The Digital Layout: Now, Where Were We?

In this month’s column, I share a few terms I’ve been contemplating lately, and which I have been trying to put into context regarding the role of the PCEA within the electronics industry. Then, I hand it off to our PCEA Chairman Stephen Chavez to inspire us for a fresh start in the new year. Finally, I’ll provide our readers with a list of events which are coming up. 

PCEA Updates
Like me, you may have noticed the use of three concepts used extensively in 2020: “Believe the science and data,” “Speak truth to power,” and “Consider ‘systemic’ causes for problems.”

Indeed, these concepts were associated with some particularly challenging, if not nasty, displays of societal failures in 2020. It has been easy for us to see that in an agitated and desperate social climate, the time-consuming, methodical approach to collecting data and applying it to science can give way to convenient conspiracy theories. Speaking truth to power was shown to have the short-term potential to get a person fired overnight. The term systemic was used to point to long term causes for some particularly blatant failures of a society to set people up for success.

Will our society’s negative issues be addressed? Will any good come through lessons learned from science, speaking truth to power, and examining systemic causes for our problems? I hope so.

As I begin 2021, these concepts continue to challenge me. And considering these concepts, how can an organization like the PCEA help the electronics industry see positive movement in our industry? I think there is a lot our organization can do to inspire our membership in the long run. Where would our printed circuit engineering technology be without science? Our leaders within the PCEA are actively engaged in partnering and promoting the science and research data of the many electronics PhDs, whose work continues to help PCB designs advance in the areas of layout, materials, processing and overall performance. The goal of the PCEA Educational Committee is to pull industry stakeholders away from conspiracy theories, which can include:

  • An EE degree automatically makes one an experienced PCB engineer
  • Just because the finishing spec for copper says “2 ounce” your supplier is plating up to a full two ounces.
  • Your electronic component app notes are 100% correct for all applications

They want to give our members exposure to the science that can be leveraged to make PCB design, manufacturing, and test and procurement run better. Our educational committee in the PCEA is tasked with teaching our members solid, scientifically sound, core PCB engineering concepts. The concept here is to give our members the education and confidence to speak the truth about design, manufacturing, and test and procurement to fellow stakeholders, project managers, and even CEOs or legal representation during the most agitated and desperate times of a project development cycle.

Rejecting radical PCB engineering conspiracy theory, embracing science, and becoming educated enough to speak truth to powerful management and customer contacts are keys to overcoming systemic PCB engineering failure. Systemic success models include proliferation of relevant, real-time data to be accessed and rightly used to promote the well-being of one’s fellow PCB engineering stakeholders and their individual responsibilities. A customer must truly define their needs. A program manager must truly understand those needs, select appropriate project stakeholders, work to gather data, and feed them truth. The PCB design, manufacturing and test engineers must be enabled to work within a company culture that promotes front-loading projects with a healthy respect for science, data and educated stakeholder feedback.

Message from the Chairman
by Stephen Chavez, MIT, CID+

steph_chavez300.jpgHappy New Year! 2021 is finally here. Thank goodness that 2020 is behind us! We view 2021 as a new year filled with lots of potential and great opportunities. Most people set resolutions when they start each new year. For many, they consist of a handful of new resolutions mixed in with some of the same old resolutions. These “carried over” resolutions may or may not get filed or accomplished, yet remain on an annual list, year after year. Personally, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I used to make them and write them down. Is this a good or a bad thing to do? I guess it’s up to how each of us perceive this annual form of goal setting or form of “good intentions” to enforce a change or improvement in our respective lives. Everyone handles the beginning of a new year a bit differently when it comes to annual resolutions or goal-setting. 

Usually during my year-end holiday break/vacation, I simply take some personal time and do some deep-level self-assessments and evaluations. I think about how the previous year unfolded and how I adapted to it. I review my attained successes, failures, opportunities taken and missed, and opportunities that I simply did not take advantage of. Then, I ask myself several questions such as these:

  • “Are you truly happy with who is looking back at you, while looking into a mirror?”
  • “Did you do better than the year before?”
  • “Did you honestly try your hardest and give your best each and every time?”
  • “Did you practice what you preach?”
  • “What do you think you could have done better?”
  • “Did you learn from any failures or shortcomings?”
  • “Did you treat others as you would like to be treated?”
  • “Did you live each and every day outside your comfort zone?”
  • Finally, here is a big one I started asking myself about 10 years ago: “Did you make a positive difference in someone’s life?”

