Dan Sawyer is a senior quality executive that built his career in the high tech industry at Samsung Austin Semiconductor and Space Exploration Technologies.
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My Work Story
In 1997 I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with my Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, packed my few belongings in a Ryder truck, and drove south. Driving all day listening to the FM radio, I noticed dark storm clouds in the distance but didn’t think much of it because there were no warnings on the radio.
I knew I wouldn’t reach my apartment complex before they closed so I stopped for the night in Waco, Texas. I settled into my hotel room and turned on the tv news. That’s when I first heard of the Central Texas tornado outbreak, including the F5 tornado that killed 27 people and nearly wiped Jarrell off the map.
I called home to let my family know I was alright and we reminisced about the 1984 Barneveld tornado outbreak. A tornado from the same storm system hit our farm, damaging our barns and twisting huge 150-year-old oak trees off at the trunk – but left our house relatively untouched with only minor damage.
Staying in Waco, the location of the Branch Davidian siege of 1993, and seeing the devastation on the news I started to wonder if I had made the right decision to leave Wisconsin. That was my introduction to Texas.
I started my professional career on June 9, 1997, as a member of the first College Orientation Rotation Program (CORP) at Samsung Austin Semiconductor. At the time, Samsung had their offices off IH 35 and Rundberg because construction of the 200mm DRAM fabrication factory was still in progress.
In 1997 Samsung was not the well-known tech giant that they are today. Most people didn’t recognize the brand, and if they did, it was from lower-end consumer electronics like cameras and VCRs.
One of my favorite stories comes from my wife. She was telling her extended family that Samsung was sending her to Korea for training and one of her aunts asked “Why do they need to send you to Korea to learn how to make luggage?”. Her aunt thought she was working for Samsonite.
All of the experienced hires were busy with construction projects and configuring equipment installation for the factor, so we spent our first several weeks in training learning semiconductor processing basics. During these early years, Samsung’s practice was to send all new hires to South Korea for training and exposure to Korean culture.
The first CORP class was so large that we traveled as two groups. I was part of the first 35 members that departed Austin in July. Mercifully, we had a long layover in San Fransisco with time to do some sightseeing before getting on the 12-hour flight to Seoul.
I came to love the 12-hour flight from California to Korea compared to the 14.5-hour flight when departing from DFW. During my 20 year career with Samsung, I visited South Korea 15 times on business – that is more than 500 hours of flight time. Here are my personal longest non-stop flight segments:
• CDG – NWK 8.5 hrs 1996
• SFO – GMP 12 hrs 1997
• DFW – ICN 14.5 hrs many, many times
• LAX – SYD 15 hrs 1998
• SFO – SIN 17 hrs 2017
My first rotation was 6 months in the Wet Cleans department, where I helped push the first processing tool into location on the production floor. My next rotation was to the Dry Etch department. This rotation was also originally scheduled for 6 months, but about midway some CORP members started to ‘direct place’ into their departments. This started a domino effect as people worried that their preferred department would not have spots left for them, so they also ended their rotation early and placed into a position. I decided to stay in Dry Etch for the real start of my semiconductor career.
Recognition and Awards
- Silver Award – Quality & Reliability, Jan 2013, Samsung System LSI Business
- Silver Award – Quality Control, Jan 2010, Samsung Electronics
- Patent Award, Jul 2006, Samsung Austin Semiconductor
- Yield Champion Award, Sep 2004, Samsung Austin Semiconductor
- Applaud Award for Leadership, Jul 2004, Samsung Austin Semiconductor
- Six Sigma Best Practice Award, Jun 2004, Samsung Semiconductor
- TPM Outstanding Practice Sharing Award, Jan 2000, Samsung Austin Semiconductor
- US Patent 10,211,093 Interconnect structure formed with a high aspect ratio single damascene copper line on a non-damascene via
- Inventor and Applicant Pro Se, US Patent 8,250,787 Method for post removal including concrete footing removal
- US Patent 7,486,391 System and method for haze control in semiconductor processes
- Effect of Joule Heating on electromigration in dual-damascene copper low-k interconnects, Apr 2, 2017, IEEE International Reliability Physics Symposium (IRPS)
- Haze defect control and containment in a high-volume DRAM manufacturing environment, Oct 3, 2005, SPIE–The International Society for Optical Engineering