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Communications, Collaboration and the Need for More Women in Engineering

Comments(0)Filed under: Electronic Design Automation, EDA, EDA companies, The Fuller View, Brian Fuller, DAC, Lip-bu Tan, Design Automation Conference, semiconductors, electronics, Kathryn Kranen, Wally Rhines, education, Jasper Design, engineers, engineering, women in engineering, design automationAUSTIN, Texas-Kathryn Kranen was in a jam. The CEO of Jasper Design had prepared a presentation for the last day of Design Automation Conference, Thursday. Problem was, the presentation was effectively pre-empted by talks given earlier at DAC by Cadence CEO Lip-Bu Tan, Mentor Graphics CEO Wally Rhines, and Synopsys CEO Aart de Geus. 

I chatted with Kranen minutes before she took the stage. She told me about her dilemma and said she'd talk instead about ecosystem collaboration. Fair enough, but she had a look that suggested she was still thinking about what she was going to say up there.

Kranen (pictured on stage, right) pulled it off, of course--that's what CEOs do--but in the process she illuminated an aspect of design engineering we don't give much air time to.

Communication key to collaboration

Collaboration, especially in the electronics ecosystem, is about working together to solve difficult technical problems, to leverage individual expertise, and to succeed together. We know that; we get that.

But the key to that is communication. And this is a point that--hold on to your hats--often gets lost in our male-dominated engineering world.

Sure, we communicate; we have to. But often it seems we listen without hearing. We might think we understand a customer's or partner's needs, but we go back to the office and understand it in the context of our biases and set about solving what we defined as the problem before the meeting even began.

Women in engineering

We talk often about the need to get more young women into engineering as a career. Driving around the country for a year interviewing engineers on the Drive for Innovation, I tugged often on this thread. (One post in particular, "The problem with women (in engineering)," sparked an amazing conversation).

Often people pose the question, "why do we need more women in engineering? Do we need more male nurses?" And more often than not the answer is not satisfying or, worse, it's lame ("we just need the balance.").

Hearing vs. listening 

The reason, in my humble opinion, is, the more women who enter engineering, the faster our pace of innovation. Why? Because women communicate in a different way than men, a complementary way. The greater the balance of male and female engineers, the better we can take advantage of the communications and analytical skills of each.

Kranen hinted at this in her visionary keynote on Thursday. She talked about improving ecosystem collaboration by refusing to denigrate others in the design chain:

"There are a lot of statements about challenges in the EDA industry that start out like this: ‘The problem with the EDA industry is' fill in the blank, something about another stakeholder."

She wrapped it up by saying:

"If you hear yourself starting a sentence, ‘The problem with the EDA industry is dot, dot, dot,' stop and lift off the negative assumption and reach out. Maybe by listening and building some trust you can find a completely new win-win scenario, and that's how we'll get our high-octane ecosystem execution going on."

Five or six years ago, Kranen asked me to consult on an industry video she and others in EDAC were working on. It was about how to effectively hear and collaborate to improve design-team productivity. 

Last week, as the audience listened attentively, some of us heard that message again loud and clear.


Brian Fuller

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