Rituparna Mandal, General Manager, MediaTek

Rituparna began her journey with MediaTek in 2015 as Director of Advanced CPU and Foundation IP Technology. She has more than 22 years of experience in the deep tech space, having held several roles at Texas Instruments and in addition to her own entrepreneurial endeavours, including creating her own semiconductor technology firm before joining the MediaTek team. 

 

The manufacturing industry all over the world is standing at the precipice of severe negative impacts due to COVID-19. A major issue faced by the global manufacturing sector was the disruption in supply chains due to lockdowns across the world. The phenomenon led to a drastic shortage of devices and caused availability issues, especially as the pandemic led to a boom in demand. In fact, with social distancing, every child was home-schooled and every person, except those involved in essential services, was working from home, leading to a huge demand for connectivity devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Thus, from an electronics and semiconductor standpoint, there was a surge in demand. Still, the manufacturing sector faced challenges while synchronizing social distancing rules, creating a safe zone for workers, and meeting consumer requirements.

The pandemic situation has, indeed, altered the way organizations and leaders handle decisions with all the employees placed on remote working for an extended period of time. As the General Manager at MediaTek Bangalore, Rituparna Mandal was responsible for leading the project teams and also ensuring that the entire site was taken care of. The company’s foremost priority was ensuring employee safety and health, and this was the basic principle around which our entire strategy revolved. She opines, “We worked towards striking the right balance between employee health, safety, and business continuity, and it was no easy task”.

Joining MediaTek in 2015, Rituparna came into the company when the startup she used to work for, Immensa was acquired by MediaTek and was re-joining a corporate set-up. She says, “Building my career here has been an exciting and dynamic journey. Given that the Bangalore site is still a very young entity, the kind of initiatives I have worked on has demanded innovation and creativity from my end and made me push my boundaries as a leader. The organization has offered me technical opportunities to explore and grow my capabilities, and it has been an exciting journey. I look forward to a long and fruitful association in the years ahead”.

Being an R&D site, MediaTek Bangalore introduced engaging and interactive technical dialogues through Tek Fridays where they invite internal and external experts to interact with the team members. Once Rituparna became the General Manager, my focus was on making MediaTek Bangalore ‘The place to be’. As she was responsible for the entire site, she could no longer limit her focus to work commitments or project deliverables. The role enabled Rituparna to widen her horizons by working on improving employee engagement and making MediaTek Bangalore a Great Place to Work. She states, “Considering our modest budgets, we at MediaTek always adopt innovative approaches to employee engagement and retention. My aim has been to create a workplace whose culture is that of innovation while making it fun and engaging at the same time, built on a foundation of trust and I have brought in several initiatives to ensure the same”.

MediaTek powers 1.5 billion connected devices every year, including mobile phones, home entertainment, connectivity, IoT products, smart TVs, voice assistant devices (VADs), android tablets, set-top boxes as well as optical and Blu-ray DVD players. Their USP lies in the fact that they are the only semiconductor company catering to such diverse product categories. MediaTek is the number 1 chipset maker, globally, for smart devices such as Chromebooks, voice assistant devices or smart speakers, smart TVs, etc. They are focused on technology democratization and enabling customers to face the new normal in a productive and optimal manner. “Another characteristic that makes MediaTek products unique is that we are pushing technology boundaries continuously, across segments. For instance, MediaTek and Samsung introduced the world’s first 8K QLED TV equipped with MediaTek’s custom Wi-Fi 6 chipset and the flagship TV was the only 8K TV, worldwide, which offered support for Wi-Fi 6 connectivity. MediaTek is also at the forefront of the 5G domain and has already launched several premium and mainstream 5G chips under its MediaTek Dimensity SoC family”, points out Rituparna.

Creating an Employee-Friendly Environment

MediaTek’s approach towards employee engagement and productivity entailed understanding that if they take care of employee wellbeing, they would be committed to making business plans a reality. “From a project standpoint, there were several critical projects we worked on, including advances on our collaboration with Intel on 5G laptops and computers. The collaboration was made difficult due to social distancing, and we had to create innovative methods to ensure seamless coordination and not let physical distance come in the way of innovation”, remarks Rituparna.

An adverse effect of work from home has been that work now involves nothing but completing projects and assignments. Previously, work also had interesting elements like meeting at the coffee station to catch up on non-work topics, dressing up for formal events, attending celebratory lunches or dinners, and other team activities. In such a scenario, it is doubly important to ensure employee engagement and boost motivation. Communication, across levels, is key to engagement and motivation. To keep up the positive spirit, the company brought in several initiatives to enable their associates, like daily sync up meetings, having experts on standby to enable seamless coordination and brainstorming, offering remote access to labs in HQ, engaging employees with a fun and technical meetings, and conducting virtual ‘Bring Your Own Coffee’ sessions where they all took part in fun games and discussions.

