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INWED 2024: Junior & Senior SK hynix Workers Share Their Experiences as Women Breaking Barriers in Engineering

By June 21, 2024 No Comments

IINWED 2024: Female SK hynix Engineers Discuss Breaking Industry Barriers

When 20-year SK hynix veteran Boyeon Kim was in college, she estimated only around 10% of the students in her engineering program were women. The lack of women in engineering classes prompted those on campus to distinguish students into three groups: men, women, and “engineering women”. Despite graduating years after Kim, Yujin Lee, who joined the company in 2022, admitted she did not expect to find female mentors or even work with other women in the engineering field.

The experiences of Kim and Lee in South Korea are echoed elsewhere around the world. In the U.S., women only accounted for 11.6% of all employed electrical and electronics engineers in 2023. To address this significant imbalance, International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is celebrated annually on June 23 to raise the profile of women in engineering and inspire more young women to pursue careers in this profession.

To mark the occasion, Kim and Lee from DRAM Development sat down for a one-on-one discussion at SK hynix’s Icheon headquarters. The pair covered a range of topics including progress for female engineers, their achievements, key lessons, and future goals.

INWED 2024: Female SK hynix Engineers Discuss Breaking Industry Barriers

Changes & Progress for Female Engineers

Yujin: “Since you’ve been in this industry for a much longer time than me, I’ve always wondered what it was like back when you first started. Did you ever feel like you were at a disadvantage because you were one of the few women in the office?”

Boyeon: “Even when I was just one of a handful of women in class or at work, I can’t remember ever being explicitly discriminated against because I was a woman. But I did somewhat feel like I had to work harder than other team members to be recognized in a traditional workplace.”

Yujin: “Then, have you experienced any changes since you started your career?”

Boyeon: “While the culture was predominantly androcentric when I started out, it feels like it has now shifted toward recognizing and celebrating diversity.”

Yujin: “When I joined the company, I felt that women in the industry generally didn’t face many obstacles but were still encountering issues in areas such as networking. However, I received a pleasant surprise when I was assigned to my team: two of the leaders were women. It’s encouraging to see experienced female leaders around me who I can learn from. I’ve also benefited significantly from the design schools, mentoring opportunities, and seminars offered by our team’s senior members.”

Changes & Progress for Female Engineers

Female Mentors: A Guiding Light for Young Engineers

Yujin: “Did you have female mentors when you were a young engineer?”

Boyeon: “I was fortunate to have a senior female colleague on my team around my fourth year. She helped and supported me as I grew, and she remains a reliable mentor to this day. Even after nearly two decades, I always seek her advice when faced with challenges and still find it beneficial to ask her questions.”

Yujin: “I was also lucky enough to meet various mentors. My interest in the semiconductor industry sprouted from meeting a mentor at a university alumni networking event, while I decided to work at SK hynix after meeting another mentor during my internship here. In addition to those mentors, it’s also been so inspiring to work under you and another female team leader. As a leader, what is your approach to mentorship?”

Boyeon: “When mentoring junior colleagues, I often discuss their current career status and how they want to progress. People can become somewhat complacent after working for years at a company, so, in order not to get tired, it’s important to keep planning for their future growth and envisioning a bigger picture.”

Yujin: “I am always grateful when you and my other senior colleagues take the time to help me despite your busy schedules. Often, I feel like I’ve grown significantly after just listening to your thought processes. I also apply many of these lessons to my daily life outside of the office. When I see you balance work and family while living your own life, it makes me think that I can do the same in the future.”

Boyeon: “I’m glad that you feel inspired. When it comes to talking with seniors, please don’t hesitate to ask questions. Seniors actually enjoy receiving questions from juniors and are happy to answer them.”

Female Mentors: A Guiding Light for Young Engineers

Eye-Opening Lessons That Transformed Perspectives

Boyeon: “You’ve been working at SK hynix for about two years now. What is something that you can say you are proud of accomplishing?”

Yujin: “Although I haven’t worked here for long, I’m satisfied with becoming familiar with my daily tasks. My latest project was regarding peripheral circuit design, and I’ve managed to approach my work intuitively after six months.”

Boyeon: “Is there anything you’ve learned from this project?”

Yujin: “My logical thinking skills have improved, and this has allowed me to enjoy my work while also feeling a sense of reward. In general, I have also learned that when I hurry to finish work, a problem generally occurs in the end. For example, there was one instance just after I started working here when I didn’t apply all the known conditions to simulations when verifying circuit designs. After a defect occurred during a wafer test, I learned that I needed to apply all relevant conditions to simulations in order to verify them—even if there are more than 1,000 conditions. I’m now more thorough in my approach to work.”

Boyeon: “Yes, there is a lot to learn from our mistakes and failures. Likewise, my most memorable project wasn’t one that was successful from the beginning. On the contrary, I learned the most from a project where we performed quite poorly. Even when our team had to work overtime every day to interpret the malfunctions that occurred in our product design, this tough experience was really valuable as it helped me and my team members develop our skills.”

Yujin: “Do you think the team gained anything unexpected from this experience?”

Boyeon: “It made us realize the importance of teamwork. We saw first-hand how the skill of each member comes together to become the overall skill of the entire team.”

Eye-Opening Lessons That Transformed Perspectives

Welcoming the Next Generation of Female Engineers

Boyeon: “Let’s talk about what lies ahead for us now. What is your goal for this year?”

Yujin: “I think I’ve moved on from merely absorbing knowledge from my senior colleagues to now thinking about the direction I should take by myself. Going forward, I want to become an engineer who works efficiently and uses various tools to enhance my design methodologies.”

Boyeon: “My goal is always to become a better leader. As a team leader, I see it as my responsibility to foster members’ growth and development. As SK hynix leads the DDR5 market, our team goal is to ensure the company maintains this position as we move into the DDR6 era.”

Yujin: “Lastly, what advice would you give to your younger self or to younger women who want to pursue a career in this field?”

Boyeon: “Like everyone else, I wanted to immediately be good at my job. This made me become impatient with myself. But I learned that it’s really crucial to be patient and draw a picture of how you want to grow and take small steps every day to reach your destination. What about you?”

Yujin: “Right, I can see that looking at the big picture is important when it comes to personal development. If I was to give advice, I would say if you’re inspired and motivated to tackle complex but rewarding puzzles, I’m sure we’ll make a great team here at SK hynix.”

Welcoming the Next Generation of Female Engineers