Engineering conferences offer many benefits to the companies who send their employees as attendees and presenters, advantages that more than offset any time out of the office and associated expenses.
One of the great things about being an engineer is that we get to create applications and products for our exciting market segment. One of the not-so great-things is that, if we're not careful, we can easily fall into a silo -- both individually and as a company -- and once we are within this silo it can be difficult to extricate ourselves. If we do fall into a silo, we may end up designing things the same way over and over again; using the same components, tools, and techniques we have employed previously; and focusing only on our particular market segment while paying little attention to developments in the industry as a whole.
As an engineer, if you're not keeping abreast of the latest devices, tools, and development techniques, then you're at risk of stagnating and being bypassed by your peer group. This stagnation will have an impact on your personal growth and performance and -- potentially -- your company when projects are delivered late.
Things are worse for a company that falls into a silo -- not only are its engineers not developing professionally with all the worries that brings, but the company itself is in danger of being left behind by its competitors and, eventually, falling by the technology wayside.
So how can we avoid falling into the silo trap in the first place or -- if we've already fallen into a silo -- how do we set about digging our way out? The answer is communication. As engineers we need to make our presence felt, to share our experiences with other engineers, and to learn from other engineers in turn. As a company, you need to get your name out in the world and ensure vendors and potential clients are aware of your existence. Furthermore, when it comes time to grow and recruit, how are you going to attract the best talent if people are unaware of who you are, what you do, and the experts you already employ?
Some people and organizations you and your engineers should be talking to are as follows:
- Device manufacturers -- Explain to them what your application is and the challenges you are facing. In turn, the manufacturers will provide information on the best components and implementation strategies that are available to you.
- Suppliers of design and verification tools -- Explain the challenges you are facing and the bottlenecks you are experiencing. In turn, the vendors will be able to offer tips, best practices, and other advice.
Engineers in your industry and other industries -- What challenges have they faced and/or are they currently facing and how are they overcoming them? How similar are their challenges and solutions to yours?
So, what does all of this have to do with engineering conferences? Well, where else are you going to find a diverse number of expert speakers talking about applications that span a multitude of industry sectors and enable cross-fertilisation of ideas? And where else can you and your staff talk to a large number of suppliers and vendors about their current offerings, their technology road maps, and the ways in which they can support you and your customers?
Engineering conferences collocate all of these groups, presenting a great opportunity for you and your engineers to learn, inform, teach, and network. For example, presentations by your engineering staff regarding the challenges they've faced and the ways in which these challenges were addressed will really help to get your company name out there -- after all, they're the experts and you employ them.
I strongly believe that engineering conferences offer many benefits to the companies who send their employees as attendees and presenters, and that these advantages more than offset any time out of the office and associated expenses. Incidentally, the next conference I will be attending will be an Embedded Systems Conference -- ESC Boston -- in May 2015. I am really looking forward to meeting up with other engineers, to chatting with component and tool vendors, and to attending as many of the great technical talks as I can squeeze into my schedule.
What are your thoughts on the subject of engineering conferences?