiconductor design and software capabilities.
In the next 5 to 10 years, which technologies will present the most viable development opportunities for your organization and for the embedded industry?
DAI: Today, we live in a new era where consumers are attached to mobile Smart devices, live content is shared seamlessly through the cloud globally, and “smart furnishings” transform the traditional tabletops and wall surfaces into interactive displays and live content command centers in our home and workplace. I believe, moving forward, more and more semiconductor solution development will be tailored to support and to be embedded toward “software-defined” solutions, which I refer to the term as “make to fit.” In addition, I believe the aspects of developing solutions for ease of use, seamless connectivity, and beautiful look and feel are important.