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New Leadership Spotlight: SK hynix’s First Female Research Fellow, Vice President Oh Haesoon, on Advancing NAND Flash

By January 29, 2024 February 14th, 2024 No Comments

New Leadership Spotlight: SK hynix’s First Female Research Fellow, Vice President Oh Haesoon, on Advancing NAND Flash

Oh Haesoon broke new ground at the end of 2023 when she was appointed SK hynix’s first female research fellow1. In her new role, Oh leads the newly formed N-S Committee, a strategic unit which aims to strengthen SK hynix’s NAND flash and solutions businesses.

1Research fellow: SK hynix executives with outstanding technical capabilities who focus on researching innovative technologies.

Her appointment follows her lengthy tenure in the company’s NAND business. After working at the R&D center and DRAM development division, Oh has dedicated her career to developing next-generation NAND flash platforms since 2007. During this time, she made significant technological contributions including the successful development of the company’s first 3D NAND technology and QLC2 products, and the mass production of 4D NAND.

2Quad-level cell (QLC): A form of NAND flash memory that can store up to 4 bits of data per memory cell.

In an interview which kicks off a series of talks with newly appointed executives, we spoke with Oh about her ambitions as the first female research fellow and her vision for developing the NAND flash business.

Driving Innovation Through Diversity

Oh claims diversity among researchers leads to technological breakthroughs

Oh claims diversity among researchers leads to technological breakthroughs

 

Oh believes that embracing diversity is key to fostering technological innovation. She claims that diverse perspectives enable researchers to transcend biases and challenge existing paradigms, paving the way for groundbreaking solutions.

“In the high-tech world of semiconductor research, technological capability is above everything else,” she said. “As a research fellow, I do feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to demonstrate my technical leadership. To that end, I will strive to foster innovation by promoting diversity in our research culture.”

Oh also expressed her excitement at becoming a role model for her female team members, helping them to grow and redefining what it means to be a research fellow.

“I don’t think men and women have different research capabilities,” she said. “But, as a female leader, I am sure that I will play a distinct role in this field, where the integration of diverse perspectives is essential for progress. Despite the pressures associated with being the first female research fellow, I am committed to fulfilling my responsibilities and blazing this path for many more women in the future.”

Propelling the NAND Flash Upturn Through Research Leadership Covering Mass Production

Oh cites high-quality research as a crucial factor in semiconductor development

Oh cites high-quality research as a crucial factor in semiconductor development

 

Oh currently leads the Advanced Process Integration3 (PI) group, which focuses on the development of next-generation, high-value NAND flash products. Her research emphasizes achieving successful mass production by minimizing trial and error in the entire process from product development to mass production itself. These points are especially crucial in the NAND flash sector as product competitiveness is closely tied to the competitiveness in mass production.

3Process integration (PI): A holistic approach to semiconductor development which considers the entire manufacturing process from core development to increasing yield after mass production. It involves performing tasks such as determining cell schemes and deriving optimal design rules for early-phase and next-generation product development.

“Working across different phases of NAND flash development has provided me with a deeper understanding of the needs and objectives of each stage and a more comprehensive perspective of the overall process,” she said.

In 2022, leveraging her expertise in both product development and mass production, Oh pioneered the adoption of the On-Die Electrical Parameter Monitoring4 (ODE) system for NAND flash. This system manages production defects from the development stage and is actively being used for quality specification management and product defect control.

1On-Die Electrical Parameter Monitoring (ODE): A series of die tests which measure transistor characteristics such as resistance and capacitance to predict the electrical characteristics and overall performance of a chip.

When asked about the outlook for NAND flash, Oh predicts a full-scale rebound in 2024 based on the company’s long-standing technological strengths.

“After DRAM’s successful upturn in 2023, NAND flash is poised for a similar shift this year. Our key mission for 2024 is to secure the underlying technology to overcome stacking limitations and at the same time, develop the next generation of high-value products in a timely manner,” she said. “We will continue research aimed at reducing trial and error from the development stage to improve profitability.”

Forging Synergies Between the NAND Flash and Solutions Businesses

Oh believes cross-department collaboration plays a key role in strengthening NAND flash development

Oh believes cross-department collaboration plays a key role in strengthening NAND flash development

 

Oh counts the successful development of SK hynix’s first 3D NAND platform in 2014 as her most memorable achievement. Building a thriving platform from the ground up during a transformative period, where both structure and characteristics underwent complete changes, is a source of great pride and confidence for her. Since then, Oh has also spearheaded several other high-profile projects, such as the development of the company’s first QLC product and the mass production of 4D NAND. Her experience has underscored the importance of synergy and collaboration as essential elements for success.

“Technology will continue to advance and so will the barriers that need to be overcome,” she said. “However, there’s no need to be discouraged by the technical difficulty. By harnessing the ideas of the team and working collaboratively to create solutions, we can accomplish our goals.”

Oh believes that the collaboration with the solutions division is vital for boosting the competitiveness of the NAND flash business. The company’s NAND flash, which needs to efficiently store a large amount of data at low cost, is more effective when equipped with tailored storage products from the solutions division. Oh emphasized the importance of the synergy between the two divisions, especially as the N-S Committee took its first steps in 2024 as the control tower for both businesses.

While acknowledging the challenges ahead, Oh shared her vision for the NAND flash business in 2024.

“This year, the NAND flash and solutions divisions will actively communicate and collaborate with one another to create synergies within the N-S Committee, and take the initiative to propel the NAND flash business forward in 2024,” she said.

Rising Up to Meet New Challenges in 2024

Wrapping up the interview, Oh turned her attention to her own goals for 2024 as she looks to continue her professional development at SK hynix.

“2024 will be a year of great challenge and innovation for me,” she said. “Above all, I will strive to be a leader who grows alongside our team and makes a real contribution to the company.”

 

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New Leadership Spotlight: SK hynix’s Youngest Exec, Lee Donghun, Discusses Spearheading NAND Flash Development