Stephen J. Zelencik

For his outstanding record of accomplishment in the semiconductor industry, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Stephen J. Zelencik.

Senior Vice President Chief Marketing Executive
Advanced Micro Devices
BSEE '60
[Stephen J. Zelencik, current]

On succeeding at Purdue

I started at the Calumet campus in 1954 and transferred to Lafayette the next year. But life was too good: I hit the fraternity scene and crashed academically. This opened the door for Uncle Sam and the draft. I wound up in the Signal Corps for two years, in telecommunications.

I managed an early discharge and returned to Purdue in the summer of '58. The university was three weeks into summer school. I was in deep trouble I didn't think I was going to get through the summer but with tolerant support from the instructor, John Lindenlaub, I managed to survive the course with a better-than-expected grade. The second half of my academic career was just fine. I was married, settled, doing well in school. It all came together.

On his career in semiconductors

I love this business; I love my job. In 1965, after working at Amphenol-Borg for five years, I joined Fairchild Semiconductor. The company was young and small, but people like Bob Noyce, Gordon Moore, Jerry Sanders, Charlie Spork, and Don Valentine who went on to become industry legends were there. In 1966 I called on Burroughs and booked the single largest order in the history of the semiconductor industry at that time. The product was CTL logic, a very fast current mode switching logic, and this was the first time I made a mark in the industry. As one might suspect, as rapidly as this industry changes, a mark doesn't last very long.

[Stephen J. Zelencik, current]

Fairchild spawned Advanced Micro Devices as well as many other companies. In 1970 I joined AMD as the company's first outside salesperson. Coming to AMD was different. I was employee -- sales, a start from zero. The entire company was founded with a million and a half dollars, and a million of that went to build a wafer fabrication plant.

We started making integrated circuits that were pin-for-pin replacements but ran faster and cost less. This gave us a competitive advantage. In the beginning, AMD was picked by pundits as the least likely of the semiconductor start-ups to succeed and 80 percent of the companies formed at the same time we were eventually failed. But we built this business one block at a time, and now it's a $2.5 billion-a-year company.

On challenges facing Advanced Micro Devices

The technical skills required to keep us competitive are substantially different than they were 28 years ago. Back then, the business was experimental, driven by inventors and black magic. Today, you cannot succeed unless you have exceptional circuit design capability driven by total system knowledge and understand device physics. We must have people who are superb in the ways and whys. Problems are measured in nanometers, and mastering process technology is an ultimate challenge.

My sales and marketing organization requires people with both a strong technical background and exceptional interpersonal skills.

Our challenge is to continue to find creative engineers to drive to the future. Purdue's challenge is to remain closely coupled with the semiconductor industry, and to better understand what we need for the future.

A word to Purdue engineering students

What's different in Silicon Valley is that things happen rapidly. People make quick decisions; opportunities are seized. It's amazing how rapidly this technology leads you to a new place. Something illogical turns out to be the right answer.

The driving force in the semiconductor industry is change. This force, coupled with the Bay Area venture capitalists, has spawned an incredible army of companies that manufacture and use semiconductors in communication and computation products. This is an economic engine that invites all that have a spirit of adventure.

Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Executive, Advanced Micro Devices. Acquired NexGen, enabling product development and sale of AMD-K6 microprocessors. Developed markets in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, South America, and Russia.
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing, AMD.
Director of Distributor Operations, AMD.
Western Area Sales Manager, AMD (AMD's first outside salesperson).
National Sales Manager, Computers. Fairchild Semiconductor.
Western Regional Manager, Computers, Fairchild Semiconductor.
National Account Manager, Burroughs, Fairchild Semiconductor.
Account Executive, Computers, Fairchild Semiconductor.
Earned Salesman of the Year Award for securing for Fairchild Semiconductor the Burroughs account, the largest contract ever obtained by the semiconductor industry at the time.
Sales Engineer, Fairchild Semiconductor.
Sales Engineer, then in marketing and management, Amphenol-Borg Corp.

BSEE '60, Purdue