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Stop waiting. Start surfing. – Part 2

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

So did you?  Stop waiting and start (fill in the blank) ?  The reason this part 2 blog took so long to write is that it took me this long to actually start surfing.  While I had great intentions to get going with this new adventure, I must confess that it took me much longer than I would have liked before I actually jumped in and did it.  Yes, I surfed.  I stopped waiting and started surfing.  (See my photo here for proof 🙂 Sherry Hess Surfing)

Enough about me, now what about you?  Have you challenged yourself in 2011 yet?  I mean started something that you never thought you would ever try? For me, it was surfing. For some, it is skydiving, running a marathon, or climbing a mountain.

How about this for a collective challenge? AWR’s new ad campaign, “Stop waiting and start designing,” entices you to try our software or share your design successes with us. We even sweeten the deal with an incentive to win an Apple iPad 2…1 of 12 being given away during AWR’s fiscal year 2012 that starts April 1st.

So, let’s make 2011 not only known as the year I actually surfed, or you ran that marathon, but let’s make it the year we all stop waiting to try AWR software and start designing with it. From April 2011 through March 2012, we will be giving away an iPad each month to one of you who take up our challenge.

Stop waiting and start designing. Get ready to jump in and visit


DesignCon 2011 – Engineering Curiosity a Buzz!

Friday, March 25th, 2011

DesignCon 2011 just ended, and it was the first year for AWR to exhibit. While a number of you use our software for high-speed SI design work, we have not allocated a significant portion of our tradeshow budget to this segment in the past. This year, however, we’ve changed it. We’ve expanded our presence at this show from largely tutorial in nature– thank you Dr. John Dunn for 3 years of top-notch talks on EM at this conference – to one that also incorporates a booth, partner demonstrations and on-line EDA Café interviews. (thanks Graham!)

Working a tradeshow booth is not usually a highlight for most people, but I can sincerely say that DesignCon was a real pleasure. This show was jam-packed with curious design engineers, and many proactively stopped by our booth and said, “I know AWR. What are you showing here?” The curiosity of the engineering community is contagious and the camaraderie extends to the aisles where questions and answers flowed freely. It was hard not to get excited by the buzz in the atmosphere and dynamics of all the attendees.

http://www.awr-startdesigning.comThe show in many ways made me realize why AWR’s next ad campaign, “Stop Waiting and Start Designing” makes perfect sense. Our collective curiosity as engineers, designers, marketers, and managers keeps us pushing the limit of what’s possible. In the same way that AWR software makes designing the next big “GHz & beyond” wireless system or gadget possible, isn’t it time you got curious too and found out how and why?  Go ahead. Get curious. Learn more about AWR and how are software solutions are advancing the wireless revolution:

Let’s do lunch!

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Working Mothers magazine(Aka grab a coffee, have a chat, ah heck, let’s just meet face to face!)

Now that I have your attention…. Yeah. Let’s do lunch.  I was reading a past issue of my “Working Mothers” magazine the other day – their ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ issue –and came across a factoid that said taking a lunch break is a great way to reenergize yourself.  Step out of the office, stretch your body and mind, and recharge your spirit.

I agree.  I am not one to eat at my desk. I need to get out of the office even if it is eating out with co-workers.  The few minutes of walking out the door and into the sunshine/rain/cold/heat – whatever it may be – wakes up the mind, body and spirit.  And it is definitely a much better way to get that jolt of energy for the afternoon rather than relying solely on the lovely vice of caffeine.

So why am I talking about lunch?  Going out for lunch and the upside it brings in the way of fresh ideas and new connections with people is the exact same benefit that tradeshows and conferences give us.  So, let’s step out of the office, stretch our bodies and minds and recharge our spirits at DesignCon 2011.

How can you make the most out of DesignCon? Get out and meet people. Talk, exchange ideas, and fuel one another’s creative and technical psyche.  That’s what a business lunch or a well-organized conference can do for us.

This year at DesignCon, AWR will be a first time exhibitor but on top of the usual booth duty, I’ve set up quite a few meetings, lunches, breakfasts and dinners to make this event a worthy place to conduct business. Going to the show and spending time “just standing” at your exhibit or spending your free time “by yourself” is the same as eating lunch at your desk.

