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AMD’s Lisa Su (ieee.org)
326 points by sohkamyung 23 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 146 comments

I met her once when I was 9. She’s a really nice and friendly person to talk to. Listened to my brother and I talk about Pokémon for a good 15 minutes at least.

Now she’s running AMD, kicking ass and taking names. Pretty frigging cool.

How long ago was that and where?

I’m ball parking it cause I was a little kid, but roughly 20-ish years ago? Late 90’s to early 2000-something.

At one of the Motorola research plants in Arizona. Back when Motorola still made semiconductor and PowerPC chips.

You said you met her when you were 9. Assuming you know how old you are now, why do you have to then ballpark the year? Just curious

Yeah, sorry, I like to be deliberately fuzzy about any personal details on the web. That’s all.

You’re right that I could use exact numbers, but I’m a dumb human who at one point puts an exact number and at another tries to be clever and vague (and fails).

I could do the math, you’re right. It was also a long time ago and I could have been 8 or 10. But 9 sounds right.

Oh I didn't think of that reason, that makes sense! Not sure why I got so downvoted though lol I was just curious

Edit: I see now, you edited your comment and I think that caused a lot of confusion


I still have “when I was 9” up top. You mean on my reply? You are right, I did say 9.

I just tried to be clear and concise. Sorry if it’s causing grief. Was not my intention!

You're right I got confused... It is getting late here.

OP ballparked the age they met Lisa Su (it may not have been 9). Also no reason to disclose their actual age.

> it may not have been 9

But GGGGP literally said "when I was 9", quite authoritatively

Not op, but personally I have to break out the calculator when it comes to my own age.

It's like it's a more viscous entity than an integer.


My SO got quite upset a couple of years ago because I didn't know on the spot how old she got on her birthday. My explanation that it's much more efficient to remember the year she was born given that it doesn't change compared to her age fell on deaf ears..

This is funny and true, but honestly, I’m just deliberately obtuse about my personal info. Nothing special, just like my anonymity.

No reason why OP should disclose his age.

She is credited for turning around the entire company from bankruptcy to now eclipsing Intel. Out of admiration and curiosity, how does one go about doing that?

Be an engineer, and do not defer to an MBA (nor other "business types") on business decisions:


Yeah, subject matter experts who learns business seems like the best leaders. That describes most successful founders as well. The hard part is finding those who cares enough about business to get good at it and not just continue being an expert.

That’s overly simplistic. Everyone of AMD’s CEOs was an engineer; not an MBA[1]:

* Jerry Sanders | 1969—2002 | Founder, electrical engineer * Hector Ruiz | 2002—2008 | Electrical engineer * Dirk Meyer | 2008—2011 | Computer engineer * Rory Read | 2011—2014 | Information Systems * Lisa Su | 2014—present | Electrical engineer

And yet only two of them (Jerry and Lisa) are considered truly successful at running the company and one decent at keeping things afloat (Rory). The real answer is much more complex and has to do with Intel’s constant monopolistic actions against AMD; some internal struggles (overheating issues early on, bad laptop support, spinning off business divisions right before they were set to be wildly valuable [Adreno, Spansion, etc], wildly overpaying for ATI, etc).

While Jerry and Lisa are both great CEOs for the company, and all credit belongs to them for their leadership; AMD’s woes were simply more complex than that.

1 - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Micro_Devices

I dont know much about all of the CEO's of AMD. However the grandparent comment said not to defer to MBA's not that the CEO was an MBA

What i have seen in other companies is that even if the CEO is a subject matter expert, they get to the level of CEO then start deferring business matters to the MBA's who are viewed as subject matter experts of business. This weak leadership and difference to MBA's often leads to extreme short term thinking and lack of vision centered around quarterly probability statements not around core competences or a vision for making the companies product good

I always say it’s easier to teach an engineer business than it is to teach an MBA engineering. Not shit-talking MBAs since I am one, but the degree doesn’t confer knowledge; only that you passed a selection filter and probably have an extensive network of other people who passed the filter.

Don’t shy away from learning the business. The hardest part of my MBA was accounting — and you can take an accounting class at community college.

That, and avoiding being put down by MBAs who think you’re encroaching on their turf.

I’m a big proponent of domain drive design, at least in principle, but I’ve yet to meet the manager who’s going to let developers “waste” the time of the domain experts on “pointless minutiae” instead of just shutting up and writing the damned software.

I think blaming MBA/Business/Sales people for everything is not reasonable

Good sales people "want" make your company viable by having money

Tech people "want" to have state of art product

Both are good things at different moments of company lifetime

It sucks to have only engineering people and no people who can do business.

No one wants 0 business people, but they don't want them making engineering decisions in a vacuum like business, accounting, and marketing often do at tech companies that don't emphasize engineering/architecture input.

Yeah and it’s way more common to have a problem due to business having too much of a voice than engineering. Business tends to be up-stream of engineering, so this leads to a natural power imbalance. A lot of tech companies have issues that could have been solved by treating engineering as a stakeholder instead of a resource.

The problem is that these two targets have different timelines.

Intel has been dropping the ball in engineering precisely because their teams seem to be focused exclusively on the next quarter/year results.

In a market where it takes 5y to get a product out, you need your people focused in the long term.

If you have the product and can't sell it, game over. If you sell it but don't have it, customers will catch on and game over.

You're right. Save some blame for Wall St and other financial types.

I feel the latter to be the bigger impact..

