Her team designs chips that let you channel-surf

  • By The Straits Times
  • Posted 7 months ago
  • Reading Time : a few minutes

When Ms Chan Sack Lee sees a television on, she is thrilled because she has a hand in making the chips in set-top boxes that allow channel-surfing and more.

The manager of the physical design team at American chipmaker Broadcom says: “It is quite an honour knowing that a product found in almost every household has been made possible by something you have designed.”

What makes it especially exciting for her has been witnessing how much the world of microelectronics has changed.

She says: “What used to take over a year before takes half the time today and is five times more complex.”

Ms Chan decided on a career in electronics after her A levels in 1987 and she qualified for a polytechnic bursary from the Economic Development Board.

Then, after working for a few years, she went to Britain and eventually earned a Master’s in Electronic Circuit Design and Manufacture from the University of Dundee.

Back in Singapore in 1995, she worked in two companies before joining Broadcom in 2005.

She recalls: “Broadcom had just set up its research and development centre in Singapore and I thought it would be fast-paced, competitive and challenging.”

Now, her day starts early, getting her children, aged 11 and 17, off to school.

Then, at the office, she deals with e-mails, conference calls and meetings. She leads a team of seven integrated circuit chip designers and does hands-on work with them too.

On the kind of people who would thrive in her sector, she says: “Those who like to innovate, have a passion for overcoming technology challenges and have strong analytical skills.”

Ironically, although she has a hand in creating set-top boxes she rarely watches television.

She says: “The family watches the news, but other than that, I’m too busy with work and the children get caught up with homework. My husband, who works in IT consulting, travels a lot.”

However, the family does try to take frequent vacations, and they have been to places such as New Zealand and the United States. They also exercise as a family in the gym or playing table tennis.

“I get a lot of satisfaction from solving problems with my team, but family is important, so I spend as much time as I can with them.”

Image: Ms Chan’s work involves the design of complex circuit chips found in smart televisions and set-top boxes with functions such as on-demand TV and parental controls. PHOTO: DESMOND LUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES.

(This article was originally published on The Straits Times)

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