Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Can wearable technology reverse Intel's declining fortunes?

updated 8:00 AM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Intel moving away from PCs and into small processors designed for mobile, wearable tech
  • Expansion masterminded by new president Renee James, CEO Brian Krzanich
  • James is 25-year Intel veteran behind some of the company's biggest successes

Editor's note: Leading Women connects you to extraordinary women of our time -- remarkable professionals who have made it to the top in all areas of business, the arts, sport, culture, science and more.

New York (CNN) -- The world's largest computer chip maker Intel faces an uncertain future. In a post-PC world where mobile is king, the Silicon Valley stalwart is aware it's fallen behind on innovation.

But in an effort to turn the tide, Intel unveiled a bevy of concept products reflecting the latest industry trend -- the Internet of Things (IoT) at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month.

Why Intel boss changed mind on gender
Intel CFO: We want to reinvent PC market
Intel's sluggish earnings disappoint
Intel's wearable tech

There were gesture tracking 3D cameras, smart earbuds that can track fitness activities, a bluetooth personal assistant headset nicknamed "Jarvis" after Iron Man's own virtual aide, a baby monitor of the future in the form of a onesie that observes the child and relays information back to the parent and smart watches galore.

Behind the bold strategic expansion is Renee James, the highest-ranked female at the company and president of Intel.

A veteran of the tech giant with over 25 years experience, James makes up one half of Intel's new two-person executive duo along with CEO Brian Krzanich. Together they manage over 100,000 employees worldwide.

"We're very excited about the strategy and what we're going to do with the company," James tells CNN. "When I started in this industry, we were all about building PCs, in the early-mid 90s. And PCs at the time changed the way people lived.

"We invented mobile laptops, so we were very good at a certain kind of mobile. What we didn't do, and I think that we got behind on, was going even lower -- phones."

With an established smartphone market already in place, James is pushing the chip maker to focus on the recently announced "Edison" product which they tout as a computer the size of an SD card and other highly-integrated smaller processors like their new "Quark" chips, tailor-made for wearable tech applications.

The software side of the business is an arena she knows well. Over the years James -- who was recently named one of Fortune's most powerful women in business -- has spearheaded company strategy through various R&D leadership positions at Intel.

"I do a lot more of what you would consider operational, the manufacturing, human resources. But I did keep the business units that I had before -- software services, security."

During her ascent to the top of the corporate ladder, James got to work under Andrew Grove -- a pioneer in the semiconductor industry. A legend in his own right, James says meeting Grove was one of the most important moments in her career. Not that the initial introduction during a presentation went all that smoothly.

"We got into a little bit of an argument because he started to tell me how [the technology] worked and I said, 'No, no, no.' And apparently you don't argue with Andy Grove.

"I was too young, too stupid to know better ... So I thought I'm going to get fired."

But for Grove, it was quite the opposite. He liked her gumption and years later made James his technical assistant and then chief of staff.

"He's a fabulous mentor. I learned more about thinking, about industry structures and strategy and [about] 'what's the real issue?' from him than I'll learn from anybody."

Despite this wealth of knowledge and experience, many questioned her appointment as the company's number two in early 2013.

"I expected it. There haven't been a lot of women at the top of semiconductor companies," she says. "Mostly [the criticism] makes me want to be more successful ... I try to focus on what [Intel] needs to do to be successful. What's the next big thing?'

Additionally she refuses to let gender be seen as a handicap and instead embraces how being a women brings something different to the role.

"I realize that I'm a role model, and so I feel more of a responsibility to give back to other women who are facing similar challenges."

Her advice?

"Follow your gut. A lot of women have very good intuition but they second guess themselves. Don't. The first answer is not always the right answer but it's usually a very good directional, correct answer.

"You have to imagine success and work backwards. What are you going to do to make that be the outcome? Anything is possible, until it's not."

READ: What is the 'Internet of Things?'

READ: No movement for women at top of corporate America

READ: More people prefer a male boss?

READ: Millennial women are stepping up

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:41 PM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
bbf
When Bobbi Brown set out to create her eponymous makeup line in 1991, she had one thing to her mind -- to make a lipstick that looked like lips.
updated 5:14 AM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
The Cornell educated executive, who is hotly tipped as the successor to magnate Steve Wynn, is about to unveil the latest Wynn Palace in Macau.
updated 7:54 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
From Coco Chanel to DVF, CNN takes a look at celebrated fashion designers and the iconic pieces which launched their careers.
updated 7:15 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
:KNOXVILLE, TN - MAY 28: Dolly Parton performs during a concert to benefit Dolly's Imagination Library & Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation at The University of Tennessee's Thompson-boling Arena on May 28, 2014 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 05: Debbie Harry of Blondie performs onstage at the Amnesty International Concert presented by the CBGB Festival at Barclays Center on February 5, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for CBGB)
When titans of music Dolly Parton and Debbie Harry perform at one of the biggest music festivals on the planet, Glastonbury, who will be crowned queen?
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Tue June 17, 2014
2 Caption:Avignon, FRANCE: Serb artist Marina Abramovic performs in 'The Biography Remix' directed by Michael Laub from Netherlands, 10 July 2005 at the Benoix-XII house during the Theater Festival held in Avignon southern France. AFP PHOTO ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT (Photo credit should read ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)
CNN meets Serbian-born New-York based performance artist Marina Abramovic, as she embarks on the most controversial show of her career.
updated 9:25 AM EDT, Fri May 9, 2014
This Mother's Day, we're celebrating the many women in the world who have provided care, love and guidance for children who are not biologically their own.
updated 11:06 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
She turned her bohemian beach style and love of ballet shoes into a billion-dollar brand. This week on Leading Women, fashion designer Tory Burch reveals her ultimate style guru.
updated 12:23 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Meet Mo Abudu, the talk show host portraying a very different Africa. As a glamorous presenter, she also heads up Ebony Life TV network, based in Nigeria.
updated 5:36 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
A lone blonde woman, wrapped in nothing but a sarong, leads four camels and a little dog across one of the most inhabitable environments on Earth.
updated 8:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Their job is capturing the most horrifying images on Earth -- keeping their eyes open, where others must look away. Meet Kate Brooks and Gerda Taro, the war photographers of today and yesterday.
updated 2:19 PM EDT, Tue March 25, 2014
Gloria Steinem speaks onstage during Equality Now presents 'Make Equality Reality' at Montage Hotel on November 4, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
As Gloria Steinem turns 80, Kathleen McCartney highlights the remarkable life of the feminist so far.
updated 11:50 AM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
Former U.S. State Deparment Anne-Marie Slaughter says Brad Pitt is 'posterchild for engaged fatherhood'.
updated 3:50 AM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
Ahead of the release of her 14th studio album, take a look at the remarkable career of Mariah Carey, who went from curly-haired girl next door to elusive chanteuse.
updated 11:32 AM EST, Sat March 8, 2014
CNN hosted a Tweetchat on gender equality with special guests including Nobel Peace prize laureate Tawakkol Karman. Here's what you missed.
updated 6:59 AM EDT, Thu March 13, 2014
From shaving her head for climate change to opting for a sustainable business model, Vivienne Westwood is simply unstoppable.
updated 11:02 AM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
In what would be a dream come true for her alter ego, Carrie Bradshaw -- Sarah Jessica Parker has turned her love of fashion into a new shoe range with Manolo Blahnik.
ADVERTISEMENT