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Celebrating Women in the Global RISC-V Community

By April 18, 2024No Comments

Collaboration is an essential part of driving innovation forward in the growing RISC-V ecosystem. By promoting inclusivity, we strive to create a welcoming environment where everyone feels encouraged to share their unique experiences and bring new ideas to the table. 

Last month, RISC-V International celebrated International Women’s Day by spotlighting four remarkable women within our global RISC-V community. In a dedicated blog, we highlighted their invaluable contributions towards driving innovation forward and fostering collaboration. We are grateful to Teresa Cervero Garcia, Fatima Khurshid, Jennifer Winikus and An Xu for their responses and efforts!

In our most recent blog, we are proud to highlight more women whose accomplishments and ongoing efforts significantly contribute to the success and vibrancy of the RISC-V ecosystem: 

  • Barna Ibrahim is the vice chair of RISE Governing Board and Principal, Business Development at Rivos Inc.
  • Makeljana Shkurti is responsible for Growth Strategy & Ecosystem Relations at VRULL GmbH
  • Tora Fridholm is the Corporate Marketing Manager at Codasip

Read more about their stories, advice and connection to RISC-V below.

Barna Ibrahim

Vice Chair of RISE Governing Board and Principal, Business Development at Rivos Inc.

Location: U.S.
With your extensive experience in business and ecosystem development, what motivates you to continue advancing organizations and uniting communities and technology? 

Throughout my years in business and ecosystem development, I’ve discovered that building ecosystems is an exciting challenge. For instance, the diverse platforms like Android, Chrome OS, and now the RISC-V ecosystem. It’s like orchestrating a symphony where each player contributes a unique note. From software developers to hardware manufacturers, everyone has a part to play. Ecosystem development involves a lot of collaboration, negotiation, and strategic planning. Understanding market dynamics is very important as well. Despite the complexity, seeing these efforts come together into a vibrant ecosystem is incredibly gratifying. What motivates me is to work with incredibly passionate, smart people who are driven to achieve results and overcome setbacks. 

As someone who works with diverse organizations and individuals globally, do you have any advice for how to collaborate effectively?

Certainly! Effective collaboration across diverse organizations and individuals requires clear communication, trust-building, and embracing diversity. Establishing transparent communication channels and defining roles and responsibilities clearly are essential steps. Personally, I find building trust involves being reliable, accountable, and nurturing open dialogue. I always enjoy leveraging the unique insights and experiences of various team members to drive results. Embracing diversity is a cornerstone of successful collaboration, as it enriches the perspectives brought to the table. In my experience, celebrating achievements together fosters morale and motivation, creating a sense of shared accomplishment and unity within the team. 

How does the RISE project contribute to the broader adoption and development of RISC-V technology? Are there any recent achievements you can share?

RISE is a collaborative initiative dedicated to enhancing commercial software readiness for RISC-V architecture. We continue to focus on accelerating the development of open source software for the RISC-V architecture. RISE members have been delivering upstream contributions through our nine Workgroups, as well as funding projects to deliver on this vision.

Most recently, we proudly announced the RISC-V Optimization Guide, which is a guide that stands as a testament to the collective efforts of industry players and passionate enthusiasts alike. Developed collaboratively, the RISC-V Optimization Guide aims to empower RISC-V developers by providing actionable optimization recommendations, thereby enhancing productivity and fostering innovation within the RISC-V community.

Makeljana Shkurti

Growth Strategy & Ecosystem Relations at VRULL GmbH

Location: Austria
How does VRULL GmbH help drive innovation and efficiency in the RISC-V ecosystem as technologies like AI continue to advance?

At VRULL, we are at the forefront of advancing the RISC-V ecosystem, especially crucial as AI technologies evolve. Our tailored services for the semiconductor industry—outsourced R&D, software enablement, and ecosystem development—are integral to this mission. Beyond AI/ML, VRULL empowers companies across IoT, automotive, industrial data centers, and client computing, showcasing our broad Expertise.

Our strategy is centered on adapting RISC-V architecture to cater to the growing demands of AI applications, supporting our clients and providing leadership to the RISC-V ecosystem and standards-development in preparing for the complexities of future AI Technologies.

A key aspect of our contribution is our support for domain-specific and vendor-defined extensions, ensuring RISC-V remains a versatile and dynamic framework vital for AI/ML advancements. Our efforts underline VRULL’s pivotal role in maintaining RISC-V as a platform of continuous innovation, ready to meet the evolving needs of software applications.

We strive to preserve the vitality of RISC-V by fostering an environment where differentiation encourages innovation. This approach is about enriching the ecosystem, not fragmenting it. Through our commitment to enabling diverse extensions, we ensure that RISC-V can adapt and thrive, reflecting the dynamic nature of technological progress.

You are also the managing director of Software Ecosystem Solutions. How did your passion for ecosystem development begin?

The passion for ecosystem development was stimulated by insights into a prevalent challenge in the tech industry: the need for specialized expertise to navigate the rapid pace of innovation, particularly in areas like RISC-V and AI technologies. Leading Software Ecosystem Solutions (SES), I encountered the inefficiencies of traditional scaling methods – rigid employment contracts and the disconnect between project demands and resource availability. 

