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 What Would Joe Do?
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Character: Sports, Entertainment and EDA

February 3rd, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena

Yesterday was awash in poignancy. If you’re online a lot, you learned around noon California time that actor Philip Seymour Hoffman had died suddenly in NYC of an apparent overdose. The news really gave pause, particularly because it turns out he was so much younger than he looked, because the young people in my life really thought him a great actor and were stunned by his death, and because it gave evidence, yet again, that people of fame and legendary talent are also often so completely human and frail.

And, I was a big fan of Amy Winehouse. My friends and family knew that about me. When she died 3 years ago, I actually received condolence notes because they knew how I felt about her voice and her talent, and they were sad about it for me. Oddly, we somehow feel very personally connected to famous people. We feel we really know them, how strange. People wept for John Kennedy, for Abraham Lincoln, for Paul Walker, for Heath Ledger, for Marilyn Monroe, yet I’m pretty sure that most of those grieving never actually met the person they mourned.

So back to yesterday. Then there was the Super Bowl. Wow, what a disaster. If you’re a 49er fan, most likely you wanted Denver to prevail over evil Seattle. However, also if you’re a 49er fan you remember the Niners beat Denver 55-to-10 in New Orleans – Montana over Elway – in an even more disastrous Super Bowl trouncing back in 1990. Of course in 1990, San Francisco fans believed it was only right and good that this should have been the outcome. Yesterday, however, when our new nemesis Seattle squatted on Denver’s sense of pride, it looked entirely different. It was an awful game, painful to watch, and turned many Super Bowl parties into Dudsville Central here in the Bay Area.

Nonetheless, by the time Peyton Manning faced the press and owned up to the loss, he had become a new-found hero of character and strength. In fact, the local paper here on the San Francisco Peninsula focused on Manning, not Seattle, in today’s cover story with a sad picture of the lone, lonely quarterback walking off the field. The story was not titled, Seattle Dominant, but was titled, Denver is Dominated – proving again that life is not really fair. How to explain to our children why Good Guys sometimes lose?

So what does this have to do with EDA? Well, first of all, I write about EDA and most things in life, as it turns out, can be linked to the processes, the personalities, the politics, the Good Bad and Ugly of EDA.

Second of all, I write about people in the EDA industry that I barely know. They only give me the time of day because they want to see their names and words of wisdom in print, they earn a helluva lot more money than I do in writing about them, and to mis-quote the great Groucho Marx, they wouldn’t want to belong to a Club that would have me as a member. After all, I’m just a blogger whereas they’re Technology Thought Leaders, Captains of Industry, Famous/Wealthy Investors with Foresight, Gravitas and Dignitas.

Uh, yeah, but are they also poignantly human, even frail at times? Do they sometimes suffer from substance abuse issues, be it alcohol, cocaine, or even harder/scarier stuff? Probably. After all, why should the rich and famous in EDA be any different than the rich and famous rattling around in the world of entertainment?

Also, do the thought leaders in EDA, like legendary quarterbacks, sometimes have unbelievably public humiliations, trouncings, losses in front of their business peers, huge disastrous corporate story boards that involve losing millions and millions of investor dollars?

Let’s see. Hmm. Can you spell Monterey Design? That adventure, per some sources, ran through a cool $115 million before the fat lady sang in 2004. Oh yeah, and can you spell Mike Fister? That guy was basically run out of Dodge in 2008, less than 5 years after he showed up. Which was ironic, for at least two reasons.

First, tiny little EDA shelled out the second highest CEO compensation package in Silicon Valley for Fister the year he first arrived. And second, that compensation package was more than Dr. de Geus’ and Dr. Rhines’ combined earnings over the previous x number of years, if you can believe Yahoo Financials. But why? Why did Fister get so much money? What? I can’t hear you. What did you say? Oh really? There is no answer for that question? Really?

Well, there you go: A public trouncing on October 15, 2008, when Fister and his team of EVPs were all sacked on the same day, a public humiliation that ranks right up there with the lonely Peyton Manning walking off the field in front of hundreds of millions of people yesterday. “Denver is Dominated”; “Cadence: Sartorial elegance falls short”; “Struggling tool vendor Monterey Design Systems sold to Synopsys”

Good news though. The folks who spent time at Monterey Design are still contributing. Tom Quan, for instance, is on a tear at TSMC. Good for him. Jacques Benkoski works on Sand Hill Road, where he’s been laboring away for years now. As for Cadence, Mike Fister is still alive and apparently doing wood working. I don’t belong to his club, nor he to mine. After all, I never really knew the man and he barely knew who I was. Let me correct that: He had no idea who I was, even though I spent quite a bit of time covering his leadership at Cadence. Oh well.

My point here is that people in EDA, people in technology, captains of industry, great famous thought leaders sometimes have to endure great, famous humiliations. It’s how they deal with those failures that burnish their character, that causes them to be even stronger, smarter, braver, more nuanced the next time they stick their necks out in a public leadership role. It takes courage – raw, agonizing courage – to get back up and play on in public when you’ve been excoriated, humiliated and dominated by your foes.

However, for those in EDA and its adjacencies that have suffered or still suffer from substance abuse, it seems we need to offer a different sort of message. It isn’t enough to just suck it up, man up, to try to absorb defeat and move on. Nope, not enough. For those with substance abuse issues, you need help, so get it.

Get help. No doubt you’ve got family, friends, fans, bloggers, investors, bankers, club members and fellow thought leaders who really, really want you to get help. They want you to come back. They want you to crawl back on that wagon. They want you to be all you can be. Really, truly, all you can be. Free and creative and brave and ready to contribute. It will be a better world for all of us if you can do it.

I miss what Amy Winehouse did not produce. Others will miss what Philip Seymour Hoffman might have produced. The real poignancy of this kind of loss is that it seems so unnecessary. After all, this isn’t football we’re talking about here. It’s life, full-on, living, breathing life. And life is good.

It’s a gift. Hold on to it.


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