Q & A with NJIT Alumni Gian Francisco '07

Gian at his new home in the Colorado Rockies

When he was a senior at NJIT, Gian Francisco (2007) led a student team that won a nation wide engineering contest. Sponsored by IBM and the History Channel, the contest asked students to design novel ways to provide electricity to Manhattan. Francisco’s team proposed such innovative ideas -- solar panels coated with nano-crystals, solar panels on sky bridges, and superconductive transmission cables -- that he and his teammates were named “IBM Engineers of the Future.”

Francisco graduated this past May with a degree in electrical engineering. He was an honors college student whose grades were as outstanding as his research. IBM sponsored his senior research project, for which he developed an integrated circuit to improve MP3 players and cell phones.

 He also worked as a summer intern for Intel. His superiors at Intel were so impressed with his work, that they told him a full-time awaited him after he graduated from NJIT.

And earlier this summer, Francisco began working as a design automation engineer for Intel. He works in Intel’s design plant in Fort Collins, Colorado. It’s his job to help design the next-generation microprocessor.

Can you explain what a design automation engineer does?
Design Automation engineers work on the software tools used to design a computer chip.  It’s a diverse sub-division of the microprocessor design industry where projects span from making the design process quicker and easier, while other projects assist in making a chip faster and more efficient.  A microprocessor has so many transistors (to the scale of hundreds of millions) and layers, and designers need a lot of help with the  software and just finishing the task in a reasonable time frame.  Design automation is done at various stages and levels of the design process, from the top level schematic to the layout of the transistors.  In most cases, it's all controlled by writing code.

For my job, I'm currently working with software intended to point out electrical discrepancies in a computer chip design.  My job is to make sure that our next generation products do not violate design and electrical rules.

What’s it like living in Fort Collins, Colorado?
Fort Collins is my kind of town -- I absolutely love it.  Last year, Money Magazine named it the best place to live in America. I live in a house that my buddy owns. There are three of us living here and we are all new hires, former interns, recent college grads working at Intel. It takes me 10 minutes to drive to work, and I pay $350 a month in rent. How awesome is that?! Everyone is so laid back and extremely friendly.  The city is flooded with engineers since Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Agilent, and AMD have all set up camp here. The best thing about the town would have to be the Rockies; I'm excited to go hiking, snowboarding, snowshoeing, camping, or rafting every weekend.

How did you get the Intel job?
In the summer of 2005, the Career Development Services at NJIT posted a job for an internship at Intel. I quickly applied. Luckily, I did well on several interviews and obtained the summer co-op position, which was at the Intel site in Parsippany. The site worked on telecom projects, which was fun but didn't interest me as much as computer chips did.  I networked my way through the company and spoke to Intel managers all over the United States. After speaking with managers from Oregon, Silicon Valley and South Carolina, I decided I wanted to work at the Intel Colorado site.

Did you enjoy working as an intern for Intel?
I loved it. They left every project open-ended.  My mentors and managers provided me with some very solid projects; they didn’t give me mindless busy work. They encouraged me to be creative with each project, which made me feel like a real engineer. I was lucky to have worked with some great engineers. That’s why I wanted to work here full time.  

Did your major -- electrical and computer engineering -- help you get the internship, and then your full-time job at Intel?
My electrical and computer engineering classes gave me a really good background and gave me that edge during my internship.  I used everything NJIT taught me, from digital logic, field effect transistor theory to Very Large Scale Integration (VSLI), the process used to combine of millions of microscopic transistors to create an integrated circuit.  I guess Intel saw that I had all the essential skills and was capable of working there permanently. Two semesters prior to my graduating, they offered me a position to work there full time.

While a student here didn’t you also work with IBM?
I worked on several projects that will definitely help me with my career.  Through the ECE department, I was able to work with IBM engineers and developed an Application Specific Integrated Circuit aimed at the portable electronics market (MP3 players, cell phones, etc.).  I laid out every transistor, all at the micron level; some of them were 16 micrometers long! This was all done through software, of course. The project was intense but I learned so much. When the chip is done it looks like a work of art!

Why did you major in electrical and computer engineering?
Simple: Because I loved it. I believe that if you love what you do, success and creativity will automatically follow.  I promised myself that I will love what I do in my career. I worked a lot of odd jobs when I was younger, and I hated most of them.  Those odd jobs made me realize how cool it would be to wake up every morning to a job that I loved.

What motivated you to be such a good student?
I remember having a really great childhood in the Philippines.  My parents decided to move to the United States because the economy wasn't really booming there (and it didn’t show any signs of a improving). In any case, it's hard on a family to move from their native country and start life over in a new country.  My parents made a lot of sacrifices to help me and I didn't want any of their efforts to be in vain. So I worked hard to impress them and make them happy. I saw that good grades and great academic progress made them proud, so I kept at it.

What made your NJIT years so happy and successful?
After a while, you form bonds with your classmates; and working on team projects gets to be really fun. I learned to really love my major and developed a huge curiosity towards how electronics worked.  It's really fun to know how these gadgets work!  Outside of academics, I tried to go out to NYC every once in a while. I liked to play guitar and learn as many songs as I can.  I was also an avid cartoonist and drew cartoons for the Vector. My family is full of funny people.  We crack jokes on each other all the time.  My parents are super supportive and I couldn't have accomplished what I did at NJIT without them.  I found it really funny when they told me to slow down on the school work and try to relax and have fun.

Can you talk a little about your background?
I was born in the Philippines and came to the U.S. when I was eight years old. I grew up mostly in Elizabeth, N.J., and attended Elizabeth High School. I can attribute my trouble-free high school career to the AP and honors classes I took.  I kept busy after school with organizations and some of the music programs at school.  My parents were both born in the Philippines and also went to college there. I'm still fluent in Tagalog (the Filipino language) and I try to go back there as much as I can to visit family and relatives.

Will you come back to Jersey to see your family or will they visit you?
Actually, a lot of my family and friends are interested in Colorado and want to visit me here.  They want to ski and snowboard the Rockies and explore the outdoors. But I will try to visit N.J. as much as I can.

What about your NJIT friends: Do you keep in touch with them?
I made a lot of great friends at NJIT, and I try to keep in touch with many them mainly through the Internet.  I try to chat or email them as much as possible.

Do you see yourself working at Intel for awhile? What are your plans for the future?
Intel treats me very well and I can’t imagine working for any other company in the foreseeable future.  In addition to working full-time, I plan to continue my education part-time and get my masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering.  I’m looking into several local universities as well as schools that offer distance-learning programs. But I’m just thrilled to be living in a great town and working at a job I love. And I’m grateful to NJIT for giving me the background to make it all possible.