So here’s my challenge to you:

  • Take advantage of the close proximity of the venue and the many colleagues gathered together.
  • Challenge yourself to “do lunch” with at least one other partner, customer or friend at the show.
  • Maybe even visit with the publications and hear what others in the industry are saying.

I know you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the ideas that flow. And if for some reason, you can’t locate a willing participant for lunch… come find me. I’ll be at AWR Booth #423

Stop Waiting and Start Surfing

Monday, September 20th, 2010

I met a friend of a friend of a friend in early July at my friend’s husband’s garage band debut. Long story short, my new friend is a surfer and offered to teach me when I said that one of the things on my bucket list is to try to surf.


Sherry Hess Learning to Surf

But then I stopped myself and said, ok….enough with the negatives. Look at the positives of trying to learn to surf. It is something new, different, very LA. Exercise, social, looks peaceful in a crazy sort of way. Why not embrace life and be willing to stretch myself out of my usual comfort zone? Nothing ventured, nothing gained comes to mind!

And then it hit me. This activity is risky. And the reward is completely unknown. That’s the real dilemma…fear of the unknown. Wow. Am I admitting this to all of you? Fear stops us from doing a lot of things. Sometimes for the better…sometimes not.

Well, for those of you who know me, I’m not usually known for being one to pass up a chance to live life outside my comfort zone so—yes, you guessed it—I am going to go for it!  Now the question for you my reader is this…. would you stop waiting and start surfing? (to be continued)… In the meantime check out AWR.TV for new channels and videos…

The New Company Culture—Play vs. Pay

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Well, another IMS has come and gone, and once again we survived the chaos of getting ready and then pulled off a fantastic show. While wandering the show floor and perusing other exhibitors’ booths, I couldn’t help but notice a clear divide between booth personnel who looked happy and excited and those who looked a bit disconnected, and yes, even bored. Then after I returned to the office I coincidentally viewed two interesting videos, one on YouTube and one on 60 Minutes –thank you Mom & Dad for making me watch this over the years- that gave me one possible answer.

The first clip on YouTube was from Innovation Daily: RSA Animate — Drive: Dan Pink and the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. A very clever animated cartoon presentation that was indeed surprising, it discussed irrefutable evidence that workers are motivated not, as you would think, by more money or pay, but instead by the sheer pleasure of creating or working on something meaningful that receives positive feedback. The typical motivation scheme within organizations is to reward performance with a monetary incentive. Tests have found that once cognitive skill/ conceptual creative thinking comes into play, a larger reward led to poorer performance! Studies have found that if you pay people enough so that money is not an issue, three factors lead to better performance and personal satisfaction: autonomy or desire to be self-directed, mastery—the urge to get better at stuff, and sense of purpose.


Seeds of Change

Monday, June 21st, 2010

AWR’s current ad, “Ideas Grow Faster in the Right Environment” graces the front of our 2010 AWR Magazine (6mb PDF) this month. There are many interpretations stemming from this visual (pun intended) that can be explored. But for now and for the purpose of this blog, the sprout portrays AWR’s corporate culture: innovation, spawning new ideas, the right environment for creativity, growth into new markets, seeds of change…

Rather than recreate that cover story here, I invite you to download the magazine online and read it for yourself. Instead, in this blog I’m going to sprout out in another direction. .. academia and university outreach.

AWR recently gave root to a new growth opportunity for our software in the academic community. At the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA) Annual Conference in Florida this past March, I announced in my ECEDHA Perspectives interview AWR’s Graduate Gift Initiative, which provides qualified* 2010 graduates a free, fully-functional, one-year term license of Microwave Office and Visual System Simulator (VSS) software suites – inclusive of AXIEM 3D planar EM software. The goal of the initiative is to give graduating electrical engineering students a career head start by providing hands-on exposure to AWR’s high-frequency design software.

