3 Dos and 3 Don’ts for Explaining RF This Holiday

<>This guest blog is courtesy of Brent Dietz, Director of Corporate Communications at Qorvo, Inc.

The holidays are here. RF-powered LED lights decorate the neighborhoods, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) launches their annual (perhaps GaN-based) Santa Tracker, and we in the semiconductor industry face the grim task of explaining what on Earth we do for a living to our families.

I’ve worked in the semiconductor industry since the early ‘80s, and I remember very clearly the first time I tried to explain my company over dinner. My uncle never did quite get it. “Now…you guys make microfiche?” he’d say. And we’d move on to another topic.

We’ve all been in this position before. One mention of “RF,” and you’ve lost people. So, like our GaN for Dummies book, we’ve created a guide to make explaining what we do to those we love a little easier. Here are the top three dos and don’ts for explaining RF over the holidays:

DON’T describe RF as a thing. You may make wireless components that connect the world’s most advanced technologies, but one mention of transmit-receive modules, and your family and friends will be wishing they had more wine.

DO describe RF as a process. I like to say, “I’m in the delivery business.” In this industry, companies make chips and other components that deliver video, text messages, phone calls, pictures, emails, weather and pretty much any other type of data you can think of. Describing RF as the process of delivering content to devices is much more likely to draw a follow up question than sounding off about impedance tuners.

DON’T mention specific technologies. Say the word “wafers”, and everyone’s mind will go straight to sea-salt, cracked pepper and festive cheese logs. 200mm gallium arsenide wafer sounds like a toxic flavor anyway.

DO mention specific industries. Companies in this industry build some pretty cool stuff, but the impressive part is whom they build it for. At Qorvo, we build technologies for the mobile industry and for industries like wireless infrastructure that make mobile connectivity possible. We build stuff for aerospace and defense, including every major fighter jet. The baby boomers will love talking about the F-22 or F-35. Focus on where products are used, and you’re likely to keep everyone more engaged.

DO reference Netflix, HD and High-Speed. No matter what industry you work in, you likely spend a lot of your time using streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. These services are nearly universal, relatable and the networks that deliver them incorporate DOCSIS 3.1 and GaN solutions nicely—not that you should say that. If you need an elevator pitch, here it is: “Our company does the technology legwork so you can stream Netflix.”

But for Heaven’s Sake, DON’T reference Frozen. RF components may power smart TVs, universal remotes and Blu-ray players, but unless your intention is to start a four-hour sing-a-long, steer clear.

Have another great tip for explaining RF? Be sure to share in the comments. Enjoy the holidays.

5 comments on “3 Dos and 3 Don’ts for Explaining RF This Holiday

  1. jimfordbroadcom
    December 23, 2015

    As Arthur C. Clarke said something to the effect that as technologies advance, they become indistinguishable from magic!  So that's what I tell the relatives what I do for a living: I enable information to travel from one point to another through thin air, which is basically magic.  Don't forget that; we get to be a part of radio, which did not exist back in the late 1800's when my grandfather was born.

    BTW, Steve, I'm not blowing off your invitation on LinkedIn; I'm just having trouble with my home computer.  Thanks.

  2. Steve Taranovich
    December 23, 2015

    Hi Jim,

    Not a problem—thanks for being a great contributor to Planet Analog and Happy Holidays to you

  3. jimfordbroadcom
    December 23, 2015

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours as well!  Look for me at the Analog Aficionados gathering in February.  Come hell or high water I'm going this time!

  4. Steve Taranovich
    December 23, 2015

    That's great Jim! I look forward to seeing you at the dinner at David's Restaurant on January 31

  5. jimfordbroadcom
    December 23, 2015

    See you there!  Jim

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