People of Intel – Ann Tilson

The people of Intel are at the heart of all that we do - discover their stories




Ann Tilson,
Dedicated Emergency Response Team

I am used to being the only woman in my environment. I grew-up with two brothers and now live with my husband and two sons! Starting in Intel 23 years ago as a technician, I was part of a team where I was the only woman. Recently, I became the first, and so far only, woman on Intel Ireland’s Dedicated Emergency Response Team (DERT). I joined the team along with Brian O’Connell and Mick Gillen and we couldn’t have been made more welcome to what is a strong and inclusive team that supports and shares with each other to provide 24/7 emergency response for Intel’s entire Leixlip campus.

While working as a technician, an interesting job which I enjoyed as every day was different, I became aware of a group of people, volunteering alongside their 'real’ job to support the DERT. At this point I had been in Intel for about 10 years, and I applied to join the Emergency Response Team (ERT). Joining the ERT opened many doors for me. Literally, it gave me ‘access all areas’ allowing me to fully appreciate the complexity of what goes into Intel’s manufacturing process and gave me the opportunity to meet and interact with people working across the campus who I might otherwise have never met. Most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to help people.

Most of my colleagues have qualifications in areas such as Engineering or Science, but I came to Intel by a less orthodox route. In school I was good at Art and Mathematics, not as unusual a combination as you might think, and went on to study in the College of Marketing & Design (now part of TU Dublin City Campus) where I focused on Environmental Design. The timing was bad and when I graduated there were few jobs. I worked in a few sectors related to design, but the jobs offered no progression opportunities. For a number of years I lived in County Meath and passed Intel’s Leixlip Campus every day on my long commute and often thought, if I worked there I’d be at work already. By chance, Intel announced that they urgently required 30 technicians to work in Single edge cartridge connection (SeCC), so I applied. Applying to Intel was a practical decision as our first child was quite young and with the long commute to Dublin, I hardly saw him. He’d be asleep when I left in the morning, and was asleep when I returned. Working in Intel changed all that. My commute was much shorter, and Intel’s compressed work week meant I was at home with my family three/four days each week. I was delighted with my new job and progressed to working in the FAB, an environment like no other I had ever experienced. I loved that Intel was at the ‘coalface’of technology and that things changed so rapidly there was constant evolution in the job. This evolution meant I was able to run production from an office environment called the ROC (Remote Operations Control).

Joining ERT I expected that responding to general factory callouts and emergencies would be the core of that job but unexpectedly it was the First Responder Training that I enjoyed most. ERT training shows you how to respond to a critical situation in a focused and safe manner. When you arrive at the scene muscle memory kicks in and you tell yourself, “The scene is safe, I’m wearing gloves.” It’s only a few seconds but it clicks you into ERT mode and the initial pause focuses you on what you need to do. It’s a mantra that gets you straight into the ERT mind-set to respond both efficiently and effectively.

ERT training is constant and repetitive. It has to be as the constant repetition builds confidence and automates your response, so you do what is required rather than second-guessing yourself. Joining ERT you are brought on call-outs and given progressively more responsibility, encouraged rather than thrown in at the deep-end. The large team of ERTs are led by the DERT who support and encourage the volunteers giving them the confidence that they can 'fly-solo'. The network I developed across the site and across all departments was very helpful when I was a technician as I now had a wider circle of experienced Techs to call on for solutions and help in my core job.

Despite being fully committed to my job I sometimes found it frustrating that I could not join the responds to critical incidents because I was running production and could not always leave my post. When an opportunity to apply for a full-time DERT position, I jumped at it.

Now, as a full-time DERT, following an induction period where I had to familiarise myself with every corner of Intel’s Leixlip plant, I am involved in training new and existing ERT volunteers, planning for eventualities and for the new Fab which is under construction and doing regular preventative ‘site walks’ to identify issues before they become problems. My job with DERT is as much that as a mentor as it is being a first-responder, coaching, training and encouraging others. I held a very responsible position in the ROC and I took it very seriously. In DERT, my position is just as responsible, perhaps more so, but in a different way. When a colleague becomes unwell on-site we are alerted and respond promptly.  When they are at their lowest and vulnerable, they put themselves completely in our hands. That trust is a privilege and must not be broken.

LIFE IS FOR LIVING and for learning. In 2009 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Surviving the treatment, which was a challenge, has changed my perspective on life. My mantra now is If I can survive that I can survive anything … you have only one life … go for it”.

That realisation also brought me back to my artistic roots in art, baking, interior design and stage design. I have always been creative and so I believe it’s a case of “Use it or lose it”.  From time to time we hear of the benefit of STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Maths) although the ‘A’ often gets forgotten, but I use it everyday in both my job and at home.

I am passionate about helping others, particularly women, within Intel. When I started in Leixlip, it was a very male dominated environment. Intel has made efforts to redress the imbalance through various incentives and equality and inclusion have become part of the culture at Intel. Whenever I can, I encourage women to put themselves forward for a position that is coming up, for additional training or to return to college. Sometimes it is a case of pairing a new hire with an experienced and relevant mentor to support them in the first few months until they find their feet which can be the difference between them staying with Intel or moving on.

I have been involved with the Women in Intel Network (WIN) at the Leixlip site for many years. About 18-months ago I saw an opportunity to serve on the WIN International Board (WIN X Site). I am currently the Marketing & Communications Co-Chair of WIN X Site. One of our responsibilities as co-chairs, is to publish regular newsletters, where we get to interview some of the most interesting women and men from around the world, working for or associated with Intel in one way or another. Like ERT, being Communications & Marketing Co-Chair on the WIN X Site Board gives me another kind of 'access all areas' and the chance to connect to wonderful people and from whom I have learned so much about the varied jobs and amazing women that make up the organisation.

Another aspect of Intel life is the annual Intel Mini-Scientist that I enjoy taking part in. I have been a volunteer judge for many years, and it is one of the most enjoyable aspects of working for Intel - visiting a school each year, speaking with the children about their projects, seeing them grow and develop from year to year, and the excitement when the winners are announced. The school I visit is a small rural one and they have fully embraced the Intel Mini-Scientist Competition which quickly became the main event of their year, every year.  In 2015 I spoke with two fourth class girls about their project. They went on to represent the school in the Grand Final which they went on to win. Winning the National Final of the Intel Mini Scientist changed their perspective on their future. Neither had an expectation of going on to third level, but both are now in fifth year and full steam ahead for university. The fact that Intel can, at such an early stage in their development, inspire and support young female scientists to break the norms means so much to me. My son is in fourth-year Engineering and there are no women in his class. Given how entrenched gender bias is in the Science and Engineering sectors, women need to be encouraged and helped.

Life is busy and fulfilling, just how I like it. I enjoyed my work in the Fab and I love being part of DERT, but I’m also looking forward to retiring in a few years. I have lots of plans and ideas for when I retire from Intel to be busy and creative, keep learning and developing as a person. Life is for living and for doing as much as we can to help others. Live life and never take tomorrow for granted.


Read some more of the stories from of our People of Intel series.