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Margaret Burgraff

Independent Technology Executive


August 29, 2019, 21 min read

Interview by Julia Wagner


This week, Julia is interviewing Margaret Burgraff, a tech executive from Silicon Valley who, as sole provider of a family of four, fulfilled her dream of a personal ‘exit’ in her early 40s.


Blood in Margaret’s veins runs green. As a proud Irish woman, she arrived in the US 20 years ago to start a successful career as a quality manager for firms such as Apple and Intel.


In this very honest conversation, we talked about building competence while faking confidence, strategies to outperform that she would recommend and not repeat, the threat of letting real-estate become emotional investments and how the death of her best friend provoked her to take the time off she had long planned for.


Margaret, to start with, how would you introduce yourself to a stranger on an airplane?

I am often on airplanes, so I often have to do this. I have never introduced myself by my title or by what I do for a living, because I think it's a cultural thing, that Americans tend to put that into the entryway. I describe myself as an Irish person on my trip to wherever I'm going to go, and the conversation flows from that. I'm particularly proud of that, what's uniquely me.

And what is that - what's particularly Irish?

I just feel that my blood runs green. I am an American citizen and have lived in this country for 20 years or so. But when you're doing a census report, and when they're asking you to mark your race, I always have a problem with the white box. I like the other box, other being Irish. We as immigrants are culturally different than Americans, we don’t fit that box.

What impact does that have for you?

Particularly in Silicon Valley, where mostly everybody is an immigrant from somewhere, there are very few people with the good fortune of having family support around them. When you look like you and me, that's taken into consideration less, because there's an assumption that there's a support system around you when there often is not. I think that's one of the biggest gaps that in Silicon Valley, and particularly in the way of female advancement.

Please tell us a bit about your background and career.

I have exceeded my own expectations for myself since pretty much I was a child. I grew up on a farm in Ireland with six siblings. I believe that I am the first person in my family lines on both sides to graduate university with a degree. The expectation for me, when I was growing up, was probably to become a nice farmer's wife with a farmer close by. When you grow up on a family farm, you have to work as part of the family farm. So my first employment probably started as soon as I could walk. Then anything that I could do that would be useful around the farm every Saturday, Sunday, and weekends, and after school, and summers, that was farm work.

But you did not want to become a farmer’s wife?

Farm work was not for me. I actually got my first paid job when I was 15, and I actually even kind of lied on the recruitment form so that I could have a job at 15. The motivation was to be out of the house for the summer, so that I wasn't doing farm work for the summer. That first job wasn't very glamorous, it was a chamber maid in a hotel.

Any insights from this job?

I remember one day, I was in this room and it was in the afternoon. I had to dust down the rooms and finish out the vacuuming. There was this middle-aged German couple with a daughter who was about my age, and I could understand enough German to follow the conversation. They decided to lecture their child about education and used me as the example. “Do you want to end up like her, cleaning?” I remember smiling inside to myself thinking, you're missing the big picture here. This is me, an independent, young woman that wants to be independent of my parents, and wants to have money in my own pocket, and you should be so lucky if your daughter is the same as me.

How did your work journey continue?

Every summer, every Christmas after that I worked somewhere. I mean, I would just work. I liked working, I liked people, I liked getting out of home. Even though my home was fine, I just didn't want to do the work that was available around there.

Apple computer was a big, big deal in Ireland when I was growing up. Apple was built was on my grandfather's farm, where my father had grown up. Apple started building in Ireland somewhere in the mid '80s and started expanding extremely rapidly. Ireland was a fairly depressed country at the time. As this modern building came up, I thought ‘I want to work there’.

And it impacted your career choice?

It pretty much led me down the compute path. Along with the fact that I had one of those Nintendo DS stations, and I liked games, like Donkey Kong and Tetris, and all of those silly little arcade games. But also, there was always a part of me that enjoyed economics and being economically viable, able to build wealth. That's what led me to pick a double major in computers and economics. To this day, I'm really happy that I made that choice. And at the time, it was clear to me that it was the start of something that was huge.

Were there any people that have impacted your life direction?

