Reading time ( words)
The next generation of PCB designers is coming—slowly, but surely. What will this new group of designers mean for EDA vendors like Cadence Design Systems? I recently interviewed Dan Fernsebner, product marketing group director and a veteran EDA guy, and Bryan LaPointe, lead product engineer and representative of the younger generation. They discussed the next generation of PCB designers, some of the best ways to draw smart young people into this industry, and why the PCB designers of the future may need to have a college degree just to get an interview.
Andy Shaughnessy: Bryan, how did you get involved with Cadence?
Bryan LaPointe: Cadence was a bit of a long journey for me. I started in the design world, which I kind of stumbled into. After a few years of leading designs, I started putting together presentations and winning awards at different seminars and conferences, such as CDNLive and PCB West. From those, I started getting a little exposure and saw that a position opened up here for product engineering and I made the jump.
Shaughnessy: What was your degree in?
LaPointe: I have a bachelor's degree in forensic science. Totally unrelated.
Shaughnessy: Everyone has a different path.
LaPointe: Right. I worked in the physical sciences for a little while in the labs, something more related to my degree. Then, I ended up stumbling into an internship that taught not only PCB tool basics, but terms, technologies, and everything. This eventually led to a full-time designer position and being a bit of a team lead. That all cascaded from there.
Shaughnessy: When you were in college, were you aware that there was this field called circuit board design, or was that later?
LaPointe: No, I was totally oblivious to it. PCB design is so underexposed. People don't really know it exists. The people who use all these electronics just take it for granted that they hit a button and something turns on, but the whole subset of the design world goes unnoticed because people think of the product, but they don't think of how it actually gets there. I didn't even know PCB design was a thing. I knew PCB assembly existed—obviously the phones and such have to be put together—but no, I never made the connection that somebody actually had to connect all those little parts together.
Shaughnessy: Dan, as the wise, elder statesman here [laughs], are you seeing more young people getting involved in the industry?
Dan Fernsebner: Absolutely. We live in this revolutionary period, in terms of the age of IoT. The explosion of electronic hardware is just incredible. I think a lot of that has to do with the accessibility to design tools, the reduction in cost of manufacturing and components, and the internet in general, in regard to providing information and enabling young designers to experiment.
I think it's interesting what Bryan said. Even when I came up through college, PCB design or layout wasn't something that was necessarily taught—it was something you learned through trial and error and co-op work. Learning PCB layout is becoming harder for this next generation because a lot of the older designers are now retiring, and they are the ones trying to pass the torch.
To read this entire interview, which appeared in the July 2018 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.