MBA's are plagued by short term thinking around quarterly earnings not building sustainable businesses

Hackernews in a nutshell. MBA useless in everything. Engineers gods in everything.

If only the world was this simple.

There’s different types of companies that benefit from different approaches.

Engineer leaders tend to have more focus on long term and incremental building. They consider the engineering departments to be the heart of the company.

MBAs tend to focus more energy on sales and marketing, and they generally follow the “internalize profit centers, externalize cost centers” mantra. It’s not uncommon for engineering departments to get axed and externalized.

Semiconductor engineering, and specially computing products flourish i. The first scenario and suffer in the second.

I think what you wrote I found to relate to something I think about often - what is success?

To an MBA, selling off all the IP, selling it off, divesting of key assets and leasing them back, while owning a portion of the relationship at the end is success, treating sales as the most key part of the business process.

To an engineer, in-sourcing, building up strong engineering, R&D, recruiting strong engineering talent, and optimizing product for tradeoffs, treating the output of products itself as the most key part of the business process.

Lisa Su has done just that - if you create the best product based on the best engineering, the buyers will come.

> if you create the best product based on the best engineering, the buyers will come.

In some markets, absolutely. In others not so much.

I'm not taking away from her, at all. She's kicking ass. But giving the CEO all the credit is unfair to everyone who participated. Keller and Papermaster are equally if not more important in this turnaround. That said, if Su had a hand in having these two on board, then yes she can have most of the credit.

Business is the pointy end of civilisation where humanity deals with the real world. If the universe was fair then business could also afford to be fair. But it is not.

Lisa has absolutely got the power to cause catastrophic ruin to AMD through a couple of small decisions and there is nobody who can stop her.

The reality that she didn't do that is just more important than the fact that Papermaster or Keller are technical geniuses and work hard. There are 8 billion people in the world, we are not short on technical geniuses. There are something like 8,000 people out there who are natural born one-in-a-million geniuses at CPU design, Su "just" has to find a few 10s of them for AMD to get insanely good results. There is an eternal shortage of people who are both powerful, good decision makers and capable of recognising a 1:1,000,000 genius.

There is an artificial shortage of good CEOs. Most CEOs get to their position via nepotism of some sort.

If there are 8,000 people who can design excellent CPUs, there are perhaps 1,000,000 people who can recognize such talent.

It is easier to recognize a great painting than to paint it. I'm surprised that HN so often lionizes those who organize the work of others.

I moved from engineering to management in the past year, and it is much harder to do well than I understood. You have to deal with a lot of uncertainty, you have to be able to inspire and influence others, and failing to deliver has much more widely reaching consequences.

"Organizing the work of others" is no small task, and people who can really do it well are few and far between.

That's not to take anything away from engineers, but it is to say that good management is something you largely only notice when it's missing, and you need good management to create the environment where good engineers can do their work.

Perhaps the best fictional description I came across is Poul Anderson's The Man Who Counts: https://www.tor.com/2010/11/22/air-war-in-the-stone-age-poul...

It's an SF book, you have a small group trying to survive in an alien world at war. The guy who pulls them through is the canny merchant, who marshalls the skills of others and negotiates their salvation.

I think the narrator in the book was the engineer - and so was the author, Poul Anderson.

I think the outcome depends more on the decision making when half of your chosen geniuses favour one option and the other half want something else (maybe even the opposite). Same goes for close calls like e.g. 6 vs. 4. I believe that stepping into the (rare) micromanagement questions and making good decisions is what distinguishes the Lisas, Elons and Jeffs from the mediocre managers.

publicly traded company CEOs are NOT elected by nepotism, they are elected by the board who tend to be biased towards CEOs who have a track record of increasing the share price...

There are thousands of well-run large corporations but only precious few master CPU designers.


There's interesting interview about Keller's role in AMD, especially

>We had this really fun meeting, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Suzanne called me up and said that people on the Zen team don't believe they can do it. I said, ‘great - I'll drive to the airport, I’m in California, and I'll see you there tomorrow morning, eight o'clock. Make sure you have a big room with lots of whiteboards’. It was like 30 angry people ready to tell me all the reasons why it wouldn't work. So I just wrote all of the reasons down on a whiteboard, and we spent two days solving them. It was wild because it started with me defending against the gang, but people started to jump in. I was like, whenever possible, when somebody would say ‘I know how we fix that’, I would give them the pen and they would get up on the board and explain it. It worked out really good. The thing was, the honesty of what they did, was great. Here are all the problems that we don't know how to solve, and so we're putting them on the table. They didn't give you 2 reasons but hold back 10 and say ‘you solve those two’. There was none of that kind of bullshit kind of stuff. They were serious people that had real problems, and they'd been through projects where people said they could solve these problems, and they couldn't. So they were probably calling me out, but like I’m just not a bullshitter. I’m not a bullshitter, but I told them how some we can do, some I don't know. But I remember, Mike Clark was there and he said we could solve all these problems. You know I walked out when our thing is pretty good, and people walked out of the room feeling okay, but two days later problems all pop back up. So you know, like how often do you have to go convince somebody? But that’s why they got through it. It wasn’t just me hectoring them from the sidelines, there were lots of people and lots of parts of the team that really said, they’re willing to really put some energy into this, which is great.

