Mr. UPENDRA KULKARNI

San Francisco

Qualification - MS EE/CE, Exec MBA

Mobirise

About -

Vice President & General Manager, Firmware & Software (Non-volatile Memory Solutions Group) at Intel Corporation.

Mr. Upendra Mukund Kulkarni is the Vice President and General Manager of Software division for Intel’s Non-volatile memory Solutions Group. In this capacity, he leads over 700 engineers to develop the firmware and software for Intel’s 3D NAND Flash and 3D XPoint chips.

In addition, Upendra is the Chief Technical Advisor to Absentia VR Pvt Ltd (a Bengaluru based virtual reality company) and Senior Advisor to the CEO of a non-profit organization in California.

Upendra is an innovative, people oriented leader who blends business and technical acumen to lead a large organization to build cutting edge computer products. He is highly accomplished in the field of computer engineering, is an analytical thinker, creative problem solver and effective people leader.

Born in March 1963, Upendra hails from a highly educated family from Miraj, Maharashtra.  Upendra’s grandfather was a graduate from 1890. He gave up his high paying job and joined the struggle for India’s independence. Upendra’s father, Mukund Raghavendra Kulkarni, was 5th of nine children, but in his life he became a central figure for the entire family due to his personality, stepping up to help others and leadership skills. All the siblings of Upendra’s father educated themselves with the help of scholarships without any help from their father. Upendra’s father, Mukund Kulkarni graduated from Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and supported the M.B.B.S. education of his two younger brothers. Upendra’s father started his own pharmaceutical business, Ajit Labarotaries Pvt. Ltd., which is now managed by Upendra’s elder brother Mr. Uday Kulkarni who graduated from Shivaji University (B. Pharm.) with a gold medal and from UDCT Mumbai with Master’s in Pharmacy. Upendra’s mother, Rama Kulkarni, comes from a small town in northern Karnataka. His one elder sister, Mrs. Veena Sant retired from SNDT University Pune as the Principal, and other elder sister Mrs. Vidya Chikte teaches children with special needs at the Vidya Valley high school in Pune.

Both his parents have been huge influence on Upendra in developing qualities like commitment, discipline, compassion, confidence, perseverance, public speaking, leadership, taking the high road, integrity and helping others. Upendra says he wouldn’t have been who he is today without their teachings.

As a kid, Upendra was very inquisitive, wanting to learn how everything worked. He used to read “Understanding Science” magazines end to end learning about science. Curious as he was, he used to dismantle clocks, pressing iron, scooter breaks, bicycle chains, electric fan, and mixer etc wanting to learn about their mechanisms and how to fix them. However, he says he would most often leave them broken and get in trouble.

Upendra studied at a small public school in Miraj named Balavantrao Marathe Vidyalay of which his father was a founding member. Most of his fellow students came from lower income families and they usually struggled with mathematics and science. So he used to teach them those subjects after school. He usually stood first or second in exams every year. Some of his high school teachers made a big difference in his life – Mr. Hulyalkar (English teacher), Mr. P. H. Kulkarni (Marathi), Mr. Parchure (Math), Mr. Joshi (Science), Mr. Apte, Mrs. Deshpande, Mrs. Phadake (Languages), and Mr. Ghorpade (Principal).

Upendra studied 11th and 12th grades at Willingdon College Miraj. At 12th grade exams, he scored so well that he could get admission for medicine as well as for engineering. However, he chose to be an engineer due to his passion and aptitude. Upendra did B.E. (Instrumentation and Control) from College of Engineering Pune, and then went to USA to do Masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Virginia Tech (USA) in 1988.

Upendra’s father was the reason why he went to USA for studies. Upendra’s father himself coming from a family that valued education and most of his siblings achieving advanced degrees from reputed universities in India and abroad, was keen on sending Upendra to USA for master’s degree.  Initially, Upendra did not have scholarship. After achieving top scores in first semester, he was able to qualify for teaching assistantship. That made further studies easier. Prof. Dr. Van Landingham was a huge help for Upendra as he noticed Upendra’s talent and supported him by giving him a teaching assistantship.

However, while Upendra was studying for M.S. program in U.S., his father passed away in India. He took 3 months’ break from studies to visit home and be with his mother. It strained the financial situation, but he was able to pull through with the help from the family.