My youngest sister was born with a mental disability, Down Syndrome. I used to always think about, what sort of tools could be built to make her life easier? Or to make it easier for her to communicate with other people? I could see, most people with Down Syndrome, they're born with a tongue that's really, really big. So even if they have a wide vocabulary, understanding them is really, really difficult. I remember thinking, at some stage, we'll be able to interpret that. Now we're not there yet, but maybe that's a project for me to do in the future.

Another thing that happened in my life when I was going to college is, the guy I was dating broke his neck in a car accident, and he was paralyzed from the neck down. He had his shoulders and arms, but not his hands. In the first few weeks after his accident, of course, I mean he was only 20 years old. So he was highly, highly, highly depressed, and could not see a future and a way out. I remember talking to him about robotics and technology, and that some day there will be a solution to this. That some day happened for me about three, four years ago when he sent me a video of himself upfront and walking with one of those robotic things. Oh my God, I was crying all day. My husband is thinking, are you still in love with your ex boyfriend? No, but I dreamed of this day for him.


"Life doesn't follow a full pattern, no matter how well you think, or you create what your future's going to be.

But there are some principles about who you are that guide you to where you want to be."


I started working in Apple in Cork, and I remember at the time noticing that all direction was coming from the USA. Now, I had been given some autonomy over the first couple of years, because I worked really hard to build the relationships and build the trust, and I had really sold my managers on the benefit of my Friday being before their Friday.

What is something that gave you traction early in your career?

I decided that a good way to build my career and credibility is figure out what my manager didn't want to do and to do those things, to make myself useful. My manager at the time, she didn't like to do status reports. I told her, "Hey, just let me do it. I'll do the status report, then you can just edit it when you come into work and send it out on the Friday."

How did you end up in the US?

Because I had built so many relationships within Apple in Cupertino, when 1998 came around and Steve Jobs had come back to the company and Steve Jobs made a decision at that point in time to shut down a lot of the remote sites. There wasn't a whole lot of money left in Apple anymore. So it made sense to co-locate everybody. And he very much wanted to see all elements of the projects. A lot of the people I worked with, unfortunately, got let go at the time. But I was offered a passport to America, pretty much.

Now it was scary, because I had never considered as a child growing up to emigrate to the United States. Most people here, because of Ireland's strong tradition of emigrating to the United States, believe that that's everybody's dream. But I actually loved my family, and would've kind of considered myself a home bird, a free home bird, because I didn't like to follow the rules that were set at home. But I never saw myself as going too far from Europe.

It was part of what led me to learn a bit of German and some French in school just so that those pathways were open to me. Anyway, I got this offer and I decided, if I don't take it, it might be just something that I always will look back and wonder what if? And I had decided at the time, what's one year of my life? I was 25 years old, I was in a dead-end relationship at the time, and it was an easy way to get out of that. So I came over. Actually, I got a choice of what I wanted to do. Quality management for the first iBook, so the iBook was just a product that was in conception phase at that point in time, and that was the job I chose to do.

I had never done that job before. I mean, I had done quality work working for a manager who was based in the United States. The next thing, I'm tapped on the shoulder and it's kind of, you're it. I remember my first couple of months sitting in my office in Cupertino and impostor syndrome everywhere, all over me, telling me that I didn't belong. I'm a woman, I'm young, pretty much every person I worked with was older than me and male. I was single, so I was getting hit on a lot, and I just wanted to be taken seriously.

What made you break free of those doubts? And what did you do, once you did?

I was sitting in my office, and I was kind of scared. One day, the light bulb came on and my inner voice told me, "You can sit here and be scared, and eventually they will figure out that you can't do your job, and eventually they will send you out. Or else you can just start studying and figure out and learn your job as you start doing it." There were four product lines at Apple at that point in time, and there was a quality manager for each one. I was one out of four. I started studying my peers and what they did well, and what I would hear, positive feedback from them. I also started to just go to the library a lot and read every single book that I could find on quality management and systems integration. Because I felt that systems integration was the key part of product management.

"Confidence and competence can look very alike. I had to fake the confidence part while I built the competence."

Within two or three years, my reputation had grown to the degree that I was promoted over all quality management for Mac engineering. Going from being scared to giving myself the tools to be confident.