This initiative is a follow on to our Preferred University Program, which works with universities worldwide to provide students with access to RF/microwave software tools. These programs have been launched in direct response to industry and academia expressing the need for students to have hands-on experience with these tools prior to graduating and entering the job market.

And, most recently, AWR has announced the donation of free licenses of our software as the prize award to the winners of the IMS/MTT 2010 Power Amplifier Student Design Contest.

What better way to sow seeds of change and spawn the growth of new ideas, new engineers, new technologies, etc. than to enrich the academic environment by providing the software engineering students need to learn and grow from the classroom and into their first job? Our students of today are the future of the industry—we need to empower them with the best and latest tools so they are prepared to flourish.

How to Be a Good Blogger

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Blogging: My first experience at blogging came with an invitation from editor David Vye to contribute a guest blog on the Microwave Journal website. It was like a jump into the deep end of the pool!

I had never blogged prior and certainly not imagined such a prominent place on the MWJ site, but knowing David for many years, if he was willing to ask me to try it, I was willing to give it a go.

Now that I am a self-anointed expert blogger after six months of contributions to Microwave Journal and a recently-launched blog on our own AWR website, I thought I would share some insights I’ve gained from my experience.

First, I think you must possess at least three traits in order to be a good blogger:

1) You need to be outspoken (geesh, I guess I am not afraid to have an opinion or share my thoughts/views/perspectives on things).

2) You need to be entertaining (a VC friend told me he likes that I do not take myself too seriously on these things—that has never been me and so my own personality worked well here—I am a bit goofy on occasion or so I am told ).

3) Be relevant. This was the hardest one. Week in and week out how do you try to convey something that will be relevant and interesting to hopefully more than a handful of readers? Pulling from friends, colleagues and life experiences was key. I like to have a lot going on in my life and this has helped me to find inspiration on more than one occasion.

In the end, I started to blog about technology life, or rather, living in the career world of technology, if I have to give it a catch all. I was surprised by the response. The first month on the MWJ site, my blog was the most read. The trend continued as I continued blogging. People would comment, e-mail me, stop by at an event to say hello. What a great feeling! To find out that you have connected with people in the same career field as yourself and that you are able to meet new people and make new connections as a result. I was also amazed to realize that I was not only presenting myself in a multi-dimensional way, but that I was conveying a personality for AWR, too.

Blogging has turned out to be both fun and functional. So much so that I have taken the blog to AWR and have gotten others to join in and blog along side me. For those of you like me who have uncovered that work life is not a separate life of its own, but rather a life that blends, merges with our own personal lives, social lives, etc., blogging was one of the first ways (and albeit interesting too) to convey this complexity and connectivity.

All of you out there who are nodding their heads as they read this, start blogging…you’ll find it rewarding on many levels!

Is Your Business Socially Useless?

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Dane Collins, our CEO, recently sent me a link to a thought-provoking blog by Umair Haque on the Harvard Business Review website. The headline boldly asks, “Is Your Business Useless?”

Before I read the first word, I knew I’d likely smile as I read through it. Having spent nearly my entire career in high-frequency (HF) EDA, I was already willing to admit that this industry isn’t overtly socially friendly. I mean, we are largely a group of engineers whose typical stereotype is introverted, so stepping out into the spotlight to draw attention to ourselves, and, on top of that, to make a point of being “socially useful”…. this was going to be good.

Nonetheless, I read it. Interesting points:

* Socially useless business has a cost – just in the last five years – $12 trillion in bailout packages for socially useless banks alone
* Socially useless business is what has created a global economy on life support
* Socially useless business is what has created a jobless “recovery” and is why we don’t have a better education, healthcare, finance, energy, transportation, or media industry

Okay Mr. Haque, how do you really feel?

He continues, “How is it that socially useless business is to blame for this adverse affect on our society? Socially useless business is the status quo — and the status quo says: ‘You don’t matter. Our bottom line is the only thing that matters.’ ”

This is a tough dose of his reality to swallow, but does it have merit in HF EDA–or high-tech in general for that matter? If we look at recent technology products that have succeeded, Apple’s iPhone/iPod, Nintendo Wii, and Google Search all come to my mind. Somewhere in here, these technologies and tools tapped into the value of being socially useful to the population at large. By using these appliances, we find ourselves more productive in life or enjoying our free time more, or even using them as ways to be more social?