SES emerged from the need to offer a more dynamic solution, enabling companies like VRULL to scale their specialized resources flexibly. This approach allows for the efficient alignment of project needs with expert availability without the constraints of conventional employment models. It’s about ensuring innovation isn’t hindered by logistical limitations. Such ecosystems enable scalability and flexibility, allowing organizations to respond to the fluctuating demands of projects without being hindered by traditional employment barriers. This adaptability ensures that projects have access to the right expertise at the right time, optimizing both efficiency and output. By providing an agile framework for expertise deployment, we’re aiding companies in their immediate project challenges and fostering the growth and success of the broader tech ecosystem.

How would you explain the benefits and purpose of fostering a collaborative ecosystem in the semiconductor sector?

The semiconductor industry is driven by innovation and the fast pace of new technologies. To keep up, working together in a collaborative environment is not just helpful; it’s necessary. 

Cooperation between various players in ecosystems like RISC-V, where teamwork and shared goals make it easier to share knowledge and resources, is very important for advancing complex technologies like AI. When organizations share their expertise, they can tackle the big challenges of creating advanced technologies more efficiently. Fueling thus innovation and increasing productivity. 

Interdisciplinary collaboration across software, architecture, microarchitecture, and physical design is also crucial for advancing the semiconductor sector. A unifying party that understands and communicates the intricacies between these disciplines is critical. In RISC-V, VRULL offers this expertise, translating the needs between them to ensure a holistic advancement of RISC-V technology. 

We recently organized a workshop in Tirana, Albania, which aimed to foster a collaborative spirit, uniting computer scientists from China and Europe to explore R&D collaboration in computer architecture and RISC-V. This gathering not only sparked new communication channels and collaborations, but also underscored the global nature of the semiconductor industry. To maintain a trajectory of continuous innovation and progress, it’s clear that collaboration must extend beyond technical disciplines and geographical boundaries.

Tora Fridholm

Corporate Marketing Manager at Codasip

Location: Sweden
Can you share a pivotal moment or experience that shaped your career trajectory?

I found the embedded industry when I started doing marketing for IAR Systems, a vendor specializing in embedded development tools, and I immediately felt at home. While my roots lie in a family of engineers, my passion for linguistics and communications led me down a different career path. In technical marketing, I could merge my interests. With a degree in computational linguistics and having done my fair share of programming, I get it.

In 2018, however, I decided to step away from the embedded industry and seek something new. Despite advancements in processors and technology, the landscape felt stagnant and repetitive. Then, the Covid pandemic hit. It was a time to stay put, so I did. Meanwhile, I got to know RISC-V and I got to know Codasip. This wasn’t merely a retelling of the same narrative. This was a completely new take and a fresh perspective on an industry that had seemed at a standstill. It was the change I had been seeking, allowing me to remain connected to a community of brilliant minds whose innovation never ceases to inspire me.

Are there any emerging trends or developments in the RISC-V ecosystem that you are excited about? 

I’m thrilled by the strides the RISC-V ecosystem is taking, and recently particularly in the realm of security and memory protection. As consumers, we must recognize the concerning state of security in our connected devices. The threat posed by malicious actors is significant and widespread, leaving vendors struggling to maintain control.

Fortunately, RISC-V’s adaptability opens ways for innovative approaches to product security. One promising technology in this regard is CHERI, designed for fine-grained memory protection. Though in development at the University of Cambridge for a decade, its integration into commercial cores is only now becoming a reality. Empowered by the unique customization capabilities offered by the Codasip Studio toolchain, we can integrate CHERI in our processor cores. Encouraging OEMs to embrace CHERI could revolutionize the landscape, fortifying connected products at their very core against security vulnerabilities.

RISC-V is an open, flexible architecture supported by a rapidly growing ecosystem. How does Codasip help people develop better products with RISC-V?

Of course, it’s possible to develop and promote RISC-V cores the same way as it has been done for other architectures. But why would you? RISC-V offers so much more, and it enables people to break free from the constraints of traditional embedded system design. For many years, the general approach to embedded system design has remained the same. You know what you want your application to do, and you research available processors to find some options that seem to fit your needs. In the end, you will most likely need to adapt some of your requirements and make trade-offs between performance, power, and price. In effect, you are spending creative resources working around obsolete constraints. By getting rid of these constraints, you can reallocate more resources to ensure your product stands out from the competition. Codasip has a unique approach to enable HW/SW co-optimization. We put the power of processor customization in your hands by providing a set of tools that enables you to profile your application, match hardware to software, and generate a custom SDK automatically. If you are an embedded developer in 2024, your code deserves a custom core!

We want to thank Barna Ibrahim, Makeljana Shkurti and Tora Fridholm for their answers and their dedication to growing the RISC-V ecosystem.

Interested in a career in RISC-V? We are always looking for candidates who are passionate about RISC-V. View open job postings on our RISC-V Careers page. 

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