If you’re a new PCB designer today, you may feel like a first-level fighter in “Dungeons and Dragons.” You thrive on the variability and complexity of this career but moving up to the next level is often the result of a series of choices that you have to make—often without knowing what’s going on.
But there is one thing that you can control: your education. And the more you know, the more control you have over your career.
Fortunately, new designers have access to more educational and training resources than ever before. There are live and on-demand webinars, YouTube videos, blogs, podcasts, and now live, in-person conferences and trade shows are back.
You can join a design organization like PCEA or IPC Design and attend chapter meetings online, even if you live across the country from that chapter. You can read industry magazines like this, technical papers from conferences, books written by the top design experts in the world, and the free eBooks published by I-Connect007, including The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide series, which have proven wildly popular. (Now that I’m a book editor, maybe I need a blazer with elbow patches and a meerschaum pipe.)
But you must do your due diligence, like you were buying a company. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that not every PCB design video on YouTube contains design techniques that would make Rick Hartley say, “Damn, why didn’t I think of that?” It’s up to you to separate the good training from the bad, the wheat from the chaff, to get slightly biblical.
“It’s up to you” is the operative phrase here. It’s up to you to continue your design education—whether your boss pays for it—and that requires filtering through all of this content, whether it’s online or in a hardback book. There’s a lot of noise, marketing content, and bad science masquerading as real design information.
It’s up to you to sift through all that raw data. Pick your favorite design instructors and read everything they’ve ever written. If you’re not sure who the design experts are, look to see who’s speaking at DesignCon, PCB West, and AltiumLive. There’s a reason that the same group of speakers has been teaching PCB design at conferences around the world for years: they get good evaluations, so they get invited back. They’re like good bands; they pack the venue every time. Follow them.
To read this entire column, which appeared in the August 2021 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.