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I was looking around at CDNLive a couple of weeks ago, and something struck me about the demographics of the people that were there. You can guess, of course, that they were mostly male, and of diverse ethnic backgrounds. This is not news. What I noticed even more, though, was that it seemed to me that there were more people in their mid-career, rather than those just starting out.
This inspired me to look further into the demographics of the average electrical engineer (EE). From a report titled “The Mind of the Engineer”, a study done in 2016 by AspenCore (owned by Arrow Electronics), the average EE has just over 25 years of experience in their field, with an average age of 47.4. In North America, this average shoots up to 53.5 years of age. Another demographic in the study struck me as significant: there is consensus across the board that it takes at least seven years for an EE to be considered experienced in their field.
What happened fifteen years ago, that caused this lag in recruitment in electrical engineering? This trend is not sustainable. Electrical engineering is in peril.
There are many theories, including one that I have read about why there are so few women in the field—basically, computer science went from being an exciting new career for both boys and girls back in the 70s and 80s, to then being labeled as a “geeky” and “male” thing to do, so girls didn’t want to touch it. (Some say that computers were originally in the “female” realm of work, like being a secretary—the original “computers” were women who made computations for the male engineers—see the film Hidden Figures!) But something happened between then and now, and I don’t know what it was. I will say, though, since we’re talking about my generation, that I took a coding class the summer after sixth grade and had a ball—this was about 1985, I think—and then literally never took another computer science class again. (Looking back, this was one of the biggest mistakes of my education!)
Another possible explanation for the gap in EEs beginning their careers in the 2000s is that there is the “design gap”. In the late 90s, we were getting to almost a million transistors per chip, and because that is too complicated for any one group of engineers to handle on their own, EDA tools and using IP became more and more important. As I showed in a post from last February, the space between Moore’s law and the number of EEs is where EDA happens. One could argue that the individual EE became less important than the tools that were used.
But here’s the rub—since we’re nearing the end of Moore’s Law and what is possible using traditional CMOS chips, we have a need again. We must figure out what is coming next, and that is going to take a lot of engineering.
The difference between looking around at EE conferences and the Cadence Café at lunchtime is that there are a bunch of young people mixed in the EE pool. Cadence does its best to recruit at all levels of career, from recent college graduate to seasoned professional. Part of the success of this plan was the introduction of the Cadence Academic Network in 2007, designed for universities to work together to teach and promote Cadence tools and methodologies. Starting as a pilot program in Europe, the Cadence Academic Network has now reached more than 900 academic institutions and organizations and reaching over 30,000 students and professors around the globe, all while developing relationships between students, professors, and professionals in the EDA community.
The Cadence Academic Network provides a bridge between industry and academia, allowing a flow of intelligence and interest between the two, enabling universities to learn about using Cadence tools and build a network of other academic users of our products. Leveraging the expertise being developed in academia, we provide real-life challenges to designers-in-training, while they guide us in the directions academia is heading in the future—thus lowering the barriers between academia and industry.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, Lip-Bu Tan, our CEO, discussed the emerging disruptive technologies that will also drive future growth:
Yesterday, I met with Ahmadreza Farsaei, a Principal Product Engineer who handle the silicon photonics side of Cadence’s business (expect more about the topic in future blog posts), and he talked about how exciting a time it is right now at Cadence—he said it is like working at a startup with the security of working for a mature company. This is another way that Cadence is working to attract young talent—by not only being forward-looking and showing thought leadership but also keeping a thumb on the pulse of future developments in technology.
Cadence is concerned with the vast gender disparity in the workforce of EEs. It’s too late for us women who are already mid-career and aren’t engineers to go back to school, get the requisite seven years of experience, and then become an EE and break the mold of gender inequality in engineering, I think. But for those of you who are at the beginning of their career, Cadence supports the following organizations (and this is not a comprehensive list!):
The IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference 2018, where tracks on topics of innovation, leadership, and empowerment are part of IEEE WIE’s mission of inspiring, engaging, and advancing women in engineering.
Girls Who Code, an organization devoted to achieving gender parity in computer science by 2027, offering learning opportunities for middle- and high school students, through clubs, summer courses and immersion programs in computer science.
The Grace Hopper Celebration, the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. Cadence regularly sends representatives to this annual conference.
Women@cadence, an organization of—you guessed it—at Cadence. We occasionally have events that are sponsored by the company, including movie screenings, social events, and viewing seminars on women in technology.
All in all, I’d say that Cadence is working hard to make up that design gap in EDA.