Because confidence and competence can look very alike. When you're doubting your own competence, and you're not very confident, it's not very good for the people that you are supposed to lead through a project. I had to fake the confidence part while I built competence. Then after a while, my work started getting acknowledged. As I started getting more accomplishments, confidence started coming more naturally. I also learned to become very, very comfortable with the fact that I don't know everything. And I will never know everything. I thought that was the greatest, liberating factor that I learned along the way, with impostor syndrome. Because the reality is, nobody in the Valley knows everything. It's just so complicated that you just need to know somebody that is the expert in whatever subsystem you need to work with, and there's lots of resources there to learn. Learning is part of the job.


You said you were also asking for feedback from your peers. How did you do that while not appearing as the inferior learner? How did you do that in a way that it was useful to you?

Well, I guess I wasn't overly concerned with my peers thinking that I was an inferior learner, because I was a learner. I was new into the role. And they sort of knew it, too. I approached them and kind of, big brother, big sister, and they were happy to help me. I always sought out people in my life who love me enough to tell me the uncomfortable truths.

It is easy to surround yourself with flattering people. And I see a lot of senior leaders who do that. And they never become better than what they are, because they don't have people who, I guess, feel comfortable with them or love them enough to say, "Hey, there's this thing that you do, or there's this thing you say that irritates everybody around you."

Now, much later on in my career, again, I was promoted into a role where it was something I had never done before. I tried the whole big brother system because it was all males. This was the highest level of staff that I had gotten to, and all of my peers were males. I kind of thought, I'm okay with letting them play the cardinals and the generals if that's what they feel that they need. But it didn't work out so well at a more senior stage in my career. Our first budgeting cycle, I realized that the cardinals and the generals went after my budget.

Then I decided, crap, I need a new strategy. I need a new strategy to fit in with this team of people who most of them know each other for 20 years, they've all grown up together, they've seen me as the diversity tick on staff. I was probably brought into the staff because I looked like I was going to be a nice, pleasant person. But then when they find out that sometimes, I have different opinions from them and I choose to express them in a very direct way, that wasn't liked as much.

What was the key in the behavior, that changed all that?

It's actually something that I'm not the most proud of. But I will tell you anyway. I remember talking to a girlfriend of mine and explaining to her that I felt like it was almost tribal, like in a wolf pack. Because I was the female, I was the lowest on the wolf pack totem pole. There was the alpha male, who was the boss. There was his right-hand man, and the pecking order was very, very, very clear to me. I decided that I had to identify who I thought was the closest or close to me at the bottom of the pecking order and assert myself above those people. There was a weekly staff meeting. When the opportunity arose that I could establish myself, I did establish myself.

Now I got an immediate payout from it at the staff dinner, where some of these older men, now suddenly, they were standing next to me like peers, because they never wanted to be on that side of me. However, I realized I'd become somebody that I didn't want to be. Now, if that was the price that having equal respect was going to take, that I had to compromise who I was, it was a big price.


Did the strategy work? 

It worked, ish. My budget wasn't gone after the next couple of times. The people who were established as lower in the totem pole, their budgets were gone. There's part of me that I don't know what other strategies I could've taken to establish my credibility at that point in time. But it's something that I think about, and something that I'm glad at this phase in my life, because I'm an independent person now who has built my own system for income, I don't have to compromise who I am. I mean, I'm still a decent person who likes other people. And I was brought up to in every conversation you had with somebody, at least have them feeling neutral when you walk away. You should never walk away from a conversation and have somebody feel diminished because of you, that's just not okay. It's your job to build people up, or at least have neutral engagements.

So yeah, that's how I dealt with that same issue later on in my life. I don't know if men consciously choose to establish themselves in the pecking order, I don't know how other women, when they're the only one in a senior level of staff, establish themselves in the pecking order. I don't know if it would've been different if I had a manager who kind of believed in diversity more than just what it looked like on paper. I don't know the answer to that. But I do know that it's not something I would be willing to do again, to compromise my own values for my career. It's just not that.


Let’s get back to the beginning of your career.

