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My journey as a Silicon Engineer – Mihai’s story

Book open Reading time: 5 mins

We caught up with Mihai to discover more about his background, hear about his experiences at Graphcore and get his exclusive advice on how you can follow in his footsteps.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I studied Computer Engineering at the Technical University of Iasi, Romania. After this, I began a two-year Masters program in Embedded Systems but postponed this after a semester to gain real industry experience at Graphcore.

At university I explored both the software and hardware side of things and found that my passion lay more with hardware. With this realisation, I focused my studies on computer architecture and chip design. Diving deeper into the interaction between software and hardware, I discovered the world of embedded systems where the code needs to be specialised for the specific hardware. I was drawn into the niche by the exciting challenges of making more efficient code.

Knowing that I wanted to develop my skillset and grow my knowledge, I enrolled in different technology competitions. The rewards of these were huge in terms of the teamwork skills, ability to adapt and efficiency of decision making I gained.

What stood out to you about Graphcore when applying for opportunities?

AI and hardware accelerators are two key focus areas at Graphcore, this would allow me to combine my passion for hardware architectures with machine learning, a subject that I briefly explored in the last year of university.

Another reason I was attracted to Graphcore was that they included the chip in the final product. I liked that I could see the chip road map from the concept to the physical implementation. Additionally, with its large silicon department, Graphcore is the dream of hardware enthusiasts, like me. Combined with this, the company was a start-up in a dynamic field. I was able to work in a rapidly growing environment, full of innovation and experiments.

Last but not least, Graphcore is a magnet for talents attraction. When looking at opportunities with the firm it was clear I would be working with a diverse range of employees from across the world with different technical backgrounds. The company has a multicultural attitude and there is a key focus on inclusion, a sign that there is a great team environment focused on collaboration.

How did you find the application process for Graphcore?

My application took place prior to the pandemic, so was slightly different from the experience new joiners may have. After submitting an initial application, I completed a phone interview and an online code interview. Being successful in this, I was invited to a full day of on-site interviews. As you can imagine, travelling from a foreign country for an interview, I was full of nerves and emotions. But I can now say that it was an extraordinary experience where I got a real flavour for the Graphcore culture and brand.

Throughout the process the HR team kept in touch, making sure I felt supported during my interview process. Everyone I met was friendly and kind, ensuring I felt comfortable on the interview day.

On the day, I had three interviews with each large team from the silicon department (Physical Design, Logical Design and Verification). The interviewers were great, they guided me through the process and when I was unsure of an answer, they encouraged me with additional questions. I liked that there was an interest in both my technical and soft skills, with questions on my day-to-day motivation and passions.

This day was a brilliant opportunity for me to get to know the firm. Between interviews, the HR team organised activities, including an office tour and chats with current grads, to help me understand the graduate role and the work culture at Graphcore. On the tour, I was impressed by the stylish interior design of the office.

What is a ‘normal day’ like in your role?

My day starts with a great coffee and a stand-up meeting where all the team presents what they’re working on. This meeting provides a great snapshot of what everyone is doing and helps guide you in the right direction of who to ask if you face problems with a task.

Following the stand-up meeting, I set my priorities for the day. Each day is different, some days I will be checking test results and others I could be investigating failures or mismatches in a verification environment.

Every quarter, the team sets objectives that guide where we focus our effort and, using a top-to-bottom approach, we establish if we’re pushing in the right direction.

Lunchtime is a key part of the day for me, I find that this is a great way to connect with the team and to discuss our progress in a more relaxed environment.

For the remainder of the day, I am left to work on tasks such as implementing a new feature in our current infrastructure that would create a graph of the power consumed by our design. And to end the day, there are great social opportunities such as participating in a board game event.

How would you describe the culture at Graphcore?

The culture at Graphcore is built on mutual respect, active listening, and initiative. Everyone is encouraged to speak up, share their ideas and suggest new solutions for a range of problems. This open culture of idea-sharing is supported by 1:1 meetings with my manager.

At Graphcore, there is a high level of freedom within the team. I can be working on a project for a few weeks, but then change to do something completely new. The ability to choose the work I am doing is definitely something that I love about life at Graphcore.

Another word I’d use to describe the culture is collaborative. The final product is created by multiple teams, this allows me to see the bigger pictures and helps the team to deliver successful projects.

What piece of advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying to Graphcore?

If you’re passionate about tech I would encourage you to apply to Graphcore. There are so many opportunities here, and you will be working with cutting-edge technologies and learning from exceptional people.

It’s important to want to progress, improve and take your initiative. Having these qualities will put you in a strong position in the application process.

To make yourself stand out and help you create a personal brand, I’d recommend modernising your CV with a GitHub portfolio. And if you want to make a good impression in the code interview stage, practice is key.

If you’re feeling inspired, why not check out what live opportunities Graphcore has on offer and put Mihai’s advice into practice – explore the profile here.