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Shachi Nandan Kakkar
Shachi Nandan Kakkar
Engineer in making

The World of Drama and the Verification Engineer – A High Schooler’s Perspective

June 28th, 2012 by Shachi Nandan Kakkar

Before I step on stage for a performance, I look at the crowd and say, “Lord, please don’t let me screw this up.” But it is the effort before this performance that really leads to this moment. First we have a casting process, where we try to find the best actor to play the lead, then the understudy, then the extras and technical team etc. This is usually done by a director, someone who has excelled at acting before, and develops the entire vision. Then we memorize our lines, this is the most mind-numbing and difficult part, so to prevent mental break downs, we divide the script up into smaller parts. We start with a few simple lines, then progressively add more lines and difficulty of memorization. Then we block the entire play, see what goes where, and perform it. Next, we have dress rehearsals, we get comfortable performing in our costumes and make sure things go off without a hitch. Now after all of this, we present it to the audience and hope that we don’t get pelted with tomatoes. After we perform, we wait for the audience to react, if they respond with cheers, we repeat the act the same way the next night with minor adjustments, if we are hurt and killed with articles of food, we then see what to improve and make changes for the next show.

The world of drama transcends to the world of hardware verification engineering more than we realize. In fact the entire process of putting on a successful play is similar to the work of a successful verification team. First, one must choose the right ‘cast,’ the best verification engineers who show promise. We then find our ‘leads’ or managers who shall take leadership of the daunting and challenging project of verifying a digital design. This is all lead by a ‘director,’ who in most cases is a senior executive of the company who champions the vision of meticulous verification to ensure first fully functional silicon. Then starts the process of verification of the hardware design, we first give it easy tests to make sure that the design is competent and can handle mild stress. These basic tests then evolve into progressively more complex tests that play out the actual scenarios that the design will confront, once it becomes an actual product on silicon. We now start ‘blocking’ the release, make sure everything is going the way it is meant to, see if the ‘lighting works’ etc. by simulating complex transactions. Now, as we enter the final stretch coming to the release, we give it harder functions to devour, make sure it can do almost anything that a customer wants it to do, and run coverage analysis to ensure that all aspects of the design have been verified in real life like situations. Then, its ‘curtain call,’ the hardware is now live, and released to the consumer. Waiting for customer feedback, we see what needs to be improved in the next release, no matter how big or small these changes may be.

Using this method, we can relate engineering to many other activities such as sports, drama, other types of fun team activities etc. This could be a great way to better the process of design verification, and give a simplified and abridged version to new engineers. By doing this, we will be relating their complex task to what is simpler and more fun for them to understand, and once they get a good grasp of the basic verification process, they can be better prepared for  the journey they are about to embark on.

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18 Responses to “The World of Drama and the Verification Engineer – A High Schooler’s Perspective”

  1. Will Cummings says:

    Shachi – I think that your thoughts on the relation of theater to the world of hardware verification engineering were brilliant. In our physics classes, we learn about analogous electrical and mechanical systems. You are very perceptive to see how in a similar fashion we can use analogies to relate our work in engineering to our wider experience in sports, drama, and many other facets of daily life. Far from being a career for introverts, engineering is a profession that demains intense human collaboration. Theater, literature, history, sports; all these form an essential part of the education necessary to provide that breadth and depth of experience in human interaction needed for success in engineering. You make me hopeful for the future. Wishing you all the very Best.

  2. Shachi Nandan Kakkar says:

    Thanks Will, for your feedback. It is a source of encouragement to me.

  3. Rakesh Jain says:

    Shachi, I agree with Will, I liked your writing on the relationship of theater to the world of hardware verification engineering. We often hear that fine arts and physical sciences, such as computer engineering, come from two opposite sides of the spectrum of human thinking and that there is little in common between them. However, to be successful in either field, we have to recognize that there is a method or a sequence of events that needs to be followed to transform a raw idea into a finished product, whether it is a performance in a theater or computer hardware design verification. With this thinking we can learn to deal with the most complex phenomenon and apply what we learn in one field to another. Excellent idea and thanks for bringing to to our attention.