So I am a director of quality at Apple, at the time in Mac engineering. I led the transition from PowerPC chips to Intel chips across the entire product line. We got it done in 18 months, even though Steve gave us a two-year window. And Steve wasn't known for giving us reduced schedules. But we worked so well together, the team was just really great.

You were co-located?

We were mostly co-located. Mostly everything was still being done in Cupertino. My husband was also working at Apple at the time. Actually, that's where I met him. I met him probably within six months of coming to the United States, and fell madly in love. And my plan to leave after a year was then thrown out the window, and the rest is history. However, my husband is an artist, he's a musician. He was not happy in the technology environment. I married him for love, I was more senior than him in my career, even though he's a bit more senior than me in years of life.

So I knew going into that relationship that if I wanted to have all of the fancy things that I wanted to have, the responsibility was going to be on me. That's when I came up with what I refer to as 'the plans'. The plans was mostly investing in real estate. In fact, all investing in real estate. I do have some stock, too. But real estate was a comfortable one for my husband and I, given that his mother was a real estate broker and anytime that our parents do something that gives us a little bit more confidence then we might be able to do something similar to that.

How did you get started?

When I went looking for my first home in Silicon Valley, I remember I could get a mortgage at that time for half a million dollars, which seemed like a lot of money. But then, I'm driving around to different houses to see what I could get for this, this was back in the early 2000s. I remember going home so depressed. I mean, there'd be mold on the walls of houses. You know that the kitchen would have to be replaced. I remember my husband saying to me something like, "Well, we're going to have to cut back in the amount of times you go back to Ireland." I'm like, I can't do that. I stayed awake all night long and I started to think, the place that we were renting at that point in time, I think it was like $1,400. The mortgage for the place that we would've bought would've been something like $4,500 a month, which at that time, that was a lot for us.


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I'm thinking, why don't we just buy a condo somewhere else, and have somebody else pay the rent for it, and keep living the way we're living? So that was kind of the start of the plans got built out. Now the plans, the actual plans tool, is a very, very simple calculator tool that you put in the purchase price of the house, the down payment, the interest rates and so forth, the rents that you could possibly get. Then the tool turns red or green depending on whether the numbers made sense to invest in. I had very, very hard and fast rules for myself that I had to have 20% down. Now I did not see that Silicon Valley was the only place in the world. Because saving for 20% down on a house in Silicon Valley, a lot of people might never even get to that part.

So I was looking at Arizona, I was looking at Texas, I was looking at Oregon. I was looking anywhere in the United States. I was looking at parts of California that seemed to be growing that weren't as expensive. The rules of engagement had to be that there had to be good schools or universities around where I purchased. In Texas, there had to be some sort of Army facilities near there, hospitals had to be nearby, just employment. Because if you're investing in real estate, it's all about vacancy.


"I had plans to have enough paths of income

that if I decide I've had it,

I can walk out and not shed a tear."

How did you scale this?

Anytime that Apple stock went anywhere, I immediately sold it and invested the money. Just packed everything in and continued to live way below my means. When I left Silicon Valley two years ago, my car was a 14-year-old Pathfinder. It was purchased when my son was born, and I was perfectly happy in it. My husband used to say, "What are you doing? You're a vice president, nobody will know." And I'm like, "I don't care what people think about me driving along the highway. Seriously?" My car's paid off, I can well afford it, and I have bigger plans. I have plans to have enough paths of income that I, if the company I'm working for, decides they don't want me around anymore, or if I decide I've had it, I can walk out and not shed a tear, and the kids will still have shoes, and the kids will still go to college, if that's what they choose to do. And they can have the life that they wanted to have.

We’re married since 2001, that'll be 18 years this year. And in the 18 years, I managed to build up enough real estate that we'd get an income every single month and I don't have to touch the investments, and that's just going to be the way it is until the day I depart.

Congratulations to that.

How did you manage family at the same time?  

My husband quit working when my second son was born. So I was 10 years being the sole provider for our family, along with being able to do this. That was really, really terrifying and scary initially because that was not a normal situation to me. I remember when I was a child, my parents bought their own farm, and my mother was at home with us. So my father had to have a second job outside the farm to pay off the mortgage for the farm, and to pay for seven children. I remember seeing the stress on his face and always kind of thinking, my God, I would hate my husband to have to be the sole provider for our family.

