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Edward Plowman

Vice President of Architecture, Edward Plowman answers our questions.

ND diagnosis or self-identify as:

Diagnosed with autism and dyslexia. Identifies with (possible) undiagnosed ADHD.

Current job title:

Vice President of Architecture (GPU, CPU and NPU).

What does your job involve?

I work within one of the UK’s leading fabless semiconductor design companies, leading the architectural design team behind the creation of complex compute units specialised for graphics, general compute and neural network processing. The role involves a deep understanding of trends in application workloads, performance requirements, semiconductor fabrication technology. We then turn all that information and analysis into innovative solution to complex problems in the smallest possible implementation with the lowest possible power consumption.

Degree/apprenticeship or route to current job:

It was very non-traditional!

I’d been programming games on my home computer from the age of 12. However, due to undiagnosed dyslexia was largely written off by academia with no chance of progressing this interest in formal education post 16.

Left school into a C&G general engineering apprenticeship, showed a talent for programming CNC machines, was encouraged to try pursuing computing again. Did a course with the National Computing Centre, but was frustrated at only being offered technician grade computing jobs.

Was turned down for a BTEC Nation Diploma by my local FE (they were worried I wouldn’t be able to cope with the work!), but accepted onto HND in Microelectronics and Computing (passed with Merit), was then accepted for direct entry to 2nd year of Electronics & Computing BEng. at Nottingham Trent University.

Graduated with a 2:2 (1st for my final year dissertation design for a GPU) in 1994 and got my first post-grad job at Argonaut Technologies as an R&D Engineer within the team that created the ARC processor. I did three years there and was then head hunted by ARM.

I joined ARM as an FAE and over the course of 11yrs worked my way up to leading an M&A activity and leading that new team during the integration.

I left for a short stint at Intel and then returned to ARM for another 8 years stint. I left to try new challenges working in Agritech (Computer Vision, UAV’s and ML analytics) as a Chief Science Officer and then moved to a Chief Technology Officer role in a Media and Entertainment tech company where I spent nearly 4 years.

The call of the semiconductor industry was strong however and I have returned to my roots!

What was your experience in school?

Not great – as a verbal communicator being forced to communicate mostly in written form wasn’t fun (I was also part of the first run of GCSE students which was a dreadful). I developed quite successful coping mechanism through which I could maintain average attainment, so was largely ignored.

What strategies/assistive technology do you use to help you in your work?

I don’t know how I managed without noise cancelling headphones (for air travel, office and commute). They are a godsend for focus. Recent advances in speech to text, text to speech (nuance dragon speak is awesome! A shame that they stopped developing for Mac computers though), and other intelligent tools to help digest information are a revelation!

What ND skills have allowed you to succeed (or progress) in your STEM career?

I’ve only recently acquired adequate language to describe this, so bare with me!

The ability to think wider than the context you’re presented with by exploiting a unique ability to use neural reference frames (Hawkins, J. (2021) “A Thousand Brains”) across context/domain specialisation producing new outcomes. I call it my “What if…” power. I’ve started reading about this ability and its connection to a lack of “neural pruning” in early development.

Next is probably my episodic memory. Not only has this allowed me to remember more than should (not all of it Star Wars related), but the use of story telling as a powerful medium for communication in ND (& NT) understanding and stickiness.

What advice would you give your younger self?

“You know that feeling that you’re different… you should probably get that checked out.”

“Not everyone will accept you and that’s okay, find your tribe and be happy.”

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