>Ian Cutress: Most of the audience questions are focused on your time at AMD, so let’s start there. You worked at AMD on Zen, and on the Skybridge platform - AMD is now gaining market share with the Zen product line, and you're off on to bigger and better things. But there has been a lot of confusion as to your exact role at AMD during that project. Some people believe you were integral in nailing down Zen’s design, then Zen 2 and Zen 3 high-level microarchitecture. Others believe that you put the people in place, signed off at high level, and then went to focus on the Arm version of Skybridge, K12. Can you give us any clarity as to your role there, how deep you went with Zen versus K12, or your involvement in things like Infinity Fabric?

>Jim Keller: Yeah, it was a complicated project, right? At AMD when I joined, they had Bulldozer and Jaguar, and they both had some charming features but they weren't successful in the market. The roadmaps weren't aggressive, they were falling behind Intel, and so that's not a good thing to do if you're already behind - you better be catching up, not falling behind. So I took the role, and I was president of the CPU team which I think when I joined was 500 people. Then over the next three years the SoC team, the Fabric team, and some IP teams joined my little gang. I think when I left, it was 2400 people I was told. So I was a VP with a staff. I had senior directors reporting to me, and the senior fellows, and my staff was 15 people. So I was hardly writing RTL!

>That said we did a whole bunch of things. I'm a computer architect, I’m not really a manager. I wanted the management role, which was the biggest management role I'd had at the time. Up to that point I'd been the VP of a start-up, but that was 50 people, and we all got along - this was a fairly different play for me. I knew that the technical changes we had to make would involve getting people aligned to it. I didn't want to be the architect on the side arguing with the VP about why somebody could or couldn’t do the job, or why this was the right or wrong decision. I spoke to Mark Papermaster, I told him my theory, and he said ‘okay, we'll give it a try’, and it worked out pretty good.

>With that I had direct authority as it were - but people don't really do what they're told to do, right? They do what they're inspired to do. So you have to lay out a plan, and part of it was finding out who were the right people to do these different things, and sometimes somebody is really good, but people get very invested in what they did last time, or they believe things can't be changed, and I would say my view was things were so bad that almost everything had to change. So I went in with that as a default. Does that make sense? Now, it wasn't that we didn't find a whole bunch of stuff that was good to use. But you had to prove that the old thing was good, as opposed to prove the new thing was good, so we changed that mindset.

>Architecturally, I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to build and why. I found people inside the company, such as Mike Clark, Leslie Barnes, Jay Fleischman, and others. There are quite a few really great people that once we describe what we wanted to do, they were like, ‘yeah, we want to do that’. Architecturally, I had some input. There was often decisions and analysis, and people have different opinions, so I was fairly hands-on doing that. But I wasn't doing block diagrams or writing RTL. We had multiple projects going on - there was Zen, there was the Arm cousin of that, the follow-on, and some new SoC methodology. But we did more than just CPU design - we did methodology design, IP refactoring, very large organizational changes. I was hands-on top to bottom with all that stuff, so it makes sense.

>IC: A few people consider you 'The Father of Zen', do you think you’d scribe to that position? Or should that go to somebody else?

>JK: Perhaps one of the uncles. There were a lot of really great people on Zen. There was a methodology team that was worldwide, the SoC team was partly in Austin and partly in India, the floating-point cache was done in Colorado, the core execution front end was in Austin, the Arm front end was in Sunnyvale, and we had good technical leaders. I was in daily communication for a while with Suzanne Plummer and Steve Hale, who kind of built the front end of the Zen core, and the Colorado team. It was really good people. Mike Clark's a great architect, so we had a lot of fun, and success. Success has a lot of authors - failure has one. So that was a success. Then some teams stepped up - we moved Excavator to the Boston team, where they took over finishing the design and the physical stuff, Harry Fair and his guys did a great job on that. So there were some fairly stressful organizational changes that we did, going through that. The team all came together, so I think there was a lot of camaraderie in it. So I won't claim to be the ‘father’ - I was brought in, you know, as the instigator and the chief nudge, but part architect part transformational leader. That was fun.

Wow, thanks for this. I'm a huge Keller fan and had never seen this interview.

The guy is so..normal/humble. Looks like someone who you'd get drunk with at some barbecue. Then he talks and just blows you away with how much he knows.

If you haven't already, highly suggest watching his Lex Fridman interview. I learned a lot from it, both about chips and Keller.


This makes me think it isn't an accident Keller left Intel after such a short stint with nothing to show for it. I'd imagine the cultural issues run so deep now that even he couldn't turn the ship around.

I'd -really- like to know the answer to this.

When he joined Intel, he publicly implied it was where he belonged and his 'last job.'

Not long after, he left, for personal reasons. A lot of people speculated it was health related, for some reason. Then, he just goes elsewhere, making it clear he just didn't like Intel.

Part of me wonders if this had some hand in the CEO getting sacked. If your business is so toxic Keller won't touch it, that's a really bad sign.

> Arm front end was in Sunnyvale,

So, it's finally confirmed! Zen had an ARM front-end after all.

That's the first confirmation I see of it too, and I followed that pretty closely a while back. We knew they had both at x86-64 and a ARMv8 project running at the same time (K12 was the ARMv8) but it never was really spelled out how they implemented it (best I got back then was that they shared a lot of commonalities).

They cancelled it though as they saw : 1) the ARM server market wasn't happenning, at least not at the timeframe the product was to be ready for 2) the x86-64 could really be competitive with Intel

Then Intel had some issues and here we are.

Good to put credit where it’s due, but it’s good to remember that one of the main levers that a CEO has is identifying talent and team building/org building.

