Professions of a Silicon Valley Double-E
Monday, June 13, 2011
  Jim Williams: Self Taught, passionate about analog, freely shared his knowledge
The url arrived by twitter, with only the hash tag #Analog.
The Shocking headline, Analog guru Jim Williams dies after stroke.

Now this is not normally the place for an obituary, but this is career related.

Jim changed my career trajectory. In the article, you can read how Jim dropped out of college, and how he wound up at MIT, not as a student, but as a lab technician, and eventually found his way to silicon valley and to his signature role working for Linear Technology as an Applications Engineer. As a young engineer working on analog (board) designs, I often read his Tech Notes in preparation for working on a design. Then I started seeing his column in EDN. When I finally took the time to map out my skills, I finally saw, modeled by Jim, a role to set my aspirations on: Part Technical Expert, part Social, working with many customers, part Educator. I wanted to be an Applications Engineer, not a designer.
As a result of this insight, when the opportunity presented itself, I moved home to California, and went to work for Cadence design systems as an Analog design software Applications Engineer.

It was barely a year after my move that I actually got to meet Jim in person. Since I had started an IEEE chapter, and desparately needed (good) speakers, I reached out to Jim, who came and gave an excellent talk about Bill Hewlett's Audio Oscillator (showing off his own that he had restored to original condition. He explained Bill's genius (synthesis more than "invention), how the Oscillator worked, reviewed the business plan, and then, because he was paid by Linear, showed how to redesign the Oscillator, using LT opamps. For a device that had ONE active gain element, it was surprising how many Opamps were needed to get something close to meeting the same specs for linearity and distortion. But there we really see two lessons, 1. adjust your specifications to meet the new technology regime, and 2. Silicon might be more complicated, but since the transistors are nearly free, you can add features (digital connectivity) reduce size and cost all at the same time (assuming there is demand for the volume needed at the price point).

I last saw Jim in February at the Dinosaur's (strike that) Analog Affictionados party (promoted by Paul Rako). I'm really glad I took the time to go.
Life is just too short.

Rest in peace, Jim!
Sunday, October 17, 2010
  Book Review: "Being Geek: the Software Developer's Career Handbook"
I have yet to find a career book that doesn't tell us "YOU are responsible for your Career" in some way, and while this book is no exception, after finishing it (3:ooam this morning), I had new insight into the rules of the career game, why I'm considering taking that internal posting at Headquarters (WTF? Leave Silicon Valley?), why my boss has been loosing sleep over my project, and 3 things I can do to put an end to that.

"Being Geek" is not for the general population. If you are an Entrepreneur, or CEO at heart, if you already add MBA after your name, if you got that CS or EE degree just for the money rather than because you couldn't stand the idea of any other job even if the pay wound up being crappy, if you are not a geek, then this book probably won't scratch your career itch. Spend your money on "What Color is Your Parachute?" a book designed for a much broader audience.

While this book can be read start to finish in one day, (I did skip some chapters last night as I had read a version on the author's blog, and those didn't apply to MY current career decision) it is written in standalone chapters each focused on a single issue in one of 4 sections: (links are to blog postings that became a chapter in the section)
Like those other dog-eared books on your shelf that you actually use while you get your stuff done, this one is from O'reilly - and you can access it through your Safari Online subscription while one of Your People is borrowing the book because he never developed a game to drive his own development and stagnated at his last gig too long.

If you are a geek (checklist pg 4) this is probably a book that should have been on your shelf a couple of years ago, if it had been published then. Still not sure?

my List of 3 things?
  1. "Gaming the system" - make my teams progress toward's its goals a game.
  2. "A Deep Breath" - provide the "breathing" structure of information flow to and from my team to energise the work in the middle.
  3. the Trickle List - identify the small actions I can take everyday to improve - and KEEP TRACK of my progress in taking them.
now Go Build Something!
Friday, March 05, 2010
  Volunteers Needed for 2010 FIRST Silicon Valley regional - Mar 17-20

If you are into technology, and have an engineering degree, this is an opportunity to see

the best and brightest of the next generation in action.

(I'm not eligible, as I'm a Mentor to one of the competing teams!)

Jonathan David


from Elise Englehart: SVEC (Silicon Valley Engineering Council).

Hello all! I'm writing to ask for your help.

I'm working on getting together the approximately 100 volunteers we need

to put on the FIRST Robotics Competition for high school kids which is

coming up March 17-20. We need a lot of volunteers of all ages and

talents (both technical and non-technical) to run the competition. We

cannot hold the competitions without our volunteers! I need to get the

volunteers in place ASAP so we are ready. If you think you may be able

to help - whether just any one or all days (or even only online) -

please sign up now! I *really* need more volunteers, especially in

these positions. Weekdays are hardest to find people.

** Field Assembly - Wednesday afternoon

** Safety Advisors - Thurs thru Sat

** Field Repair/Reset - Thurs thru Sat

** Crowd Control - Friday and Saturday especially

** Robot Inspectors - Thursday <---- technical people needed

Please sign up online if you have some time to help and tell your

friends. It's lots of fun! Also, the competition is open to spectators

so tell your friends to come and watch! It's at San Jose State

University Event Center. Sign up to volunteer at:

PLEASE NOTE: Make ***SURE*** you select the "Silicon Valley Regional" on

the Volunteer Preferences page, otherwise I won't be able to see you in

the system! Forward this to anyone interested- whatever their background

(college students, retired, anyone who can help!). Volunteers must be

at least 13 years of age.

