Naghavi, vice president and general manager of its analog, mixed signal and power division. said: "Our heritage was to use Motorola as our analog supplier, but as an independent company we had to start our own programs to attract analog engineers, and we have been very fortunate. Now we have many talented recruits, but we still need more and will hire as many as we can get."
Since Naghavi came to Freescale, the company has been able to attract several analog "gurus," which the company said it has leveraged by instituting a "mentoring" culture in its analog engineering group.
"The way we organize our analog group now is to complement one of our senior guys with several less experienced analog engineers so that he can mentor them," said Naghavi. "That allows the guru to work on more than one design at a time by dividing down the tasks that are time consuming, but require less experience."
According to Naghavi, mentoring is a lengthy but necessary process.
"Digital engineer can often start making significant contributions to a company just six months after graduating, but analog technology requires five to seven years of on-the-job experience before engineers can begin making significant contributions," said Naghavi.
Compounding the problem is the perception that analog technology is "old" while digital engineering is viewed as on the cutting edge.
"Digital has become so popular that people often assume that analog is the old technology," said Naghavi. "I say the best thing that ever happened to analog was the digital revolution because all the new digital gadgets have to interface with the real world--which is analog--and to create those interfaces you need analog engineers."
Demand for analog engineers today also is increasing because even digital companies need analog engineers, contributing to the worldwide shortage. "When I put out a call for applications to digital engineers I get hundreds of qualified applicants," said Patel. "But when I call for analog applicants, I often get only four or five qualified candidates."
Freescale's is not only fostering its internal mentoring program, but is also courting universities to develop new analog programs. Analog engineering has languished at U.S. universities as digital technology has grown in popularity.
"Fewer students are specializing in analog, and many of the professors who are experts in analog have taken higher paying jobs at companies, so there are fewer professors to teach analog too," said Naghavi. "What's worse is that analog is a whole lot more difficult to learn--you have to deal with all of the harsh environment problems in the real world--transients, temperature changes and all that digital designers can often ignore."