Isn’t Keller basically a mercenary/ronin in a good way? He hunts down good projects then executes then leaves. So it’s hard to imagine a place where Su or other higher ups were not involved in bringing him in, considering he never stays in one place for too long.

> eclipsing Intel

AMD had 2020 revenues of $9.76bln to Intel's $77.87bln. This eclipse is going to take awhile. I'm really excited for the results.

Intel also has a much broader product line; when people talk about "Intel vs. AMD" they're mostly talking about CPUs, and it would be fairer to compare the revenue only from those parts of the Intel and AMD businesses. Right now it seems that Intel has roughly a 60% market share of x86 CPUs vs. ~40% for AMD. I don't now what that is in terms of $ revenue.

Intel was never 8 times bigger; AMD has actually always retained a respectable market share; ~20% market share is nothing to sneer at.

AMD also has GPU, embedded, and custom (like Xbox/PS5). Don't get me wrong, I'm an AMD fan since the day I bought my first Athlon and am happy for their success. Good time to be a customer.

Of course, but Intel has more of it, so if you're comparing CPU revenue you should look only at that part of their businesses.

>> eclipsing Intel

> AMD had 2020 revenues of $9.76bln to Intel's $77.87bln.

Ever heard of a solar eclipse? ;)

It’s a great question that is relatively simple to answer (but hard to do).

First, you need good material to work with. This is why it will be hard/impossible to fix WeWork. Sadly it may also make Intel hard/impossible to fix — lots of great stuff but deeply embedded in a matrix of mediocrity. same for HP (poor choices at the top didn’t help) and probably why google can’t be fixed — even more than Intel they have a lot of excellent resources and assets but they are embedded, not in mediocrity, but a fucked up management culture. And they haven’t had their near death experience yet.

Second: have enough domain knowledge to be able to identify and nurture the good stuff. One exception to this was Gerstner at IBM (at the time I derided him as “the cookie guy”). He famously visited most of IBM around the world and then his grand plan was: “actually things are great — let’s not make any changes”. In reality he shook up the management culture but let most the tech people keep teching. That righted the ship. Sadly he was not followed by successful CEOs, some of whom were otherwise admirable.

Third: be lucky the right way. Sometimes a company won’t catch a break (e.g. being a stagecoach maker today) but if there is a trend, or even better a phase change in the market you can take advantage of, take advantage of it. This is the “lucky generals” theory.

Lisa Su is a consummate techie but she uses her brilliance cleverly: she can match what’s going on inside the company with external needs, and channel the marketing and sales people to address it in the right way.

Sometimes you can’t pull it off. Hector Ruiz was a wizard at Motorola yet somehow he could pull it off at AMD. I couldn’t understand why.

OTOH look at someone like Gil Amelio. He only got one thing right at Apple, which was to fire himself and bring back Steve Jobs. But that was an important thing.

You get your company 'firing on all cylinders' while your main competitor falters, a crypto currency boom starts while the government creates trillions of dollars out of thin air. Combination of skill, nerves of steel, and plenty of luck.

I found it absolutely hilarious that this award is sponsored by Intel! Anyways, love where AMD is going. Super curious to see if their next GPUs will finally give Nvidia a run for their money at the high end.

> see if their next GPUs will finally give Nvidia a run for their money at the high end.

Even if their hardware catches up with and beats that of NVidia, they will still have a huge problem with the software ecosystem.

Everyone who does anything serious with GPGPU and supercomputing is using CUDA, (a proprietary abomination) these days and AMD does not have a competitive product in that space.

That said, the software ecosystem around GPUs is an extraordinary mess, and there is therefore a huge opportunity for the company that can fix it.

Unfortunately, this is a deep cultural problem: as witnessed by the giant mess that is the Nvidia software ecosystem (nightmarish driver version management, proprietary technology, huge unwieldy binary distribution to install anytime you want to run 20 lines of GPGPU code, lack of properly working and debugging and profiling tools, etc...) companies run by EEs (such as Dr. Su) simply don't have the DNA to produce simple, clean, elegant, working software.

The kind of brain it takes to produce cutting edge silicon and the kind of brain it takes to produce cutting edge software are imo simply incompatible.

As a person making a living from being the "GPU guy" - I definitely agree.

The ecosystem around AMD GPUs is quite small - and now that they seem to have abandoned OpenCL (possibly not their own fault though) - even that is put into question.

But things are bad even on the NVIDIA side. Example of how bad: I had to write my own C++ bindings for the CUDA runtime API (https://github.com/eyalroz/cuda-api-wrappers/). You'd think they would have that after 13 years of CUDA being available, right? Wrong. I repeatedly tried to pitch this to them, but they seem to suffer from the "Not Invented Here" syndrome (https://learnosity.com/not-invented-here-syndrome-explained/). This despite me having a lot of respect for people like Mark Harris, Bryce Lelbach, Duane Merrill et alia, and their work.

You're also rights about the "two kinds of brains" - or rather, it's not clear to me that the brains creating the silicon and the brains creating the software are in close enough cooperation.

By the way - it is possible to extract a pretty distribution of CUDA to justify run 20 lines of GPGPU code, from their installer. But they won't be bothered to package this nicely for you.