After this deep self-assessment and self-evaluation, I identify areas to improve and ways to evolve. Then I go after it, continually telling myself, “Steph, you can do better, so much better! There is always room for improvements! Attack each day as if it’s your last and have no regrets as this year unfolds! Positive attitude is everything, even when things don’t go as planned or as expected! Remember Steph, don’t be afraid to fail, because being afraid in itself will cause a self-induced mental roadblock to success.”  

For PCEA, 2020 was our birth year, a year we will never forget, for many reasons. It was a year that unfolded with lots of challenges, especially with adapting, evolving into and incorporating our virtual existence in today’s industry, due to COVID-19. Like many, PCEA adapted and overcame these challenges with much success. As we continue our positive momentum and successes in 2021, we take time to look back and review how PCEA came about, where we started, where we want to be and what it’s going to take to get there, and how we will make it happen.

It’s similar to my yearly self-assessment, which has been very instructive for me. As a collective, we all agree that we’ll continue striving to be and do better in all aspects of what PCEA stands for. Collaborate, inspire, and educate are at the core of our values and mission. For the good of the industry, PCEA will be even better at this in 2021. This is a year that we eagerly attack and do so much more, from years of lessons learned and feedback from many within our industry. So, are these a form of New Year’s resolutions? Are these goals? I’ll let you decide. I personally challenge you to do your own self-assessment going into 2021. I also challenge you all to stay outside your comfort zone for personal growth and do whatever it takes to be and do better, as each of you chase your own definition of success.

I continue to wish each of you and your families health and safety. Best of success to all as 2021 unfolds.

Warmest regards,


Next Month
Just as it looked as though some new live printed circuit engineering events would be opening up—not so fast; 2021 will require from all of us an ounce of prevention in order to pound out the cure for new electronics jobs and technology. Help is on the way! PCEA is traveling at warp speed to feed our diverse electronics industry data in hopes this may lead us to mutate our thought process or at least provide us with antibodies to help ward off career stagnation.

Upcoming Events

Below is a list of upcoming event cultures which may lead you to mutate your thought process or at least provide you with antibodies to help you ward off career stagnation.

  • March 6–11: IPC APEX EXPO (virtual)
  • April 13–15, 2021: DesignCon (Santa Clara, California)
  • May 10–12, 2021: PCB East (Santa Clara, California)
  • May 11–13, 2021: IPC High-Reliability Forum 2021 (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • August 31–September 3, 2021: PCB West (Santa Clara, California)
  • November 10, 2021: PCB Carolina (Raleigh, North Carolina)

Spread the word. If you have a significant electronics industry event that you would like to announce, please send me the details at, and we will consider adding it to the list.

Refer to our column and the PCEA website to stay up to date with the scheduled industry events. If you have not yet joined the PCEA collective, please visit us at and find out how to become a PCEA member.

The most productive, long term changes within a society do not come through negative agitation but through education, science, and truth. In our PCB engineering culture, we are occasionally affected by “disruptive technology.” Though sadly, disruptive technology can wipe out an entire industry—think of what troubles the LED caused to the incandescent light bulb industry. We might consider this an example of technologists inciting “good trouble”—a significant change in technology based upon the long-term benefit of the entire society considered. Long-term benefits for all.

The PCEA doesn’t want to help educate our industry stakeholders so we can all speak truth to power and get fired the next day by management or customers who can’t handle the truth. Our organizational goal involves collaborating to help create and inspire an entire industry of informed people who have their industry’s long term best interests and success for all in mind.

See you next month or sooner!

This column originally appeared in the January 2021 issue of Design007 Magazine.



The Digital Layout: Now, Where Were We?


