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Fun with Semiconductors

And now for something completely different…

Many thanks to any regular readers out there who have been patient with my month-long absence!! I assure you postings should return to some modicum of regularity moving forward. This month has been a hectic one, diving back into my 3rd semester of my MBA program (virtually HALFWAY DONE!!!) as well as surviving 2 major events that I coordinated at work– Días de Tecnología, day-long technical training events for ~380 Texas Instruments fans in Mexico City and Guadalajara. We were also honored with a visit from friend Emily who thus far wins the “longest distance traveled” award from John & Julie’s B&B, as she currently resides in Germany.

My pal Paul Westbrook at the TI booth during my first Mexico tradeshow, MexEEdev.

My pal Paul Westbrook at the TI booth during my first Mexico tradeshow, MexEEdev.

Anyway, the biggest news in my life right now is that this week marks the end of my employment with Texas Instruments, the company I have worked for since the summer of 1998. I started as an intern for 3 summers in Houston, joined their sales training program in Dallas after college, spent 4 years in technical sales in Boston, and another 2 in the Washington DC area. I thought that would be the end of it when we headed down to Mexico City last year, but conveniently someone had just left the Marketing/University Programs position for TI Mexico. 

Yes, I am a dork, but yes, this is my favorite TI demo: an LCD powered off of grapes.

Yes, I am a dork, but yes, this is my favorite TI demo: an LCD powered off of grapes.

And so it came about that last fall I joined a great team of 7 guys located in 4 cities across Mexico, with a patient boss who was willing to take a risk that I might be able to learn Spanish faster than someone new could learn the 8 zillion acronyms & intricacies of TI! :) Though I certainly still have room to grow on the Spanish, I will say that I have progressed from feeling a flash terror whenever the phone in my office would ring, to being able to have a 3-hour long meeting in Spanish at a university discussing how they might use TI products in their engineering curriculum. (I will admit to getting a bit lost during a biomedical lab tour though…)

A workshop I coordinated in Mexico City, taught by our star trainer extraordinaire, Ken Schachter.

A workshop I coordinated in Mexico City, taught by our star trainer extraordinaire, Ken Schachter.

The experience working for TI in another country and another language has been both fun & challenging, enlightening & frustrating, all mixed together. At this point, however, John & I have about one more year left in Mexico. After much debate, I decided that this is my best (and probably only!) chance to take a break, enjoy Mexico, and figure out what it is that I want to do when I grow up.  The fact that this MBA is coming out of my own pocket is inspiring me to actually take some time & try to get something out of it, vs. the panicked reading/homework-doing/paper-writing the night before class every other week to date.

Here's lunchtime at our Día de Tecnología 2 weeks ago in DF... Let's play Where's Waldo... Can you spot me???

Here's lunchtime at our Día de Tecnología 2 weeks ago in DF... Let's play Where's Waldo... Can you spot me???

I’m really interested in starting my own business, and while I don’t know yet what that might be, I DO know that I need some time to really investigate it. TI has been a fantastic place to work & I truly hope to stay in contact with the many amazing people I’ve met there. After 11 years there, however, I am ready for a change! I feel amazingly lucky to have this opportunity to hit the reset button, not to mention a husband who’s totally supportive (as long as he sees an uptick in tasty dinners prepared by yours truly, which I suppose is only fair). 😉

Me with Clementina, one of the good friends I met in this role, and her esteemed colleagues from CINVESTAV!

Me with Clementina, one of the good friends I met in this role, and her esteemed colleagues from CINVESTAV!

So anyway, expect the occasional brainstorming / introspection / call-for-ideas as I begin this year-long odyssey here in Mexico City. Please feel free to offer any proactive hot tips & insights!! I have so many things I want to do/work on, I am certain that next summer will be here way before I expect it… For those of you who know me, it is time to make a new Excel spreadsheet!!!

In the trendy bright-green shirts, you'll find the proud TI Mexico sales team, accompanied by some other TIers who visited for the Tech Day events 2 wks ago.

In the trendy bright-green shirts, you'll find the proud TI Mexico sales team, accompanied by some other TIers who visited for the Tech Day events 2 wks ago.

And for those of you who are like “what happened to the ‘Mexico’ part of your Mexico blog?”, here is a smattering of the posts I am delinquent on:

  • John’s trip to a luxury house in Ixtapa (while I had MBA class, boo)
  • DF activities for when the parents visit!
  • More Lucha Libre trips!!
  • Views from the top of the Torre Mayor in downtown DF
  • BFF Kim visits from Boston!
  • San Miguel de Allende
  • Guanajuato (go now!)
  • Anniversary trip to Huatulco, on the Oaxacan coast
  • Karaoke night out at Escaparate in Polanco
  • Julie finally goes to the pyramids (Teotihuacan)
  • How to become a luchador: an interview with El Matador
  • Navigating the Mexico City airport

So yes, more to come, honest! Thanks for sticking with me during my month of near-radio silence, and cheers to John for filling in with his Yaxchilan posts. Off to get some sleep in preparation for my waning hours as a TIer…. 😉

And here is the metaphorical mountain I am ready to climb to figure out my new career path!! Please be ready with bottles of water along the way... ;)

And here is the metaphorical mountain I am ready to climb to figure out my new career path!! Please be ready with bottles of water along the way... ;)

Good Power Tools Know No Borders

As you walk amongst Mexico City’s innumerable markets/stores/carts/stalls/street vendors, one occasionally gets the slight, nagging impression that some of the products you are seeing are knock offs…  :) The source of many of these items is often a mystery.

In my previous life (a.k.a. 6 months ago), one of the customers I worked with was Black & Decker/DeWalt, so this store immediately caught my eye:

We got yer high-powered tools right here!!

