A. It would be if I didn’t love reading. All of the world’s knowledge is right in your hand or your lap. Having a good number of peers, mentors, managers and others who have taken an interest in lifting me up certainly helps. It starts with curiosity though.
Q. What are the growth options (career) from here onwards?
A. I don’t want to directly manage anyone but that is one path forward. I tried my hand at being a consultant but got lured back to the captive role for the perks. Starting a family will do that.
My perception of this is that the smaller you go in geometry, the higher you go in terms of prestige. I’m certainly not knocking my mechanical/industrial design cousins. They’ve got a cool gig too but for me, focusing down to substrates and then chips would make more sense.
Q. For youngsters dreaming to fill in your shoes—what would be your advice to them? What aspects should they work on to reach here?
A. Expect to start out with AutoCAD drafting or PCB library work. It seems mundane but no PCB can be any better than the underlying footprints.
Attention to detail at that level will propel you on to the next step. It might be flex circuits and daughter-cards and progress to more and more integration as you show your skills.
Don’t be afraid of contracts or other temporary work. Breadth is greater than depth at some point.
Q. What’s your take on Open Source software for PCB design? It is a good route to focus on the fundamentals of design rather than get hooked to one type of tool?
A. Learn to do layout any way you can but realize that your second CAD package will be the hardest one because it’s not the way you learned it. Once upon a time, I was being head hunted and I sought the advice of a Career Counselor who told me that if I could learn Allegro on someone else’s dime. that would be the right move.
I stayed put and learned Allegro. Good decision in hindsight. You could also make a career out of Mentor or Altium. The others are shrink-wrapped stepping stones.
Q. What are the key mistakes that you made that you think you should have avoided in hind-sight? Any learnings?
A. I learned to accept changes. That wasn’t natural and only became so when I purged the “C-word” (changes) and starting using the term “improvements”. That one paradigm shift made things better for everyone.
Q. Any good leaders that you worked for? What did you learn from them?
A. Yes. An “RF Guru” took me under his wing and taught me the craft in detail. Then, he opened some doors at other companies for me to grow. It worked out to be mutually beneficial.
Q. Any bad leaders (need not name them)? Any learnings from them?
A. I might have thought so at the time but no, not really. They were just trying to get the best out of me and again, mutually beneficial but it seemed like tough love.
The worst thing you could do for someone is to set low expectation. I guess that happened once for about six months. Move on, that’s all I can say about that.
Q. What’s been your leadership style in terms of managing your people? Any mantras that you have developed/follow to lead your team?
A. When I was an assembly supervisor, I set clear goals and tracked everyone’s progress against those metrics so that the reviews basically wrote themselves. I try to be impartial with my current vendors. I guess I’d have to say, “Keep your people engaged or they’ll move on.”
Q. How do you balance time between work and personal life?
A. Riding a bike to work is “my time”. Head’s down work is their time. Chatting with my co-workers is “our time”. Get a little of each every day.
Self and family first. Band buddies and bike buddies second/third. If you’re good enough at your job, it won’t eat all of your time unless you let it. My obituary isn’t going to mention my occupation – at least, not if I get to write it.
Put the gizmos down. Own a phone but don’t let it own you. If that thing ever sees the inside of your bedroom, you’re doing it wrong.
Q. If you were in college right now—what would you wanna be in the next 5 years?
A. An investment banker.
Q. Why—an investment banker? What appeals you about that role?
A. Give me your money and let me turn it into more money. I’ll make money whether you do or not. Somebody has to live in that penthouse. Someone has to drive that Italian super car. Why not me?
To tell the truth, it’s not the job, it’s the pay-check. If money was of no concern, then I’d be happy writing fiction so I could take people places and make them laugh, cry, sigh and most of all, think while they anticipate what’s coming on the next page.
Q. What are the three things you’d like people to say at your retirement party?
A. Can you come back and consult for us once in a while? Don’t forget to write. Is this really your boat?