Students learn about importance of data from former CFO of Intel

Meara Isenberg

When he was a UT student, a young Stacy Smith was inspired by a lecture he heard from former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Now, returning to the University as the former CFO of Intel, he was the one in that seat.

“Steve painted this reality distortion around him, that whatever you believe walking in, when you walked out, you believed what he believed,” Smith said. “He had this sense that technology was going to change the world in a positive way. That was the reason I joined Intel.”

Smith, who now serves as group president of manufacturing, operations and sales at Intel, visited the Engineering Education and Research Center on Wednesday evening to share his life experience at the Fortune 500 company.

“The ability of somebody like Stacy Smith to share their experience with the students, to tell them what they’ve encountered since the University, it can both relate to them and see a glimpse into the future of who they might become,” said Jay Hartzell, dean of the McCombs School of Business and a moderator of the lecture.

Smith became CFO just as the 2008 recession hit. He said coming to grips with running the company during a period of uncertainty was one of his greatest challenges.

“When you didn’t know whether we’d stepped off into the abyss of another depression, whether financial markets were going to start shutting down around us, that was one of those trial-by-fire things,” Smith said. “We didn’t get everything right, but we got more right than wrong.”

Smith said Intel has grown from memory manufacturing to working with analytics and the cloud, focusing on autonomous driving and virtual reality. He said data is what links everything together.

“One of the biggest trends that is pushing the market over the next five years is going to be how much data is generated and collected,” Smith said. “My one piece of advice is anything that you can do to build your statistics skills or your data analytics skills is critical.”

Listening intently from the front row, business freshman Inara Haque said his advice opened her eyes to the importance of data as the basis of everything.

“He was talking about how Steve Jobs came to him while he was an undergraduate at Mccombs and influenced him,” Haque said. “I was just sitting there like ‘Wow, this is me, with Steve Jobs being Stacy Smith.’”