Name: Mary Fuller
Job / Title: Chief IP Counsel
Company: Maxim Integrated Products, Inc.
Q: From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?
Mary: An important trend I see is the shift to miniaturization. This trend is especially evident in industrial products that have now become consumer devices, such as computers that used to fill a room that we can now balance on a fingertip. These devices, enabled by technology and highly integrated semiconductor chips, have also become globalized and made available to people throughout the world, which trends towards a more level playing field. How? People generally have access to information via small, portable appliances no matter what their socioeconomic status might be. Transportable medical equipment can be deployed into rural villages, providing healthcare and medical diagnostics to folks in remote areas. This trend in technology advancement is opening new markets. For example, the One Laptop Per Child initiative developed a $100 computer for young students in developing countries that is rugged, durable, and portable — it can be used virtually anywhere.
Q: If you can share one piece of advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?
Mary: Your network should include significant others. For example, in a genuine way, get to know your colleagues’ and boss’ significant other. Extend your interest, and network, to families and children as well. At a minimum, learn the names, year in school, hobbies and passions of the close family members of the important members of your network. A best practice is to meet them. Creating a personal connection will translate positively into the workplace. Where appropriate, think about engaging your significant other in networking opportunities as well.
Q: What tips do you have for other women just starting out in your profession?
Mary: Attitude is important — follow the positive. Resist the urge to dwell on the negative. Although it can be difficult, choose to make having a positive outlook paramount in your life. Equally important, put focus on being physically fit — take a walk, twirl your Hula Hoop, or ride a bike. Your body will respond as you bring your mental and physical selves together. Some advice? Integrate your physical activity with networking. For example, I love to bicycle and will occasionally ride with the guys, including some senior-level executives. It’s important for company leaders to see you as fit and vital.
Q: If you had it to do all over again is there one thing you would have changed? What is it?
Mary: Even as a child, I inherently knew that education was important. Growing up, my family faced many obstacles, including significant economic challenges. In fact, out of three children, I was the only one to earn a high school diploma. Because we didn’t have much when I was growing up, in my early years I focused on making money. Looking back, it is fair to say my goal was to gain a good education and make money. As a result, I did not follow my passions and actually put off things that were important to me. For example, I loved physics but determined that engineering would provide the potential of a steady income. So, I studied engineering, but frankly still find myself drawn to the beauty of pure science. I have noticed that women tend to put aside their passions — even for a short time– which can diminish their long term happiness and success. Everyone needs to figure out what makes them happy and focus on that. If you work hard and follow your passions, you will always have enough money to be safe and secure.
Q: What is your recommendation for choosing a good mentor?
Mary: I recommend choosing many mentors…just think about the elements you want to gain. Is it a particular work style or is it a subject matter you want to know more about? Also remember you can learn a lot from men. Consider what you want to know, make yourself available, and adapt.
Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members as part of the CLUB mentoring program?
Mary: Think about your strengths and weakness. Look for mentors in your weaker areas and offer mentorships in the areas where you have strengths. In my experience, people are actually flattered when you ask for help and are generally happy to spend time with you. Be careful not to “over ask” and be clear on what you’d like to learn. Asking for mentorship can be as simple as, “I understand you are [skilled at, accomplished at, or really good at] XYZ. I am [struggling with, trying to get better at, or focusing on] XYZ. I would really appreciate it if you could meet with me twice in the next two weeks to help me improve my XYZ skills.”
Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?
Mary: I hear people throw around the phrase “work-life balance” and talk about it like it truly exists. Maybe it does for someone. It never did for me. Instead, I have consistently looked for “work-life fit.” I think that term is more realistic and accurately descriptive. From day to day, what takes precedence in your life can change depending upon what is happening at home vs. in the office. Is your child ill? Must you travel for a family wedding? Are you facing a critical project deadline? Evaluate what’s important and make it fit. True “balance” may not be achievable, but “fit” really can and does happen.
Q: What do you like to do to unwind?
Mary: I have many interests — biking, gardening, reading, family, cooking, traveling, hosting students, enjoying friends, and with my husband, tending to four bee hives, working on our 1926 home, and maintaining a small vineyard (it’s so small I call it a “vinyette”) of pinot noir and zinfandel grapes. It’s fair to say I like staying busy!