Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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October 21, 2013

Honoring Her Mother’s Vision

Lakecia Gunter noticed how the magazines and books were piling up in her mother’s house. Her mother, a diabetic, had recently lost vision in one of her eyes.

Lakecia turned to her company’s technology for help. She reached for the Intel Reader, which allowed her mother to see the writing on the page “and feel like a whole person” again.

To her mother, it felt miraculous to be able to read again. To the daughter, it was just the sort of thing a computer engineer does every day: She uses technology to solve a problem.

“Each and every day I have the ability to help people,” Gunter said.

Gunter, 40, grew up near Orlando, raised by her hard-working single mother. When she was 11 or 12, her mom bought her a Commodore 64 computer, the best-selling personal computer at the time, which cost $595 (about $1,400 in today’s dollars). That set the young girl on a path of trying to understand how to program computers and use them to transform reality.

In high school she led an organization started by her principal called the Committee on Black Excellence. In that role she lobbied the school’s teachers and other leadership to find alternatives to suspending students who were struggling in school. “I knew deep down that they needed the same love, attention and guidance I received.”

Gunter parlayed the support of her family and her teachers into a stellar high school transcript. A guidance counselor suggested she consider majoring in computer engineering, a path that requires the learner to understand both the hardware and software aspects of technology.

“I thought computer engineering would make me more versatile and more marketable,” she says. “I wanted a better quality of life, and I knew education was the key to that.”

In the 1990s, Gunter attended the University of South Florida, located in Tampa, Florida and studied computer engineering, then attended Georgia Tech for a master’s degree in electrical engineering. She started her career as a design engineer, with Freescale Semiconductors formerly known as Motorola, where she did extensive work designing microcontrollers for air bags and anti-lock braking systems and other electronic components for automobiles.

Lakecia
Her immense love for teaching and mentoring took hold of her and she transitioned to teaching future engineers as a seventh-grade math Teacher in Texas. In 2004, she went to work for the Department of Defense as a systems engineer developing weapon systems for the Air Force in her home state of Florida.

In 2008, Gunter was recruited by a former Georgia Tech classmate to interview at Intel, the world's largest semiconductor chip maker, based in Portland, Oregon. She was thrilled to be offered a position as a technical program manager supporting Intel’s CPU validation efforts for third and fourth generation processors. After six months in her role as a technical program manager, Gunter was promoted to become a validation engineering manager.

The job also allowed her to explore a part of the country that was entirely new for her. “I can be at the mountains in under two hours, I’m less than an hour drive from some of the best wineries in the world, there are beautiful lakes and waterfalls — the list goes on and on,” said Gunter. “Portland also has some of the best restaurants in the United States, with an amazing live-music scene.”

At the end of 2012, Gunter moved over to Intel Labs — the company’s world-class research and development organization — to work as technical assistant and chief of staff to Intel’s chief technology officer. The position requires her to spend extended time with the company’s top technical officer assisting him in setting the research agenda and establishing technology priorities for both Intel Labs and the company. She also helps him develop messaging about Intel’s most recent innovations and its future direction.

“It’s given me that 25,000-foot view of what’s happening across the company and our plans to innovate across the whole computing spectrum.” In the process, the job has also allowed her to travel all over the world for meetings with company stakeholders including the top executives of vendors and partner companies.

“Intel has been a great experience,” Gunter said. But her supervisor isn’t the only person she aims to impress.

Gunter with her momGunter (right) with her inspirational mom.
“At the end of the day, I needed my family to say, ‘I’m so proud of you.’ And I needed to honor their investment in me.” Today she earns a living that allows her to treat her mom and other family members to some of the finer things in life. “God has blessed me tremendously, so it’s important for me to give back.” Most recently she bestowed on her mother a new computer — “with an Intel processor, of course!”

She gives back in other ways, too. Gunter volunteers with a variety of organizations as well as her company, speaking with students about engineering and the amazing opportunities in STEM career fields. “When you show them how they can use engineering to solve real world problems, that’s when kids get excited. Once that light bulb comes on, you’ve got them.” Gunter has seen this in her own nephew, who she talks to several times a week over the phone or via FaceTime discussing his math and science homework. “He loves math and science and wants to be an engineer.”

Said Gunter: “Students often say ‘math is hard’. When you show them how they do math every day and how it’s connected to every aspect of their life, they begin to change their perspective and say ‘math is easy.’ Kids are just sponges. They want to learn.”

Gunter has one final message for those who are considering pursuing a job in information technology.

“Imagine all the realms of possibility that are available in IT. What would you like to do? What would you like to see change? You have the ability to change your world.”