Then crazy as life turns out, I end up in his footsteps, many, many years later. Now having said that, my mom and dad couldn't have done it, or my dad couldn't have done it without my mom running all of the farm all the time. I couldn't have done the real estate and have children without my husband being at home to deal with that.

How did you do it in the early stages when your husband was still also working? How did you deal with these remote houses where you were nowhere near them?

To a lot of people, houses and real estate become an emotional investment to them, they like the colors of the wall. To me, these are just vehicles for making money. I mean, we went through a lot of property managers initially. A lot of times, property managers forget that you're in it to make money, too. Sometimes they'll take too much cream off the top. We started bunching our properties to be fairly close to each other. We're in four different states, and we have four different property management companies that take care of the properties in each of these states.

We also have independent relationships with our tenants. A lot of the times, we will find the tenants so that we don't have to pay the finder's fee to the rental company. We had two houses that were directly across the street from each other. Well, those tenants are spying on one another. Yeah, I mean, with all of the tools that we have these days, you can go in Google maps and zoom in to a house, and zoom out of the area, and find out where all of the stores are, look at the neighborhood right behind it. Even when you go to a place, you might not even get that much insight.

Another thing that we would do is we would call up the different real estate companies, or different rental companies in the area we were interested in and talk to them as though we're people moving into the neighborhood and asking them what the average rental prices would be, and what employment is like. We did pretty much all of the research remotely.

Did anything ever get complicated?

There was one time when we were in Ireland, the police tracked us down in Ireland and a car had been found driven into the garage door. When the police got into the house, they couldn't find the tenant, and they found some sort of contraband in the house, and we had to deal with the situation where we had to store this person's personal property for some point in time. We had to try and look for the person. To me, I was thinking all the worst and that this person could be dead. We care about this person, you know? It turned out that this person was involved in whatever they were involved in, and had gone on the run. But you know, these things happen and you just move on.

There are economies of scale, though. If you have 20 properties, having one that's messed up isn't too bad when you've got 19 others. That really is why having a price point that's lower, and someplace that you can actually afford the down payment in, it makes a lot more sense than getting a really expensive one property in Silicon Valley, or two properties. Because when you've got a vacancy, you have no income that month. If there's a problem, you're kind of in a bad situation.

At some point, you were seeing that portfolio becoming more and more stable, and that passive income stream becoming bigger and bigger. At what point was that jump for you, and did you plan it before?

I didn't have a hard and fast date. Originally, my husband and I were both working when we started on this plan. When we were both working, we had decided that when I would turn 40, we would both retire. However, there came a day when he just called me up and said, "Don't hate me, I just quit, I can't do it anymore." At that point in time, we had two apartment buildings that were under extreme rehab. So the loss of that extra income was very, very painful. The next year, dealing with the fact that I was mad at him, but the fact that I knew there was just one way through this, and this was to just work my ass off. Perhaps if I had different values or whatnot, I would've decided to just dump him and find somebody that was more financially viable. But I am always a very independent person, so I never wanted to be kind of dependent on somebody else anyway.

"As I became more of myself, I started becoming more successful."

What exactly did you do?

I put my head down and worked my way through it. I was going to work until I feel I don't need to or don't want to anymore. It's not about a date or an age that we agree on together. 

At the time that he quit working was 2007. At that point, the real estate market globally went into a slump also. There were some nights during that first year that were kind of scary. But you just got to put your head down and keep moving forward. As the real estate started to become more successful, the crazy thing happened. At work, I started to become a lot more confident in my own ideas and bringing my true, authentic self into work. There wasn't the fear anymore that I am so dependent on this job that I'm just going to be pleasant and pacifying to whoever is around me. As I became more of myself, I started becoming more successful. Because I was more bold, more confident, and I had the freedom to say the things that other people didn't. I would call out the elephant in the room. Most companies really appreciate people that do that, at least companies where they have strong confidence management.


You eventually took the decision to 'retire'. What happened?

