Technical Workshops – Providing Access to the Industry’s Best
By Matthew Hogan, Product Marketing Manager, Calibre Design Solutions
It may not seem like such a revelation, but many of the opinions and traits we carry around with us are often attributable to our peer group. From a professional perspective, this could include colleagues, advisors, managers, and a host of other influencers that have crossed your path along the way. Good, bad, or indifferent, these experiences influence how you work and what you consider “normal.” In some of the focused and specialized fields of IC design and verification, like electrostatic discharge (ESD) and reliability, it is often a challenge to find and connect with suitably well-informed individuals that you can bounce ideas off, learn from, and grow with.
There are a number of pockets of excellence within the industry, but if you are not fortunate enough to have been introduced to the right post-graduate program or advisor, or to work in a company that supports a thriving eco-system of like-minded individuals, you’re pretty much left to your own devices in a vacuum. So, if you are working on an island, how do you build bridges to other experts in your field, outside your organization? One way to gain exposure to new ideas, techniques and best practices is to attend industry conferences. Another is to forgo the large-scale format that conferences provide, and look at what workshops have to offer.
Not familiar with the workshop format? Generally speaking, workshops provide 3-4 long days with the same folks, in an environment probably a lot like those summer camps you attended as a kid. You all eat together, attend the keynote, invited talks, and paper/poster presentations together, and participate in one or more discussion groups occupying the evenings. The focus of a workshop is, by design, much narrower than a large industry conference, so everyone attending has the same range of interests and issues. Overall, with the smaller groups of the workshop format, there is a lot of time for discussion and interactions with others. Want to know something? Ask! In my experience, the pedigree of attendees is often outstanding, with a welcoming and inclusive disposition to newcomers looking to learn more about the field. None of us are experts in every field, and being able to learn firsthand from insightful and interactive discussions only bolsters the learning experience. Another advantage extends past the workshop itself—the forging of professional relationships that can provide valuable advice, consultation, and collaboration long after the event is finished.
Over the last five years, I’ve seen a plethora of emails turn up at my inbox, proclaiming the 2nd or 3rd annual workshop on such and such a topic. These organizations are getting the ball rolling. I’ve even seen a number of 1st annual invitations. While I haven’t kept track of how many of these newer workshops survive to maturity, two established events that I’m particularly fond of are the International ESD Workshop, who are starting to ramp up for their 2016 event (which will be their tenth year), and the International Integrated Reliability Workshop, who can trace their origins as far back as 1982. For me, these legacies have demonstrated that smaller, focused groups having a high degree of interaction and discussions bring participants together, not only to focus on the program material, but also to bring a sense of community to a tight-knit and focused group.
I’d be interested to hear about your experiences of attending both conferences and workshops. For me, each has its place, but the workshop format provides a significantly more robust and in-depth framework to share a lot of ideas in a short, concentrated period of time, while really getting to know colleagues in your field.
Matthew Hogan is a Product Marketing Manager for Calibre Design Solutions at Mentor Graphics, with over 15 years of design and field experience. He is actively working with customers who have an interest in Calibre PERC. Matthew is an active member of the ESD Association—involved with the EDA working group, the Symposium technical program committee, and the IEW management committee. Matthew is also a Senior Member of IEEE, and a member of ACM. He holds a B. Eng. from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and an MBA from Marylhurst University. Matthew can be reached at email@example.com.