What does it take for students to be (semiconductor) industry-ready
Today, I was part of a wonderful panel discussion at Cadence Design Systems CDNLive, Bangalore, India edition, titled:What does it really take for students to be industry-ready?
Moderated by Dr. CP Ravikumar, technical director, University Relations HR, Texas Instruments, the panelists included Joe Lazar, director HR, Analog Devices India, SN Padmanabhan, senior VP, Semiconductor, Mindtree, Anand Bariya, MD, Netlogic Microsystems and Prof. Venugopal. Electronics and Communication Dept., SJCE, Mysore.
India boasts of some of the finest technical institutes of the world. This discussion centered around whether our graduating students are industry ready? What are the necessary qualities or aspects they would need to keep in mind when entering the semiconductor industry?
Avoid a bad attitude!
There is this quote from Scott Hamilton — “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” According to Joe Lazar of Analog Devices India, attitude is an observable behavior over a period of time.
When students come into the semiconductor industry, they need to collaborate and not compete with each other. There is a need to bring about some change in this aspect. Similarly, commitment to the job and to the company are equally important aspects.”Next, be prepared to understand what is good for you. Also, money is not everything. During campus hires, money may become an important driving force. However, it goes away after some point of time,” he added.
Lazar concluded with a quote from William James: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.”
Are you ready for an inch wide and mile deep job?
Prof. Venugopal from SJCE, Mysore, focused on students to develop the right technical skills. Are they ready to join an industry that offers an ‘inch wide and miles deep job? Also, can students really communicate clearly?
It is equally important for the faculty in any institute to motivate students. When students are doing projects, they should also come to know how good they are with their technical skills. He advised: “Students should know the tools very well, and be very strong in their basics. They should be very good in circuit (analog/digital) design as well.”
The faculty of any institute has be really good enough to prepare its students for the challenges ahead as the technical skills required for the semiconductor industry are constantly changing.
Be prepared for the grind, and have strong foundations!
Anand Bariya of Netlogic Microsystems remarked: “What do we expect from fresh engineers? Their ability to learn with respect to the semiconductor industry!” He cited some examples, such as, today, it is impossible to design a chip without knowing low power techniques, or chips that incorporate very high speed serial interfaces. “There is a continuous demand for engineers who can learn and deliver quickly. Engineers who come in, should be prepared for the grind,” he added.
Next, manufacturing technologies and techniques are also changing, and present fresh challenges. “Designers need to keep up with the changes in manufacturing technologies,” said Bariya. He advised students, “Your foundations need to be very strong.” Fundamentals are very important for students to learn quickly. “In the semiconductor industry, we need people with a programming mindset. Your ability to learn is all in your attitude.”
He further advised students to develop a habit of taking notes (this applies to journalists too, who use voice recorders, rather than take notes during a meeting), as it helps to cement learnings. Also, a lot of learning is possible if students are willing to search on the Internet.
Strong ethics, integrity, respect for IP, others
MindTree’s SN Padmanabhan said the industry spends three to six months on an average on orientation programs for newcomers. Once, they get into projects and project teams, they can work seamlessly. Having strong fundamentals and basics are very important and paramount. He also touched upon the need for strong ethics as the semiconductor industry is global in nature where there’s a constant need to interact with teams made up of multicultural people.
Similarly, there is a need to communicate in a proper manner with peers and colleagues within the industry. Besides, email etiquette needs to be maintained. Especially, for communication, there are audio and video conferences. “We have to be in an audio conference at least 80 percent of the times. Hence. the need to understand and respect multicultures, and communicate properly and effectively.”
Another important aspect for students to understand is to respect the dress codes — which is meant to present a better image of ourselves.
Padmanabhan touched upon integrity and the need to be honest with yourselves. “Don’t fudge your resumes!” Gender sensitive issues and language come up as well, especially in a multicultural environment. “Try to make an attempt to learn about others cultures, and see that you don’t end up hurting them.”
He also stressed upon the need to respect IPs and IP protection. “How are you going to protect the customers’ rights? How will you ensure that you do not violate anyone’s right?” Most IP violations happen due to a lack of information. Also, he advised students who would be joining the semiconductor industry soon to be careful of the information shared with other people, especially over a cup of coffee.
Do look for apprenticeships!
Following a lively Q&A session, Jaswinder Ahuja, corporate VP and MD, Cadence Design Systems (I) Pvt Ltd, suggested that students could actually get into a ‘real job’ in the semiconductor industry, unlike any other industry. They could get involved immediately in projects to design and develop products that would be later on used by other industries such as medical, telecom, etc. Further, they should look at an apprenticeship as a system of training for a new generation of practitioners of a skill, in return, for perhaps, a stipend.
I quite agree with Ahuja’s suggestion for apprenticeships – I myself started this way, in the mid 1980s, making newspaper cuttings in a small room (or office) of a local magazine at Allahabad! Here’s where I learnt what it takes to be a journalist. I only got an LP record of The Police (to play on my gramophone) as stipend! However, I can never forget that period, as it became the launch pad for me to go forward and develop myself later in life as a tech journalist!
Ahuja also touched upon multicultures and how there’s a need for students to understand and respect the various cultures. Definitely, once you work for a global company, you interact with nationals from other countries, with different backgrounds and cultures.
Right folks, you’ve heard it all! Do you have it in you to carry the torch of the Indian semicon industry forward?