I generally agree. Apple seems to fly in the face of this however. Their silicon story is an interesting one lately

It flies and stops halfway in the face. Apple’s developer tool chains (at least, for iOS and the world of mobile apps and games, Metal notwithstanding) are decent, their codebase is at least a cleaner implementation than what Google have with the combined GPL & refactoring nightmare of the Linux kernel & Android (to be solved by my beloved Fuchsia in time, surely) — but it’s not as if Apple are really a shining light on software overall. To be honest, they absolutely suck. C+ tier stuff. iOS background management, iOS & MacOS UI since iOS 7 & Big Chu—Sur respectively, woefully inadequate security defense on all systems, an AWFUL file manager on MacOS dubbed “Finder”, garbage implementation of Bluetooth and WiFi antennae status on control panel, no iOS option for reasonable DPI scaling (zoomed doesn’t count), excessive font smoothing only modifiable via Terminal as of MacOS Big Sur — excessive use of advanced animation and sickening transparency leading to poor performance on hardware that makes Android or Windows fly. Oh, no option to delete all messages at any given time via a simple “select all” button in the edit bar for Messages, nor an ability to export all messages to a fricking plaintext file or HTML.

The list continues, and is a long one worthy of a short documentary. Apple excels at a few interface consistencies and at selling premium hardware with high margins in part due to an admittedly deserved proficiency with supply chain consistency & scale, and with convincing customers to pay with their kidneys for marginal upgrades e.g. 400% up charges on RAM and Storage.

The M1 is impressive, certainly agree, but it won’t be too long before others catch-up. Still, let’s not get ahead of ourselves about Apple and software prowess. It’s been a long time since I preferred Cupertino’s code to Redmond’s or Mountain View’s.

>to be solved by my beloved Fuchsia in time, surely

As someone on the outskirts of Fuchsia, looking on with longing, desperation, and confusion... do you have some connection to the mysterious pink project?

“The M1 is impressive, certainly agree, but it won’t be too long before others catch-up.”

We are still waiting for other arm chips to catch up to A series iPhones.

Also, your hyperbole use of “sickening” betrays your extreme bias. Are you actually sickened by the overwrought animations?

What’s the issue with background task management on iOS?

> Apple seems to fly in the face of this however

I don't think I agree.

Apple is not really a great software company.

Especially if you consider how closed their ecosystem generally is: a large part of their stack is basically completely opaque, closed-source and worst of all, prone to change at the whim of the company.

I've always had a hard time understanding why anyone in the business of building technical infrastructure (other than user-facing retail stuff) would ever consider using their products.

Apple is a great software company.

iPod changed the world.

The iPhone Changed the world

Apple II changed the world.

Those successes were largely driven by good software.

Apple bought all high end fab time which means that they can build higher end CPU's than the rest. They can outbid everyone else since they know they can sell those CPU's at high markup in their phones/laptops. Not sure what is interesting about this.

Apple did not “buy all high end fab time” Intel has their own, and AMD have access to other fabs as well. There is no excuse for their trailing behind.

Apple’s M series chips are only used in low end systems at the moment, so not sure what you meant by markup.

>Super curious to see if their next GPUs will finally give Nvidia a run for their money at the high end.

According to leaks their next generation GPUs will be multichip like their CPUs, and Nvidia needs 1 more generation to get there, so they might indeed get a step up on them.


Good for her. Good for anyone. AMD has been spectacular. Calling it breaking through any kind of ceiling is almost inappropriate. It’s refreshing to see this kind of press in the wake of great things instead of disseminated by her publicist to get her to the next rung somewhere.

> is almost inappropriate

I don't think there's any denying that woman have faced decades of discrimination in the workplace, and that the current zeitgeist is that this discrimination was and is particularly bad in technology-related fields.

In that context, it makes her contributions and accomplishments all the more considerable. I don't see how that's insulting to acknowledge, that she likely had more obstacles working against her than her male peers. Pretty well documented obstacles, with no shortage of examples.

As part of my former job I used to follow AMD very closely and I have to say that while maybe misplaced in some ways, she deserves all the praise she gets and then some.

Some context, when she took over, not only was the CPU division in shambles and the product line not that great, but the internal infighting was terrible between the GPU and the CPU division. Most of it was fuelled by the marketing department taking the GPU side.

Not only did she had to handle this, but soon enough she had part of the company actively working against her to get her removed and replaced. I can't tell you how many times some very senior AMD people would go to the press and bad mouth her, talking about her incompetence (and I'm putting things mildly), and seeding rumors about her near and ineluctable ousting.

Political infighting in a large org is always a thing, but I never noticed anything that publicly overt (at least to the press), prolonged, and acrimonious.

She focused a lot on righting the CPU division and getting the trust of key senior people there and in the end, it paid. During that same period, same people from above were seeding rumors that Ryzen was going to be a bust, and the character attacks went up to 11.

I remember the first Ryzen press event, and you could see a mix of relief and confidence (I would say that prior to that event, she never appeared confident on stage) that came with it during her presentation. At that time she knew that not only she had a good product line for the next few years, but that the coup attempt would die down.

It took some time but those behind the attempts left the company and AMD ended up in a better place.

So yep, her resilience always impressed me and she will never get enough credit for it. AMD's turnaround is obviously not just hers, it's shared with many key people (eg. on Zen, Mike Clark, and Keller who - check for the Anandtech interview in another comment [1] - made the battered and bruised teams believe they actually could).

But she definitely played a large part in it. A bit before Ryzen was released, I remember casually asking one very senior person on the CPU division what he thought about Lisa. He started talking about the fact that sometimes she sets impossible deadlines (which boss doesn't?), but then he paused and reflected a bit and said "but she listens and understands". Coming from that person, that was about as much praise anyone in management could get.

[1] : https://www.anandtech.com/show/16762/an-anandtech-interview-...