Training will be supplied by FIRST either at the time of the event, by

conference call, or on-line. Breakfast and lunch will be provided each


Volunteers will receive a **complimentary FIRST T-shirt** to be worn

on-site at all times when they are volunteering, and can worn with

casual wear such as blue jeans or khakis and comfortable closed toe

shoes. The volunteer T-shirts will be available on-site when you first

arrive to work the event.

Hope to see you there!

Elise Engelhardt


What is the FIRST Robotics Competition?

FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is a unique varsity sport of the mind

designed to help high-school-aged young people discover how interesting

and rewarding the life of engineers and researchers can be. The FIRST

Robotics Competition challenges teams of young people and their mentors

to solve a common problem in a six-week timeframe using a standard "kit

of parts" and a common set of rules. Teams build robots from the parts

and enter them in competitions designed by Dean Kamen, Dr. Woodie

Flowers, and a committee of engineers and other professionals. FIRST

redefines winning for these students because they are rewarded for

excellence in design, demonstrated team spirit, gracious professionalism

and maturity, and the ability to overcome obstacles. Scoring the most

points is a secondary goal. Winning means building partnerships that


This competition is the largest high school event of its kind developing

critical skills in science and technology in a super-charged learning

atmosphere. FIRST competitions (all ages) involve 57,200 teachers,

mentors and engineers. The FIRST Robotics competition for high school

age has with 45,000 students and over 1800 teams across the country

competing in regional competitions.

Students work with engineer mentors to design, build and test a robot

developed as a solution to a competition problem provided by FIRST. The

robots compete in an area requiring the teams to strategize and build

offensive and defensive capabilities into their design. Students acquire

skills such as problem solving, project management, critical thinking

and teamwork: skills necessary to their future and the future of


Again - if you think you may be able to volunteer for the FIRST Robotics

Competition, please sign up right away in FIRST's Volunteer Information

and Matching System (VIMS). To access VIMS go to PLEASE NOTE: Make *SURE* you select the

"Silicon Valley Regional" on the Volunteer Preferences page, otherwise I

won't be able to see you in the system! If you are a new volunteer,

click on the red star to the lower left which says "Sign me up!" Proceed

as directed. (If you experience problems registering or have additional

questions, please contact ) You will then receive

a follow up from me and a confirmation email from FIRST. You may also

contact me directly at or call me at 408-360-0669

Please pass this email along to anyone you think may be interested in

volunteering. It is an exciting, fast-moving, rewarding event. One you

will remember for a lifetime!


Jonathan David
Thursday, June 18, 2009
  Tales from the Career Trenches
If you are like me, you probably learn your lessons best when put in a story form. The person telling the story may not know the rest of your history, or the lesson you'll draw from his story.
But the stories are useful to us none-the-less.

Some folks are better at telling Stories than others. I happen to think that Charlie Stross is pretty good. And right now he is telling the story of his Career in his blog series "How I got Here in the End". Useful stuff that. He occasionally takes a humorous look at the future too.


If you are finding that fun, and you EVER think those Marketing shlubs have it easy, read Steve Blank.

Don't put your career on autopilot when the road is rough!
Saturday, May 23, 2009
  So you got an offer
you think. you hope.
and then you get a call from another company.
Do you tell them "No thanks"?

I've known a couple of folks in the industry who've have offers "rescinded" recently.
Nick the Headhunter tells it decently:
  I'm an analog, now what?
I had an interesting discussion about Analog IC design career strategies this morning:
  1. Specialize in a crucial IP block - ie Gigabit Serdes / Pipeline ADCs - then consult around the industry to help people implement these into their designs. This works for up to 10 years before enough others understand your trick well enough to do it themselves.
  2. Specialize in tool use and Optimization and general design, then work at companies where the above IP blocks are already in place, and you make changes and redesigns to reduce cost, power and increase performance and yield. This works for a while as long as you keep up with tools, process nodes and keep learning new tricks from the guys doing the first route.
  3. Start a company. You many find design takes a second seat to finding customers.
  4. Or join a startup, Its not that you don't do design, but you may also have to do CAD, IT, software, firmware, and test program development.
  5. do hard IP macros.
  6. go into management: which is just a variation on
  7. go into real estate/ venture capital / get your mba / join an MLM -- in other words change careers.

Like the EDA industry the IC industry is hard put to collect on the value created by the end applications.. unless your devices are the crucial part of the end product (CPU / memory/ cellular radio).
Its my opinion, that we are now at the point of incremental growth in value in end user hardware..
phones with better screens, text input, battery time and connections (eg wifi + bt + ir + evdo + gsm + wimax + tv + gps)
but the real growth in the end user value is in the software available on the desktop, laptop, netbook, and phone.. or whats available on the network.

I hope this helps you in thinking about your career.

