Author Topic: My Dream Job  (Read 6093 times)

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Offline Shenandoah

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My Dream Job
« on: June 28, 2013, 07:02:50 AM »
Hello all,

While I'm struggling and learning the hard way I'm very interested in getting a first time job as as an IC/chip designer. the problem is that my degree is not EE, it's in software. Is there any recommended references on this area so that I can pass an interview or a test?

Thanks.

Offline Bored@Work

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Re: My Dream Job
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2013, 07:33:31 AM »
Just fake it, like you probably faked your way through university.
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Offline dr.diesel

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Re: My Dream Job
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2013, 07:44:32 AM »
IC/chip designer

There are many aspects to chip design, software being part of the process.  Any particular part that interests you?

Offline lgbeno

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My Dream Job
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2013, 08:10:29 AM »
Digital or Analog IC design?  I could see where a software background could dovetail with digital chip design.  I also like the suggestion on the design automation side as well.

Honestly though, analog IC is quite difficult let alone without any experience that you would receive by taking classes.  If that is what you are interested in, I'd suggest taking a class or two through continuing Ed somewhere.

Offline Shenandoah

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Re: My Dream Job
« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2013, 08:58:02 AM »
Just fake it, like you probably faked your way through university.

How did I fake my way through university?  :-//

IC/chip designer

There are many aspects to chip design, software being part of the process.  Any particular part that interests you?

I'm more into microwave mixed digital/analog chips. But before I start learning the automation software I would love to learn the theory on paper first.
I was thinking of applying to Internships but they are only available to uni students, not self-taught persons, unfortunately.

Analog IC is tricky but I will make it...just need the opportunity.

Not really interested in going back to school and waste time and money, I can do the reading at home and teach myself properly instead of sleeping in classes...profs are so damn boring, talking to themselves reading 20 years old lec notes.  :-DD

Offline dr.diesel

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Re: My Dream Job
« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2013, 09:09:48 AM »
There are many aspects to the software side as well:

 - Production automation
 - Visual inspection/quality control AOI etc
 - Shop floor, robots, QC databases, SAP etc
 - Custom engineering software

What "kind" of software guy are you now?  Making stuff with mixed digital/analog chips can be a world of different from manufacturing them.  In any case, software has a HUGE role in making chips, or pretty much anything these days.

Offline gregariz

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Re: My Dream Job
« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2013, 09:18:20 AM »

Online free_electron

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Re: My Dream Job
« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2013, 10:12:12 AM »


Analog IC is tricky but I will make it...just need the opportunity
Not a chance... Analog IC design has very little to do with normal electronics. It's more material physics on one end, and black magic on the other end.

Start by reading 'the mos transistor' by h.m. Veendrick...
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Offline EEVblog

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Re: My Dream Job
« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2013, 10:37:27 AM »
While I'm struggling and learning the hard way I'm very interested in getting a first time job as as an IC/chip designer. the problem is that my degree is not EE, it's in software. Is there any recommended references on this area so that I can pass an interview or a test?

If you don't have formal education in the field (some degrees have an IC design component, or it's optional) or practical experience in actually designing chips, then I think your odds of getting a job in the industry are practically zero.
IC design is not like regular component level electronics designs. Whilst you could self study it, actually applying it practically is going to cost a lot of money. It's not like you can just mock it up on a breadboard cheaply.

Offline Shenandoah

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Re: My Dream Job
« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2013, 10:49:01 AM »
Understood, but how the pioneers made it? To gain experience or at least start learning it practically I need the chance like any other industry.
What kind of talents/skills starters show to the employer assuming it's their first IC design job?

Offline dr.diesel

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Re: My Dream Job
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2013, 10:56:53 AM »
Pioneers invent, ie you don't go to school for a degree in entrepreneurism, you just do it.

IC design, let's say on the fab side, have basic elements associated, these can be taught in school.  Employers look for these and hire those people!

Offline nctnico

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Re: My Dream Job
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2013, 10:58:51 AM »
First you need to take some courses in chip design. My EE study was geared towards chip design because Phillips (now NXP) sponsored the equipment hoping some of the students didn't find IC design utterly boring (what is an EE without an oscilloscope?) which most of us did.

Anyway, back in the old days chips where build on breadboard using discrete components. Nowadays its just simulation, simulation and simulation and even more simulation. To make it worse: simulating a piece of electronics is an art in itself when it comes to temperature and process variations. And don't think digital isn't analog...

From your perspective I'd try to get a job in a company which designs chips as a tester for writing test benches (most likely Verilog). Then move on to logic verification (breadboarding using FPGA) and from there you may get to design actual chips.

