Advertisement

Blog

Where the Analog Jobs Are

Let's talk about being an analog engineer in America. And by analog engineer, I refer to circuit design engineer, IC design engineer, or perhaps applications engineer. For circuit design engineer, of course there are a lot of sub-categories: could be a power supply engineer, bio-medical engineer, mixed signal processing engineer… You know who you are.

Assuming you're looking around for either a better job or perhaps simply any job, you probably think, “I should move to Silicon Valley” or “I should move to Austin/Dallas.” I have some experience that may help guide you in this regard.

In both my last job and this one, I got to visit the Silicon Valley regularly. It is a peculiar area. The Valley itself feels rather like a hybrid of a giant strip mall combined with a giant office complex. It doesn't give off much of a home vibe. The weather, of course, is delightful, and taking a trip to nearby San Francisco is also a delight that should not be missed.

However, if you actually wanted to live out there, you probably couldn't afford it. Unless your idea of suitable accommodations includes living in a cardboard box under a bridge.

I've been to Austin several times. Housing there is a bit more affordable, although that's changing quickly. And it's a treat to be there from October to April. The other half of a year, you pretty much have to stay inside. And don't expect to water your lawn or wash your car — water availability is sort of iffy. (And if you venture outside of Austin, you'll find that Texas suffers from another problem: Texans!)

All this analysis caused me to look around elsewhere at the job market. Naturally, I looked at the area in which I live, which is Northeast Ohio. All this was done purely as an intellectual exercise. It does seem the area surrounding Cleveland is a decent place to live — housing costs are a bargain, water is never a problem with Lake Erie nearby, there's always stuff to do whether it's art, music, biking, skiing, restaurants… And the job scene looks decent, especially if you happen to be a biomedical engineer or in a related design field.

But, I figured I'd keep all this to myself. I was obviously biased, having lived here for a number of years. But then last month, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an article in Slate titled “Move Silicon Valley to Cleveland” by Matthew Yglesias.

He makes some good points about the economics related to a city and its population. He considers living around San Francisco and about tech companies drawing from a pool of skilled workers. On that basis, Cleveland should look pretty good to companies wanting to move their headquarters here.

Yglesias had some additional thoughts on the matter. If you want to see how he came up with his choice of Cleveland, read “Some Further Thoughts on Moving Silicon Valley to Cleveland.”

You've probably considered changing jobs. For whom would you want to work? Where would you want to live if money were no object? Now, where, if money actually did matter? And what do you think of making Cleveland a high-tech center?

— Brad Albing, Editor-in-Chief, Planet Analog and Integration Nation Circle me on Google+

Related posts:

36 comments on “Where the Analog Jobs Are

  1. fasmicro
    January 13, 2014

    >> Where the analog jobs are.

    First the best growth “analog” design firm (yes, we can call it digital) is Qualcomm when you consider that more than 80% of all phone chipsets used in America belongs to Qualcomm. And the job is here, in the analog section of it.   From Qualcomm to Intel to ADI, analog jobs are still here in U.S. India has not gotten so good in the analog part to dsiplace the analog jobs in America

  2. fasmicro
    January 13, 2014

    >> For whom would you want to work?

    I will surely like to work for an analog startups. My problem with the big analog firms is that their stocks are simply static with margnal gains. I cannot imagine that ADI has a valuation less than $15B while some Internet companies run up numbers with no revenue. Hope we can get some excitements in our industry with startups that will command big valuations. 

  3. eafpres
    January 13, 2014

    @Brad–interesting process and thoughts.  I'm always amazed by where companies are actually located.  Start up compnaies often spring up where the founders wanted to be, vs. “where the action is”.  I happened to see this article today about a cluser of photonics companies that formed an alliance in, wait for it, Montana!

    Photonic cluster in Montana

    (P.S.–a lot of photonic applications need analog)

    With regard to the Ohio/PA areas you talk about, I recently was searching for companies with some expertise in internet UI design, in the area from, say, Cleveland to Akron and over to, say, Hermitage PA.  I was amazed at the number of firms in that area.

  4. Brad Albing
    January 13, 2014

    @eafpres — I'm also surprised — I see the stories in the business section of the local papers indicating that more companies are springing up around here. Pretty cool for what used to be the “rust belt.”

    Meanwhile… Montana?! I thought Montana was only known for dental floss farms and pygmy ponies….