  4. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

    Hi Shachi,
    If your career as a verification engineer doesn’t pan out, rest assured that you can definitely make a living as a writer.
    Seriously, your article shows a definite grasp of the verification process. As a former “theater guy” I really appreciate your approach. One key aspect you didn’t mention is the fact that verification, like theater, is in many ways an art. Just as two actors can memorize the same script and deliver two very different performances, so can two verification engineers look at the same spec and achieve different results. The key is to draw from your experience and use your insight to get the best performance. And always be ready to learn. Keep up the great work.
    On a personal note, I’ve written a few “verification-is-like-X” articles as the Editor of Verification Horizons. I encourage you to subscribe to the newsletter at
    Best of luck,
    Tom Fitzpatrick
    Verification Evangelist
    Mentor Graphics

  5. Shachi Nandan Kakkar says:

    Thanks Tom. I shall definitely subscribe to your newsletter and stay in touch with you.
    We have to, someday, put up a play together :-)

  6. Shachi Nandan Kakkar says:


    Thanks for reading my blog and giving me a R & D perspective which comes from your years of experience as an accomplished scientist.

  7. Tom Anderson says:

    Shachi, I agree with the previous comments that you have found a valid analogy to link the seemingly disparate worlds of theater and hardware verification. One of the hardest things for those of us in technology is explaining what we do to non-engineers. By using a non-technical analogy, your post illuminates the role of a verification engineer. I’ll propose that final hardware-co-software verification is the “dry run” in that it’s the point at which everything comes together. Tweaks can be made at that point, but it’s too late to make major changes without delaying the “opening.” Thanks for your thoughts!

    Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing, Breker Verification Systems

  8. Shachi Nandan Kakkar says:

    Thanks Tom (Anderson), for sharing your valuable insight on hardware software co-verification.
    There is no last chance in verification – there is only one chance.
    You are absolutely right, that just as in drama, “opening” (tape out) cannot be delayed and there are no retakes as in films. Once the curtain goes down (“product demo”), the audience (customers) must give a standing ovation.

  9. hunt says:

    I do see one major difference; in theatre, the script is known to the actors. Perhaps there are plot twists for the audience, but the actors know what is coming. In processor design, management HOPES the scripts will run like they wrote it, but often there are major rewrites along the way. I’ve seen huge blocks get added or removed from a design while we are in the middle of implementing it. How would a play go if the actors got rewrites between the 2nd and 3rd act? It does add excitement though!-)

  10. Shachi Nandan Kakkar says:

    Thanks Hunt. These rewrites, in the processor design process, ensure that there is always enough work for verification engineers :-)

  11. Greg Edlund says:

    I work in a field (signal integrity) that is not as well established as ASIC logic verification. Nevertheless, the writing of design rules and checking prior to design release is very much a part of our process. Because we’re “making this up as we go,” the creative part of the human brain definitely gets involved. Each new system builds on the foundation of its predecessor and adds to it the unique challenges for that system, which we must integrate into our verification process. Sometimes we run into these problems during analysis, sometimes during testing. In either case, we invent new ways to trap the problems before they find their way into a release database. It’s definitely a creative process – just like theater and music.

    I enjoyed your musings. 8-)

  12. Shachi Nandan Kakkar says:

    Thanks Greg, for your valuabe insight. You can always count on me :-)

  13. Mark says:

    Hi Sachi,

    Well done! I enjoyed reading your intelligent view of this medium. Your insights and perspectives are fresh and true. Your words flow well. Continue to speak your mind and you will go far.

  14. Shachi Nandan Kakkar says:

    Thanks Mark, for your encouragement and inspiration. It means a lot to me.

  15. Srinivasan Venkataramanan says:

    Nice write-up comparing two different worlds and yet bringing in some synergy – I like that. Now that you got me started, I can relate it to my childhood having evolved (as audience mostly, with occasional back-stage support role) with street side dramas (happening usually in small towns on cool weekend evenings) extending all the way to midnights – like it or not, the verification also extends to late evenings :-)

    It would be worth adding a follow-up blog sometime soon with the “sounds and music” that accompany such drama shows. As you may know, the local dramas in India many a times happen in different regional languages – and again the correlation – verification can also happen with many different “languages”.

    Good luck to the budding writer!

    Srini, CVC

  16. Anish Saha says:

    This is interesting, very well written

  17. Nick Rodrigues says:

    Shachi, you are just a good of a writer as you are a pledge <3

  18. Shachi Nandan Kakkar says:

    Thanks Nick.

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