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AMD CEO On Leading a Turnaround: Pragmatism and Patience

November 13, 2019, 9:31 PM UTC

Lisa Su enjoys solving problems. And she’s very good at it. Yes, she studied electrical engineering at MIT, and brilliant engineers are often problem solvers. But it’s more than that.

As a young girl growing up in New York, she credits her father and mother for teaching her some important life lessons—hard work, humility, “learning as much a you can,” and “always be more patient.” Those early lessons have guided her leadership today as the CEO of Advanced Micro Devices and allowed her to successfully lead a remarkable turnaround of the struggling semiconductor company.

“My key trait is determination,” says Su. “And determination meaning there’s no problem that can’t be solved if you really put your mind to it.”

There were doubts about whether Su could pull that off when she was tapped as CEO in 2014. She was known more for her technical prowess, rather than leadership skills. The Santa Clara, California-based company was losing lots of money, losing market share and in such deep trouble that many people were convinced that this company with such a storied history wouldn’t survive.

Today Su is hailed for transforming AMD into a technology powerhouse. With a portfolio of cutting edge powerful processors, AMD is now hugely profitable, revenues are growing double digits, and the stock has skyrocketed more than 1,000 percent since Su took charge. AMD has also returned to the Fortune 500 list after dropping off four years ago. As for leadership, Su has been recognized by Fortune as one of the World’s Greatest Leaders, and she is included on Fortune’s list of the Most Powerful Women in business.

What was the key to solving the complex AMD problem? Su attributes it to being pragmatic, taking incremental steps and—just as her parents advised her—being patient.

“It’s so important to build a track record of execution along with the big ‘I’m going to change the world,’” she explains. “We know it takes many steps to turn around a company. It takes many steps to build a road map and follow it step by step.”

Watch the video above for more.