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Newton Lecture Series: Vinod Dham, Father of the Pentium chip

Last year, Vinod Dham spoke to students of UC Berkley on his professional journey and his learnings. Here is a synopsis of his talk, given as part of the A. Richard Newton Distinguished Innovator Lecture Series.
BY Yana Yadav |   21-01-2016

The A. Richard Newton Distinguished Innovator Lecture Series is hosted by UC Berkley, to celebrate the entrepreneurial vision of the late Dean of U.C. Berkley’s College of Engineering. Distinguished speakers are invited to share life learnings with students.

Vinod Dham, known internationally as the “Father of the Pentium Chip,” spoke at the A. Richard Newton Lecture Series at Berkley in 2015.

A. Richard Newton Distinguished Innovator Lecture Series - Vinod Dham

Mr. Dham is known for “re-inventing” himself every decade. This is a rare quality, as people like to stick with the fields they are comfortable with, or have experience in.

According to Mr. Dham, it took about ten years to become good at anything, whatever it maybe. From the age of 21-29, he felt he had been a trainee.

After graduating from DU, Dham began working in the first semiconductor company in the country, and “just fell in love with it.” But, he was bothered by his lack of explanation for chips that came out unworkable. He wanted to study the “physics behind it,” so that he could understand why the smaller a chip is, the faster it becomes. This is what brought him to the United States.

He spent sixteen years at Intel, where he successfully managed multi-billion dollar businesses, such as the Intel 386 compaction. He also worked on Intel’s Non-Volatile Memory products, and co-invented Intel’s Flash technology, which he said is now “in every pocket” by way of smartphones.

While he had discovered his passion for semi conductors early on in life, he realized later in life that his communicative skills were extremely good. He liked leading people and motivating them. So he started taking bigger responsibilities, which led him to management.

A moment that “changed his career forever” was when he stepped down from his post as Director, to take up the position of an Assistant Director in the Management department.

It was at Intel that Vinod Dham earned the title “Father of the Pentium Chip.” However, he explained that he did not actually invent the chip. Rather, he innovated it by taking “what already was” and pushing it “a step beyond”. He also said “it wasn’t like we all sat in a room and came up with this brilliant idea that just blew the world away”. For him, invention is a very bad way to describe the Pentium.

Dham decided to leave Intel while he held the position of Vice President of Pentium Processor Division, driven by the thought that living in Silicon Valley implied opening a startup. Before founding IndoUS, Dham occupied management positions at two successful startups: Silicon Spice and NexGen.

To the students, Dham said, that being an entrepreneur implies having an “appetite for failure.” After all, he said, “Only one in ten companies succeed!”

Dham also encouraged the students to discover their passion, be curious and enthusiastic, focus on results, and “stay hungry and take risks.” He added, Enjoying the journey, luck, and serendipity also plays a significant role in the final outcome.

Vinod Dham captures his journey in this graph.

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