There’s one story Advanced Micro Devices CEO Lisa Su enjoys telling from her early days working at IBM, including some life-changing advice she received from one of her managers: “Lisa, run towards problems.”
The point was for Su, when faced with choices, to always choose the toughest assignments. She tells Fortune’s Susie Gharib that when you’re “tackling really, really difficult problems… you will grow as a person, and as a leader, and you’ll also have a chance to really distinguish yourself from everybody else.”
So it’s no surprise that Su welcomed the chance to head up AMD, which was in so much financial trouble that few people thought it could survive. That was two years ago. Today, the Sunnyvale, Calif. semiconductor maker is profitable and its stock has more than quadrupled thanks to Su’s leadership.
“I have to say being CEO of AMD was my dream job,” she says. “Running one of the largest semiconductor companies in the United States was my dream job. Now, yes, we had a lot of challenges, but I didn’t focus necessarily on how hard life would be. I focused on the incredible opportunity in front of me.”
Su was an unlikely savior. An MIT educated electrical engineer, who worked at high tech companies like Texas Instruments and IBM, Su was known more for her technical prowess, not business acumen. But through her enthusiasm for AMD’s technology and her vision to simplify the business, she was able to re-inspire employees. And so far things are looking up for the storied Silicon Valley company.