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Ed Lee
Ed Lee
Ed Lee has been around EDA since before it was called EDA. He cut his teeth doing Public Relations with Valid, Cadence, Mentor, ECAD, VLSI, AMI and a host of others. And he has introduced more than three dozen EDA startups, ranging from the first commercial IP company to the latest statistical … More »

New blood making its mark on EDA

April 15th, 2013 by Ed Lee

McKenzie Mortensen


Hannah Watanabe

For more than several years now, Peggy Aycinena has noted the dearth of new blood entering the EDA and IP industry ranks. Those of us who started in the industry in the 1980s still seem to dominate the corporate, engineering and marketing ranks. One area where we do see an infusion of new generation folks is in the marketing communications area. So Liz Massingill and I asked three of the new generation people to allow us to put them on the spot and talk a little about what new and old generation EDA and IP people bring to the party. With us are: McKenzie Mortensen of IPextreme, Darcy Pierce of Synopsys and Hannah Watanabe of Synopsys.

Ed: McKenzie, Darcy, Hannah, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. So let’s kick off with a question about you. What does the new generation bring to EDA and IP that the old generation doesn’t?

McKenzie: We love to shake things up.

Darcy: One of the more obvious attributes that I think our generation brings to the table is a fresh perspective, especially in the “older” industry of EDA where everyone seems to have 20+ years of experience.

Hannah: I think we bring a fresh perspective on how technology is being used today, especially by those who are just entering the work force, the Generation Y people.

McKenzie: We’re not wary or skeptical of new ideas—we love them. I have to attribute a lot of that to growing up in Silicon Valley. When innovation is happening all around you, all the time, it’s contagious. Our generation watched those before us try things that were “impossible,” only to see those things become integral to our everyday lives.

Darcy: Our generation has the advantage of not being afraid to think outside the box and take a little more risk.

McKenzie: Thinking outside the box isn’t unusual for us—in many ways, it’s the best place to think!

Liz: the old folks are fearful of the new and untried and the new folks aren’t?

Hannah: Well, the older generation grew up slowly adopting technology like the television, desktop computers, laptops, cell phones, and the internet. For many of us in the new generation, we were practically born with technology in our hands. Using computers and mobile devices to find information is second nature to us. We remind the EDA industry that it is important to make sure that our websites are mobile friendly, that all our online content is easily sharable, and that we are on social media.

Darcy: I also think the new generation that is now making its way into the work force is very different from any others we have seen. People my age have grown up with technology, and adopting new online platforms and applications IS indeed second nature to us. Being able to merge the technology of the industry with new online technologies, I think is both a challenge and an opportunity, one that my generation embraces.

Liz: Now let me turn the tables on you: what does the old generation bring to the EDA and IP industries that the new generation does not?

Darcy: Experience! Like I said earlier, people in this industry have been around for a long time, so they know all the ins and outs, they know the best people to contact and how to get things done. This is why we need a good mix of both generations, because those years of experience are truly invaluable.

McKenzie: The base of knowledge that the industry veterans have is absolutely staggering. Warren Savage, for example, has not only watched semiconductor technology change over the years, but also had a hand in actually changing it himself. He has been in the IP industry since the very beginning, and that kind of experience and perspective is irreplaceable.

Hannah: The older generation is better at building real relationships internally and externally. Although Generation Y uses texting and social media to stay “well connected,” I can say that half of my 560 “friends” on Facebook are only acquaintances. Because technology has made it so easy to stay “connected” to someone, I think our generation is losing the art of face-to-face relationships. When my manager asks me to reach out to an individual, my first initial thought is to send an email, but then she suggests that I first pick up the phone to call the person and then schedule an in-person follow-up meeting. In the EDA and IP industries, relationships with customers and partners are crucial. I think the older generation does a much better job at knowing how to start, build, and maintain those crucial relationships.

Ed: How do the perspectives, work styles and approaches to a project mesh with new and old generation participants? What works well and what does not?

McKenzie: At IPextreme, we seem to strike an ideal balance in the sense that each side tempers the other. I push the envelope and dream up crazy ideas, and Warren then picks and chooses the ones that his experience dictates will be worthwhile to pursue. By the same token, I am being mentored in the rhythm of the industry, being taught the ins and outs of the semiconductor world that only a long-time insider could teach me. I can then take that knowledge and put a new, fresh spin on it.

Darcy: I think both perspectives are needed, but in order to truly work well together both generations need to understand the other’s and be open to what they have to offer. Once that mutual respect is established there’s nothing to really stop you from being a great team. I would say that by nature I’m a little less conservative and am much more likely to want to try new ideas, but I’ve found that the older generation doesn’t always share that viewpoint.

Ed: Ouch, Darcy! But undoubtedly true in a few cases? Ok, several cases? A lot of cases? OK, I won’t put any of you on the spot but I think I’m hearing that we old folks are confident on the content of EDA but don’t quite know how to get the word distributed or delivered these days…and that because of our ignorance, we sometimes nix or self sabotage our efforts?

