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Designing the future of the human-tech interface

Rick Bergman, EVP of Computing and Graphics at Advanced Micro Devices, came to campus to accept the 2019 ECE Alumni Impact Award and spoke about his career and the future of computing and human interface.

Rick Bergman and Mingyan Liu Enlarge
Rick Bergman accepts the ECE Alumni Impact Award from Mingyan Liu, the Peter and Evelyn Fuss Chair of ECE.

“As exciting as this decade has been in the human-machine interface, I think the next decade is going to be even more exciting,” said Rick Bergman (BS EE) during his ECE Alumni Award Seminar on Friday, October 25th, 2019.

Bergman, the Executive Vice president of Computing and Graphics at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), is the 2019 ECE Alumni Impact Award Winner. This award is the highest recognition granted by ECE to its alumni.

“Rick’s 30 plus years of technical and leadership experience in the computer industry has made lasting impact on technologies we now take for granted, from microprocessors and graphics chips, to high-performance PC, to interface solutions such as touch and display that most of us use many times a day,” said Mingyan Liu, the Peter and Evelyn Fuss Chair of ECE. “We are delighted to welcome him back to campus.”

Bergman is currently responsibile for AMD’s high-performance PC, gaming, and semi-custom businesses. He is a former president and CEO of Synaptics, a leading developer of human interface solutions including touch, display, IoT and biometrics solutions.

Prior to Synaptics, he served in a series of senior executive positions at AMD, where he was senior vice president and general manager of AMD’s Product Group from May 2009 to September 2011, and senior vice president and general manager of AMD’s Graphics Product Group from October 2006 to May 2009. During his time at AMD, Bergman was responsible for delivering microprocessors and graphics chips to AMD customers across server, client, embedded and game consoles, and for driving the technology that put a graphics chip and processor on a single piece of silicon.

Until AMD acquired ATI in 2006, Bergman was senior vice president and general manager of ATI’s PC Group. Additionally, he has held senior management positions at S3 Graphics, Texas Instruments, and IBM and was a board member of Maxwell Technologies from 2015 until it was acquired by Tesla in May 2019. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Colorado’s Executive MBA program.

Bergman began his talk reflecting on his time at U-M and how it gave him a strong foundation to build a successful career. He detailed the top five things he learned from Michigan:

  1. Friendships. Bergman said the friendships he made at Michigan continue to support and inspire him today.
  2. There’s no substitute for hard work.
  3. Understanding hardware and software is a critical advantage. Bergman said a lot of engineers pigeon-hole themselves into one or the other, but Michigan gave him the opportunity to learn both, and it was a tremendous asset to his career.
  4. Solving problems. No matter how much technical information an engineer possesses, it’s not helpful unless they know how to solve problems. Bergman said Michigan taught him to think critically about how to approach problems.
  5. Technology has an amazing power to change lives.

Bergman went on to speak about the industry in general. He prophesized that eventually, the human-tech interface will be so ubiquitous that people won’t even be aware of it.

“You children, someday, won’t understand what a switch is,” Bergman said, referring to a light switch. “They’ll just expect that naturally lights will come on and the temperature will adjust and [the room] will recognize who they are.”

Bergman also shared his own philosophies about the tech industry and advice to those who may want to pursue leadership paths. He stressed the importance of having a strong breadth of skills (as technology evolves so rapidly), be willing to take risks, not burning bridges with former employees/peers, and doing the right thing.

Video: Rick Bergman's talk on "Leading through High Performance Technology."
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Alumni News; Events; Honors and Awards; Human computer interaction; Mingyan Liu