I doubt this is a winning strategy in and of itself (build a better mousetrap) but the way a product or service can connect with a user or consumer and make the experience personal or emotional is timeless. Maybe today the “socially useless” tagline makes the HBR post seem more hip or current but the emotional appeal has worked for many years to build brand loyalty, from Walt Disney to Coke and Pepsi and hundreds more examples I’m not listing here.

In my own experiences within the world of EDA, I have to say that AWR is one of the few places I’ve worked that encourages its employees to have a sense of self and personality that isn’t constrained by the corporate logo but actually defines the brand. Starting the blog on MWJ site was a step into the e-social fabric for me and for AWR… and an experiment that I believe has been a success for the company by enabling us to connect more with our customers and with the larger community of users out there, and to open up a dialogue to figure out how our company and its tools can improve society (our society of users).

AWR has always been customer focused. It’s the reason Joe Pekarek founded the company in the first place. Since the economy began shrinking nearly two years ago now, everyone at AWR has stepped up their commitment to the corporate mission of improving the productivity of our HF customer base –if there’s one thing we understand, its that in order for AWR to be successful, our customers have to be successful. AWR’s philosophy is the polar opposite of the socially useless business. Our culture is focused on ensuring that customers know they DO matter, and that we fully understand that our bottom line depends on their success.

Haque says that socially useless business is built on shoddy, poor economics, and like most things too good to be true, it rarely lasts for long. Socially useless businesses are living on borrowed time. The new order is “constructive capitalism.” Constructive Capitalists are better businesses. They’ve learned how to create value that’s socially useful. They are doing things that matter to people, communities, and society.

So, the question big business and small start-ups alike should be asking themselves these days is, “How useless is my business?”

Mistakes? Let’s call them lessons learned!

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Recently I returned from an AWR company event that was very informative on a variety of levels. And now that I’m back in the LA office, I’ve had a number of people ask me, “what’s next?” or rather, “what did I learn there and how do I apply those lessons learned/wisdoms uncovered in the coming days/weeks/year?”

This, of course, got me thinking about the recently re-published article, “Top 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing RF EDA Tools” by How-Siang Yap of Agilent, which is hosted on the Microwave Product Digest site.

I must admit that I had a déjà-vu moment reading it and after a few minutes I uncovered the original I recalled reading, but with a 2004 dateline. There is a lesson to be learned here on reuse and repurposing and giving credit to the originator of ideas. However, the reason I see this piece as timeless and worth talking about now is that we as humans make mistakes. What makes us better as we age/mature (I hope) is the ability, wisdom, and humility to learn from our mistakes.

So…let’s use Agilent’s title of  Top 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing RF EDA Tools and try to repurpose it under the guise of “applying lessons learned.”

Mistake #1   Choosing a company without a proven track record

Lesson: Past vs. present vs. future.

Information needs to be put into the proper perspective. A sales tagline comes to mind… “What have you done for me lately?”

AWR was founded on innovative technology and has continued to produce a steady stream of new technologies ever since, most recently our patent-pending Multi-Rate Harmonic Balance (MHRB™) product.  But it’s not just about innovating, it’s also about the value those innovations bring to customers to help you create your designs better and faster.  While industry leadership is nice in and of itself, choosing a company with a history of service and support of its innovations is likely a better strategy.  Industry leadership as measured by market share obtained through mergers and acquisitions does not guarantee a culture of innovation. For that, look to a company that is gaining market share by being the best at helping its customers succeed.

AWR has dozens of customer success stories and quotes about how our products have helped customers and what excellent customer services and support we provide.  But don’t just focus on past performance.  Make sure your vendor is committed to the MW&RF market and not just there as a matter of convenience.  Our commitment to the MW&RF space has never been in question and goes all the way to the CEO, an ex-MMIC designer.

Mistake #2 – Buying for today, without anticipating future expansion

Lesson:   Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul.

