I Turned An Unintended Engineer

Hailing from a middle-class, partition-affected household, reaching the USA solely with eight {dollars} in his pocket, constructing a multi-billion greenback enterprise because the ‘Father of the Pentium Chips,’ Vinod Dham—an Indian-American engineer, entrepreneur, and enterprise capitalist—continues his fearless journey. In a dialog with Sudeshna Das, consulting editor at EFY, he shares the story of his life.

Born in Pune, Maharashtra, Vinod Dham comes from a partition-affected, middle-class household. His mother and father shifted to India with three sons and one daughter from Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan, to flee the post-partition disaster. Vinod was the fourth son, who was born in free India, in 1950.

Vinod’s father was a civilian within the Military, in-charge of the availability chains, reminiscent of spare components for military tools. His mom was a homemaker.

Vinod’s siblings have been additionally properly established of their skilled life. His eldest brother did his MBA and was a banker in Delhi. He retired as GM at Union Financial institution of India. His second eldest brother was a doctor and retired as Air Marshal within the Indian Air Pressure. He additionally served because the dean of the Armed Forces Medical Faculty, Pune. Vinod’s third brother was an accountant and his sister had a grasp’s diploma.

Vinod mentions his mom as an enormous inspiration. He explains how supportive his mom was in encouraging him to greater examine within the USA even after the loss of life of his father. Vinod recollects asking her, “Would you like me to go?” She replied with out blinking, “You need to go. It’s your future. It’ll ‘make’ you. I’ll handle. Don’t fear about me.” It was a strong message for Vinod. “She might have stopped me and I’d have stopped in a second, however she didn’t,” he explains.

“My mom was the largest hero in the entire household in my thoughts. She was the glue that saved the household collectively, nurturing, loving, confidence-building, believed in religion and due to this fact taught us that and a few nice values which have turn out to be useful all my life. After I look again and attempt to decide an individual who has impressed my life, it invariably comes all the way down to my mother.”
—Vinod Dham

Trying again on the early years

Vinod recollects himself as a “fairly a fearless individual” since his faculty days. His faculty was distant from dwelling, and he used to take a practice to go to high school alongside together with his sister. He would invariably attempt to step into the practice whereas it had already began shifting. He vividly remembers how fellow passengers saved him as soon as when he was virtually going to fall via the tracks. Maybe, that is a sign of his risk-taking nature. The identical nature led him to discover and attain new heights in life, be it within the type of shifting to a brand new nation with eight {dollars} in his pocket or taking the danger of main some big tasks.

Vinod Dham ranked sixth among the Top 25 Executives in computing industry
Vinod Dham ranked sixth among the many Prime 25 Executives in computing business

Whereas describing his faculty days, Vinod recollects, “Not solely was I fearless, but additionally fairly outgoing and extrovert. I had the status of a troublemaker. I bought into hassle fairly just a few instances with the principal—even for issues I had not finished. As soon as, any person had put some black coal tar on some spots on a statue. It was a horrific factor and your complete faculty was shocked. I used to be not concerned in that exercise, however any person talked about my identify because the offender. I couldn’t persuade my lecturers about my innocence, so I used to be pressured to apologise in entrance of the entire faculty for one thing which was finished by another person. I needed to even persuade my sister, who was a pupil of the identical faculty, about my innocence. This incident left a deep scar on my thoughts.”

This terrible expertise helped Vinod be taught one thing essential for the remainder of his life. He took the lesson to be honest with any criticism made to him. He makes it some extent to evaluate a scenario fairly patiently and empathetically than being judgmental rapidly.

There’s an attention-grabbing anecdote about Vinod’s choosing an engineering course after finishing his twelfth customary in CBSE in 1966. He narrates, “ I actually had little interest in engineering in any respect. I did properly in my greater secondary CBSE examination and was taken with physics, as a result of again within the mid-60s, there was lots of discuss area programmes.

Russia had despatched a cosmonaut into area in a spacecraft. America was making an attempt to take a step additional and land a person on the Moon. On weekends, I’d go to Connaught Place (in New Delhi) and decide up previous books on physics, area science, and so on, from the booksellers promoting on the ground of the hall between the internal and outer circles of Connaught Place. They used to promote these books at a value as little as one rupee to 5 rupees. These have been the one books that I might afford to purchase then. Nonetheless, I developed my curiosity in physics by studying these books and enrolled in Delhi College to pursue commencement with Physics Honours. My brother, a doctor, satisfied me to grow to be an engineer as a result of he thought an engineering diploma would possibly lead me to a extra rewarding profession than a Physics Honours diploma. So, I turned an unintentional engineer. Trying again, I’m glad that I’m, as a result of I bought sure alternatives. I discovered my ardour in semiconductors, which can also be associated to physics. I got here to America and did my grasp’s diploma in strong state physics, which was principally the physics of semiconductors. So, ultimately, I ended up doing what I needed to. Although itt took a bit little bit of a detour for me to get there.”

