December 15, 2003
True Circuits' Stephen Maneatis
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Letters to the Editor
December 7th - A Day in the Life
Letter No. 1
I read your article in the latest EDA Weekly with the subject “A Day in the Life, Heaven hath no fury like an editor on deadline.” It forced me to think about the career once again. By the way, the luncheon was from which Big One? And who was the host?
Thanks and regards,
Anon in Engineering
(Editor's Note: The name of the company and hosts were intentionally withheld.)
Letter No. 2
Engineers should think twice before banking on a transition to management to salvage their careers. Though Sales and Marketing are often laid off first, managers frequently are the next to go - sometimes even before the engineers.
Anon in Engineering
Letter No. 3
Your article was a real downer. I have 30 years' experience in engineering and have been laid off 4 times in the past 2 and 1/2 years. I am presently working as a contractor. I have two small children and another on the way and am the sole supporter of the family. I know several people in the same boat that I am - good school, good grades, engineer for 20+ years, with a family, out of a job, and seemingly no prospects. The good thing about my situation is that I have been able to find work continuously for 30 years.
I am thinking of getting a P.E. and going into construction, so I can build houses for all the people who are getting rich by firing good engineers and shipping the jobs to India. The problem is that this solution will not be permanent. The innovation and imagination are not in the Indian sub-continent. The semiconductor industry is shooting itself in the foot continuously by ignoring the talent that is in the older engineers. Recently, there was an article in the San Jose Mercury News about older engineers and the fact that the VCs are turning back to them for help in breeding success. What do you think the VCs are really up to?
Anon in Engineering
Letter No. 4 - A VC responds to Letter No. 3
Partner, Foundation Capital
Letter No. 5
I can see that you are very tuned into the problems facing many senior engineers (and I know many personally) who have lost their jobs due to “market” conditions and that [while] older engineers are looking for work, even the ones that are working cannot be completely secure.
Not everyone over the age of 35 becomes obsolete, [however]. While it is true that many engineers fail to keep up with “market” conditions, this is not true of everyone. I know that it is up to me to resolve the “market” conditions if I want to remain in EDA. And I have faith that good things are always around the corner. It is only a matter of locating the corner.
Thank you and take care,
PCB Designer & Librarian
Letter No. 6
I'm not sure what to make of your editorial regarding the “meeting” in which editors sat around and discussed engineers. The outlook is obviously quite gloomy. Your comment, something like “gloom of dusk turning to dark of night” is apropos, but I kept looking for some real insight to the problem.
The truth is that U.S. manufacturing is losing on many fronts, but it's because we've lost the will and the way to innovate. I discovered one thing about U.S. fabs - they're not sure which direction to take on most any kind of innovative manufacturing technology. They seem to want it all “handed” to them. If it requires any real R&D, even the least little bit, a negative inertia takes over and they just can't move. If it isn't plug-and-play, handed to them by a supplier, they're not going to entertain anything new.
I'm always amazed that in discussing a new technology with a prospective client, the inevitable question is “Who else is using it?” - it's as if, unless some other company has gone before them, they won't be the leader. Several companies outside the U.S. have adopted new technologies, but in the US we're blind to them. And besides, even with the adoption of innovative technology - for example many European manufacturing technologies - what makes U.S. fabs think that Europeans are just going to open their doors and tell the world everything about what they do?
Europe does more in their manufacturing practices than just getting government subsidies - it's no wonder that Airbus is overtaking Boeing. While of course, U.S. aerospace companies get government subsidies, too, if the truth be known. Perhaps someone can argue against the aerospace example - I certainly don't want to oversimplify an obviously complex issue - but as a manufacturing nation, we've got a lot of problems on our hands and a lot of available solutions are going unused.
For example - since early 2000, I've worked with a relatively simple, but highly innovative electroplating technology. I got started in this endeavor through the bare board pwb [printed wiring boards] manufacturing industry and discovered that there's a nagging plating problem that just seems to get worse as interconnects get more dense and complex. The problem is electroplating thickness uniformity, or should I say non-uniformity. The problem is inherent in electroplating, not just in electronics manufacturing.
My solution to the problem has come to be known as Smart Cathode Shielding. Smart Cathode Shields are driven by available CAD data to compensate for uneven primary and secondary current distribution on the cathode, be it a pwb, a wafer, or an ordinary plumbing fixture. Acceptance by U.S. industry? Paltry!
But the acceptance problem isn't specific to just this one industry segment. It's one of the characteristics found in almost all U.S. manufacturing industries. In short, we don't do R&D and we just don't innovate anymore. We've lost the will and the way. Since manufacturers are leaving in droves, it's been my belief that U.S. technological superiority will be one of the only things we have left to sell to the rest of the world and yet U.S. industry is sort of ho-hum. And there's no question that the corporate mentality has drained the profit needed to stay ahead.
There's definitely something missing and we've got to change the present course. Let it be said we didn't build the strength of this country on the current obsession with professional sports, personal comfort, and the excesses of the entertainment industry.
EIMC - Advanced Plating Technologies
Letter No. 7
I enjoyed the article about the luncheon. Interesting insight. Here are a couple of things/reasons I've seen that have caused [some companies] to struggle recently.
Obviously, the budgets aren't there - especially for new shifts in methodology and, as you mentioned in the article, there are fewer engineers on the development teams to do what has to be done. [Meanwhile], it's a really bad time for engineers to raise their hand above the cubicle and say, “Hey, let's try this new stuff!” They are keeping their heads down to get their projects completed and to keep their jobs.
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