  5. Netcrawl
    January 14, 2014

    @Brad this all means that analog is alive and doing well, past expectation of an analog business demise in the new digital age were substantially overblown, the reality is the digital age has been notable in reshaping the very nature of the analog market. Analog is still making big news in the industry, analog ICs still represent the largest single revenue category in digital mobile market, mobile devices have been one of the most important drivers of the analog market.  

    It may not be the coolest job on Earth but for some people on electronics industry it still the best. 

  6. Netcrawl
    January 14, 2014

    @fasmicro you're right the jobs is in semiconductor industry, semiconductor companies like Qualcomm and Intel are building chips used in today's global smartphones market, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have been one of the most important drivers for analog market. I thnk India is doing well, they got huge labor force, well-educated and well-trained.   

  7. RedDerek
    January 14, 2014

    Brad, are you trying to get the Silicon Valley companies moving to Ohio like Texas was doing? You will have to try harder than that. 😉

    There are several tech areas across the country: Bay Area (California), Los Angeles, Austin, etc (where states do not necessarily have to be listed). There are also the small spots that are somewhat hidden: your area and a few others that I cannot recall. I am in the Sacramento, CA area and there are several spots around here as well – Grass Valley and Rancho Cordova. However, with the high cost of business, it is difficult for a company to really get going in California.

    I have found that if one can create the right job set, one can go almost anywhere desired, where there are tech companies. The analog and power engineer is becoming somewhat scarce with the prolifiration of digital engineers – thus becoming more valuable.

    BTW, Sacramento does not have the earthquake issues that the Bay Area and Los Angeles has. Plus one is just an hour or so from mountain sports to ocean sports. (ok, end of my plug for this area – haha)

  8. samicksha
    January 15, 2014

    I still have confidence that Analog jobs are highly interactive workplace where innovation is regarded.

  9. Scott Elder
    January 15, 2014

    There was a time once when digital engineers and analog engineers were simply circuit engineers.  It is interesting that we are rapidly evolving to where that is once again the case.

    The difference this time will be that all circuit engineering will be exclusively analog and all digital engineering will be exclusively software.  Since all electronic products eventually are reduced to a circuit, analog engineers will have no problem finding opportunities in most regions of the world.  

    Funny how the death of analog has been forecast for decades and it turns out that digital circuit engineering is what's morphing away.

  10. ncallen
    January 15, 2014

    WOW!  Brad remembers Frank Zappa.  Once worked with a rather gullible young engineer…and this was not too long after this song was around.  Told him that when I retired I was gonna move to Montana, thinking he might laugh. Was taken aback when he said “why Montana”.  When I recovered I told him Montana had the right kind of soil and climate for dental floss.

    For similar enjoyment, look up the great Italian spaghetti harvest.  Shows workers snipping pasta off branches of trees!

  11. jimfordbroadcom
    January 15, 2014

    Well, maybe there aren't earthquakes in Sacramento, but there are in Cleveland.  I was there in EE school back in 1986 at Case Western Reserve University, and we had a quake.  Of course there are quakes here in southern California where I am now, but we roll with it.  Don't forget Broadcom (BRCM) where I work as well as QCOM and INTC as a major employer of analog talent.

  12. JeffL_#2
    January 15, 2014

    Don't shoot…I'm a skeptic too, and this could be a LITTLE off-topic since the premise I'm talking about is more about “all silicon design issues” rather than just analog. Nonetheless I have to admit that New York state through the mechanism of SUNY Albany has put together a pretty impressive collection of operations (and presumably tax holidays for any companies either “foresighted” or stupid enough to go along with them, depending on your point of view), as seen by the following rather extensive Wikipedia webpage:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College_of_Nanoscale_Science_and_Engineering

    (Don't everyone remind me at once how few fabs are actually left in “Silicon Valley”, I get it!) I suppose the notion that Global Foundries is also operating in the general area would presumably lend credibility to the play, and I guess GE's presence in Niskayuna helps a bit too. Now I'm currently at the other end of the country but I lived upstate long enough to know that Albany is much too COLD most of the year to do much for many current Bay Area denizens in the climate department. I'm kind of thinking though that NYS taxpayers who endured the level of pocket-picking it took to get where they are right now would probably like to at least see it acknowledged a bit more than it has been, so you can consider this a “public service” to them…

  13. goafrit2
    January 17, 2014

    >> With regard to the Ohio/PA areas you talk about, I recently was searching for companies with some expertise in internet UI design

    What is the buzz about Ohio/PA axis for tech startups. I do not know what is driving this new found interests in these areas. Anyone knows why there seem to be a lot of tech activities in these areas. Regulation? Tax? Or pure luck for these governments which cannot even fill pot holes on their roads to attract tech firms.

