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Advanced Micro Devices, one of the biggest chip-design companies in the world, has appointed Lisa Su as its president and chief executive officer. She is the latest female top executive at a major tech company, and it is the first time a woman has broken the glass ceiling at the 45-year-old AMD.

Su, 44, succeeds Rory Read, 52, who has stepped down in a surprise announcement. Read will move into an advisory role through the end of 2014.

AMD is a perennial No. 2 to Intel’s lead in the PC microprocessor business, but the chipmaker has branched out to dominate some sectors, such as processors for video game consoles like the new PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. Since 2012, AMD has cut its operating costs by 30 percent and kept its cash at about $1 billion. It has also cut back on staff and focused its chip-design efforts.

“I am deeply honored to have this opportunity to lead AMD during this important time of transformation,” Su said in a statement. “Our world-class technology assets combined with the incredible talent and passion of the AMD team provide us with a unique opportunity to shape the future of computing. I look forward to expanding on the strong foundation we have built under Rory’s leadership as we develop industry-leading technologies and products for a diverse set of markets to drive sustainable and profitable growth.”

Before joining AMD, Su was the senior vice president and general manager for networking and multimedia at Freescale Semiconductor. She also spent 13 years at IBM and was a member of the technical staff at Texas Instruments. Su holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Leadership succession planning has been a joint effort between Rory and the board and we felt that Lisa’s expertise and proven leadership in the global semiconductor industry make this an ideal time for her to lead the company,” said Bruce Claflin, the chairman of AMD’s board of directors. “The board looks forward to continuing to work with Lisa and the rest of the senior management team to build on the company’s momentum. I would also like to thank Rory for his many accomplishments and contributions positioning AMD for long-term success by helping to create a strong foundation and clear path to re-establish the company’s growth and profitability.”

Read joined AMD three years ago after leaving the No. 2 job at one of AMD’s biggest customers, Lenovo. He hired Su in 2012 and appointed her the head of various business units. More recently, she was appointed chief operating officer responsible for AMD’s business units, sales, global operations, and infrastructure enablement teams.

Read said in a statement, “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to lead such a talented team and proud of what we have accomplished during such an important chapter in the company’s history. Together, we have established the right strategy to enable AMD to continue to grow and transform. I am confident that Lisa is the right leader to drive AMD forward.”

Patrick Moorhead, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said, “It’s a good time for Lisa Su to be stepping in as CEO at AMD as the company is in great need of growth, and growth comes from products, and Lisa is a product person. She is very respected inside the company and outside the company, and has a pedigree like most semi conductor CEOs. We also can’t forget that the places that AMD wants growth are in embedded and semi custom, an area which Lisa has extensive experience.”

In the video below, Su said she is a “geek” and views the new job as an “incredible opportunity.” Her goal is to make AMD a great company. She noted the market is changing fast, and she is very focused on customers. There will be 50 billion connected devices in the future, she said, and she wants AMD to be in as many of them as possible.

 

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