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Dennis Feucht

The Engineering Desk-to-Bench Ratio

Dennis Feucht
Scott Elder
Scott Elder
11/12/2014 3:23:17 PM
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Blogger
Modified Formula
Hi Dennis,

Nice succinct way to discuss engineering approaches.

Having spent the majority of my career in the integrated domain, my desk/bench ratio has to be reported using logarithms!

One twist on your blog is that we who work in the integrated domain don't have the luxury of "checking things out".  Checking out a component value can cost $100,000 and potentially months of schedule time.  So most IC designers don't have much choice in the matter.

That's also the reason that it is tough to land a job right out of school doing IC design.  One really needs that <<1 ratio at the beginning of a career.  I know it sure helped me.

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tzubair
tzubair
11/26/2014 12:36:40 PM
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Master
Re: Modified Formula
"That's also the reason that it is tough to land a job right out of school doing IC design.  One really needs that <<1 ratio at the beginning of a career.  I know it sure helped me."

@Scott: That's exactly the advice I give out to fresh graduates these days that they need to get their hands dirty rather than look for the comfort behind the desks. Unfortunately, the culture these days encourage jobs which are more stable and don't require a lot of hands-on tasks. 

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GSKrasle
GSKrasle
11/14/2014 12:52:26 PM
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Artist
'the physical universe has a rational and trustworthy underpinning'
Dennis,

 In a flippant way, I sometimes pretend frustration that 'I have yet to find an opportunity to write a paper overturning the Known Laws of Physics, because every design misbehaviour, every one SO-FAR, has come-down to something understandable, in-principle predictable, and often just a 'D'oh!' no matter how confusing, mysterious and frustrating at first apprehension.'

By this I intend to impress upon myself, and my audience, the precedent that diligence and contemplation (and research) have always eventually provided solutions, experience/intuition and theory being, of course, salutary.

I also say to myself, when facing a dauntingly complex or unfamiliar new assignment: 'it may be confusing, incomprehensible, right now to me, but SOMEBODY has understood it or does now, and so it is within my grasp should I apply enough diligence.'

Despair never solved a problem, passed a test, completed a contract or put victuals on the table.

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D Feucht
D Feucht
11/14/2014 2:25:27 PM
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Scott & GS
Scott,

Thanks for your example of where desk/bench > 1 is a necessity, in IC design. At Tek, in the rubylith days, designers would hang their IC layouts on the walls of the engineering building and others would stand around, looking for flaws in them, with some token reward if/when found. I remember in particular that George Wilson, inventor of the Wilson current mirror, would do this, and most of my discussion with him was in front of an IC layout on the wall!

GS,

Thanks for the encouragement and advice to those bogged down with seemingly unsolvable circuits situations. One of the reasons many of us became engineers instead of politicians is that we prefer to work with the most reliable Administrator of the universe versus those on the other end of that spectrum. As Henry Kissinger once said, "Corrupt poiliticians make the other 10 % look bad." Happily, we do not face that problem in our work on the bench.

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aklompe
aklompe
11/18/2014 6:39:16 AM
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Teacher
Re: Scott & GS
"One of the reasons many of us became engineers instead of politicians is that we prefer to work with the most reliable Administrator of the universe versus those on the other end of that spectrum."

 

That is a very nice way to say you cannot fool nature. It's is this reliability that makes it possible to discover the laws of nature during a persons life time. Human nature lacks this reliability, maybe that's why we never seem to be able to solve big problems in the world around us, simple because no one gets to the expert level required to do so.

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D Feucht
D Feucht
11/18/2014 11:16:59 PM
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Re: Scott & GS
"... we never seem to be able to solve big problems in the world around us, simple because no one gets to the expert level required to do so."

I don't think it is a lack of expertise that keeps social problems from being solved but rather a faulty exercise of the will by too many of us, starting with those at the top of the social order.

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Myanalog
Myanalog
11/20/2014 4:10:22 AM
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Master
Re: Scott & GS
"That is a very nice way to say you cannot fool nature. It's is this reliability that makes it possible to discover the laws of nature during a persons life time."

Aklompe, that's true. Nobody can fool nature and it has its own rhythm. 

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tzubair
tzubair
11/26/2014 12:31:09 PM
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Master
Re: Scott & GS
"One of the reasons many of us became engineers instead of politicians is that we prefer to work with the most reliable"

@D Feucht: I think that's certainly a trait common in engineers that they want to work with concrete ideas and proven facts rather than abstract debates (which politicians are somewhat good at). I think most people who end up becoming engineers and are succesful in their careers have had such traits since very early in their lives.

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DaeJ
DaeJ
11/16/2014 4:12:52 PM
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Master
Balance of Theoretical and Practical Way
If ratio is equal to 1, then engineers might interpret themselves that they did both theoretical and practical way for any assignment. Today, computer or any kind of tool will support both two characteristics, which is important for engineer, since any engineering tool is so much advanced. I guess that some case might not fit to this formulation because engineer might face so many variety cases.  Ratio could be a baseline for engineer daily work.

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Myanalog
Myanalog
11/18/2014 1:59:45 AM
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Master
Desk to Bench Ratio
"In companies I have been to, engineers usually are given both a desk and a workbench. The desk is where plan design and non-technical overhead is performed. It is the realm of, and symbolizes, theoretical activity. The bench is where prototypes are built and made to work -- the symbol of experimental or practical activity. The bench has measurement equipment, circuit construction tools, and parts inventory is not far away."

Dennis, in some of the companies employees are rotating between desk and work bench. Now a day's managers are good enough to utilize the employees working times. So for off project time they use to make use employees skills for bench projects (off shelf projects). 

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tzubair
tzubair
11/26/2014 1:29:53 PM
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Master
Natural Transition
@Dennis: Isn't it normal for people to progress in their careers from bench to desks? Most people heading engineering companies these days are doing the desk roles but almost all of them have solid hands on experience working on the benches and only with time they managed to move up and got itno desk jobs.

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D Feucht
D Feucht
11/26/2014 2:56:22 PM
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Re: Natural Transition
tzubair:

I used  the word "desk" as a metaphor of theoretical electronics understanding or activity. As you noted, desk jobs, however, often do not depend on such ability and involve no bench work at all. They lie outside the metaphor yet are not uncommon.

To the extent that technical leadership lacks technical understanding, projects associated with them are likely to fail. The most productive engineering group is one led by the most technically capable person. This seems like a truism, yet is often not the case in practice.

 

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tzubair
tzubair
11/29/2014 3:56:00 PM
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Master
Re: Natural Transition
"The most productive engineering group is one led by the most technically capable person. This seems like a truism, yet is often not the case in practice."

@D Feucht: I don't think this can be challenged. I certainly think that it does require a solid technical background to lead an engineering team. You do need other soft skills like leadership team management etc on top of it, but more than anything else you need to have a solid technical know-how.

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D Feucht
D Feucht
12/5/2014 6:49:04 PM
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Blogger
Re: Natural Transition
tzubair:

"... more than anything else you need to have a solid technical know-how."


I would add that a leader with outstanding technical capabilities yet with some less-refined social aspects can still be admired and followed by those who respect technical expertise. It is the person who is lacking in both technical and social skills that can be (to put it in German) ungenugent - deficient for the role.

Richard Feynman made some comments about this once. He said that a person who is arrogant and also a master of what he is saying can be tolerated. But a person who is both arrogant and faking it, Feynman said, "that I cannot stand!" I agree with Feynman on this point.

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