Written by Minyi Lee
How did a Taiwanese who went abroad after graduating from junior college become a key promoter of Apple chips?
Back in 2008, Lian Weihan’s LinkedIn profile update led to reports from the New York Times and other media that Apple was developing Arm-based iPhone chips.
In April of that year, Apple had just acquired PA Semi, a new chip design company, and the team became the foundation of Apple’s chip design team. At that time, the New York Times wrote: “PA Semi has gathered top-notch chip engineers including Lian Weihan.”
He took advantage of the opportunity to join Apple. Until 2021, Jim. Invited by Jim Keller to join the hot North American AI chip unicorn Tenstorrent as chief CPU architect. This is the second time in his career that he has been poached by this great master.
Zengshe Intel, Supermicro admission letter
Challenge yourself by joining a company that pays 25% less
Being able to jump onto the world stage is because practicing Weihan always takes a difficult path.
He is an authentic Taiwanese girl. When he was in junior high school, his mother bought a replica Apple computer from a Chinese mall and he was excited to explore the chip components. A seed was planted in his heart: one day he would go to the United States and learn the most powerful technology in the world.
At that time, he was studying at Dazhi Junior High School, a prestigious school, but he refused to be admitted to Jianzhong Middle School. He chose to attend Taipei Polytechnic College to learn first-hand electronic technology, and then went to the United States to study at the Institute of Computer Engineering.
His life choices are always like this. He doesn’t care whether the road is easy or not, he only cares about whether he loves it and whether he can get more challenges.
In 1994, after graduating from an American graduate school, he chose the most difficult CPU in the industry at the time as his career direction, and received admission letters from five companies including Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
“I like to do things that others don’t like to do,” Lian Weihan said. Intel, which was at its peak at the time, offered him a high salary, but he chose the smallest company with a salary 25% lower.
He observed that this small company called NexGen actually sent 8 people to interview him. Everyone asked very difficult questions. There must be something great about it!
After he joined, because the team was small and there were many contact opportunities, his abilities were enriched. Later, NexGen’s outstanding performance led to their acquisition by AMD, which launched AMD’s first CPU that could compete with Intel. He also began working under Keller, who was then AMD’s chief architect.
In 2003, PA Semi was established. The following year, Lian Weihan joined Keller, who was appointed as the company’s vice president, and became employee No. 7. “I like to start from scratch. It’s boring for others to do what they have done and then ask me to do it.” !」
Talk about books and philosophy with the chip master
Innovation “Don’t miss any details”
“I knew he was special,” Keller, now CEO of Tenstorrent, told Shang Zhou. When they worked together at PA Semi, Lian Weihan was responsible for a very complex project, but he was able to keep the entire design in mind and work with him. The team coordinated and found a solution. “We were a small team at the time and were under a lot of pressure, but Weihan was able to handle it very well!”
Twice in his career, he was willing to put aside his achievements in big companies like Super Micro and Apple and start new things with Keller. In addition to loving to take the difficult road, it was also because he could always learn outside-the-box thinking from Keller. .
After working together with Keller for about 10 years, Lian Weihan’s biggest realization is: if you want to innovate, you must first innovate your own body, mind, and behavior. “If you don’t step out of your own box, how can you talk about innovation?”
Keller always practiced this. He most often said to Lian Weihan: “Fuck around to figure out! (Fuck around to figure out! Only then will you come up with the solution)”
“He told me very early on: Weihan, don’t work all the time, do other things!” For example, if he likes to ride a cross-country bicycle, Keller would say: “Do you know why you are happy? When you encounter new things, your brain I will give you feedback.”
“This is why he is very innovative…, he (Keller) is not just an engineer, sometimes, I think he is more like a philosopher,” Lian Weihan said. They would play sailing together or talk about a new book, ” He thinks about many issues, sees many issues, and reads many people’s minds. He has his own set of (views) about biology, nature, social organizations, and interpersonal relationships.”
But Lian Weihan said that while innovating, he must be careful, “You don’t miss any details.” This allowed him to serve as the director of the CPU architecture team after PA Semi was acquired by Apple, and he continued to shine in the workplace.
At that time, Apple was designing the industry’s first 64-bit Arm mobile phone chip. The A7 chip was installed in the iPhone 5S, causing a sensation in the industry. “Weihan is always willing to accept the most difficult challenges. He is one of the key engineers who made the project come true. This has consolidated Apple’s position as the top CPU design team in the industry.” A former senior executive of Apple’s chip team recalled.
In the past two years, his unwillingness to admit defeat has prompted him to jump into the next battlefield: AI. “I saw the big wave (AI) and I was wondering how far it would go. I was very curious!” He joined Tenstorrent to work with Keller to break into the AI computing market that is currently monopolized by Huida.
His willingness to face the most difficult challenges and constantly break the boundaries has allowed him to leap from Taiwan to the world stage and continue to promote innovation at the forefront of the AI wave.(For more exciting content, please see the 1879 issue of “Business Weekly”)
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