  14. goafrit2
    January 17, 2014

    >> Analog is still making big news in the industry, analog ICs still represent the largest single revenue category in digital mobile market, mobile devices have been one of the most important drivers of the analog market

    All digital chips need analog. At the end of the world, you need a converter which is important because the world is by nature analog. This is one area no one can cut-off. As digital market grows, expect analog market to expand. I like analog because it commands higher margin and is also less turbulent as you see in digital.

  15. goafrit2
    January 17, 2014

    >> The analog and power engineer is becoming somewhat scarce with the prolifiration of digital engineers – thus becoming more valuable.

    People go where the action in terms of opportunity. Analog is hard and less disruptive than digital. It is easier to start a digital company than analog. Just imagine the number of people that have started Bitcoin mining companies making ASIC to mine bitcoins. These guys are not even trained. That is what happens in digital, in analog, you have no chance starting without decades of experience.

  16. fasmicro
    January 17, 2014

    @Scott, very good insight and analysis. >>The difference this time will be that all circuit engineering will be exclusively analog and all digital engineering will be exclusively software>. Yes, digital design now is software. They are logic guys that can code anything you want. Yet, digital from the constructs of our understanding may be morphing away, but to these guys, they see it that software is changing how they do it. From VDHL to whatever that comes, it is the same outupt, a GDS file that must be sent to the fab. How you get there may not matter.

  17. fasmicro
    January 17, 2014

    There is one point we are missing here – are venture capitalists funding new analog companies? I think the dynamics of the industry does not align for them to take much risks. Without a pipeline of new companies, we are at the mercy of the big firms which may not be growing fast to meet the supply base from universities. Also, these companies are opening design centers around the world. You need to wish the pile can be internally stimulated through enterpreneurship to grow.

  18. RedDerek
    January 17, 2014

    @jimfordbroadcom – Lived in LA area for 11 years. Then San Jose for another 9. Glad to be back in Sacramento. Oh, 4 earthquakes while in LA: Whittier, Rose Bowl, Sierra Madre and Northridge. None in San Jose. I figured time was running out and CA is due for another soon. 🙂 May you not have to go through something like Northridge.

  19. RedDerek
    January 17, 2014

    @Scott Elder: Funny how the death of analog has been forecast for decades and it turns out that digital circuit engineering is what's morphing away

    Nice insight. You are so right!!! That is why my mentor said that I should stick with analog and power back in 1985. Boy he had foresight. Now to start brushing up on those old programming skills and translate to C so I can get rolling in the digital world as well.

  20. Scott Elder
    January 17, 2014

    @RedDerek,

    Here is more bad news for digital circuit engineers.  Mathworks has a product called HDLCoder.  Basically, one draws a system in Simulink and then invokes HDLCoder to produce the Verilog digital code.  With that, one goes either to an FPGA or an ASIC using yet another software tool to route it up.

    So analog engineers only need to know circuits and systems and a couple of high level software tools to do the entire job.  We just need software engineers to keep writing those software tools to help the analog engineers do the entire circuit design.

  21. Vishal Prajapati
    January 24, 2014

    @fasmicro, you are right. India has evolved as a very good market for chip designing. But most of it in digital designs, probably less than 1% in Analog design. India definitely has good educated and well trained workforce. But as someone said, Analog design needs years of experience. That will take time as India has huge young workforce which may have less experience in Analog.

     

    Meanwhile here is one interesting news about Chip design in India.

     

    http://www.deccanherald.com/content/32820/india-place-chip-design-says.html

  22. amrutah
    January 26, 2014

    MEMS devices, sensor devices are one area where the analog jobs are always present.

  23. yalanand
    January 31, 2014

    MEMS devices, sensor devices are one area where the analog jobs are always present.

    @amrutah, thanks for sharing this info. I am curious to know which company is doing extensive research in MEMS.

