From street child in China to Intel mentor

shu ling garver
Shu-Ling Garver wants to get kids, especially girls, excited about engineering.

Shu-Ling Garver, once a homeless child in Shanghai, is on an entrepreneurial mission to get kids excited about engineering.

Garver, 52, said she's an example of how a young girl's love for science and technology can open doors.

"I went from the streets to working as an engineer at Intel to becoming a millionaire," she said.

Now she wants to pay it forward.

"I want kids, especially girls, to not be afraid of science and engineering but to see it as an opportunity to be successful in their future," said Garver.

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Garver's been at Intel (INTC) for 25 years, and she said her male counterparts have vastly outnumbered women in technical jobs.

The chasm grew wider the higher she rose up the ranks, eventually becoming technical adviser to Intel's data center CTO.

"There are very few women at the higher levels," she said.

Eager to change that trend, Garver joined the Women at Intel (WIN) Network five years ago as a mentor.

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Shu-Ling Garver [left] with her sister in Shanghai in 1969.

"Women aren't as aggressive in their careers as men," said Garver. "WIN's goal at Intel is to inspire women to stay in engineering and achieve their career goals."

Garver has helped hire and guide some of these women. "One of those graduates is now a key engineer at Intel in just four short years," she said.

She also encourages women to maintain a greater work-life balance.

"Lots of engineers live a sedentary life," said Garver. "I pay a lot of attention to exercise, and I emphasize it."

She said Intel is working to increase the number of women in senior technical positions from 10% of its workforce to 17% by 2020.

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She recalled growing up in Shanghai under Chairman Mao Zedong's regime.

"My father was a college graduate and an intellectual who was put in a labor camp to dig tunnels," she said. The family subsequently lost their home "and my sister, mom and I set up beds on a street corner for a few weeks."

After her father returned, he made it a point to teach her English. This led her to pursue an undergraduate degree in English Literature and work as a translator at a technical institute in Shanghai.

She eventually moved to Portland, Ore., in 1986, enrolling in a master's program in computer science and engineering at Portland State University. After graduating, she was immediately hired at Intel.

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Garver with kids from her Engineering for Kids class.

However, this is Garver's last week at Intel. She retires on Friday.

"It's been a very interesting journey for me," she said.

But it's far from over.

Garver became an entrepreneur in 2012 after learning about Engineering for Kids, an after-school program designed to expose students to the basics of science, engineering and math.

She signed on to run its first franchise, and for the past three years, she's been visiting local schools and running engineering and science programs.

"This isn't work for me. I'm planting seeds and acting as a role model with my personal experience," said Garver. "I want to inspire young girls to become engineers."

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