Tell me about your job and what your main responsibilities are
I am currently a member of the CPU team working on the performance team. I am currently doing studies and experiments to find features that can boost IPC on our CPUs that will be released in 2 years. At this phase of the project, I am taking wild ideas and running performance simulations to show if they have merit and are worth pursuing further.
Why did this particular career interest you?
As a kid, I always scored well on standardized math so I always thought that engineering would be something I might enjoy. In high school I spent time in the wood/metal shop and thought I might pursue mechanical engineering, but I also really enjoyed some of the coding projects I had dabbled in outside of class. In the end, I enrolled in computer engineering at the University of Michigan. At university I took many classes such as semiconductors, embedded systems, object-oriented programming, and computer security, but my favorite classes were digital design and computer architecture. In my computer architecture class, my team designed an out of order processor in a 14 week project. It was a lot of work, but I was hooked. I went to the career fair looking for CPU design teams and Arm was a perfect match.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
When I go to work in the morning, I always get excited about having a hard problem to solve and having the freedom to tackle the problem in whatever way I think is best. CPU design has undergone constant innovation for far longer than I have been alive and therefore all the low hanging fruit has been taken. Extracting more performance every year is not easy and I thrive on the challenge. What I enjoy about Arm is that my boss will provide a high-level task description, but not micromanage me. I still ask tons of questions and get recommendations for how to proceed, but it is up to me to drive the project and I really enjoy that.
What made you decide to work for Arm?
There are two parts to every company that I looked at. There is the mission and there is culture. Arm’s vision is to create technology that invisibly enables opportunities for a globally connected population. I was really excited by the pervasiveness of Arm and how arm technology can change the world even if it isn’t as flashy as some consumer-facing products such as the iPhone. I also think there is a fun competition between x86 and Arm and I’ve always rooted for Arm and I wanted to play for their side.
The culture is what made Arm really stand out. When I was interviewing, what I picked up on was the energy and camaraderie of my interviewers. They passionately talked about what they liked doing both inside and out of work in a way I hadn’t seen at other interviews. Once I started at Arm, I realized the people at Arm care about other people at Arm… a lot. Arm employees take advantage of the onsite facilities to play ping pong or volleyball during lunch and even spend time together outside of work. This is especially common among new grads.
What’s the best thing about working for Arm?
The collaboration at Arm is phenomenal. Every time I have ramped up on a new project I’ve gotten a lot of support. I, personally, am more comfortable than most with cold-calling people and asking for help when I think they are the best person to assist me and they have always been super responsive and helpful despite having never met me before. I’ve also got an amazing manager that has been really helpful in helping me network, find projects I enjoy, and keep an eye on my career development. I am constantly surprised by how much time people are willing to take to help me and I hope to pass it along.
How has Arm enabled you to learn and develop?
I want to share a bit about a unique opportunity at Arm for new hires: the rotation program. As a new grad, you can rotate between multiple groups within your team for about 5 months per rotation. I for example have been rotating within the CPU team. I started by doing work related to power estimation then rotated to do verification work and now I am on my final rotation doing performance modelling. This is a great way to meet new people on the team and better understand what the entire design flow is.
What are the people like at Arm?
I’ve talked about many aspects of this in other questions, but I’ll add a bit more. Arm recruits some of the best talent in the industry and it shows. The people I work with on a day-to-day basis are very technically competent. These people tend to be driven by their passion for technology and a desire for a good work-life balance.
I think Arm does a great job filtering out two types of people. First, the people chasing money tend to look elsewhere because Arm’s base salary isn’t the best in the industry. Second, the people chasing fame or name recognition favor companies with more well-known consumer-facing products.
What kind of benefits do you get working at Arm?
Benefits can change over time, so I don’t want to make guarantees especially with the Nvidia acquisition looming. I would expect excellent benefits comparable with others in the industry for relocation, holiday allowance, 401k matching, healthcare, and parental leave. In the US, Arm traditionally has stood out by having exceptional work life balance relative to other tech companies. As a new hire you get 4 weeks of vacation with an option to buy a 5th week. And after you have been at Arm for some time you get an extra week on top of that.
