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For our March issue of Design007 Magazine on planning your design education, we spoke with Bill Brooks of Nordson ASYMTEK, a long-time PCB designer, CID instructor, and fantastic sculptor. He is also one of the first to ever teach standalone PCB design courses in a college.
After he earned his certification to teach the IPC CID workshops, Bill served as an adjunct instructor at Palomar College near San Diego, teaching beginning and advanced PCB design classes for 10 years. I asked Bill to share his thoughts on setting up a PCB design education career plan, and the need to stay on top of your game as a PCB designer.
Andy Shaughnessy: You’ve had experience teaching PCB design at the college level, as well as decades of industry experience. When you were teaching, how did you help your students plan their educational objectives?
Bill Brooks: When I was teaching at Palomar College, each student wanted something different out of the education and curriculum. Some students were looking to enhance their existing experience by adding PCB design to their electronics knowledge base. Some were trying to gain the necessary skills to get a specific job designing PCBs in the electronics industry, and some were taking my classes to fill out a degree program at the college without ever using the knowledge in our industry.
We helped them define their personal objectives by asking questions about their personal goals. Then we offered the entire class the goal of achieving certification though the IPC Designers Council. Before you start a journey, it’s a good idea to know where you want to go, develop a plan to get there, execute that plan, evaluate your progress, and make any adjustments make along the way.
Shaughnessy: What would you advise to PCB designers who want to set up their own strategic learning plans and educational objectives?
Brooks: Understand where the industry is headed and prepare for the skills you will need to place yourself as an asset in the industry. Ask questions of the experts in the field, connect with others who are going the same direction. Never stop learning; be curious.
Shaughnessy: What criteria should designers keep in mind when evaluating their educational needs to stay on top of their game in the industry?
Brooks: Printed circuit design methods and knowledge are not static. Learn about the resources available from authors, industry experts, manufacturers, and assembly houses. Help educate yourself and then stay connected.
Shaughnessy: When I first started covering PCB design in the late ‘90s, there were no “critical paths” to becoming a designer. Is an engineering degree becoming the critical path for future designers?
Brooks: No. Though many aspects of PCB design are engineering tasks, an engineering degree is not required for much of what we do. There are good tools out there to help and having an interest in solving puzzles is more useful than knowing transistor theory.
Shaughnessy: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Brooks: Get to work.
Shaughnessy: Good advice. Thanks, Bill.
Brooks: Thank you, Andy.
This conversation originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Design007 Magazine.