What Else Needs To Change

Tools and methodologies will continue to evolve, but how about your skills?

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Rising complexity at each new node may require a different skill set for design engineers in the future. What exactly needs to be included in that skill set remains open to debate, and it probably will continue to evolve. But there are some clear trends emerging.

 

First of all, there’s the software. While software engineers can write code, hardware engineers who understand programming can do it better. I’ve heard that from engineering managers, system designers, professors and even some software developers. The reason is they understand how the hardware utilizes the software, while most software developers write code to the available interfaces. There’s a reason why Intel has been working so closely with Microsoft to make the operating system more efficient.

 

But if you train engineers to write software, then something has to give on the hardware. You can’t do everything. There are only so many people on a design team, which leads to step number two. Models are essential to absorb some of the complexity in the design process. You don’t have a better design (usually) because you draw the project out by hand or do manual place and route. You have a better design because it draws less power, costs less, and reaches tapeout on time or, better yet, ahead of time.

 

And you generally get much better rewards when you figure out ways to tweak your design for derivatives and new features without having to do many pieces from scratch because your hand-drawn model isn’t flexible enough or your simulation doesn’t allow for changes.

 

The bottom line: Some people need to re-learn everything, but everyone needs to re-learn something.

 

–Ed Sperling


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