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Mentoring

As a reader of Planet Analog (and the usual job listings boards), you likely know that analog engineers are not as plentiful as digital and software engineers. Analog engineers are a rarer breed, not just in numbers of engineers, but also in the way that they think. The combination of these factors makes it a seller's market.

So while universities are taking steps to turn out more analog engineers, it's still not enough to fill the needs that some companies have for more circuit design and IC design engineers. Let's take a look at a partial solution to this problem.

As an engineer who has specialized in analog circuit design and worked as a design engineer and as an apps engineer, I've had the opportunity to be a mentor to many other engineers. This has been part of my job, but I'd do it even it wasn't a requirement. I'd like to suggest to my readers — even if it isn't specifically called out in your job description — that you take advantage of opportunities to educate your fellow engineer. Here's why.

Whenever you explain how a circuit works, how to stabilize a PID control loop, how component parameters change with time, or any number of other details, it clarifies your thinking on the issue at hand. So even if you're not a “Golden Rule” sort of person trying to improve your karma, you can see that purely for selfish reasons, you should teach others. Also, when the occasion arises that you're all working on the same project, if the person next to you is a bit smarter, it can only help the project. In addition, you will likely find that it's a boost to your ego to be in a mentoring or teaching position.

While you may be concerned about giving away some of your secrets and presumably lessening your own worth, there are always more secrets to learn. You will likely stay ahead of the others for as long as you care to. Don't overlook the possibility that you will surely look better to your boss if you take on the role of mentor. Finally, the ability to assemble your thoughts logically and disseminate them cogently to others is always a good skill to develop. If you ever need to speak publicly, you'll find you are more comfortable in that role from your work as a teacher.

So take advantage of the opportunities that mentoring and teaching can provide. You'll be glad you did.

9 comments on “Mentoring

  1. Steve Taranovich
    January 16, 2013

    An old Latin saying is “docendo discimus” –Teach in order to learn (we learn by teaching)—How true!

  2. Bruce Trump
    January 16, 2013

    Brad–  As one of Texas Instruments' campus representatives, I'm keenly aware of the challenges in recruiting strong analog talent from universities. Analog is key in our strategy and we have increased our focus on locating and building new talent. Our best success comes when we bring undergraduates into internships where they can perform real work in our analog shops with experienced mentors at their side. They return to school to take the courses that align to our needs and with ears tuned to the fundamentals that are crucial for a good analog engineer. Thanks for raising this important issue with your readers.  —  Bruce

  3. Steve Taranovich
    January 16, 2013

    Hi Bruce–Brad and I are chatting right now on another area—can you find us?

     

  4. Steve Taranovich
    January 16, 2013

    We are under the CHAT area

  5. Brad Albing
    January 17, 2013

    Bruce – I like the fact that you brought in interns to TI. We used interns at my previous jobs and also had success in educating them and then bringing them back as new-hires.

  6. emilytesting
    January 22, 2013

    Mentoring is a great way to force the approach of daily activity from a new perspective.  I find that while I teach I constantly find flaws in my processes!

  7. Steve Taranovich
    January 22, 2013

    Hi Emily,

    Very good point—I do find the same thing happening to me when I write 🙂

  8. goafrit2
    January 22, 2013

    >> They return to school to take the courses that align to our needs and with ears tuned to the fundamentals that are crucial for a good analog engineer

    @Bruce, the problem with your strategy is that only TI can sustain that. If a small company does that, the student will be lost to a competitor. The challenge is not lack of talents but lack of quality programs for analog design in universities. Only about 10 schools in U.S. offer great analog programs where a student can be hired and get plugged in immediately without the usual circus of going through test, evaluation etc before graduating as a designer.

  9. goafrit2
    January 22, 2013

    >> Finally, the ability to assemble your thoughts logically and disseminate them cogently to others is always a good skill to develop.

    I think that is one of the most important elements for success in America. If you do not want to end up in a cubicle because you are such a great designer who no one wants to promote to the position of leadership, your communication and interpersonal skills must evolve. Personally, I have not really liked the new structure of the semiconductor industry where MBAs are evolving to run the shows.  You can do that for software and other business sectors, but our industry is so complex that pros are those that can hire, train, memtor and lead these companies.

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