BYU grad's story: How to go from the new kid to excelling at IM Flash

Entering the workforce after college can have a substantial learning-curve, as BYU alum Jake LaMarr can attest. LaMarr graduated from BYU in 2014 with a degree in chemical engineering and now works for IM Flash Technologies experimenting with plasma etching processes.

“In the first few months I felt overwhelmed by the amount that I needed to learn,” LaMarr said. “I often felt like I was drinking from a fire-hose of information. I quickly learned the importance of pushing through obstacles and getting to work.”

He has worked for four years as a plasma etcher for IM Flash, a computer chip manufacturing firm based in Lehi, Utah. IM Flash is a leader in cutting edge NAND flash technology and is a joint venture from Intel and Micron.

“The lesson of not being intimidated but slowly chipping away at problems has enabled me to solve some of the most challenging problems that I have faced,” LaMarr said. “Every day I come into work there is a new problem waiting for me. I love this because I never get bored or burned out.” 

LaMarr’s work at IM Flash entails using plasma to etch materials used for computer chips in the most efficient way possible. He designs and runs experiments to find the highest quality and most efficient plasma etching process.

“My job as a dry etch process owner is to play around with plasma every day—think lightning, fire or very hot gases,” he said.

When asked what things he enjoys most about his work, LaMarr pointed to the exciting technical challenges he faces every day and the people he works with.

“I truly feel like I am spending time with friends when I am at work,” LaMarr said. “Even though we work in an extremely competitive industry, the people around me continue to impress me with their character and teamwork.”

LaMarr’s enjoyment of technical challenges comes from his time at BYU where he learned valuable skills that would help drive him during his career.

“My engineering degree from BYU taught me the importance of breaking down problems into smaller parts and making them easier to solve,” he said. “If you try to solve a challenging problem all at once, you will rarely succeed. If you learn to dissect a problem, your chances greatly increase and the path forward often makes itself clear.”

LaMarr pinpointed what helped him flourish since graduating.

“There are three stages to a new career or job: training, contributing and excelling,” he said. “Push yourself to excelling as fast as you can by putting in that extra effort. Be a sponge and learn as much as you can so you can minimize the time to become a high performer.”

LaMarr identified three ways to accelerate growth and become successful.

“Find a mentor who will help you focus on top priorities and help you identify blind spots,” he said. “Embrace mistakes, they are going to happen, own them and grow from them. Always pay attention to what someone is teaching, if someone is taking time out of their day to tell you something, it must be important to them, make sure to find out why.”


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