April 21, 2003
From Margaret Mead to Caesar's Wife
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DAC 2003 Chair Ian Getreu collects quotes and one of his favorites is from 20th century anthropologist Margaret Mead:
“Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Getreu has clearly taken that advice to heart over this past year in heading up the Executive Committee that will be running the 40th annual Design Automation Conference from June 2nd through 5th in Anaheim, CA. Getreu has thrown himself wholeheartedly into the effort, but he's quick to point out that everybody else must get the credit for a job well done.
“Like any activity, you get good people and then you get out of their way. I've been very fortunate to have had lots of good people helping me all year long. The people on the DAC Executive Committee have been great. Also [DAC founders] MP Associates does a superb job. They know the ropes and that helps considerably. And Fleishman-Hillard [DAC PR] also has many years' experience working DAC, which also helps the Executive Committee.”
Getreu explains that the DAC Executive Committee has eight members, starting with two reps from each of the three principle show sponsors. There are two from ACM Sigda, two from the IEEE Circuits and Systems (CAS) Society, and two from EDAC. These six individuals constitute the SCC (Sponsor Coordinating Committee), which was formed to eliminate redundant DAC efforts within each of the three sponsoring organizations. The last two members of the DAC Executive Committee are the current DAC Chair and the previous DAC Chair.
Officially, the “employer” of the committee is MP Associates, Inc. (founded by Pat and Marie Pistilli, now retired). Getreu says that MP Associates (now represented by Lee Woods and Kevin Lepine) also wears an “informal hat” whereby they serve in an advisory role to the Executive Committee.
Getreu came to his involvement with DAC by way of his work as the IEEE CAS representative to the SCC. Eventually, he became Chair of the SCC, then was Publicity Chair for the DAC Executive Committee, and finally was named DAC Chair for 2003.
He says, “Although most people usually come to be DAC Chair through a natural progression which includes work on the Technical Program Committee, I did not come up through the Technical Program. Circumstance was such that they just asked me to take this role. In either case, I've been on the DAC Executive Committee for many, many years.”
Getreu says that although attendance this year may not match the DAC 2000 attendance - which was the all time record - he's “dangerously optimistic” that there will be an excellent turn-out in Anaheim. “L.A. is a strong technical market, as is the entire West Coast. There are lots of electronics companies, particularly in the defense area, in Southern California. I'm hoping the economy will be doing better [by June], and that should help also.”
Getreu patiently answers the usual questions about the wisdom of holding DAC in New Orleans - an area notably under-populated by high-tech design companies. He says, “The decision to go to New Orleans [in 1999 and 2002] was made quite a few years ago. Last year, there was an unlucky confluence of events [reduced travel budgets and a faltering economy], but it was either hold the conference there or cancel it completely. We did not have a back-up [location] ready, so we went ahead with New Orleans. Now we're planning to stay on the West Coast - if you include Las Vegas - for some years.”
Getreu notes that it will be San Diego in 2004, Anaheim again in 2005, and then San Francisco in 2006. He notes that the San Francisco site was not available in June, so DAC 2006 will take place in July. [Mark your calendars accordingly.] Finally DAC 2007 will again be in Anaheim. He says there are few convention facilities in the U.S. large enough to accommodate DAC, so these dates need to be set years in advance.
Getreu proudly points out that many new, creative policies and ideas were instituted last year at DAC 2002 in New Orleans. He says the current Executive Committee should be credited for innovation and for introducing fresh concepts that keep DAC evolving.
According to Getreu, last year's changes included:
- The DAC Pavilion
- Hands-on tutorials
- Monday tutorials
- The Introduction to EDA Workshop for the non-technical professionals
- Coffee carts on the floor
He says the Committee's focus this year is on smoothing the details of last year's conference modifications. Additionally, the Executive Committee is spending a “significant amounts of time prepping for next year.”
Starting in 2004, there will be a major re-design on the show floor. Those companies who rent Demo Suites will have that space immediately adjacent to their Exhibitor Hall booth, and those combined facilities will be located around the periphery of the Exhibit Hall floor. Meanwhile, companies who only need an exhibit booth will be clustered in the center of the Exhibit Hall. Getreu says the DAC Pavilion this year will be showcasing a mock-up of the 2004 layout for everyone to see. He adds, “The format will be like a shopping mall where people who don't have suites will be positioned in the middle of the show floor.”
Meanwhile, there will be several new features introduced this year, as well. With the caveat that some of the details are not yet “nailed down,” Getreu says additions will include:
- More events in the DAC Pavilion
- Changing the manner in which space selection occurs for the following year
- Management Focus Day on June 3rd specifically for design and EDA companies
- A designated area where design consultants can meet privately with potential clients
- A Micro-brew event where vendors can provide their favorite beer
- “Highlights of ISSCC” as reciprocity for ISSCC's “Highlights of DAC”
Meanwhile, according to Getreu, the Student Design Contest will again be an important part of DAC this year. “We've worked over the years to take the original design contest run by the University of Michigan, [with leadership] from Richard Brown, and make it into the DAC Student Contest. The University of Michigan has always submitted a lot of papers, but now many other universities are submitting excellent papers as well. We have 51 papers this year, up from last year's 28. We'll be putting out a press release about the contest, plus we will be putting [a great deal of] money out for various scholarships and university programs.”
Getreu is notably enthused when he says, “We're going to be awarding $230,000 in scholarships in Anaheim this year.” He says the awards will go to a range of students from high school to graduate-level participants.
Not surprisingly, the DAC Executive Committee has decided to extend each afternoon's technical session by 30 minutes to allow time for even more submissions to be presented.
“We made the decision to extend afternoons back in January when we realized we had a record number of paper submissions. We were faced with two choices. Either increase the number of papers accepted or increase the number of denials. Some people worried that if you make the sessions too long, it will be a problem, or will run into early evening activities. It was a difficult decision, but we believe this is the correct one.”
Does the Executive Committee struggle at times with the perception that considerations other than the technical merits of a paper or panel influence its selection for the DAC program?
Getreu answers, “We have to do the Caesar's wife thing. We have to be both - fair and appear to be fair. We believe we are very fair, but that doesn't mean people don't complain. We are always willing to consider ideas that might improve the process and we encourage dialog about improvements.”
He adds, “I've been involved with DAC for many, many years. Maybe I'm unaware, but I don't see many complaints. I don't think people say, 'You're not fair. You didn't do the right thing.' I have never gotten that impression. To a certain extent we are influencing the direction of the technology and people on the Technology Committee tend to accept papers because they're good. I'm not going to claim every decision is correct, but the more people get involved, the more chances we'll have of making a good decision.”
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-- Peggy Aycinena, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.
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