New Horizons for Chip Design


Harnessing the Power of Women in Tech: a USA Today Feature

Women play vital roles in developing the tools that engineers around the world use to design smart chips and develop secure code for the amazing devices that are changing the way we work and play. USA Today recently featured three Synopsys engineers, who reflect on their experiences as women in tech and offer advice on carving out success in a male-dominated field.

Amelia Shen, Director of R&D and a 2017 Tribute to Women Award recipient, focuses on the circuit simulators used to verify chip designs for smartphones, laptops, cars, HDTVs, and cameras. Her team ensures that these devices will work properly before companies invest in manufacturing them.

For Amelia, communication and collaboration are the keys to success: “A successful engineer must have good communication skills because our work is done in teams of people from all over the world.” She makes sure her co-workers have what they need to succeed. “I spend time listening to everyone and exploring possibilities to find the best solution.”

When asked what it’s like to influence a room of fellow technologists, Amelia offers this advice: “Have confidence in yourself and your unique strengths. Speak up. State your opinions. By demonstrating confidence in your abilities, you will inspire everyone else and they will have confidence in you.”

About her experience at Synopsys, Amelia explains: “Synopsys highly values the collaborative workplace and the sharing of different viewpoints to come to a better solution for our customers. This is an integral part of our corporate DNA. We value diversity, creativity, and empowering the individual to do more. Empowered individuals working together as a team can create amazing things.”

Shela Aboud is a Senior Applications Engineer for the TCAD division at Synopsys, helping semiconductor companies design the next-generation transistors (the building blocks of integrated circuits) that are inside all modern electronic devices. She finds her daily work especially rewarding because she gets to apply her expertise in physics to a new area of software R&D: advanced quantum transport tools.

“The dimensions of transistors are continually shrinking and are now so small that their behavior is governed predominately by quantum mechanics, the fundamental theory of physics that describes atomic-level phenomena,” Shela explains. Her work includes developing methodologies aimed at calibrating and improving the computational efficiency of advanced software tools.

For Shela, the ability to collaborate is paramount: “There are four types of collaboration that I rely on every day: internal project teams, customer partnerships, supervisor guidance, and discussions with colleagues.”

“Working as a team allows for faster turnaround time. Seeking feedback from customers helps align our engineering goals with what’s needed in the market. And discussing new ideas and problems with another person―even if they don’t have specific experience in the area―can help clarify your thoughts and deepen your own understanding of the task at hand,” Shela says.

As a single mother working at Synopsys, Shela enjoys flexibility with her schedule and leverages virtual collaboration tools. “I also value the programs Synopsys provides to build relationship among employees, from Bagel Thursdays to family holiday gatherings to volunteering opportunities in the community,” explains Shela.

Meera Rao, Director for Secure Development Practice, helps Synopsys customers build security into the entire software development lifecycle. She develops customized programs for detecting software defects and vulnerabilities, and she leads security initiatives for clients in various markets such as healthcare, finance, and aeronautics. “One day I could be reviewing millions of lines of code; the next I could be developing a threat model,” she explains.

On what it’s like to be a woman in tech, Meera explains that confidence is key: “I have always defied the stereotype of what an engineer looks like. The true key to my success has been speaking up for myself and making sure that my opinions and ideas are heard. Being confident in my abilities and my vision for projects has helped me achieve all of my career goals.” She also stresses the importance of adapting quickly to new tools and languages in the constantly evolving world of software security.

Working at Synopsys has given Meera unique opportunities. “I have felt respected and encouraged from the get-go, regardless of my gender or background. Synopsys also has mentoring opportunities and sponsors employee participation at conferences around the world.”

Synopsys celebrates the talented women who make up its workforce. And as a sponsor of the annual YWCA Silicon Valley Tribute to Women Awards, Synopsys also recognizes the contributions of all women in business and technology. Since 1984, the Tribute to Women Awards have honored more than 1,300 trailblazing women who exemplify the ingenuity and excellence that put the Silicon Valley on the map.

This year’s award recipients include three Synopsys employees:

  • Afsaneh Behdad, Group Director, R&D, Design Group
  • Erika Varga McEnroe, Vice President, Legal and Deputy General Counsel
  • Sashi Obilisetty, Director, R&D, IT

Award recipients will be honored at the upcoming Tribute to Women Awards dinner on April 26, 2018.