S. Atiq Raza

Date:   Friday , November 21, 2008

Age 50
Place of Birth Lahore, Pakistan

Residence Silicon Valley

Family Wife, a son (22 years old) and a daughter (15 years old)

Came to the U.S. March 1979

Education BS (London University), MS (Stanford University)

First job and career Research Engineer in Telecommunications, Siemens/Telephone Industries of Pakistan

Company started NexGen with Thampy Thomas.

Year did an IPO 1995

Year became millionaire Undeclared

Favorite charity Undeclared

Lifetime goals To have a significant impact in the area of focus.

Net worth Undeclared

Philosophy of life Integrity, Intensity, Humanity.

Most inspired by Sidharata Guatama Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mohandas Gandhi

Most excited by The first time I saw my wife. Since then, every time I hear her voice during a busy day or see her smile or laugh, it makes my heart pound.

Most expensive thing ever bought The plane tickets when I left with my family for the U.S.A.

Atiq Raza is among those in the earliest generation of immigrants from South Asia to make a mark in Silicon Valley. He came to the United States in 1979 to study at Stanford and soon after jumped into industry. In that era, contends Raza, it took considerably more than engineering talent to succeed in industry and the bar was considerably higher than it is today. “Crossing over,” or gaining acceptability, took a lot of courage and determination.

At VLSI Technology, his first employer in the United States, Raza quickly was promoted to general manager. When Raza went for his first meeting with senior executives, he says the others kept looking at him in a way that suggested that Raza might have lost his way and entered the wrong room. They kept exchanging glances, too, he recalls.

Raza says that he and Vinod Khosla, whom he regards a peer, encountered — and successfully cut through — such awkwardness. It was a challenge then to “not appear from the subcontinent, to interact and express ourselves better.” Doing so was more difficult for both Raza and Khosla, as the two were involved not in technology alone, but also in management.

Raza not only overcame these hurdles but rose to the highest levels of management. He became chief executive at NexGen Microsystems Inc., a company he started with Thampy Thomas that was later acquired by Advanced Micro Devices in 1996. He went on to hold senior positions at AMD, at that time and even now the only chipmaker that has contested Intel’s supremacy. Raza and Khosla led the development of the K6 chip, as the company took on Intel in a classic David and Goliath battle. Raza also led AMD’s operations battle as these threatened to undermine all that its engineering team achieved in design. He loved the challenges that presented themselves in engineering and business.

“I get the greatest satisfaction in unraveling foggy technical details,” he says, “but I never want to lose my ability to go from the highest level of technique to (that of) business.”

At AMD, Raza’s compensation ran upwards of $8 million and he was widely believed to be the heir apparent to CEO Jerry Sanders, when he suddenly quit in the summer of 1999. In November, he founded Raza Ventures, an incubator program that aspires to develop core engineering technologies in areas such as semiconductors, embedded software and broadband.

When Raza is not thinking about technology, he is either romancing or philosophizing. He said he was “hypnotized” by the first sight of his wife, now an attorney in Santa Clara. Even now, years later, he confesses, his wife makes the same impression on him.

Philosophy and religion have touched Raza deeply too. A mathematics teacher in Lahore introduced him in his younger years to Gautama Buddha and the Mahabharata. Both Buddha and the Hindu religion made profound impressions on his life, Raza says, and “the New Testament resonated whatever was good in me.” As he worked toward engineering degrees, Raza was fascinated by Hegel, among others, and earned a bachelors degree in philosophy on the side.