Given the delay within the determination to pursue an engineering diploma, solely a handful of schools have been out there for admission. Ultimately, Vinod bought admitted to the Delhi Faculty of Engineering for a BE diploma in Electrical Engineering. “I felt fortunate to get admission in electrical engineering, however I didn’t significantly care about electrical engineering. I didn’t discover the course attention-grabbing as a result of there was not a lot physics to speak about. Nonetheless, within the fourth and remaining 12 months, the faculty determined to begin instructing electronics as an elective. Luckily, I used to be among the many thirty college students who have been chosen for this new course. A professor from Illinois got here to show electronics engineering, and topics reminiscent of communications, microwaves and associated stuff have been taught and I discovered them very attention-grabbing. I completely loved these final two years of my faculty and actually realized lots,” Vinod explains.

“I believe entrepreneurship might be probably the most difficult job, as there are 9 hundred and ninety-nine causes for failure. In the event you nonetheless need to succeed, it’s a must to be a bit bit loopy to do that. However for those who succeed, it’s very exhilarating and rewarding. Upon getting tasted the fruits of entrepreneurial success, you’ll by no means return to being anyone however your personal boss, pursuing new concepts, and backing modern startups.”
—Vinod Dham

Being a part of an engineering institute, the place college students boasting a lot greater grades got here in from everywhere in the nation, Vinod felt misplaced within the preliminary days. On the finish of the primary 12 months, there was a standard examination for all the brand new college students to pick those that would qualify for a advantage scholarship. Vinod determined to not take that examination, for worry of not doing properly.

Vinod says, “Subsequently, on the day of the examination, I made a decision to skip faculty. My father requested me why I used to be not going to varsity. I informed him I didn’t need to embarrass myself as a result of the opposite college students have been anticipating very excessive scores. Because the examination was non-obligatory, he urged me to take it as there was no draw back. When the outcomes got here out, I used to be pleasantly stunned to outdo these I used to be afraid have been approach forward of me. This helped construct my confidence sky-high. I felt I might climb the ladder of life as efficiently as anyone else. That was actually a recreation changer for me!”

Intel CEO Andy Grove with Vinod Dham who lead Intel to the top with his leadership on 486 and Pentium processors
Intel CEO Andy Grove with Vinod Dham who lead Intel to the highest together with his management on 486 and Pentium processors

Vinod broke the stereotype of an excellent pupil repeatedly all through his academic life. For instance, he didn’t attend courses that weren’t attention-grabbing sufficient for him. He remembers one occasion the place his professor made a joke of him by saying, “Mr Dham, you’re early for the following class,” when Vinod tried to enter the category in the direction of the top.

Nonetheless, the influence of not attending courses went far past the joke as Vinod needed to face the identical professor within the remaining examination. Despite all his solutions being right, he acquired poor marks. The professor defined that Vinod didn’t deserve good marks due to his poor attendance. He says, “See, I used to be not judged on advantage or information, I used to be judged primarily based on my lack of self-discipline for not attending courses. So, this has caught with me and I truly use it as a lesson in my life.“

Quickly after finishing his engineering diploma in 1971, Vinod started his skilled journey. He mentions, “Imagine it or not, not one of the massive Indian corporations like TCS or Wipro—or comparable multinationals like Nvidia, AMD, Broadcom, and Intel—providing hundreds of jobs in electronics at the moment, existed in India at the moment. The phrase startup didn’t even exist within the vocabulary of India. The few corporations that existed on this sector have been both Philips, which was principally promoting radios in India, or Televista, which used to make tv, or one or two comparable ones. So, I had just a few choices. Nonetheless, an invisible hand has at all times guided me in my life. Someway, I met a younger man who was my brother’s good friend. He really helpful my identify to his firm and, lastly, I bought a job.”

Vinod started his profession with Delhi primarily based semiconductor (transistors and diodes) producer Continental Gadgets India Restricted, considered one of India’s solely personal silicon semiconductor corporations at the moment, who had collaborated with Teradyne Semiconductor Firm, USA. The corporate was established in 1969 by Gurpreet Singh, an alumnus of the London College of Economics.

Whereas remembering Gurpreet Singh, Vinod mentions Singh’s internet hosting Robert Noyce, the co-founder of Intel, at his dwelling. He recollects, “The saddest story Sardarji informed me was that he took Intel founder in 1969-70 to the then Division of Electronics, Authorities of India, as he needed to begin constructing chips in India. Nonetheless, the Indian authorities informed Bob Noyce that he might construct solely 200,000 chips per 12 months. Everyone knows, {that a} fab produces hundreds of thousands of chips per 12 months! Furthermore, it’s ridiculous to place a restrict on chip manufacturing, as a result of the extra you make, the cheaper you make, and the higher you make.

“Bob Noyce went to Hong Kong to construct a manufacturing facility and India missed the semicon alternative simply due to the license raj or an inappropriate regulatory surroundings in India. We missed the bus in an enormous approach, for a very long time. I used to be harm to be taught this little-known tidbit about how we missed a possibility. Had we capitalised on it then, it will have put India forward of Taiwan and China, and we might have been one of many foremost international locations together with the US.”

Intel CEO Andy Grove with the Pentium Team key contributors lead by Vinod Dham
Intel CEO Andy Grove with the Pentium Staff key contributors lead by Vinod Dham

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