  Breaking into Analog IC
Recently a friend who was one of my industry contacts when I was an undergrad (many many years ago between the invention of the PC and the invention of the internet) who is considering getting into analog design asked for some ideas on how to get a job in this arena.

While of course the key, as in any job situation, is to be seen as a reliable, competent engineer with enough experience in the field.
And Analog IC design may not be the future hot spot of design that he was hoping.

To be considered as reliable you probably need to be referred as a Friend of a Friend. Really.

To be seen as competent, it helps if people can see examples of your work. A Paper, A Patent. A successful chip project they've heard of. Your Thesis, a Circuit you designed and Fabricated in school.

Of course since he was at the end of his Ph.D, It was too late to suggest the best course of action (if you REALLY want to do analog design) : Get the MSEE/Ph.D under a well respected analog Prof. - Which of course is one route to building that network. After all you can be the greated Analog designer since Bob Widlar, but if no one else knows this, it won't help your salary.

Here is my answer: In case it helps you think of some ideas for your situation.

1. Write a paper on one of the Analog Circuits you developed as a part of your PhD research. Get that published. Give a talk on that. IE whats tricks did you have to play to get the Speed up to what was needed? to get good Yield?
(ie present at xxxx(local) SSCS chapter?)

2 Read: JSSC aka the Red Rag. pub cycle for that is prob 6 months if you can get in. only ~50% of submissions accepted.
Also Transactions on VLSI.

3. Books: Johns and Martin, Grey [lewis, Hurst] & Meyer. Razavi.

4. Conferences: ISSCC is premier. Other good ones are CICC (visit us here in SJC!)
RFIC. - best ones are the SSCS sponsored conferences.
for modeling and simulation, BMAS (right after CICC )is great, but much smaller.

Tools: With your device/process background, Verilog-A is a sure thing.. its the new "compact model" language. Verilog-AMS is even better. - but modeling is becoming a subskill to verification.
Know how to run analog sims.. and RF analyses too..
most analog designers work in the Cadence Analog Design Environment..
the rest live with spice netlists and run Hspice.. Nanosim, Hsim, etc..

I hope these ideas help.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
  The white house embraces web 2.0 ?
If you have not yet joined the revolution that Dave Winer and others started when they created RSS,
now the White House has an RSS feed.
Leverage your curiosity (its a core value!!) find yourself a feed reader, ( I use google reader)
and start subscribing.

Happy Feeding!
  values on which our success depends
"But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old.
Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States"
David Brin notes the curious presence of Curiosity as a core American value in his blog post today.

I think its time for Americans, and especially engineers to get re-involved with our government.
This is a perfect time. While a number of us have been laid off in recent months, and more will doubtless be affected as our companies adjust to new economic realities, The engineering approach has much to offer the challenges we face.

Have you been affected? Penelope Trunk recently posted about the benefits of working to your strengths.
"Because positive psychology coach Senia Maymin has spent hours on the phone explaining to me that if you just start living a conscious life, you can start meeting lots of disparate goals, not particularly related to the area you focus on for raising your own level of consciousness."
Don't focus on a weakness, focus on a strength. Your improvement and mastery there, will help you overcome the challenges of your weakness(es) .

Get ready to work. Get ready to serve. The call will come.

Happy new administration, and quote our new president:
"God bless you all, God bless America"
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
  Are We behaving Well? Why Women leave STEM at 40.
thanks to David Brin (the SCIENCE fiction author, and a champion for civilization) I'm made aware of a study that finds that nearly half of the women that START a career in the STEM arenas the IEEE tries to encourage (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Leave the field between the ages of 35-40. And the top reason is apparently related to gender discrimination and sexual harassment. The study found that 63% of these women had experience sexual harassment in the work place.

The IEEE ethics statement points 8 and 9 can be interpreted to addresses this.

As IEEE volunteers we ALSO need to be extremely careful in our behavior towards other volunteers. What would you consider to be "bad behavior" on the part of IEEE volunteers?

Labels: , ,

Ruminations about the Electrical Engineering profession as practiced in Silicon Valley by an IEEE Senior Member. Disclaimer: All Posts here are official IEEE business in that they are messages about IEEE activities from an IEEE volunteer. These messages do not constitute official records of R6-PACE activities, nor official IEEE or IEEE-USA policy statements. Website:

My Photo
Location: San Jose, California, United States

When he is not working on IEEE stuff, Jonathan does Mixed Signal Design Verification at Qualcomm. Senior Member IEEE. Founder IEEE-SCV-SSC (the first Solid State Circuits chapter). Past Section Chair, Santa Clara Valley Section - the Largest Section. Co-founder IEEE-SCV-CAS. IEEE-SSCS Membership chair 2001-2003. IEEE SSCS chapters Committee member. IEEE-SCV-PACE committee member 2001- IEEE-SCV-PACE Chair 2006-2007. IEEE R6 PACE coordinator.


 Subscribe to Professions of a Silicon Valley Double-E

Add to Google Subscribe in NewsGator Online

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / January 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / March 2010 / October 2010 / June 2011 /

Powered by FeedBurner

Powered by Blogger