We got yer high-powered tools right here!!

As an optimist, I would like to think that a store selling knockoffs would not be careful/exacting enough to get all those B&D logos right. :) Hence, I can only assume that all products inside are real, official DeWalt / Black & Decker tools– ideally adorned with semiconductors from everyone’s favorite supplier, yours truly. Now we will just have to hope that these über-official stores dominate over folks like Makita & Bosch, which I am guessing–best case–are being sold by random street vendors along the Periferico during heavy traffic…

If Judas Priest falls in a forest and no one hears them, do they still exist?

Tonight during my business trip to Guadalajara, I discovered that one of my coworkers has been hiding his knowledge of über-trendy spots in GDL (by instead allowing us to end up repeatedly at Karne Garibaldi which, while it has amazing food, is arguably less “trendy” and more “cafeteria-esque”).  So after a ~10 hour staff meeting today, we went to dinner at de Santos, a hip, fusion dining spot owned by the drummer of international rock band Maná. The other two sites are in Puerto Vallarta and of course, hub of all-things-trendy, New York City.

Anyway, we arrived at de Santos American-time, and by that I mean a minimum of 30 minutes before la gente bien (a.k.a. anyone who’s anyone) arrives. EXCEPT for one table of 6 guys about 10 feet away from us, who we instantly decided had to be a rock band. No one could say with certainty WHICH rock band, but with their long flowing hair, slightly gaunt British-y looks, and disinterest in talking to each other as though perhaps they’d had dinners in trendy restaurants together 6 times a week since 1969 & simply had nothing else to say, we knew something was up.

Thanks to judaspriest.com for sharing this intimidating photo

Thanks to judaspriest.com for sharing this intimidating photo

A inquiry to one of our servers eventually produced an answer to verify my friend Eduardo’s initial guess (slightly biased since he knew they were performing in GDL this week): Judas Priest— a name I certainly have heard, but from whom I certainly could not name one song. This brought about one highlight of the evening– our boss’s boss kindly e-stalking Judas Priest on his Blackberry upon our request, as we tried to determine whether any of us knew enough about the band to approach them for a photo. (Survey says: no.)

Potential introductory tactics bandied about included:

  • “35 million albums, huh? What a coincidence– that’s almost as many semiconductors as we sold last year!”
  • “It’s such an honor to finally meet the band who wrote the song I first danced with my husband to at our wedding– all of our guests loved Screaming for Vengeance.
  • “Wow, I’ve always wanted to meet Mick Jagger! That’s you, right?”
  • “This is so funny– we were just listening to your album Painkiller before our staff meeting this morning!”

In the end, none of us interacted with Judas Priest, outside of awkwardly staring at them with disappointment when they failed to meet stereotypes by NOT pounding through 3 bottles of vodka & a pile of meth and instead simply ate & drank bottles of water in near-silence. We attempted to make up for it by ordering fancy martinis, jovially discussing the impact the amero is sure to have on Mexico/US relations, and celebrating my friend Jorge’s 35 years with our company. (Top that, folks.)

In summary, both Judas Priest and I strongly recommend de Santos for tasty food, thirst-quenching beverages, good people-watching, and minimal papparazzi (a constant concern for us in the semiconductor industry). As for now, I am off to start memorizing one of the songs off their newest album for my next karaoke outing– nothing gets a crowd riled up like “Pestilence and Plague”.

A new Spanish student’s worst nightmare…but no longer mine!

I have to share a couple brief anecdotes from my new employee orientation these past two days in Aguascalientes. But first, I must comment on how friendly everyone that I have met was. Everyone has been extremely kind, helpful, and patient with mi espanol. One highlight was the tour they gave me of the innards of our semiconductor assembly site, where I got to see the fastest machines ever connecting **real gold** bond wires that are thinner than hair from our semiconductors to bond pads. (And while I realize that many of you might not put that on your highlights list, you will just have to trust me that watching pick-and-place machines is wicked cool.) Needless to say, I had many opportunities to practice/improve my “technical Spanish”…

The main highlight was how I almost had to laugh several times when I found myself in the following scenarios that probably would have given me a panic attack/heart palpitations, had you told me 6 months ago that I might ever experience them:

  1. My second appointment after I arrived on Monday was with the site doctor for a simple medical history discussion. In reality, though, it was basically a test of my medical Spanish, an area which I have not studied extensively (shock). I was quite proud of myself because I managed to answer all of the questions except one or two without needing her to rephrase them (just into different Spanish, mind you). Anyway, you have to appreciate kicking off your new job with the relaxing process of talking about your sexual history and, uh, “women’s stuff”…in a different language…with a stranger…who happens to work for your employer. Sweet.
  2. This morning, I had a meeting with a really nice engineer who described to me the role of the mold compound in the packaging process. In Spanish. And then another meeting with an engineer who told me about how we put the labels on the semiconductor packages & separate their pins. In Spanish. And then another meeting about Environment, Safety, & Health with another engineer who was really passionate about his work and told me all about what his job entails–ranging from making sure people are not using chemicals that could kill everyone in the immediate vicinity to teaching people why it’s worth recycling. In Spanish. 
    BUT the weird thing was– a) I actually found all of the meetings really interesting (VERIFCATION: I’m a dork), and b) I actually understood the majority of them & was able to ask semi-relevant questions (VERIFICATION: maybe I am actually making progress learning Spanish)!!!

Of course, if you asked the all the people I met with, they may beg to differ regarding my Spanish skill level, but that’s ok. For at least today, instead of a common Mexican second-grader, I am feeling like maybe a Mexican third grader who attends the technology-focused elementary school. And that, mis amigos, is muy bien.

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