Hye-Young McCreary

Profession: Computer Engineer
Born: Korea
Position: Technical Leader, System Firmware, IBM

On the strength of sheer brainpower and hard work Hye-Young McCreary overcame a childhood of crushing poverty, impaired eyesight and gender discrimination to become one of IBM’s most important computer systems engineers. Her technical leadership in IBM’s global firmware design and development since 2002 was key to the success of its Power Server line.

McCreary joined IBM in 1988 to work on Network File System implementation for the Unix operating system, a field in which she had quickly established mastery. She was recognized with many IBM awards for her outstanding contributions to the company’s success. The most important was her appointment in 2001 as an IBM Distinguished Engineer, elevating her to an elite group of technical talents who form the core of IBM’s technological leadership.

McCreary’s technical contributions are also evidenced by authorship of patents for sensor subset selection for reduced bandwidth and computation requirements, unified power management systems, bus interface and protocol for thermal and power management support, and sensor subset selection for reduced bandwidth and computation requirements.

Hye-Young was born the second of four children into an impoverished family in wartime Seoul, Korea. The war destroyed her father’s business, forcing her mother to work tirelessly to keep the family alive. Hye-Young’s congenital vision defect prevented her from seeing the blackboard unless she sat in the front row. Yet she always managed to become the top student throughout her elementary and secondary school years. She helped support her family by tutoring.

Her top college board results qualified her to enter Seoul National, Korea’s most respected university. She was one of very few women admitted. University rules at that time prevented someone with impaired vision from entering the math and science departments, the areas in which she had excelled. Hye-Young opted to major in linguistic theory. She graduated at the top of her class from Seoul National — a remarkable feat for a woman — and elected to continue her studies into the graduate division.

Her outstanding language skills allowed her to work as a teaching assistant in both the English and German departments. After earning her master’s Hye-Young decided to pursue her studies at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas. She settled on an interdisciplinary program in linguistics, computer science and psychology under the title “computational linguistics”. She pursued the use of computer programming and artificial intelligence to study how humans use language.

Armed with a PhD Hye-Young went to work for Texas Instruments in Austin. Her education was put to good use in the NaturalLink project, a man-machine interface program, i.e., computer programming. She gradually shifted her interest to operating systems and became a recognized expert on Network File Systems (NFS). It was this expertise that caught IBM’s attention in 1988.

Soon after joining IBM she met and married a senior IBM engineer named Casey McCreary. They have two children.