Reminds me of this reporter’s gaffe: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Im6xQyglYuU

Lisa Su is awesome, not because she's female, but because literally she's amazing. AMD's transformation is nothing short of spectacular

I find the “amazing, look what a woman did!” narrative to be incredibly insulting.

But congrats to Lisa Su as the person who turned AMD around. They have, IMO, utterly eclipsed Intel. I wouldn’t buy anything else.

I'd love to know how much AMD's massive lead is due to AMD's designs and how much it is due to TSMC's 7nm node. Alder Lake on Intel 7 looks like it will largely close the gap, so I think that means AMDs designs are roughly on par with Intel's and the massive eclipsing is due to TSMC. Of course being on par with Intel's IP is still a huge accomplishment.

Price and feature availability had a lot to do with it. Up until Ryzen came out, a 4 core CPU was the largest core count available in an Intel "consumer" CPU. I had a 6 core Ivy Bridge CPU at one point (i7-4930k) and it cost me ~$550. The motherboard was another $300. Despite the premium, it was still considered a desktop CPU, so ECC was unavailable. And since it was a niche product, I was unable to find a replacement motherboard when I inadvertently damaged mine. Moreover, since the chipsets changed seemingly every new CPU release cycle, I couldn't upgrade either my CPU or my motherboard without replacing both.

AMD released the Ryzen 1700x, with 8 cores, for cheaper than what I paid for my 6 core, and something like half the price of Intel's 8 core offering. AMD made 4 core the baseline, while Intel was still selling 2 core i3s, and they made 6 cores the middle of the road. All of them had hardware threading enabled, whereas Intel had disabled hyper-threading in its i5 line.

AMD also committed to supporting the AM4 socket for multiple release cycles. With BIOS updates, motherboards that launched with with the 1XXX series can run the newest 5XXX series (subject to being able to power them). And the Ryzen motherboards came in two flavors: one that was very affordable (the BX50 series) and one that was more expensive, but had features enthusiasts want (the XY70 series).

I don't want to sound like I'm gushing, but AMD came out swinging with Ryzen. I'm probably misremembering, but looking back, I think the only advantage Intel really had at the time was single core performance (and for a niche audience, AVX512). Subsequent Ryzen releases have really closed the performance gap and there the TSMC process improvements help. AMD has garnered a lot of good will at this point. They shook up the stagnant CPU market with both features and price.

Are you sure X370 boards can run 5xxx Ryzen chips? I believe all of them top out at 3xxx series Ryzen. Still, that's a great run and much better than Intel has done for consumers.

I.m sure there were news that some companies add 5xxx support to x370 chipset. Not sure how many of them delivered anything.

IIRC, there were no motherboards at that time shipping with a large enough flash ROM to hold the microcode, etc. necessary to support every generation of CPU on the AM4 socket, so in practice supporting the Ryzen 5xxx processors would require a motherboard firmware update that removes support from some older processors—possibly the one you're using to prepare for the CPU upgrade. AMD decided that would be a support nightmare and instead opted to make CPU support somewhat loosely tied to chipset generation (beta BIOS versions excepted).

> With BIOS updates, motherboards that launched with with the 1XXX series can run the newest 5XXX series (subject to being able to power them).

It's socket compatible but not chipset compatible. X370 officially tops out at 3xxx series. Maybe you'll get lucky and find an unofficial bios hack for 5xxx but unlikely.

So to upgrade from a Ryzen 1xxx to a 5xxx in practice means a motherboard upgrade.

To be fair, as I understand it, feature density of Intel 7 nm is more like TSMC 5 nm, from what I have read. Also, I think they took a risk with switching to a chiplet design, and it paid off big for them. Not sure who was in charge of design was when they laid out that roadmap, but whoever it was, and Lisa Su and the upper management, get some kudos for that. Of course, it’s quite possible that move could have failed and we’d be laughing at them just like we did for the bulldozer architecture, so maybe they just got lucky :)

But I do agree, all these comparisons we’ve seen between Intel 14 and TSMC 7 have been… less than helpful for comparing technology. Good for end users making purchasing decisions, of course.

"we’d be laughing at them just like we did for the bulldozer architecture"

I remember buying the Phenom II X6 1100T day one (December 2010) because we were all waiting for AMD to rise like a phoenix and dethrone Intel's incredible Core series chips

10 months later (October 2011) Bulldozer finally launched, before crashing and burning on the launch pad almost immediately

It was a hard time being an AMD fan a decade ago :(

Hey, I too bought an 1100T before Bulldozer launched, and it gave me many years of great service.

Unfortunately, I needed to replace that server before Zen showed up, so the next iteration was (and is) an Intel chip. (Slightly tempted to upgrade it again ~soon, but not impressed by Intel's current "lower-power" Xeon designs, AMD's Epyc Embedded last had an iteration in Zen 1 and according to leaks won't see a new one until 2023(!) and Zen 4, and AArch64 is not bad but I haven't seen anyone selling a server board that was in the right spot between size/power/performance/price yet...)

Off topic here, but it was probably Jim Keller who contributed to Intel doing chiplets. Looked like one of the few sane persons in the leadership when I worked there.

As an interested outsider (no connections or technical expertise), it seems like Keller’s tenure at a company very frequently coincides with very successful products being developed. Is that the view from inside the field as well? Is it seen as a bit of a coincidence, or is he really that good of a technical leader?