Offline EEVblog

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Re: My Dream Job
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2013, 11:02:01 AM »
Understood, but how the pioneers made it?
To gain experience or at least start learning it practically I need the chance like any other industry.
What kind of talents/skills starters show to the employer assuming it's their first IC design job?

All that matters if how you can get into the industry now.
And although I'm not into the IC design area, I can imagine that it is not unlike component level electronics design.
Yes, I can imagine it would be possible to get a job being self taught, the problem with IC design, like most of electronics, it's ultimately a practical applied field.
There usually two routes in:
1) Formal education and then a grunt graduate job.
2) Based on your practical and/or job experience.

You'll have none of these in the IC field.
Yes, you can learn the theory and use some tools until the cows come home, but unless you fork out big money to get your designs fabricated and have experience going the whole cycle of getting a chip made tested etc, your odds of getting a job are very low I suspect.
You might get lucky and get a job using one of the IC design tools as part of big team, maybe.
If you do have the money to fork out on actually getting chips made, then your odds will be better, but still probably rather low.

Now, someone will no doubt bring up Jeri Ellsworth. As I recall, she got her first IC design job not because she self studied IC design and went looking for a job, it's because she had the experience required in the FPGA side of reverse engineering a particular product that a company happened to want. She had the ready to go IP. Basically, she got lucky that someone found her. She might not have had nearly the same luck if she self studied IC design and then actively went looking for a job.

Offline EEVblog

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Re: My Dream Job
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2013, 11:04:33 AM »
From your perspective I'd try to get a job in a company which designs chips as a tester for writing test benches (most likely Verilog). Then move on to logic verification (breadboarding using FPGA) and from there you may get to design actual chips.

Yes, that's a third way in, via the side door.
The classic "working your way up" within a company.
I hired a guy one time that literally started as Dick Smith's janitor.

Offline gregariz

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Re: My Dream Job
« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2013, 11:14:08 AM »
The mosis service I linked above is what alot of universities use as a small quantity prototyping service to help train their students in analog/cmos design. If memory serves it used to cost 2-5K for a small quantity of chips. Just to give you some cost perspective from recent experience;

Digital ASIC: 100K-250K <--- you do the Verilog/VHDL design and simulation and make sure it works on an fpga.. then you hand it off to custom vendor ie someone like gigaoptix ( http://www.gigoptix.com/products/20-asic )

Analog ASIC: 500K-1MIL <--- you write a detailed specification for all of the performance parameters that the chip needs to conform to. You then hand it off to a custom chip vendor. The custom chip vendor usually has a library of pre-characterized circuit blocks that are tied to a particular fabrication process ie something like SiGe. They try to put these pre-characterized blocks through their software simulators (cost about 50-150K) and put everything together and fill in any blanks. Its very process dependent which is why you dont usually do it yourself. Check out the design packages at mosis for the various fab processes. They give you characterized (for the fab process) individual devices like transistors that you can use in Spice.

Mixed Signal ASIC: 800K and up <--- most companies avoid this due to cost. Plus it ends up being alot of voodoo. Vendors IP extends to knowing what processes can handle both logic and analog reasonably ie how do you put an ARM core and a RF amplifier together - alot of processes wont like it - the arm will be great but the noise in the RF amp will be crap - stuff like that. Lots of people get burnt here and so there a fewer custom vendors out there to do these jobs.

Its highly possible that you could use Spice and the fab packages available from Mosis to design basic analog chips. Its highly improbably that you would be able to get microwave or mixed signal devices happening without spending a huge about of money optimizing design by doing alot of prototypes. Some of the circuit and system software simulators that all the major analog  vendors use to help design these chips easily cost over 100K. You will need excellent analog discrete design skill to do that so if you are interested in pursuing it you should probably concentrate on getting that skillset ie rockstar transistor designer. Now one word of warning... I'm sure that there are a few small contract chip design houses out there... but if you look at the major chip vendors ie people like Maxim, Freescale etc... go to there career section and see what they want. Typically they'll want a PhD. You can always try to get your foot in the door with the independent contract firms... but I only vaguely know who they are so..

Just to give some perspective... when I was a student I only did one very simple transistor circuit on a cmos process. If memory serves the only one that worked .. or at least worked well was the one where the guy flooded the wafer surface with aluminium to keep all the track inductances low. Even though everyone had working Spice models.. it didnt matter. That sort of stuff is ... ie circuit blocks that work well for a process is what IP is all about and why its almost impossible to do this stuff as a hobbyist. Prototyping cost will kill you.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2013, 11:38:12 AM by gregariz »


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