In this month’s column, Kely Dack shares a few terms I’ve been contemplating lately, and which I have been trying to put in context regarding the role of the PCEA within the electronics industry. Then, PCEA Chairman Stephen Chavez to inspire us for a fresh start in the new year. Finally, he provides us with a list of events which are coming up.

View Story


The Digital Layout: PCEA 2020—Small Rearview Mirror, Big Windshield


In this month’s forward-driving column, Kelly Dack glances back at PCEA’s year in “rearview," and PCEA Chairman Stephen Chavez focuses on what lies ahead. Dack also points out some interesting events for you to consider attending.

View Story

The Digital Layout: PCEA and Industry Leaders Who Happen to Be Women


In this month’s column, Kelly Dack introduces a few of our inspiring PCEA leaders who happen to be women and teases some upcoming coverage we’ll be doing on one of the PCEA’s educational networking events. PCEA Chairman Stephen Chavez also offers his take on the importance of diversity in a collective organization.

View Story

The Digital Layout: Local Chapters—You Can Distance This Body But Not These Senses


Kelly Dack shares a few thoughts on the formation of PCEA chapters as far as where they’re at and where they need to go, and PCEA Chairman Stephen Chavez offers some encouraging words for these extended times of COVID-19.

View Story

The Digital Layout: Education Unlocks the Golden Door to Freedom


Kelly Dack speaks with the PCEA Educational Committee regarding the team’s take on the PCEA’s role in education. What do they have in store? PCEA Chairman Steph Chavez also weighs in on the strength of our education committee and why it is crucial to the PCEA’s mission.

View Story

The Digital Layout: It’s Official—1,000+ PCEA Members Worldwide


Kelly Dack reviews the virtual PCEA grand opening, which took place on July 14, 2020 and featured guest presenter and PCEA educational committee member Rick Hartley. He also checks in with the PCEA education committee, and PCEA Chairman Steph Chavez also shares his satisfaction with the PCEA's recent open house.

View Story

The Digital Layout: The PCEA’s Grand Opening


Kelly Dack interviews Rick Hartley about the presentation he has prepared for the PCEA’s grand opening on July 14, and PCEA Chairman Steph Chavez shares a timely message on how our time working from home is a serious matter, and how letting our guard down could be a mistake.

View Story

The Digital Layout: An Expectation of Collaboration


Kelly Dack shares updates on the PCEA website and reports on some inspiring communication on collaboration taking place between the PCEA and a well-known industry organization. Kelly also includes a "Message From the Chairman," Steph Chavez, as well as professional development opportunities and events.

View Story

The Digital Layout: Life During COVID-19 ‘Wartime’


This month, Kelly Dack shares updates on the progress the PCEA staff is making toward establishing a web presence and reports on what the PCEA is preparing in support of the PCB engineering community. Though PCEA chapter activities, as well as professional development and event opportunities, have been limited because of restrictions due to COVID-19, PCEA Chairman Steph Chavez also offers his perspective on the challenges of staying connected without using traditional means.

View Story

The Digital Layout: Onward!


In Kelly Dack's debut as the new author of this column, he provides updates on the direction and leadership of the PCEA and upcoming professional development and event opportunities, and Stephen Chavez shares his first "message from the chairman." In addition, Bob McCreight, president of the Silicon Valley Chapter, discusses their most recent “lunch and learn” event held in February.

View Story

The Digital Layout: The Foundation of the PCEA Is Being Laid


Stephen Chavez highlights the Orange County Chapter’s recent meeting and their transition from IPC to PCEA affiliation, recent PCEA activities, and the evolution of this column, including introducing Kelly Dack, CID+, PCEA's new communication officer.

View Story


The Digital Layout: Fall 2019 Recap


As the second half of the year is quickly passing by, the IPC Designers Council has seen lots of continued activities within our industry regarding PCB design. PCB West was held in mid-September in Santa Clara, California, and as usual, the show exceeded expectations. Stephen Chavez provides a brief breakdown of fall activities within local chapters.

View Story

The Digital Layout: Recent IPC DC Chapter Activities


We’re onto the second half of the year now, and we’ve seen lots of activities within our local Designers Council (DC) Chapters, including a few international chapters as well. Here's a snapshot of what has taken place so far from several of our active chapters.

