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Science Careers: Semiconductor Processor Interview

Name: Daryl Batoosingh
Current employer: National Semiconductor Corporation
Job title: Engineering Technician for the Development Group
Science Career: Semiconductor Processor
Time working in this field: 15 years

What do you do and in what particular area of science?

I work on the technical side of the semiconductor industry, with a focus on real-world applications.

What do you do during a typical day at work?

I carry out experiments in the fabrication manufacturing facility. The experiments are mostly designed by the engineers, with some input from me and the experience I have, so the work I do is driven by the engineers for whom I work. I am responsible for laying out the experiments, setting up experiments on "the tool"(a unique device that is set up using chemistry gases to remove certain films), and running the experiment according to the processes we have established. It's kind of like doing an experiment in science class where you work with different beakers and are told to add certain chemicals and heat—that's what I do, and the tool puts it all together and runs it for me.

What are some of the key characteristics that are important for a person to succeed in your type of work?

You need a solid foundation in chemistry, math, and statistics—not necessarily just knowing the math, but also seeing the bigger picture of the numbers and how what you do is connected to the end product. You also need a curiosity for how things work or evolve, and a curiosity for how something works individually. You need to do a lot of thinking on your own, but sometimes you work as a group, which can help when you've got questions you need answered.

Patience is also key. This is data and engineering, so you have to enjoy collecting data because data is your best friend. Designing experiments and collecting data also takes patience, because you won't get the data right away; it will take time. You also need good time-management skills, because you aren't working on one process at a time—you are multitasking. Therefore, organization is also important—with different data coming in, you'll be responsible for organizing it. Being familiar with computers can help you with this.

How did you become interested in this area of science?

Well, my schooling inspired me. I also had a housemate who worked in industry, so between his connections and my experience, I got the job, and the rest is history. I'm not surprised that I ended up in this line of work. I took a Myers-Briggs test in high school, and it told me that my strongest suit was numbers and engineering. I decided to also pursue a business degree because I liked the subject and I knew the degree would help me get into management. Understanding the bottom line and accounting is a good thing, but you don't need to have both a technical and a business degree.

How would you describe your work environment?

It's very engineering-oriented, and analytical and numbers-oriented. Most people I work with are trained to see the world through statistics and numbers. The work itself is very individual and not predominantly group-oriented because of the nature of how we think. I work mostly inside an office or in front of a computer, or in the manufacturing facility under extreme conditions. The manufacturing facility is an unusual environment. It's humidity- and temperature-controlled—kind of like a lab, but more stringent. You have to wear a "bunny suit,"which is similar to a biohazard suit without the breathing device. Sometimes your mouth needs to be covered because exhaling can introduce particles into the air, and the air quality needs to be clean. 'The work environment is kind of like math class: dry for some, but if you are into numbers and things like that, it is very exciting!

What can a student do pre-college to prepare for a career in your field?

Math and science classes are important, of course. Also, hands-on experiments are important, too. When I was in science class, we played around with chemistry. Nowadays, kids have more evolved hands-on experiences with working with semiconductors, which is important for learning this field and others.

Is there any advice you would give to someone interested in this field that you wish someone had given you when you were starting out?

One of the most important ways you can prepare for a career is to actually work in the industry you are thinking of going into, or do an internship. You can do well in sciences classes, but the most important thing is to be comfortable with the environment in which you are working. For instance, some people don't feel comfortable working in the bunny suits, so they quit. So you really need to get a taste the career you are thinking of pursuing; that way, if you don't like it, you have time to make a change.

What do you enjoy most about your work? Is there anything that you do not like?

What I enjoy most is that the end product is helping mankind move forward and be more efficient. We are on the cutting edge of technology, working on future products, and that brings a lot of excitement into this field. The industry is changing and evolving quickly. That's both a good thing and bad thing—there is high pressure to get new products in the marketplace.

Also, it's a 7-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day operation, so there is always work to be done. I work 45 hours a week, but if didn't want to have a social life, I could work forever. There's always something to do, and in this environment, there is no down time.

Describe a project that you have worked on that was of particular interest to you.

Working on anything new. And though not everything I work on makes it to the end product, any time I do work on something that makes it to the end product, it's more exciting than anything.

Science Buddies would like to thank National Semiconductor Corporation for making this interview possible.

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