>feature density of Intel 7 nm is more like TSMC 5 nm

yes but Intel announced 7nm delay while TSMC 5nm is in production and 3nm in risk production. Intel is behind.

Oh yeah, I didn’t mean to suggest Intel is ahead, I was more suggesting that chips built on Intel 7 nm and TSMC 7 nm were not really directly comparable on the technology side. Of course for an end user it doesn’t really matter what causes the performance, but we were talking more about comparing the architectures.

We will find out when Alder Lake launches. AMD have earned every penny they have so far, but Intel have new leadership, new designs (Zen took about 5 years to do from start to release, roughly, and 4 years after it's launch I think this is Intel's first proper competitor). Their new top of the line chip (12900k) looks like a bit of a monster.

Should be good for consumers for a while with all this new competition (P.S. Apple, please sell Raspberry Pi some M1s just to scare Intel and AMD)

I would argue AMD's designs aren't so much performance alone, but cheaper to manufacture. Effectively they brought the idea of breaking the chip into components, then putting them together later. That allowed for a cheaper and more robust design.


As soon as I saw that back in 2016 I bought a ton of AMD stock. It was clearly a winner because they could have a lower cost design AND potentially better performance.

Most of their current lead is down to Zen which is architecturally superior to the current Intel Core architecture.

You cannot ignore that it’s unusual in her field. It isn’t easy being an outsider, and to rise up and do exceptionally well in that environment deserves accolades on many fronts.

I disagree. If a man were to accomplish something against the odds, that would just be a man being a man. Why is it any different when it’s a woman? This stuff is patronizing.

Because women in male dominated fields are typically not taken as seriously, need to do more than others for similar recognition, have few role models that look like them, often receive anti-women sentiment or even unwanted sexual advances along the way, are often told how they should or shouldn’t act in ways that their male colleagues don’t get, along with many other differences that men don’t have. It doesn’t have to be only women who receive such treatment — other minorities have their own experiences as such.

I’m curious what you even mean here as against the odds? If it’s a technical masterpiece, both a man and a women can equally be recognized by IEEE for that hard work. But if it’s a woman, than you also need to recognize there’s been many other hardships along the way in addition to the technical brilliance needed. It’s not patronizing at all — that would be if I were to suggest a woman isn’t as capable. Here it’s the opposite — I’m saying they’re just as capable, but society is setup in such a way to present many additional obstacles that men don’t have. To not recognize that is to ignore the realities of the world.

If you yourself are a woman or a minority, I’m sure you can appreciate that. If not, I’d encourage you to go and listen to the experiences of those who are — this is very well documented.

Her accomplishments can be considered more incredible because of her gender, not because of "gender-specific ability", but because of the (additional) challenges specific to her gender due to culture and industry.

Is "Lu" her nickname?

'Looking back, Lu divides her career path into two parts.' bad copy editor?

Looks completely normal to me, like using "MacArthur" all over the place in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_MacArthur.

That doesn't really seem comparable to me, since her surname is Su and not Lu. It would be more like using "DougArthur" in that article.

wow, I just didn't see what was wrong until you pointed it out that clearly.

probably sloppy editing, since the articles uses "Su" aaalmost consistently.

A lot of people on Reddit call her Su Bae.

> Since then, AMD's stock has soared—from less than US $2 per share to more than $110.

Quite a turnaround.

Still kicking myself for missing out on the 2 dollar bonanza. 50 times growth is no joke. Even some regular folks might've made their first million with Lisa.

Is it too late to buy AMD stock? It hasn't made much progress since last year. ASML, on the other hand, has had a fantastic couple of years. Buying stock nisbrisky. Being indecisive is also risky due to the crazy inflation.

I bought 10k shares @ 2.60, but had to divest for various work related and legal reasons. How do you think I feel?

Also had to sell a similar stake in Microsoft before the turnaround :(

I found trading vapid and soulless, but there are some very philosophical notions about profit and choice facing uncertainty that are somehow fascinating. I found this to match existential questions in harsh times.

What do you expect out of trading? To get a soul-inspiring philosophical revelation? But trading is simply trading...exchanging things you have for things others have that you believe will in net bring more benefit to you. Get your soul-enriching experiences elsewhere, and use the money you get from trading to help find them.

I find your comment of low value.

I've enjoyed trading a lot, but find that when I/others become consumed by it alone that it's a bitter existence. By avoid daytrading, and ensuring I'm not invested in anything that I'm forced to constantly worry about or check, it takes a long of the sting out.

I don't know about you but everytime I sold a near top I felt bad for the people that bought. That's why I found it soulless, a lot of it revolves on the fact that some people are in better position financially and informationally to make gains at the expense of others.

Now maybe I'm too mellow but that's how I felt doing it at first. Maybe I'd rather be a team leader that makes everybody happier working together and sharing.. I can't say.

It definitely made me appreciate the feeling of creating something along with other people much more. I don't feel 'bad' selling to others, to be honest it's probably a guilty pleasure to 'win', but it lacks the win-win feeling of creating value.

Probably because I'm in a point of my life where me winning is of no importance. I traded for quick bucks out of emergency but deeply I needed shared human bond and happiness.

If you want a moderately more risky play, consider buying XLNX. AMD bought XLNX for an all stock deal at a fixed conversion rate (as in it stays the same regardless of the price of the two sticks) of 1.7.

Currently the ratio is only 1.5 due to uncertainty if the deal will get through regulatory approval, which is a nice arbitrage opportunity if you think it will.