View Story

The Digital Layout: New and Thriving Chapters in Mexico


This month’s column highlights the Monterrey Designers Council Chapter located in Monterrey, Mexico. The chapter was established November 23, 2017, which makes it a younger chapter compared to several other global chapters currently in existence today. I also share news about a new chapter forming in Nogales, Mexico.

View Story

The Digital Layout: Spotlight on the Orange County Chapter


So, what’s so special about the Orange County Chapter? For starters, we’re fortunate that a large number of electronics companies are located in Southern California, so there are many PCB designers in our area who are thirsty for knowledge. We are also lucky to have many local PCB fabrication and assembly companies from which we draw attendees and speakers. All of the major CAE vendors have offices and technical field personnel here and have been very supportive of our chapter in hosting lunches to help us keep our costs down.

View Story

The Digital Layout: San Diego Chapter Updates and More


This month’s column is packed with recent activities, including a spotlight on the San Diego Chapter and an interview with Luke Hausherr, the new chapter president. You’ll also find an update from the IPC Designers Council Executive Board as collaboration with the new IPC Education Foundation continues to evolve and recommended reading featuring an interview with a young designer.

View Story

The Digital Layout: Greater Phoenix Chapter Revived


The Greater Phoenix chapter was revived in late 2018 after being largely dormant over the past few years. It has also undergone some leadership changes. As the former president, I have taken on a more active global role at the executive level of the IPC Executive DC Board as the communications officer at large. I will stay on the leadership committee for the Greater Phoenix Chapter as the VP at the request of the newly elected president, Randy Kumagai. Randy and I have already started to brainstorm with ways to kickstart the chapter’s activity in 2019.

View Story

The Digital Layout: Designer Highlights From IPC APEX EXPO 2019


The IPC Designers Council Executive Board meeting took place on January 29. Executive Board members in attendance included Gary Ferrari, Mike Creeden, Cherie Litson, Kelly Dack, Thomas Romont, and me. We also had Michael Schleicher, a guest representative from Germany, in attendance. Further, Dr. John Mitchell, Dave Hernandez, Colette Buscemi, Teresa Rowe, Aaron Birney, and Charlene Gunter du Plessis represented IPC.

View Story

The Digital Layout: Cascade Designers Council Chapter and 2019 Activities


Our CID+ class had four people enrolled who came from around the area. All who attended learned about how board materials affected their designs, including EMI, EMC, impedance control, power distribution techniques, board stackups, and placement strategies in more detail than what was in the CID. Further, participants took the exam first thing Friday morning. This allowed us time to attend the Designers Council “lunch-and-learn” meeting, and the Altium user group met afterward in the same location.

View Story

The Digital Layout: Chapter Highlights and Certification Successes


This month’s column highlights the San Diego chapter, which is also where IPC APEX EXPO 2019 will be held at the end of January. You will also find updates on recent CID and CID+ certification success stories, a recap of the PCB Carolina event from the Research Triangle Park (RTP) North Carolina chapter, and upcoming events, so mark your calendars for next year.

View Story


The Digital Layout: Chapter Roundup and CID+ Certification


This month’s spotlight is the Silicon Valley Chapter. We held our fall quarterly meeting on October 25, 2018, at none other than Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California—yes, the site of Super Bowl 50 and the soon-to-be 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship game. This was made possible by our host, Sierra Circuits, and sponsor, Altium. We thank them both graciously. Out of 33 total RSVPs, 24 were able to attend the lunchtime meeting. Fun fact: of the members who RSVPed, six of them were CID certified and 10 were CID+ certified, with Faisal Ahmed being the most recent (hear more from him later).

View Story

The Digital Layout: Designers Council Update and PCB Carolina 2018


Welcome to the first edition of "The Digital Layout." As a current IPC Designers Council (DC) Executive Board member and a long-time active IPC member, I was nominated to be the chairman of the newly created communications subcommittee. In this role, I will be the main point of contact for global chapter communications and will work with local IPC chapter leaders to publish content in this new column. We want to utilize this column to help spread the IPC DC Executive Board’s goals like a virus.

View Story
Copyright © 2021 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.