The point at which it triggered for me was November, two years ago, when my best friend, she was also my bridesmaid at my wedding, she died. She had been diagnosed with stomach cancer about three, four months beforehand, and it really led me into a spiral of thinking, what am I doing? Also, as my older child was entering into his teenage years, I could see just the stress of being a child in Silicon Valley, and how it was impacting him. I was at a point in my career then that I was flying all over the world. I was on a different plane, in a different hotel room every other night. I'm not thinking, for the most part, this is a freaking lonely life. A lot of people think this is very, very glamorous. Yes, I get to eat in fancy restaurants, but these people are not my family. These people are colleagues, and I have affection for a lot of colleagues, and I really care about a lot of them. But I sacrificed the family I was born into for my career, and now I'm sacrificing my own children. It's not that it hurts them, because they had a full-time parent at home with them all the time. I mean, my youngest says to me, "We just thought that was normal, mom." But I was missing out. I was missing out on something. When I was a child, I didn't know what I wanted to be, but I knew I wanted to be a mom. And I was missing out on it, and I could see my son being unhappy. He was 13 at the time, he's 15 now. I put him into a computer programming course one summer and he hated it. I was hearing about all of the suicides in the high schools in Palo Alto, and I was wondering, what is leading into this? Is it leading into this that we come from every part of the world, we're kind of the best people in our classes, and then we buy these houses that are outrageously expensive and we have to afford the Tesla and the car, and there's so much stress in the household with the dual-income, and our expectation is our child has to go to Ivy League schools because we were that good, that we're pushing that down. I think Michelle dying has changed everything about how I look at life and how I prioritize happiness above all of those things.

What did you change?

I've moved my family out of Silicon Valley, we're in a really, beautiful little town in California right now. And my kids get to see butchers, they get to see bakers, they get to see fishermen. But I want them to be exposed to all of that, and to have their dreams for themselves to be whoever they want to be without having to think, "I've got to chase after the biggest, best job with the company that's well known and become a vice president in Intel or Google or Facebook in order to have made it in life." I want my kids to be able to introduce themselves, "Hi, I'm Aman. Who are you?" My favorite football team is whatever the team is, or my favorite basketball team. I don't want them to be defined by their careers.

I've lived in Silicon Valley long enough to see that everybody's career eventually comes to an end. Some people, they're suddenly 50 and the company decides they're too expensive, or their skills are outdated or whatnot. Suddenly, they've got them introducing themselves as "I've been a vice president or a senior director." Or whatever level of management they get to feeling like a complete failure. And I don't want to set my kids up for that. I didn't want to set myself up for that. I want them to be happy and to do wherever their life takes them to. I mean, if they want to go back to Ireland and marry the farmer next door, they can do that.

Anything else that changed?

Michelle passing away really triggered me to realize that life doesn't go on forever. There were other things. I started becoming aware of my own health, and I started noticing that I had got into a level of success that it was having a compromising impact on my health. There were sometimes where I thought I was close to a stroke or a heart attack. I was running extremely fast because I had run fast. I had started when I became the sole provider for my family, and just going faster and faster and faster. It was coming at a cost. I thanked my angel, Michelle, for that. It's sad that she's no longer around, but at least some good has come out of it.

"My biggest advice to anybody would be to develop your exit plan in parallel with your career."

The interesting thing is my other girlfriends that are in Ireland, a lot of them are now making just different choices, and putting their lives first also. Three days a week type of work, or taking what they call a mid-career break because they have a financial situation that they can't take a break forever. But health is definitely becoming a more important factor. Otherwise, if I kept working, and my kids are now 15 and 11, they would've never known me as anything other than a checkbook. Because I'm always too busy for them. I mean, it's a terrible thing to say, but that's the truth. Anytime I was playing in the park with Dylan, I was aware that there were 100 emails coming in, or there was a difficult situation that I would have to have with an employee the following day, or with a manager the following day. I can't just be here and kick a football and be with my own thoughts. That's been the most beautiful thing about the last year. I mean, sometimes I wake up in the morning and I just listen to the birds. That's all I'm doing. I'm not thinking about anything else except the birds. I haven't done that since I was a child. I wouldn't have this had I not started to execute an exit plan early in my career.

My biggest advice to anybody would be develop your exit plan in parallel with your career.

Is there anything else looking back that you'd do differently? Or that you'd advise someone else to do differently?

