Each month BizWest invites a business leader to reflect on the issues affecting his or her industry. This month, BizWest asked Isabel Yang, new chief technology officer for Advanced Energy Industries Inc. in Fort Collins, to discuss her role with the company and the company’s role in the community.
BizWest: What’s the most exciting project now underway at Advanced Energy?
Isabel Yang: As power is the necessary fuel for everything digital, our industry, along with many other industries, is going through the digital transformation. We will continue to develop and innovate on the most advanced power technologies enabling the manufacture of the next generation semiconductor chips inside smart devices or the glass coating on the newest flat panel displays, among many other applications. Our smarter power technologies will enable our clients in manufacturing to make decisions through real time sensing, with highly reliable and stable power delivered to enhance yield and improve product quality.
BW: What technology is Advanced Energy working now to develop that would interest members of the NoCo business community?
Yang: Our Fort Collins location remains the global hub for our research and development operations. To that end, we are currently expanding our presence along Prospect Road to make room for additional lab, service and repair space, and securing more local talent from CSU and CU in the areas of power electronics, plasma physics and SW engineering. We are also continuing to actively engage with the local chamber of commerce and companies in the startup ecosystem, such as Innosphere. We are happy to engage with the NoCo business community on any needs for highly engineered precision power applications.
BW: What special expertise do you bring to the company in your new position?
Yang: Having spent over 20 years in information technology from the very foundational building blocks of semiconductor chips to large systems that run more than 50 percent of the world’s transactions, I bring experience and expertise in semiconductor processing, technology/business strategy, large partnerships, management of complex R&D organizations, intellectual property, and portfolio management to name a few. Having most recently served as the vice president of strategy and operations for IBM Research prior to joining AE, I’ve helped to enable some of the most innovative solutions in AI, healthcare and high-performance computing. My experiences combined have allowed me to develop a keen sense of spotting emerging and new technologies. I believe I can apply these skills to harness AE’s innovation engine to provide significant value to the company’s current and future customers.
BW: You’re a role model for other women working in manufacturing and technology. What advice would you offer to someone trying to make a mark?
Yang: In the fast-paced world of technology, I believe we need to be constantly curious and reinvent ourselves by acquiring new skills to maintain relevance in the industry. I believe women, now more than ever, need to shape their own destiny in their careers and lives. What this means is to establish a set of core skills early in their career and gradually grow themselves into experts, then progressively branch out to learn about adjacent areas or new areas to acquire new skills. Obviously, pursuing an ambitious career and establishing a family life is never easy, so surround yourself with a supportive partner and family. Being a superwoman or mom is exhausting and can cause burn out, so prioritization is paramount. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions, whether it be to seek guidance from a senior leader or even lean on a peer for insight. Success is attained in many ways, and collaboration is one of them.
BW: Do you anticipate relationships with area educational institutions, particularly CSU, CU and UNC, and how might those relationships take shape?
Yang: As chief technology officer at AE, one of my goals is to continue fostering and amplifying relationships with academic institutions worldwide. AE views academia as a key partner in talent and technical innovation, which is why, specific to the Northern Colorado community, we have been a long-time participant and mentor of CSU’s Supply Chain Management program. We work with CSU to bring intern talent to AE throughout the year and are an employer sponsor at the university’s engineering career fair. Our service division has also developed a talent development program geared toward technical and trade schools in the Rocky Mountain West and Midwest regions that offers scholarships and internship opportunities for those studying engineering and electronics. Additionally, we recently entered into a partnership with Front Range Community College on its Center for Integrated Manufacturing. AE continues to strengthen its standing relationships with local institutions while also seeking new academic partners across the globe.