What excites you about working with cutting-edge technology?
Technology makes the impossible possible. I love seeing the moment when science fiction becomes reality. I love doing CPU design for Arm because it drives exponential growth in CPU performance. As a rough rule of thumb, a paradigm shift is enabled by every 10x speedup in processing power. If our processors get 10% faster every year that means a paradigm shift would be likely sometime in the next 20 years. I get excited knowing that I can come to work, solve hard problems, find performance, and eventually see that hard work change the world.
What’s your best memory during your career at Arm?
I personally have been really excited about designing CPUs for infrastructure even though Arm is primarily known for their mobile CPUs. I remember going to quarterly business updates and seeing licensing of CPUs for infrastructure grow like wildfire. And at the same time AWS was showing massive success with the Arm-based Graviton processor. This massive success makes me feel good about the work the team is doing and Arm’s long-term strategy.
What is the culture like at Arm in Austin?
Arm has 3 mottos that describe the culture. “We, not I”, “Be your brilliant self”, and “Passion for progress”. Arm is a company where people bring their best ideas to the table and work collaboratively to make their dreams reality. Arm employees are selfless and are very invested in the success of those around them. This idea is even built into the business model of the company. Arm makes money from royalties which means that we are heavily invested in working with our partners to make sure that their product is competitive and sells well.
Is there a specific project you’re working on or have worked on in the past that’s particularly interesting or exciting?
There are too many interesting projects to list. I personally have been working a lot with the CPU memory system team and there are a lot of unique and inspirational prefetcher designs. The systems team is also doing really exciting work. Recently customers have been building systems with extremely high core counts and this is only possible due to the large interconnects designed by the systems team.
What made you want to live and work in Austin?
Austin was rated on the best places to live just a few years before I graduated college. That was a pretty strong indicator that I might want to live in Austin. In general I was excited for the warm weather, 0% state income tax, and the chance to explore a new city. Austin is also becoming a tech hub so I knew that if I liked the city I could buy a home and not have to worry about moving if I switched jobs.
How have Arm supporting you during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Arm has been supportive in so many way. I have a great work setup at home now and that makes working easier. Management also understands that burnout is a real challenge. They have been issuing ‘days of care’ that we get off to rejuvenate and make sure we are healthy and happy.
What would you say to someone who was looking for a new job in your field, why should they come to Arm and not a competitor in Austin?
I think Arm is a great place for young engineers. I talked about the rotation program earlier which is a great way to try a lot of different things and find something you like. The people at Arm are also extremely supportive and willing to help you get started. A lot of the new college grads have also built great relationships with other new college grads and often spend time playing ping pong in the cafeteria and socializing after work.
The vacation policy at Arm is also exceptional. Less experienced employees will find that Arm offers way more vacation than competitors. Experienced employees can get 5 weeks of vacation and the opportunity to buy a 6th week. This is great for people looking for a better work-life balance. Arm has also seen extreme growth in the last few years and I expect that to continue. I expect to see growth in infrastructure, IOT, 5G, and automotive.
What would you say to someone who was looking for a new job but lived in another area of the US, what’s great about moving to Austin?
Austin is a big city so expect all the benefits of living in a big city. Austin is also a burgeoning tech hub. This means it is easy to switch jobs and easy to find other people who are interested in technology.
What advice would you give someone who is joining Arm in Austin?
I think the typical advice applies here: learn fast, make friends, and enjoy your work. For the new college grads, realize that work is a lot different than school. If you are used to being in the top 5% of your class, be ready to adjust your expectations. Your peers might have 5-25 years’ experience that is probably lets them get work done faster and better than you when you are starting out. It’s better to try not to compare yourself and instead focus on learning quickly and collaborating with your peers to get things done.