Women in Big Data Global



An Interview with Women in Big Data Founding Executive Sponsor, Michael Greene

Women in Big Data

By Meena Arunachalam,

June 24, 2020

michael greene

An Interview with Women in Big Data Founding Executive Sponsor, Michael Greene

Meena Arunachalam caught up with Michael Greene to get his take on how all of us can inspire greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and in society as a whole, in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Michael Greene is a Vice President in the Intel Architecture, Graphics and Software organization. He has extensive experience leading a broad range of development, validation, enabling, and architecture analysis efforts for Intel platforms, including pre-silicon software, virtual platform modeling and simulation, and power performance analysis to increase development velocity and time to market. He joined Intel in 1990 after graduating from MIT. Michael was the Founding Executive Sponsor of Women in Big Data, and he is also Chairman of the Board for the National GEM Consortium, a national non-profit that provided programs and full fellowships to increase the number of under-represented individuals who pursue a master’s or doctorate degree in science or engineering.

Meena: I hope you and your family are doing well, as we are in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. How has Covid impacted technology development, the economy, and your day-to-day life?

Michael: Covid-19 has given empty-nester parents like me, with kids at college, a chance to have everyone at home. We’re enjoying dinner together, game nights, and many other things that we were too busy for during the school year. It is great fun to have all the kids at home, and we are enjoying our family time together. On the technology side, Covid-19 has accelerated and pushed the need for compute and communication solutions to create and scale robust platforms for remote work/collaboration, online shopping and scientific research. It has also given pure science a push, driving massive simulations and research studies to address this pandemic. I believe there will be more job opportunities created in the long run, supporting new work styles and social transformations. Ultimately, this can have a huge positive impact on the economy.

Meena: We are reaching WiBD’s five-year anniversary, with more than 17,000 members across the globe. As the founding Executive Sponsor, you started this effort by asking Ziya Ma and Shala Arshi to spearhead the grassroots organization. What motivated you to initiate this, and what do you envision for WiBD moving forward?

Michael: Congratulations are in order to the members and the leadership of WiBD on this milestone. I feel tremendous joy and pride as I continue to watch WiBD grow and evolve as well as it has. I remember that no matter how big a crowd I was addressing on Spark, analytics and other big data software technologies that we were developing in my organization, there were only a handful of women working on big data technology. That was a glaring representation problem. I encouraged both Ziya Ma and Shala Arshi to address this systemic problem on representation, but to start small and grow over the long-term. I shared the same views with my network and industry colleagues, and I received full support and encouragement from my peers at Cloudera, Databricks, Horton Works, etc. They were eager to join forces. As with most gender or other disparities, you have to start small, but stay committed for the long-haul, to sustain and address, inspire, educate and grow. What I envision for the next five years is WiBD making progress towards addressing the gender gap; a new set of leaders emerging and taking the reins to increase the breadth of the organization and grow its impact well into the next 10 years, and even much longer.

Meena: Can you talk about your involvement and work at the National GEM Consortium?

Michael: Our focus at The National GEM Consortium has been on maximizing the human potential of all communities of students—to help them advance through fellowships and to grow the pipeline of postgraduate MS and PhD students in STEM fields. We work closely with students, universities, entrepreneurs, industry research labs and companies. The GEM fellowships in this extremely selective area have grown at a compound annual rate of greater than 20 percent. I would like to do more, and support even more engineers and scientists through doctorate programs to fill accelerating needs. There is a shortage and deficit of graduates nationally and globally in science and technology fields. We will need all available talent to close this gap. Drawing an analogy to WiBD, as GEM is heading towards 50 years-old, our organization’s legacy and approach works over the long haul to actively address the representation gap in STEM. The Covid-19 pandemic has placed an enormous challenge on science and tech fields to reach out and to advance solutions at a much faster pace. It also underlines the need a diverse and inclusive workforce, in our thinking and in problem-solving, so we can come together to solve this pandemic as one human race.

Meena: What career advice would you give your 20-year-old self? Have we made progress, and how are things different now? What practical advice would you give someone entering the field as a recent college graduate? At the mid-level? At the executive level?

Michael: One piece of advice that I think is critical for career growth is strong communication. That was relevant twenty years ago, but it is even more important now. Consistently be clear, and increase the frequency of communication, especially as we are now working and collaborating with colleagues purely in the digital realm. Also, be obsessed with customer needs as you build technologies and products, while keeping the needs of diverse communities at the forefront. They have the power to create huge economic opportunities, and serving their needs can be a great equalizer for all parts of global societies.

Meena: What are your thoughts on what is happening in our country and society right now? What can we do as technologists and professionals? How can we actively contribute to transformation?

Michael: Start locally and start immediately. In some ways, this is similar to my advice to Shala and Ziya at the start of WiBD. “Do good now,” and “don’t let better be the enemy of good.” Understand what voices your leadership should represent and what changes you would like to see. Get involved, educate yourself, vote, and start with small steps. “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” Every stepping-stone and every idea, however small, can help us scale to solving problems facing our society. A semiconductor analogy comes to mind: with billions of transistors in a chip, we break things down to smaller functional units and arrive at building block solutions to create a complete and exceptional final product. Similarly, you can address actions and steps that you can take as an individual. It can be volunteering at an underserved elementary or middle school and sharing what you know about technology or STEM. Be consistent, and be in it for the long haul, as these systemic problems were created over many years and will take time to address. Support your communities and neighbors however you can—physically, financially and/or spiritually. Stay connected and engaged with friends and neighbors to make sure they are healthy, and together we can make monumental changes.

Meena: Thank you for sharing these inspirational thoughts with us, Michael.


Meena Arunachalam Ph.D,  Meena Arunachalam Ph.D, Principal Engineer is an End-to-End AI Performance Architect in MLP (Machine Learning Performance MLP at IAGS) and works on AI & Analytics Product Architecture for CPUS and accelerators. She is active and serves on several IEEE Conference Program and Technical committees. She has authored more than 20 peer-reviewed publications in IEEE and ACM conferences and journals, including two book chapters in the High Performance Computing Pearls – Vol II and has four patents. She is active in WiML (Women in Machine Learning) and WIN (Women in Intel) and Women in Big Data (WiBD) West Coast Region and the Director of the WiBD Pacific Northwest Chapter.