Yes, very true!  AWR has consistently proven that our unified open framework approach is superior at providing all the technologies required for every facet of design.  With AWR’s Design Environment, everything can be orchestrated / simulated / done—within a single framework and single UI. See our AWR.TV videos for a demonstration.

Mistake #3 – Overlooking the contribution of test and verification to design success

Lesson: Peripheral vision…a must!

Test and measurement is without a doubt an important component to the design process. However, there seems to be a conflict of interest for a representative of a test and measurement company to place its importance so high on this list.

Nonetheless, Agilent makes excellent test equipment and many AWR customers use its products quite successfully alongside our software. AWR is dedicated to the development of simulation software – period. We’ve always focused on the customer’s needs and ability to have freedom of choice in order to build the best possible tool framework and software design flow.  To this point, we make sure our RF EDA software links with any vendor’s test equipment, whether it be Rohde & Schwarz, Anritsu, Tektronics, National Instruments or Agilent. See our latest white paper, “Hardware in the Loop,” and learn more about our “AWR Connected” joint solutions with R&S WinIQSIM2  and Anritsu VNA products.

Mistake #4 – Failing to understand the difference between low-cost and cost-effective

Lesson: Cost vs. value

“Low-cost vs. cost-effective” reminds me of a few expressions… “a sale isn’t a bargain unless you need it,” “you get what you pay for,” “there’s a reason it’s free.” Bottom line to me is that people want to pay for only what they value and not be charged for extra things that they won’t use. So here the concept of creating software bundles that are properly priced for specific customer segments, as AWR has done since 1998, is the lesson to be learned.

Mistake #5 – Choosing a non-integrated tool

Lesson: Play well with others.

When it comes to a company that is open and values working with third parties, AWR is the industry leader.  From our inception, our belief has been that customers need to be able to choose from a broad set of tools to get their job done.

We have over 18 third-party tools integrated into our framework and continue to grow the list.  For instance, way back in 2003 AWR pioneered its EM Socket™ interface, which enables integration with the industry’s diverse set of EM tools.  Similarly, we offer integrated verification flows with Cadence, Mentor, PolyTeda, and Ciranova, to  name a few. We are a founding member of the Interoperable Pcell Library (IPL) project and are cooperating with vendors such as Mentor and Synposys to develop iPDKs. Most recently, AWR co-founded the, an alliance of RF and microwave firms formed to collaborate, create, and promote a unified and transparent data exchange format for large-signal simulations, measurements, and models.

With the power of the Internet and Google these days, it’s easy to uncover if your vendor is actively working with other partner firms.

Mistake #6 – Forgetting about the foundry and component vendors

Lesson:  No man is an island.

Absolutely!  You need foundry and model vendor support, which is why commercial GaAs foundries support both Agilent and AWR. Request rates for AWR kits have grown over the years, as has customer adoption.  From AWR’s perspective, we don’t just tick the box and move on with foundry support, we want to make sure the designs that come out of Microwave Office are clean and right the first time.  We work closely with foundries to implement our latest features such as iNets, ACE, AXIEM, etc. into our kits (see our latest press release on UMS PDKs).

As for models, they are key as well.  AWR offers lots and lots of models and incorporates them into the software via an XML library, which provides measurement-based models and footprints accessible from the software so that any vendor model updates are ready immediately.

Mistake #7 – Focusing on software and not on services and support

Lesson: The Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated!

This point must have been written with AWR in mind.  To us, providing good customer support means having people in support who have actually designed circuits for a living, so they understand the problems about which they are being asked.  We offer 1-800, email, Internet, and open (password free) knowledge base access, free on-line training and more.  AWR consistently ranks at the top of user surveys in customer service and support. Today more than ever before, software vendors absolutely need to focus on support. Call AWR’s hotline today and ask a question. You’ll be favorably impressed.

To sum it all up, mistakes are more often than not the way many of us learn.  The only way to avoid repeating them in the future (besides denial) is to take the lessons learned to heart and apply them. Perhaps the most important lesson we can all learn when buying software, or anything else, is to look for a vendor dedicated to the industry and the products it provides, and, most importantly, dedicated to the customer.

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