After completion of M.S., Upendra joined Intel corp. as a fresh graduate. He excelled in everything he did by thinking outside the box and kept getting multiple management promotions along the way. He believed in taking risks wherever necessary to deliver the results. At Intel, he had some good managers/mentors – Randy Wilhelm, John Barton and Jon Khazam who helped shape Upendra’s career. He proved himself to be a dependable leader and became the Vice President, Intel Corp. in 2012.

Upendra’s work in Intel from 1988 to 1999 was mainly technical and research oriented. During that period, he has to his credit 6 patents registered in his name. After 1999, he assumed managerial roles and his independent research work took a back-step. As a new and young recruit, Upendra used to be very observant and gave suggestions for better output and results both. This was getting noticed by his seniors. In 1989, Upendra used to work with another employee of Intel, Mr. Perlmutter who was stationed in Israel and showed ways to improve the output. The same person Mr. Perlmutter later became the Executive Vice President of Intel. He gave Upendra an early break in the managerial role. Upendra shifted from technical work to people and management.

In his current role as VP & GM of Firmware and Software division, Upendra’s team is responsible for architecture, development and validation of firmware and software for Intel’s SSD and Optane™ product lines. 14 years prior to this role, Mr. Upendra was vice president and director of Graphics Software Development and Validation at Intel Corporation. He was responsible for the worldwide team that developed high-performance and power-optimized 3-D, media and display drivers for the Windows, MacOS, Linux and Android operating systems to support Intel’s media servers, entry workstations, client PC/Ultrabook, tablet and smart-phone product lines.  Before his role with graphics, Upendra held various senior management roles in system validation, architecture and product engineering on chipset, graphics, CPU and math co-processor products over a span of 14 years. The teams he led at Intel have delivered more than 15 high-volume integrated graphics products, the Intel® Pentium® 4 processor line of CPUs, several PCI/AGP chipsets and the 80387 math co-processor, achieving numerous technology firsts for Intel and the industry. Carving new ground for Intel, his teams developed breakthrough methodologies for graphics driver development using simulation and emulation platforms for predictable execution in post-Si phase for large-scale and high-cadence products. Upendra has also played a key organizational role, expanding and developing new teams and capabilities at sites in South Carolina, Penang (Malaysia), Poland and China.

Upendra excels in building and leading multi-geo teams to deliver results – competitive products on time, under budget and high quality. He possesses a high blend of business acumen, technical depth, and organizational and people leadership skills. He has ably shouldered financial and budget management responsibilities for $220M annually with organizational responsibility for up to 1,600 employees and 1,200 outsourcing work-force across multiple geographies.

When asked what it takes to lead huge teams, Upendra said, “my leadership style is a blend of business acumen and technical knowhow. Business acumen involves knowledge of your business, revenue/profits, your customers, competitive landscape and the core strengths of the company. Technical acumen involves your knowledge of the cutting edge technology. This knowhow of technical aspects is absolutely necessary to become an effective leader. Without technical knowledge, one can become people’s leader but not an effective technical leader. A leader must have passion for innovation, achieve excellence in everything that is being done, attend to minutest details, open communication, persevere through hard difficult times, have vision and most importantly trust and respect for co-workers”.

Giving it back to society:

Scholarships:

Upendra’s father had founded a school in Miraj- ‘Balavantrao Marathe Vidyalay’. This school was established in early ‘70s and had new teachers. The school students mainly came from lower income families. Upendra’s father Mr. Mukund Raghavendra Kulkarni was criticized and asked whether he would send his own children to such a school. Mr. Mukund Kulkarni responded affirmatively by sending his own son to that school. By then, Upendra’s all other siblings had already completed their school education. So, Upendra was the only child his father sent to the school he founded.

Upendra used to teach math and science subjects to other students in his class during his school years. Coming from a highly educated family, Upendra used to find math and science very easy to learn and teach. He drew tremendous satisfaction from helping his classmates. He used to tutor them sitting under a tree.

Mr. Mukund Kulkarni, Upendra’s father lived a life full of helping and inspiring others and being a role model for many in the family and society. He became a strong proponent of higher education and encouraged his four children to earn postgraduate degrees. He was known as ‘man of marks’ in his family circle as he would encourage children of all ages to earn high percentage of marks.

Mr. Upendra had seen his father helping poor deserving students, and he always wanted to do the same once he gains financial stability. Now, Upendra and his brother Uday have set up a scholarship of Rs. 48000 per year in his father’s name (M.R. Kulkarni scholarship) to sponsor deserving students from Miraj/Sangli region. The students’ applications are scrutinized by Upendra’s elder brother. This scholarship is administered by ‘PAPAS Trust’, Shanivar Peth Pune.