Which is a bet. Both can go down together and close the gap on the way. Or the deal may not be approved by regulators or a million other things.

I bought some a few months back at $80, it's now at $105, so it's still grown in recent times.

My feeling is it really depends on if they can cement themselves enough to pick up serious datacenter share before someone gets into a technically competitive position (Intel getting their plans back together, an ARM vendor convincing people to make the switch). From what Intel's revealed so far, that feels a couple of years out still.

I bought at <2, at 5, at 10, at 20, 30, 50, and most recently (just a few months ago during the last retrace) at 75. AMD has been an execution machine, and honestly, even if/when Intel finally brings back competition, AMD will be fine as long as they keep executing. At this point, there are probably better risk-adjusted places to put your money, but to your point on inflation - 40% of all USD was printed last year, so it seems to me, anyone looking to preserve their savings would be best served looking for some hard assets.

An AMD share gives you ownership of circa $2 worth of hard assets (net tangible assets), an extra $1 of soft assets (rest of balance sheet: IP, goodwill, etc), and $102 worth of... other things.

How much of that is hopium and how much is fair value of future prospects?

I have been following AMD because of their hardware improvements.l since 1xxx. I was not financially savvy at that time. If I was, I would have bought their stocks

With what's going on in China (Lehman Brothers 2.0 on steroids and cocaine, and printing press that puts US Fed to shame), and massive over-valuation of the stock market in the US now would not be a good time to buy _any_ stocks IMO. This is not financial advice: use your own brain.

People are saying this every day from the day the stock market opened. The reality is that the market is practically a random walk and to find alpha you mostly need luck.

Right now you're much more likely to _not_ find luck. Look up Evergrande. But hey, it's your money, feel free to give all of it to me, via my short positions.

Ditto. I remember thinking at $6+ it wasn't as appealing. Did the same thing with Tesla at about $70.

Time in the market beats timing in the market. It sounds like a meaningless mantra or cop-out, but really, there's no reason to regret missing $2 when there's no time or reason in the foreseeable future where a silicon portfolio won't perform bonkers.

Disclaimer: I own no stock.

This and if you owned just total market index funds you are up over 40 percent from last year. I never try to beat the market just ride it. I am in it for the long term.

Lisa Su is absolutely amazing. And I love the context of her success. She is kicking ass because she really is the best leader in hardware. That she is a woman is incidental. She doesn’t play identity politics or milk her femininity. She just wins and wins and wins by delivering great products at a company that was newly left for dead a decade ago.

I want to see more female CEOs like her, because there are too many like Mary Barra who are there to show the company has a strong female at the helm. And people like her end up doing really poorly and give fuel to sexists. People like Lisa Su just show that women can straight up compete and win.

I don't know much about Mary Barra, but GM seems to be doing well versus their competition:


Mary Barra bought a 10% stake in a company for billions of dollars that was a blatant fraud.

Also weird how your chart didn’t include Tesla. You must be genuinely comparing her to her competition and not cherry picking the lowest performers.

Heh. Add it to the chart and it's pretty obvious why I didn't. You can't then read any line other than TSLA.

It's not useful if you're trying to ascertain how someone did trying to revive an old US car company versus how other people did. Nobody was going to make GM go up 12,000%.


GM is currently in need of being revived. It was not back in 2014. Tesla just exploited the whole industry’s complacency and incompetence.

Yeah look at Mozilla CEO milking the company when it exists instead of improving anything.

It's not that women make bad leaders. It's just that activist types often make bad leaders, because often their activism is a thin veil over their incompetence.

Your first point was about the Mozilla CEO not improving anything. Your next point is about activist CEOs being bad. It’s unclear what you mean by activist CEO. Apparently, it’s not a CEO who improves anything?

And she did it without being “marketable” which is so often something the market demands of female CEOs.

I don't think the market demands it, just the media. Ive noticed the feminist media only focus on pretty white women CEOs, even when they are often disastrous for the company (Yahoo). I've been surprised by the lack of reporting about Lisa's success.


Surprising: looks like putting someone in charge who actually understands - in depth - how the business and the tech. that powers is actually works instead of random MBA-wielding drones seem to yield good results.

And Intel is also finally learning that lesson with their new CEO.

She failed to revive Freescale before she left for AMD. In fact her strategy at Freescale sped up its failure, but she learned from that missteps and saved AMD.

AMD also got a huge injection of investment from the middle east. Without that money nobody can save it.

She is great, but not that great.

"She is great and not alone" - perhaps that's what you wanted to say?

While Lisa Su seems like an impressive person, the linked story is basically a PR piece with a very low signal/noise ratio.

Bronx Science represent!

How did Lynn Conway not get this award?

Came here to ask the same thing.

Mommy Multi-Core


I don’t even know what you’re trying to say, but I’m not gonna lie, it doesn’t sound very good.

The comment reads pretty positively to me? As in, "the kind of people who are strong enough to break through glass ceilings are more than just interchangable corporate robots".

But he’s implying that the leader of one of the most innovate companies in the past decade is a mindless corporate robot? But Sheryl Sanberg (an ex-McKinsey playbook follower) is more than that? It’s such an absurd assertion that I feel I must have misunderstood.

Huh, no idea what it said since it's flagged now, but it was 4 AM when I originally read it so I must've misinterpreted it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I'm not a Kamala fan but Sandberg is definitely a top exec.

There are probably countless workers behind her who made Ryzen possible, but they don't get awards. Probably just above average salary. I don't get this cult of a person in tech. Has this ever ended well?

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