I'm sort of a no regrets person. Because if I did anything differently, who knows what other impacts or effects would've had on that. I could say I look back and I wish that my husband had stayed working until we were both 40, like that was the original plan. However, had that happened, he and I would have every day been negotiating on who was going to pick up the kids before school or after school. I probably couldn't have gone as far in my career. And the 40 number probably would've been a lot less than what I was eventually able to get out with.

I am exceedingly proud of myself for everything that I've accomplished.

What’s in your future? What would you like to do?

I never thought that I would emigrate to the United States, first of all. And when I had come to the United States, I had decided that I'm not going to close any doors or take anything off the table. The loose plan at this point in time is to continue managing real estate, start looking at different types of real estate options. I like the process of making money and building wealth, so I want to keep the kind of investment going this way. I know that when I'm an older lady, I want to live in a single-story house, I don't want to have to deal with stairs, and I want to be by a beach, and close to art galleries.

So at some stage, I'm going to have to make a decision as to do I buy the place now and rent it out so I can mark it for earlier? I'm excited about the future.


Do you see yourself doing any work again?

I'm also talking to some different people about different venture capitalist type stuff. Angel investment kind of things. I know that right now, I don't want a 9 to 5. Well, nothing in Silicon Valley was 9 to 5, it's 24/7. You are always on the clock when you get to a certain level in your career. That's the sacrifice that you get for what you get compensated. The compensation in Silicon Valley is really good for that sacrifice. But I don't want to do that again, I don't want to do that to my children. I want to role model something different. When my son said to me three or four years ago, "Mom, I don't want to be like you. I don't want to be always gone, I don't want to have to work that hard. I don't want to always be reading tech manuals that the material's so dense, that it doesn't look like that's fun." So I am not talking to my 15-year old who, he's having challenges in school. And I'm saying, "Aman, you know, I'm having the lifestyle right now that you would love. You can build yourself to having that lifestyle in the future, but you've got to work now. You've got to get at least enough points to give yourself a choice of university and choice to do what you want to do. I'm not telling you you have to be unhappy or you have to be a computer engineer, but you have to allow yourself to have a choice, and be willing to work hard."

Any final words of wisdom?

I haven't seen too many people be very successful without working hard. Now I am kind of shocked with the latest news about people paying to get into universities and things like that. So sure, it happens. And sure there are children of privileged people who get by. But most of the people that I associate with are people that have worked really, really hard to get themselves to where they are. And they're people that I admire.

Thank you very much for this interview, Margaret.

About Her

Margaret Burgraff is a Silicon Valley Technology veteran and international speaker, having spoken at many global conferences, as well as numerous Intel developer conferences in China, Korea, Toyko, Brazil, Germany, India on a wide array of technology topics.


Margaret spent 24 years progressing through a range of roles in world-renowned organizations at Intel, Apple and Palm/HP.  Most recently Margaret was Vice President of the Software and Services Group and General Manager of Global Software Enabling and Developer Relations at Intel Corporation. She was responsible for regional and worldwide account management, along with engineering services in the Developer Relations Division. 

Margaret joined Intel in 2011 as a director of quality for phone and tablet products. She was later appointed vice president in charge of quality, certification, tools, and validation in mobile communications. During her time at Intel Margaret also held the position of Vice President and General Manager of the Intel Services Division responsible for world-class service regarding infrastructure and support, and adding a high-level of scalability, reliability, availability and compliance.

Margaret began her career at Apple Computer in Cork, Ireland in 1994 before relocating to Apple Headquarters in Cupertino, CA to launch the first iMac.  She managed the iBook product line from 1998-2005 and held the position of Senior Quality Manager for Apple Macintosh engineering products, 2005-2009.  During this time, she led qualification strategy supporting the transition of an entire platform line to Intel architecture.

Margaret holds a bachelor's degree in computer science and economics from University College Cork, Ireland. She has been listed in many global top 50 lists of women in STEM, including 2017 and 2018 connected world women of M2M and Silicon Valley 50. Margaret is known for her passion for life and enjoys traveling, hiking, biking and spending time with her husband Chris, two sons, Eamonn and Dillon and the family dog Tasha.

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