We Shape What’s Essential: A Conversation with Hui Peng Koh 

Hui Peng discusses her journey from process engineer to General Manager, the CHIPS and Science Act and the future of GlobalFoundries’s most advanced manufacturing site 

Having dedicated her entire career to the semiconductor industry within GlobalFoundries’ (GF) walls, Hui Peng began her journey at GF’s Singapore site nearly a quarter-century ago, making her a familiar face these days in the hallways and cleanrooms of GF. Her path from process engineer to leading GF’s Malta, New York, fab has spanned the globe, and today, she leads a team of more than 1,200 employees in manufacturing and engineering operations. 

Recently her team in Malta gained significant attention following the announcement that it would receive the first major award proposed by the U.S. CHIPS and Science Act. With such an exciting development, we seized the opportunity to catch up with Hui Peng to talk about her role, leadership, and the insights and experiences shaping her vision for GF’s New York fab and the future of the semiconductor industry. 

Let’s start with the most recent developments. What are you most excited about for Malta fab’s next chapter following this proposed investment?

The proposed funding will support multiple GF projects, here in Malta and at our site in Burlington, VT. Here, the biggest impact the proposed investment is going to have in New York specifically is that we will be adding wafer manufacturing capacity to our Malta facility. The first part is the expansion of our capacity within the current four walls of the fab. The second phase, which involves the construction of a new state-of-the-art fab on our Malta campus, will come afterwards to support the industry as demand continues to rise. The goal of both phases is adding secure capacity for essential chip manufacturing for automotive and other key markets.

How will the proposed funding diversify GF’s Malta fab into new technologies and end markets?

The proposed investment will allow GF to bring different shades of technology to the fab. Independent of the funding, our goal as a foundry is always to diversify our technology portfolio to bring the most value to customers. We always say there are three elements needed to help us add capacity – GF investment, government investments, and customer demand. All three come together to help add capacity to bring new technologies to our end market customers across automotive, aerospace, defense, IoT and other vital markets to help them reach their goals. We’re excited that the generous investment from the Department of Commerce will enable us to do this faster.

Switching gears, could you tell us more about your journey that led you to being the GM of GF’s fab in Malta, NY?

I started my journey in the semiconductor industry as a lithography process development engineer in Singapore at Chartered Semiconductor, a site later acquired by GF. After receiving my master’s degree in engineering from Nanyang Technological University and spending a decade in technology development in Singapore, I moved to the United States to lead EUV lithography research, which is the process of using cutting-edge light technology to draw the tiny circuits inside. I returned to manufacturing facilities when the Malta fab was founded. I started by leading a module (Lithography), then became the overall module engineering leader. I’m incredibly honored to have stepped into the role of General Manager of the fab last summer.

I’d imagine all of your responsibilities keep you quite busy! What does your day to day look like as the leader of the fab?

My day to day is comprised of three primary tasks, which include:

  • Reviewing operations performance to ensure we are operating efficiently from a capacity and cost perspective
  • Strategy initiative reviews, to make sure that the fab is positioned for a bright future
  • Spending time with my team

My favorite part of the role is spending time with the extended team. Whether it’s one-on-one interactions in the halls of the fab or formal leadership gatherings, meeting with my team gives me energy and inspires me. Switching between these different duties can prove to be challenging at times, but it’s also what makes the job so exciting.

You are GF’s first female GM. Given this significant accomplishment in a historically male-dominated industry, what developments would you like to see in the semiconductor workforce?

I became a manager early on in my career. Along the journey, I have been able to motivate and inspire other female talent. In my current role as fab GM, I’m in a position where I can make a much bigger impact in fulfilling my aspiration to bring more women into the semiconductor industry. Driving the percentage of women in GF’s’ workforce is a goal we are continuously working towards, and we’ve already seen great progress in growing the percentage of females in new college graduates and our intern cohorts, which were 38% women last year. As I strive to further the professional growth of hundreds of women in the semiconductor workforce through mentorship, guidance and advocacy for female talent within GF, I also hope to see these efforts replicated on a wider scale throughout the industry.

What do you enjoy most about working with the local Malta community?

As one of the largest employers in the region, the engagement we have with the local community is very important to us. In fact, we owe the huge strides we are taking in workforce development in part to this community. For example, we partner closely with Hudson Valley Community College on our apprenticeship program to prepare individuals to fill positions in the organization, which has become even more critical due to the shortage of qualified workers. With GF being so well supported by our friends in Malta, we are always looking to give back to this community. From volunteering at the food pantry and animal shelters to sponsoring STEM events with local charitable organizations, I’m always happy to see our teams work together to make Malta a better place.

What is your advice to semiconductor professionals earlier in their careers, or individuals considering pursuing a career in the industry?

I always like to tell people that technically this is my first job. For everyone, it’s important to start with the things you love doing. Once you’ve identified your passion, you can continue to grow within a company or industry. It’s an extremely exciting time in the semiconductor industry, and I believe there are even more opportunities for individuals to grow, make an impact and be a role model to others on the same path. One of the biggest personal motivators for me has been the endless possibilities to learn and be part of the solution. In the semiconductor industry, there are so many opportunities to make a difference. There is never a dull moment in the job we are doing, and I’m lucky to be able to work alongside so many talented individuals at GF.

Are there any trends you’re looking forward to seeing in the industry in the next few years?

I’m watching two forces closely – one from a technology side, the other from the talent perspective. I’m excited to see artificial intelligence play out in the space. Due to its novelty, it has yet to be fully understood in terms of how it is going to translate to demand and the need for innovation. At GF, we are keeping a close eye on how the rise of AI will impact the technology we are driving, the customers we serve, and the role we play in the semiconductor industry.

Workforce development will also be a key part of the story. Right now, there’s a lot of attention on how to build talent quickly to support industry growth. In the next few years, I hope to see the industry come together more to address this issue as a whole, and I believe that the Malta fab and GF will play a very active role in developing a sustainable talent pipeline.