Christines KINGdom Stacked With Chips
Alumna Becomes First Female Semiconductor CEO
As the only woman in all her engineering classes, Christine King, BS’76 (T), knew she would be under close scrutiny and that she had better be good. She was better than good — then and now. Then, she was earning As in bunches, graduating at the top of her class with a perfect 4.00 average.
Now, she has become the semiconductor industry’s first female CEO and heads a $450-million global firm, AMI Semiconductor (AMIS). But in an industry labeled the toughest high-tech area for women, King doesn’t dwell on gender. “It’s a great honor to be the first female semiconductor CEO, but I’m so driven by results, I don’t even think about it.”
Those results, during a remarkable three-decade long career, speak for themselves. She spent 23 years at IBM, rising through the ranks and becoming the first female executive in its semiconductor business [semiconductors, most commonly silicon, transmit and control electric currents, and are used to power various electronic devices]. Then, in September 2001, she was named to the top spot at AMIS, where, in a little more than three years, she has helped the company double in size.
Firmly in the Forefront
Headquartered in Pocatello, Idaho, AMIS has more than 2,500 employees worldwide, with European corporate offices in Belgium and a network of sales and design centers in key markets of the United States, Europe and the Asian Pacific region. The firm is the leading supplier of silicon to the medical industry and is in the top five providers for the automotive and industrial markets.
As King explains, “AMIS provides what we call ‘silicon solutions for the real world.’ These are silicon ‘chips’ that you find everywhere in your daily life.”
She further describes, “Some of our components are part of devices in the medical market such as pacemakers, glucose meters and X-ray machines. You will find many of our components in your automobile, powering your automatic braking systems, your airbags and your headlights — even inside your cylinders. And, they can be found in security systems. So we really bring intelligence to the things you encounter in your everyday life.”
Within the first two years of her AMIS tenure, she led the firm through a $600-million initial public offering (IPO) on the NASDAQ, the largest and most well-received IPO of the semiconductor industry in 2003. She also has added significant resources through several successful acquisitions, including the mixed-signal business of Alcatel Microlectronics [mixed signals combine analog and digital circuitry on one chip], the micro-power products division of Microsemi Corp. and Dspfactory Ltd, a leading provider of ultra-low power digital signal processing technology for digital hearing aids and other medical devices.
The company is currently working on a number of important innovations. King says, “Some of the exciting products we are working with enable new medical treatments such as implantable glucose metering and stroke-recovery devices. AMIS pioneered imaging technology used in military night vision that is also being applied to other areas like firefighting.”