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April 10, 2023

Faces of the Future: Documentary on Microelectronics Careers Debuts on Public Television

Last fall, three twentysomethings eager to find careers in microelectronics set out on a road trip to explore opportunities, talk with industry pros, and find their futures. Hailing from the Rockies and the southern U.S., Alyssa Feagans, Marcus Knighton, and Tara Greig spent weeks together on a tour starting in Austin, Texas and ending in Portland, Oregon, covering nearly 1,200 miles. Along the way, the trio interviewed workers from nearly a dozen chip companies. Their journey was chronicled in Chip In, a new documentary from Roadtrip Nation, a nonprofit that supports road trips to capture empowering stories that help students find careers. Chip In was made possible by the SEMI Foundation.

The travel log shines a bright light on the abundance of careers in the semiconductor industry and the aspirations of three young people considering careers there. It is compelling viewing for both job seekers hoping to find careers in chips and for employers looking to understand this critical talent pool as the industry workforce ages and companies are straining to fill open roles.

Pursuing their dreams

ImageAlyssa, 23, lives in Denver, Colorado. She is a software engineer in the defense field, but she’s not sure where she wants her career to lead. Raised by a single mom, she struggled in high school but fell in love with math in college and is now keenly interested in how microelectronics intersects with software security vulnerabilities. Even though she’s highly employable and skilled, she’s challenged by her self-image.

“I struggle with imposter syndrome a lot, even as a full-time software engineer. It hasn’t gone away, even though I got my degree,” she said. “I’m always doubting myself and asking why I got the job, not someone else... even though I’m doing a good job.” By going on the trip, Alyssa hoped to learn particularly from other women how they overcame challenges and succeeded in the field.

ImageFinancial pressures forced Marcus, 23 and who lives in Douglasville, Georgia, to leave college. He recently graduated from the Per Scholas workforce training program. He loves gaming and the mechanical side of tech and wants to find a rewarding career that will also help him support his mother. He loves solving problems and working with his hands, and is determined to find his professional path.

“My future is kind of foggy,” he said. “I hope by going on this road trip, I will be able to take a step back and try to develop myself and learn more.”

ImageTara, 22, lives in Austin, Texas. She’s an intern at TEL in Austin while she pursues advanced degrees in energy and public affairs. Both her parents work in the microelectronics industry, so her grasp of chip industry opportunities field is strong, though she wants to discover more about the positive impact chips can have on climate restoration, environmental conservation, and food security. Even with her industry knowledge, she is still unsure where her path could lead.

“I’m still uncertain about exactly what I want to do,” said Tara. “What I’m hoping to get out of (this road trip) is a door opened to more unconventional and growth sparking opportunities.”

Over the course of the trip, Tara, Marcus and Alyssa interviewed 11 professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds and working in roles spanning the microelectronics value chain, ranging from software engineer and product engineering director to co-founder. The pros shared their journeys to their current positions, encouraged the roadtrippers to find pathways to careers they found most inspiring, and left them with the sense that anyone with an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) can find their professional home in microelectronics.



The roadtrippers tour an ASML fab in San Diego.


Industry pros offer guidance

HSNaeiri Cholakian is Director of Project Engineering at Syntiant in Irvine, California. Born in Iran, she confessed that she was intimidated by joining an industry dominated by men and, early in her career, often felt her ideas were dismissed because of her gender. Ultimately, the challenges she faced only inspired her. “To do things out of your comfort zone—that’s where there’s the potential to find the better version of you,” she said.

HSA.J. Rivero, a Systems Integration Engineer at Torc Robotics in Austin, Texas, stressed the importance of taking action rather than waiting on the sidelines. “You have to get comfortable with failure and focus on doing rather than theorizing on how you would do it,” he says. “Take that initiative to get you where you want to go.”

Billy Rios, co-founder of QED Secure Solutions, talked about grit, determination, and passion.

“At some point I just HSdecided I’m going to do the things I’m passionate about and that I love,” he said. “And so when it comes to... the long path, when it comes to it being hard, it’s a little bit easier to accept that.”

The roadtrippers came away with new perspectives and inspiration to keep exploring their career paths.

“I’m feeling inspired,” said Alyssa. “I need to keep exploring. Jobs will always be there, school will always be there, but sometimes you just have to throw yourself out there to opportunities you might not get again – and this was one of them.”

Marcus had similar feelings. “Before the trip, I was feeling unsure, but now I feel like I have more of a guided way. I don’t really have to have a college degree, I just have to show that I’m a continuous learner, willing to jump in.”

Tara finished the trip ready to take action. “Hearing what the leaders had to share with us – now it’s my job to act on it,” she said.

Roadtrippers to share their stories at SEMICON West

The first documentary of its kind, Chip In debuted on select public television stations across the U.S. on April 8th.  Additional markets will premiere the documentary throughout the rest of April and May. Visit Roadtrip Nation or check local listings for air dates and times. 

LogoThe two episodes, each about 25 minutes long, are also available on the Roadtrip Nation website. The roadtrippers will also be taking the main stage at SEMICON West 2023, July 11-13 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, for a panel conversation about their experience. The SEMICON West Workforce Development Pavilion will showcase the documentary. Registration for the exhibition and conference is open.


The film is part of the SEMI Foundation’s Industry Image and Awareness Campaign, an initiative designed to demystify microelectronics to job seekers and to illuminate the many careers within the industry. The documentary was made possible in part through generous support from SEMI member companies including Applied Materials, Entegris, Intel, KLA and TEL along with Strada Education Foundation and SEMI. The documentary was proudly supported by the SEMI Foundation

For more information on semiconductor industry careers, visit the SEMI Foundation Career Portal.

Discover the benefits of SEMI Workforce Development initiatives or become involved by contacting us at

Michelle Williams is deputy director of the SEMI Foundation.