Also taking efforts to ensure that employees felt they were in a safe zone, without worrying about job security, Rituparna motivated employees to better adapt to work from home and remote collaboration with constant encouragement through different channels. Another thing she focused on, from a leadership perspective, was communication – ensuring that proper communication channels were open across all levels of the organization was very important to keep everyone on the same page – whether it was the communication of the situation at a ground level to the headquarters, or communication on one on one basis with employees, transparent and clear communication made a big difference to ensuring full cooperation and support across the board.

The pandemic has made everyone realize that employee engagement activities are as critical as project meetings. During this time, different ways of celebrating important milestones were thought of. For all employees who completed 5 years at MediaTek Bangalore, greeting cards with a personal congratulatory message from Rituparna, along with a small gift were sent out. “I truly believe small gestures like these play a big role in solidifying employee relationships with the company in the long run”, remarks Rituparna.

A Journey of Learning

Having always been a topper, Rituparna always wanted to be the best in everything she did, rather than being better than anyone else. Being a head-girl at school or the class representative in college, Rituparna has always been there when required to step up. The constant thirst for learning and becoming the best version of herself has been her motto in life. She says, “My parents instilled in me the lesson that I should always give my 100% to anything I take up and never have any regrets. My parents taught me to not let go, even though that would be the easier choice. They instilled in me the drive to stay in the game even though it may seem tough at the time because seeing it to the end would be totally worth it”.

Throughout her career, Rituparna has been fortunate enough to come across several inspirational leaders who mentored her throughout the years. “I have been on a constant journey of imbibing leadership lessons from those around me. I have a set of core values that I live and work by – integrity, excellence, innovation, creativity, and having fun. These core values are deeply embedded within me and have been shaped by the several great managers I have worked with throughout my career, both at Texas Instruments as well as in MediaTek”, says Rituparna.

With work, home, and childcare becoming entwined to an unimaginable extent during the lockdown, there were no boundaries between work and home for Rituparna. A typical day for her involves completing team meetings, working on projects, taking care of the household requirements, and returning to work or engage with her associates. Although work has become more hectic, Rituparna has been enjoying her time at home and garden. She adds, “I practice yoga, meditation, and gardening to stay calm. Throughout the pandemic, I have tried my level best to help in whatever way I can, whoever I can – whether it is supporting the migrant working population with funds and organizing open kitchens for them, or sponsoring PPE kits and materials for health workers or even fostering stray animals in our vicinity. I firmly believe that no act of kindness is too small, and that is what the world needs right now – true empathy and support”.

Keeping up with the Tech Trends

With technology and innovation being her passion, Rituparna started her career as a circuit designer and layout engineer and considers her first professional milestone to develop into a project manager. She recalls, “During my stint at Texas Industries, I worked on library architecture for smartphones, and I recall a project where we had to create the highest density library architecture for smartphones. We spent days and nights working on data and designing the best possible solution. It was a moment of triumph and a major milestone when our design being incorporated into the Nokia smartphone”.

Later on moving to memory design in silicon, which was extremely complex and demanding, Rituparna aided several revamps, that benefited the company tremendously in terms of customer satisfaction as well as an improved baseline. “I am extremely proud of this milestone, especially since my son was also born during this project, and I worked on it right after my maternity leave. The project took up almost two years of my career, and it was an immensely satisfying period, both personally and professionally”, remarks Rituparna.

Considering the designing of the flagship MediaTek Helio G90T chip as the most important milestone during her time at the company, Rituparna reminisces, “We were racing against time to develop the entire chip, on an innovative core, and it was a wow moment to hold the G90T embedded Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro in my hand at the end of the journey. The innovative MediaTek HyperEngine Game technology, which powers all the new G series chips, was also conceptualized and developed by my team and that is a defining part of my career at MediaTek”.

Picturing the Road Ahead

Going ahead, MediaTek is monitoring the situation closely and focusing on ensuring employee safety. Since the pandemic is not easing, the company is planning to extend work from home for a few more months while also creating a roadmap to ensure our commitments to customers are honoured. Building a safe zone in the office where the employees can come to work for essential tasks while remaining safe, MediaTek will consider reopening the office in a phased manner later on as the situation improves. “Covid-19 has taught me that we should not try to control things that are beyond our power, such as the spread of the pandemic or the possibility of creating a cure. This has helped me be less stressed as I have accepted that while some things, on a macro-scale, cannot be in our control, we can focus our energies on what we do have control over and make that a positive experience”, opines Rituparna.

Keeping up with the change in the world evolving so fast has become a necessity. Advising the beginners who aspire to be experts in the industry, Rituparna concludes, “A motto I swear by is to ‘stay relevant and keep learning’. My advice would be to make yourself relevant for today and future-ready for tomorrow. A winning combination of commitment, hard work, and passion will help you be an expert in your chosen sector. A thirst for learning, knowing your surroundings, a genuine spark of interest and passion will make you an expert in any field you choose”.

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