Analog Electronics Work

Modesty comes in bulk doses

I am not an analog engineer yet. But I’m learning how to be.

One of the things I love about my company is that they really allow for professional development. I will have the opportunity to go back to school and we have conferences on new technologies. Last week I was introduced to the another great opportunity, a meeting with the senior engineers of the company to just talk shop and bounce around ideas. Today we had another of our weekly meetings with each other and this time we had an outside vendor come in and present new product offerings. Here’s some of the things I learned:

  1. Analog engineers find favorite parts and stick to them
    • Say you’re a salesman. Do you think you’d be in a meeting and someone there would start gushing about the product you sold 10 years ago? How great it was? OK, say you’re a doctor. Do you hear other doctors talking about the great medicines and techniques that were used 10 years ago? No? Well, we do in analog engineering. Either by habit or price or whatever drives a man or woman to talk affectionately about an often-used piece of silicon, it’s kind of weird to hear it. Doubly so when you’re in a presentation for all the NEW stuff that is coming out and you expect the focus to be on that. To be fair, sometimes chip makers get it right one time and then can’t replicate it for a while. But that’s another blog post.
  2. The same point goes for books
    • I guess this point doesn’t really hold up when comparing analog designers to other professions. I’m sure doctors still read Grey’s Anatomy, Salesmen read Dale Carnegie and Priests still read the Bible. But there are some bibles in analog design too. In fact, that was the first meeting I mentioned above. We sat around talking about our favorite books. As someone who has just about no clue about everything, I’ve been grabbing at any knowledge I can get my hands on. I love books!
  3. If you used to work at a company and then come back as a vendor, watch out!
    • Yikes. I’ve seen some pretty rough treatment of vendors before, much worse than today actually (Semiconductor vendors REALLY get the shaft, that’s all I’ll say). But today I witnessed a vendor get hit from all sides. To be fair, I feel that a good deal of the treatment was because he used to work here and then became a vendor. This meant he had personal relationships with a lot of the engineers he was fielding questions from, but he still got some doozies. Makes me think twice about jumping into a field app position anytime soon (besides my cluelessness about it).
  4. There is actually some symbiosis between customers and vendors.
    • As I mention in point 3, I’ve seen some struggle between vendors and users. But today I saw some genuine attempts at bringing the needs of the customer back to the vendor, which gives me a warm professional fuzzy feeling. Plus I’ve heard they even deliver on some of their promises, another reason I’m glad I’m in this new sector (basically you had to be THE biggest player in the semiconductor market to really influence any change).
    • Another great thing is that I found out that some vendors offer free training to new guys like me. That is great because my job requires a little knowledge about a lot of things and then the ability to quickly acquire the remainder of any knowledge. Example: I am told a product isn’t working and it MIGHT be this or that part. Go. (That’s the point I start to scramble).
  5. Converse to the above point, analog engineers love asking for the moon.
    • Well, nothing is perfect, right? And in my experience, analog designers will ask for exactly what they want, even if it might never be possible. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know, right? It reminds me of the phrase I use when I don’t get my way:
      • “All I want is everything I want right when I want it. Is that too much to ask?”
  6. I’ve mentioned it before, but I have a ton to learn
    • I wrote down no less than 6 things from that meeting that I had no clue what they were. That’s pretty crazy. I had a very general feeling about what they might be about (I actually found out some of them have applications in renewable energy), but I still have at least a good week of reading ahead of me (on top of my usual workload) to figure out what some of these things meant. When I came into this job thinking I’d be learning, I sure had it right.

So to reuse my blog headline, modesty does come in bulk doses when you’re an analog engineer, especially when you hang out with veterans. It’s kind of refreshing though, knowing that I have so much I can potentiall learn. I know it won’t get boring and I know the industry doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon either. Bring it on.

By Chris Gammell

Chris Gammell is an engineer who talks more than most other engineers. He also writes, makes videos and a couple podcasts. While analog electronics happen to be his primary interests, he also dablles in FPGAs and system level design.

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