  24. yalanand
    January 31, 2014

    But most of it in digital designs, probably less than 1% in Analog design.

    @Vishal, true we hardly find Analog design activity in India. Most of the Analog design (Schematic design) is done in US/UK and is outsourced to India where most of the Analog layout activity is carried out. I really hope in future we will see more and more Analog design activity happening in India.

  25. yalanand
    January 31, 2014

    Meanwhile here is one interesting news about Chip design in India.

    @Vishal, Many companies feel India is a great place for chip design but they refrain from investing in building manufacturing unit in India. Even Indian government is postponing its plans to build fab in India. I really hope companies will shift their manufacturing unit to India which will encourage more and more students to joiin this field.

  26. yalanand
    January 31, 2014

    There is one point we are missing here – are venture capitalists funding new analog companies?

    @fasmicro, One more parameter which we need to look at is growth of existing analog companies. If existing Analog companies dont show rapid growth then we can infer that there will be less number of Analog job openings.

  27. goafrit2
    February 4, 2014

    >> Then San Jose for another 9. Glad to be back in Sacramento.

    Are the Analog jobs in Sacramento? I know there are some in Berkeley part of CA because of the university but not sure Sacramento has many of these jobs.

  28. goafrit2
    February 4, 2014

    >> Funny how the death of analog has been forecast for decades and it turns out that digital circuit engineering is what's morphing away

    Actually, digital is not morphing away per sec. It is just that digital engineering is no more seen within the constructs of engineering but computer science. They still have a lot of those digital jobs. The difference is that the way they do them now is different.

  29. goafrit2
    February 4, 2014

    >> Here is more bad news for digital circuit engineers.  Mathworks has a product called HDLCoder. 

    Thank you for this. I am not even aware this has been done. I was in Framigham few years ago when they unveiled that plan and they asked us to test them. It was not robust as Simulink has many issues for one to effectively create a real digital model which can be translated into layout after further processing, Will look for it and test it out. Could get many guys fired in the digital world.

  30. goafrit2
    February 4, 2014

    >>  But as someone said, Analog design needs years of experience. That will take time as India has huge young workforce which may have less experience in Analog.

    I agree that analog, it is all about experience. Yet, if you have an experienced manager, you can get some of these younger guys to deliver value. The threat from India is the cost model. Youc an hire 3 engineers from India with the cost of a recent grad from U.S. With that, you can devalue the experience and still get good value if you match them with someone that is experienced.

  31. goafrit2
    February 4, 2014

    >> @amrutah, thanks for sharing this info. I am curious to know which company is doing extensive research in MEMS.

    The leader in my opinion is STMicroelectronics. Analog Devices has a robust MEMS program. ST does best because of its contract with Apple on iPhone and iPads which gives it cash to plunge and stay on top to meet the standards Apple demands.

  32. fasmicro
    February 4, 2014

    Most of the Analog design (Schematic design) is done in US/UK and is outsourced to India where most of the Analog layout activity is carried ou

    In most products, the IP is resident in the analog portion of the chip. There could be concern that doing the analog in US protects them from potential loss of IP.

  33. fasmicro
    February 4, 2014

     Even Indian government is postponing its plans to build fab in India. I really hope companies will shift their manufacturing unit to India which will encourage more and more students to joiin this field.

    I do not think there is a positive correlation between foundry and mastering analog design. Also, I am not sure India has the domain expertise unlike China for manufacturing sector. India may be great for the design, I am not sure it is ready for the manufacturing side.

  34. fasmicro
    February 4, 2014

    For growth of analog companies, look at their stocks. It is tepid with marginal gains. Only the digital ones like Qualcomm and Broadcom are doing great. Yet, Micron had one of the best years in the industry with more than 400% increase. But that was an exception. ADI barely moved. Others too.

  35. RedDerek
    February 5, 2014

    @Goafrit2 –

    Are the Analog jobs in Sacramento?

    There are some. But most of the stuff I see are digital or basic power supply designs. My time with Aerojet involved analog as I was working on the pentel drive electronics and some power supply support for the processing side.

  36. fasmicro
    March 3, 2014

    >> If existing Analog companies dont show rapid growth then we can infer that there will be less number of Analog job openings.

    They are not generally growing as fast as we would have wished. I am not aware of any major exit in the analog design space or VLSI in general.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.