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Silicon Valley spring break leads to high-tech career

For many students, spring break represents a well-deserved reprieve from schoolwork, a chance to relax following a slew of exams, projects, and group presentations. For Marta Skomin, spring break served as the springboard for a full-time job in the high-tech sector.

In March 2012, Skomin, E’14, and several of her peers participated in the College of Engineering’s inaugural Silicon Valley Spring Break program. There, they visited several companies, met with employees, and learned the ins and outs of the high-tech industry.

One company—MoSys, a Santa Clara, California-based supplier of advanced silicon integrated circuits—caught Skomin’s attention. “I was really interested in the technology they had there,” she explained. “They are doing something unique that no one else is doing.”

That initial meeting led to Skomin’s first co-op at MoSys in the fall of 2012. She worked on product definition and applications, with a particular focus on an application called the MoSys IC Spotlight Analyzer, which provides error checking and diagnostic capabilities, among other things, for MoSys integrated circuits.

Following her co-op, Skomin continued working for the company while taking classes on campus. She was ultimately offered a full-time position as a software engineer after graduating with an electrical engineering degree in May.

“One of the things I was looking for in a co-op was a smaller company,” Skomin said. “At MoSys, I was able to interact with engineers and see how the projects are done.”

Skomin is not Northeastern’s only connection to MoSys; in fact, a Northeastern alumnus runs the company. President and CEO Leonard Perham, E’68, has worked with about 10 semiconductor companies in Silicon Valley for more than 20 years.

Some of those privately held companies were startups that subsequently held IPOs, while others, such as MoSys, were already trading on the public markets when Perham helped refocus their strategy.

Perham, who is a member of the Northeastern University Corporation, was one of several alumni on the Northeastern University West Coast Council who worked to start the COE Silicon Valley Spring Break program. Their goal was to expose engineering students to the various career opportunities in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco area.

“If I hadn’t had the opportunity in experiential education that Northeastern offered, I wouldn’t have found the career path I did,” explained Perham, who recalled working on co-op at an integrated circuit laboratory in Framingham, Massachusetts.

That experience, he said, helped him find his footing in the material sciences industry. “It was the experiential education that allowed me to work directly in this emerging new field and gave me the insight to launch my career into the semiconductor microchip business,” Perham said.

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