Ritwij Sase Memorial Donation

In addition to the Kulkarni scholarship, in memory of his late nephew, Ritwij Sase (1987-2010), Upendra has set up a scholarship for the Robotics or Science Olympiad winning team that qualifies for National level competition with participation from Mira Loma High School, Sacramento, CA, where Upendra’s children studied. Ritwij was a huge fan of robotics, and built an all terrain vehicle with his college mates for Indian National level competition. By making this donation in the amount of US $500.00 to the winning team, Upendra hopes that bright and engineering-oriented minds will be inspired by Ritwij’s story and will work towards achieving their own dreams.

In June 2016, Upendra had retired from Intel corp. after 28 years of service. In April 2017, Intel called him back offering him a higher post.

Meanwhile, during those nine months after retirement Intel sponsored his services to an NGO – Stand Up Placer based in northern Sacramento. Upendra says Intel has a great sense of social responsibility and participates in helping the community in many ways.

Stand Up Placer:

This is an NGO that supports the victims of domestic violence. Stand Up Placer firmly believes that everyone – regardless of sex, race, religion, or occupation, whether they are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian or transgender – deserves to live a life free from violence. They provide victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Placer County with a safe, caring and nurturing environment.

Upendra always wanted to help people in every way he could, so he liked the idea. Initially he was not sure how he can help the NGO. But the chief administrator of the NGO said that Upendra can teach them leadership skills which are Upendra’s forte. At the NGO, the managers were new and needed help in running the institute. Intel requested Upendra to devote his time for the NGO.

For nine months, Upendra helped the NGO— studied their annual budget plan, removed inefficiencies, and trained the entire management team for effective communication, effective leadership, and team work etc. Upendra says he taught the managerial team of Stand Up Placer NGO key managerial skills he learnt at Intel for 28 years. The NGO has now become more efficient and the staff has become more focused and involved. They are proud of their work. The NGO is funded by State Government and the team has become more accountable, and more connected with the local authorities for better coordination. Upendra says he got the same satisfaction as teaching his classmates at school and he is ready to offer his services to any other Indian NGO also if he is asked to.

Values:

The qualities Upendra values most are integrity, focusing on the results, respect for others, and desire to help others.

Upendra recognizes the contributions of Dr. Prakash Amte to a great social cause. He is inspired by the CEOs of companies like Intel, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Infosys, Wipro etc for their contributions in technology. He also admires the excellence achieved by persons like Amitabh Bachchan and P. L. Deshpande in their respective fields. In general he says he admires and is inspired by anyone, young or old, man or woman, who excels in their field.

Cultural activities:

Upendra performs stand-up comedy as a hobby and passion. He has hosted several functions as master of the ceremony. Presently, he is actively involved in programs of local Maharashtra Mandal. Though he has stopped being the master of the ceremony, no matter how busy his calendar is, he always finds time to perform in dramas. He has acted in plays like ‘Trikoni Choukon’, ‘Hasawa-fasawi’, and ‘Moruchi mavshi’.

FAMILY

Upendra’s wife Smita has a post graduate degree in Library Science and works at an elementary school as a librarian. She has worked for nineteen years at the same school. She is passionate about her work and encourages the students to read books through creative means, such as offering them incentive of a free pass to a Theme Park if they read certain number of books. Nearly 9000 students are benefited from her initiative in past 19 years.

Upendra and Smita are blessed with two brilliant sons.

The elder son Rishikesh has completed his  PhD in Chemistry from UC Berkley.   ( https://www.rukulkarni.com/ )

The younger son Kedar has graduated in business management from UC Berkley. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/kekulkarni/)

Upendra and Smita also have two dogs, black Labradors, and Upendra enjoys running or hiking with them.

MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS

  • 6 patents on microprocessor technology in microprocessor technologies in the areas of microcode execution and cache coherency protocols.
  • Several Intel awards for high performance and innovation
  • Vice President promotion in 2012

POSITIONS HELD

April 2017 onwards             VP & GM, Firmware & Software (Non-volatile Memory Solutions Group) at Intel

2012-June 2016       Vice President, Intel

2003-2012    Director of Graphics Software Engineering, Intel

1998-2003    Director of Systems Engineering, Intel

1988-1998     Various engineering and project management roles, Intel