bf sv nation dobkin on bipolar
MILPITAS, Calif. -- If you think finding enough talented engineers
is hard, try finding engineers who know bipolar design.
In fact, as analog design pushes the boundaries of low noise and
frequencies get ever higher, the need for clever bipolar circuit
design increases, according to guy who should know something about
it. Bob Dobkin, Linear Technology co-founder and CTO, says the lack
of bipolar expertise coming out schools today is a big problem for
the industry. [Get a 10% discount on ARM TechCon 2012 conference passes by using promo code EDIT. Click here to learn about the show and register.]
"We are missing an engineering level pushing for advancement of
bipolar technology or BiCMOS," Dobkin said recently in his office
here. "It's still a very good technology for a lot of things."
In one sense, Dobkin, whose career stretches back to the days when bipolar design was the way to make circuits, isn't surprised.
Colleges and universities need to turn out engineers for available
and in-demand jobs. Since the rise of CMOS 40 years ago, curricula
has been increasing focused on turning out digital engineers.
"We are not paying enough attention to it in schools," he said. "We
are missing an engineering level pushing for advancement of bipolar
technology or BiCMOS."
This becomes more of a problem because analog doesn't have a Moore's
Law of density; its density is set by the voltage level at which the
circuit runs, Dobkin noted. "We want to get higher performance and
higher voltage out of circuitry because there are a lot of things
that don't want to run at 3 volts."
It's no easy task to turn the good ship academia toward producing more bipolar-savvy engineers just to make Linear and
Maxim and TI and ADI and other analog companies happy, so "we have
to make them," Dobkin said.
"I consider analog design like learning a language. You learn your
vocabulary, your grammar rules. You read a book and you muddle
through it. After about 10 years, you've taken each analog
subsection and you know what's it's doing instinctively; it's part
of your vocabulary."
Now layer on that a challenge not just for analog companies for all
semiconductor companies--creative-thinking engineering talent--and a
picture starts to emerge of an industry still in transition from a
circuit mentality to a systems frame of mind.
Your engineers are making, selling and supporting specific parts,
but the very best will look at a customer's board and think how they
can sweep up the components around their part into an integrated,
higher-value device the design cycle. It's not a common talent.
About 60 percent of Linear's business is done with that in mind.
"The other 40 percent are an experienced analog engineer saying 'I think
that's a good idea. We ought to go make that. The product never
existed. Nobody's asked for it. We think it's a good idea, and we'll
take the risk of building that," Dobkin said.
"You don't get that from somebody who's not got some experience in
analog engineering, has talked to customers, understand the
customers problem, understands how systems work," he added.
So, yeah...to the question of whether it's hard to find good
engineering talent these days, the answer would be "yes."
Of course, if the industry at large put a greater premium on that
engineering talent by raising salaries, perhaps it wouldn't be such
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