OK, so let me ask you another way, what are examples of what you would do that the old folks wouldn’t and vice versa?

Hannah: I think the new generation likes to take more risks and fears failure less. For example, if I want to try something new on social media, my thoughts are, “We have never done this before, but we are going to create a strategy and execute it. If it works, great! If it fails, then we will not do it again, or we will reevaluate and figure out what to do differently to make it better next time.” The older generation, on the other hand, seems way more willing to offer support if they are 100% comfortable with the new idea and confident that it is going to work. I do not see these differences as a bad thing, especially in a project situation. They end up balancing each other out and you end up having really good results.

Liz: I have to say that I’ve noticed more women joining the ranks of EDA and IP? Are you seeing that? If so, why do you think that is?

McKenzie: I certainly hope that’s the case, though I still feel a little lonely at industry events! I know that schools are making a more concerted effort to encourage young girls to consider career paths in the sciences—I believe that we will continue to see a growing female contingent in the coming years.

Hannah: In my situation, a large majority of the marketing department is female. If you are talking about the engineering side, I am probably not the most qualified person to answer that question.

Liz: I’m including marketing in the equation.

Hannah: To share what I have noticed, most of the engineers that I work with are men. However, the two female engineers that I interact with the most did join my company in the last two years.

Darcy: Well since I’ve only been in EDA for about 2 and a half years now, I don’t know that I would say that I’ve seen a huge shift. I will say that I am very thankful to have a female boss so early in my career that is so accomplished and influential in the industry. I find Karen Bartleson to be both empowering and inspiring, and not just because she is a woman. She has made an obvious impact in EDA, and interacting and learning from her on a daily basis only makes me want to strive to do more, especially in this male dominated industry.

Liz: What drew you to this industry?

McKenzie: I found my way into the industry by a pretty roundabout route. I studied English during undergrad, taught elementary school for three years, and completed a master’s degree in Children’s Literature, which is a passion of mine. On the surface, none of that really says “Hey, you should go work for an IP company!” But there are more correlations there than you might think. Now more than ever, I think it is essential for a company to be able to tell its story. How did you get started? Where have you been? What problems have you solved? Where are you going next? That narrative is the lifeblood of any enterprise and, as such, it should be the driving force behind a company’s marketing plan. I guess you could say that I am IPextreme’s resident storyteller.

Hannah: I had a group project at Santa Clara University in a marketing class where we worked directly with Synopsys. Our class impressed the marketing management at Synopsys so much that they wanted to hire one of us as an intern. I got the internship and then got offered a full-time position. To answer your question, I did not really land in the EDA industry on purpose. I had never heard of EDA before my class project, so perhaps a better way to respond is to say that I was not specifically drawn to this industry, but I always wanted to work in a high-tech B2B and working in the EDA industry has fulfilled that desire.

Darcy: To be completely honest with you, I kind of just fell into the industry.

Liz: Me too.

Darcy: Hannah and I actually attended college together and met in an online marketing course. Months later, Hannah recommended me for the position at Synopsys, and when I first heard about it, I had absolutely no idea what EDA was or the types of products that Synopsys made. That seems like so long ago now, but I feel very fortunate to be where I am now and for all the experience my job at Synopsys has allowed me to gain.

Liz: Seems that the path to EDA is not always a straight one.

Ed: What’s ahead for each of you? How likely will you be in EDA and IP in 25 or 30 years? Why or why not?

McKenzie: Goodness, that’s a lifetime away! (laughs)

Darcy: Wow, that is truly surreal to think about.

McKenzie: I don’t want to dodge the question, but I honestly have no idea where I will be that far down the road. I will say this, however: I feel incredibly fortunate to work in an industry that is so dynamic. I learn something new every day, and I absolutely love that. The IP industry is always changing, always offering new challenges. As long as that continues, I see no reason not to stick around.

Darcy: I don’t think anyone can confidently say where they will be in that amount of time. I do know that I really enjoy what I do, and that I love working in high-tech. I think back to when I started college and decided to major in marketing, I always pictured myself working for some well-known consumer brand, but something I quickly realized is that at the end of the day contributing to the progression of technology (even if it is in a small, indirect way) is much more satisfying than trying to persuade people why Pepsi is better than Coke.

Liz: There’d be no persuading me. 😉

Hannah: I would like to keep growing in my career as a social media marketer. Haha, oh boy, 25 to 30 years?! It is a little hard for me to think about 25 years from now when I barely just turned 25. Perhaps I will be. All I know for sure is that by then, I’ll be “the old generation.”

Liz: Well, this has been enlightening and refreshing to hear from you gals, especially about how you’re changing the way we think and do things in EDA.

Ed: McKenzie, Darcy, Hannah, thanks to each of you.

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