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Consider the 'resilient' EEs layoffs leave behind

Posted: 12 Apr 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ee resources? ic design tools? in-house engineering? ee jobs?

It is up to suppliers to help engineers introduce competitive products to market on time. Those who befriend designers and make their lives easier will be rewarded.

Mitch Little is Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Applications at Microchip Technology Inc.
Since the tech bubble burst, thousands of engineers have been laid off. The tragedies of last fall exacerbated a weakened worldwide economy, dampening hopes for a technology rebound.

While our hearts and prayers go out to engineers affected by these events, a population of designers is often overlooked in a down cycle: the "resilient" engineer who faithfully does the job every day and who deserves our attention.

When a reduction in force occurs, the remaining employees can feel directionless. Morale suffers. As the engineering and other functional areas are cut, the resilient engineer's responsibilities suddenly increase. His/her hard work is not visible. Salary cuts and stock options deep under water provide little motivation. Department budgets are slashed. Some may question if they are on the winning team.

Traditional sources of external support also evaporate. Partnering agreements of the last up cycle are gone, and many chip vendors reduce their own support staff.

Yet, for the resilient engineer, the one thing that has not changed is the deadline for designing competitive products for market introduction. He or she must now achieve this despite more work and less staff, budget and vendor support.

Semiconductor makers have a substantial opportunity to meet the unspoken need to make their products design-friendly. Today's engineer does not have the time for anything less. "Easy to use" and time-to-market are the messages of just about every technology vendor; they have lost their meaning. Yet, suppliers whose products can truly demonstrate these advantages in today's environment will be tomorrow's winners.

Component innovations continue to accelerate, providing many options for trade-offs in hardware vs. firmware performance. Launching a new IC with industry-leading specs is only part of the equation. Where many chipmakers and other vendors miss the boat is providing the necessary technical support. This means befriending the engineering customer with development tools, technical support and documentation.

Tools must be available when silicon is announced. Engineers should have a choice of offerings from third parties. Sending loaner units within 24 hours for those on deadline or who cannot afford a full tool suite can be a nice touch.

Support can take many forms: field application engineers, in-factory applications engineers, traveling seminars, Web-casting and online education material. Microchip Technology has doubled its in-house engineering support team to assist with designers' embedded-control applications.

Data sheets and other documentation need to be comprehensive and straightforward. Reference designs and application notes should be plentiful, helping to educate the engineer on emerging technologies, not just the vendor's device.

Vendors must understand the real situation and needs of the enduring engineer. It is up to suppliers to fill in the gaps caused by the economic downturn, and help engineers introduce competitive products to market on time. Those who befriend designers and make their lives easier will be rewarded.

? Mitch Little

Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Applications

Microchip Technology Inc.

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