This is the fourth part of an interview I conducted with Ajoy Bose, CEO of the EDA software vendor Atrenta. Part 1 discussed his career before he founded Atrenta, and part 2 looked toward the second rising of EDA. In part 3, he discussed entrepreneurship.
In this final segment, we focus on the effect mentoring has had on his career.
EETimes: Can you talk about some of the people who have been important during your career?
Ajoy Bose: I have been very fortunate in having worked with people that I consider to be my mentors who have had significant effects, significant impact on my life, on my career.
I worked with a gentleman at Bell Labs called Hermann Gummel. He was the first recipient of the Kaufman Award. There are a few things about Hermann that rubbed off on me. First, he had an enormous work ethic. Second, Hermann was a physicist, not a trained programmer. He learned programming, but he also knew how a transistor behaved in his DNA. He would see people sitting down with different colored pens to figure out if there was a short or something that screwed up the mask. He would say, "I can write a program that does that," and off he would go.
Similarly, Hermann saw a lot of people working with Spice, which in those days had relatively small capacity and long run times. He decided that he could make some approximations, particularly with MOS devices. MOS devices are loosely coupled in that the impact of one transistor on another is less than in the case of bipolar transistors. He said, "I can make some approximations, speed things up, and increase the capacity." He came up with what became known as a timing simulator. This guy was also a phenomenal innovator.
EETimes: Did he create the entrepreneurial spirit in you?
Bose: He created the technical entrepreneurial experience. I consider myself to be a techno-entrepreneur, instead of a pure entrepreneur. The techno part of it certainly came from Hermann. In Bell Labs, we were not motivated by business or the money aspect of it. It was more about solving problems, helping your colleagues who were trying to do designs.
EETimes: Did you have other mentors in your career?
Bose: When I started Atrenta, there was a gentleman called Mike Hackworth. He was CEO of Cirrus Logic. One of Mike's contributions was his pioneering of the fabless concept. Mike had this notion that he could build a chip company without having any fabs.
The teachings from Mike were quite different. Mike was very experienced in business issues and situations. He had seen most situations you would run into when running a company or managing people. Mike became an adviser about dealing with the complexities of running a business, how to deal with people situations, how to grow your company. Mike was the business entrepreneur part of my career.
If I look at Hermann and I look at Mike, and I put them together, there is the techno aspect of it, and there's the entrepreneur aspect of it that kind of came together.
EETimes: Mentoring does not appear to be prevalent in the EDA industry. Why is that?
Bose: I think it has to do with the youth of the industry. It hasn't been around as a mature industry long enough. Many of the early pioneers of EDA are still active. It's very difficult to be active and a mentor at the same time. You have to consider how much time you can spend on it, how much of a priority it is compared to all the other things that you are struggling with to run a company.
When the past generation of EDA people have more time on their hands, I expect more mentoring will happen. Mike, for example, had retired, but he was probably working harder than he did when he was running a company, and that was because he was very passionate about it. Then there is the element of the competitiveness. People are fairly cautious about opening up in an environment where it could hurt them competitively.
I definitely feel that I owe the industry something, and I've received more than I've given back. So I have some mentoring to do. I have a debt that I have to repay.