Setting a Deliberate Path to Principal Engineer

two beautiful businesswoman office worker discussing in the office

two beautiful businesswoman office worker discussing in the office

I ran into Cathy Spence (@cw_spence) at the Intel IT Leader’s Summit in San Jose. She mentioned she had just found out she was promoted to Professional Engineer. I realized I didn’t know much about the process or what that really means, so I interviewed her recently after everything was announced. Here’s our conversation.

Tell me about what you do at Intel.

I have two jobs.  First, I’m the Hosting Portfolio enterprise architect and my domain expertise is in Cloud Computing.  One area where I go deep is in Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) where I am the technical domain owner and have overseen the path to production. In short, I provide direction on how Intel IT can use the cloud to better run Intel’s business. Continue reading

On Humble Confidence


This blog is more of a short story about a leadership lesson I learned.

One summer when I was in college, I came home and took Thermodynamics at a community college. When I had some free time so I helped my mom by taking my grandfather, her dad, on his errands. One day when I picked him up, I had my Thermo textbook on the front seat. He went to get in and put the book on his lap. As I drove, he thumbed through it, then closed the book, looked up and said, “Kelli, I really like you because you are smart but you don’t show it.” Hmmm, was that a compliment? Oh yeah, it was. You see, my grandfather was a machinist who never went to college, but he was naturally smart at math. I know this is where my mom and I got our aptitudes for math. He knew it too.

Then he went on, “When I worked in the shop, I would get plans from the engineers. Sometimes they’d be wrong. You know I could figure it myself, so I knew if those numbers were wrong. I would go back to them, but they didn’t want to hear it from me. I was only a machinist.” I stopped the car at our first errand and my grandfather looked over at me and said, “I am so proud you are studying these books and going to be an engineer. Just never act like those fellas.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was urging me to be competent but not arrogant or too full of pride. He wanted me to act with humble confidence.

Over the years, I have realized that my grandfather gave me some really solid leadership advice. We all know leaders need to be competent and confident. But a leader who is that and also humble, is more human, more approachable and maybe even more respected.

Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.  -Thomas Merton

A humble leader listens because they can learn from others and they also own up to their mistakes (unlike those arrogant engineers my grandfather had to deal with).  This is the kind of leader that inspires me. The kind of leader I aspire to be.  And I think my grandfather would approve.

Why We Should Mentor Millennial Employees


When I graduated from university in the late 80’s jobs were hard to come by – even with a technical degree. You had to get experience wherever you could. I knew when I graduated that the easiest way to find a job was to work through the campus recruiters, but I ended up moving to Japan and doing some backpack traveling for a few years instead.

While I was in Japan I worked in a translating company that specialized in technical documentation. I checked and corrected Japanese product/service manuals and research papers that were translated by native Japanese speakers. I read all kinds of things: scientific papers on the effects of electromagnetism on cockroaches, recommendations on which potatoes to plant in SE Asia to prevent famine, computer user manuals, and lots and lots of documentation about tool die casting equipment. I’m talking tool die specifications, product installation, service manuals and marketing brochures. Did I say a lot? There were so many tool die casting manufacturers in Japan at the time.  Tool die casting was not sexy, but it was my big opportunity to get some technical experience that I could take back to The States when I was ready to turn in my backpack for a real job.

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