Over the past few weeks all of Cadence's Verification and Systems Solutions Applications Engineers (AEs), Services Engineers, and many Customer Support staff, have been brought together for detailed methodology and product training. The objectives of this ambitious undertaking are to bring their skills up to date, brief them on all the roadmaps, and in general prepare them for the challenges expected in the coming year as Cadence rolls out “EDA360”.
In contrast to the stereotype of death-by-Powerpoint training, each of the 26 different classes has multiple, hands-on labs, where each lab is capped off by a quiz. Student must pass all the quizzes or lab practicals to be certified. If they fail, they must consult with the given instructor to correct their mistakes, then re-take the quizzes and/or re-run the labs. The point of this rigorous process is to ensure that the information the AEs and others will be sharing with their customers will be timely and accurate.After setting the stage with a relatively brief lecture from a senior Architect or
Solutions expert (left), the “students” dig into the comprehensive labs (right).
I’ve interviewed the mastermind of this event – Jose Fernandez, Group Director, Verification & Systems Solutions– to learn more about how its objectives and logistics are designed to equip the students to help customers.
Joe: Investing in training is clearly a good thing. However, when you add up the hundreds of people and related man-hours involved, how can Cadence afford this?
Jose: First, allow me to take this opportunity to thank our customers for letting us have "their" AEs, Support Staff, and Services Engineers for a week. To answer your question: the cost of this event is small when compared to what's at stake: verification and systems development are expensive, high risk efforts for customers. Even with access to easy-to-use, well documented tools and methodologies, the expert coaching that a well trained AE can provide is often invaluable. To put it into blunt business terms: the skill and professionalism of our AEs are powerful differentiators for Cadence; and the return on our investment in evaluation success and ongoing customer satisfaction is significant. Finally, we save a lot of money by hosting all the events on the Cadence campus, setting up all meals as informal buffets, and buying a lot of the supplies in bulk at local warehouse club stores (seriously!)
Joe: How is the content for the event selected?
Jose: First, the overarching themes of the event are derived from the major needs that we hear directly from end-users, observations from our Field organization, as well as Cadence’s strategic and outbound product launch initiatives. For example, customers everywhere are eager to get the most out of the Open Verification Methodology (OVM), so there are a lot of classes related to OVM. Similarly, in anticipation of the demand for the Palladium XP verification computing platform that was just announced, there were several tracks organized in support of its launch.
Joe: Who are the instructors?
Jose: The instructors are drawn from our staff of Solution & Methodology Architects, supported by Cadence R&D, and I’m not bragging when I say they are world-class, industry-recognized experts on the technologies and methodologies they are presenting. Instructors are responsible for preparing all the lecture and lab content, and all the follow-up quizzes and lab practicals. They set very high expectations for their students. Hence, the most common feedback I get from my informal polling of the AEs and others is typically to the affect of, “Damn, this quiz is hard.” It’s important to clarify that this isn’t a complaint – instead, it’s a statement of genuine appreciation that the instructors (their colleagues) have taken the time to prepare truly challenging tests for them to learn from and grow professionally.
Joe: How do people select their classes?
Jose: The answer is customer driven: people's classes are selected by their managers based on our customers’ regional needs, as collated by the regional Field leadership teams. Of course they also consider the current skill set of the given student.
Joe: What were this year's hot subjects, and why?
Jose: As alluded to above – given the huge, world-wide market interest, I’d have to say OVM in all its forms was the hottest; followed closely by moving design and verification to the TLM level using CtoSilcon and of course the new Palladium XP verification computing platform. That said, topics like the Incisive Enterprise Verifier (IEV) linkage to the historically simulation-oriented metric-driven verification flow was another hot ticket. And as usual, the “Specmaniacs” were very energized by both OVM e developments, as well as the Specman 10.2 roadmap. Finally, verification IP (“VIP”) is always a popular topic – more so this year thanks to the super flexible “VIP Portfolio”.
Joe: How do you make sure all that training sinks in?
Jose: We make sure we get our money’s worth by enforcing a very rigorous certification program. First, all of the 26 classes have challenging labs that are punctuated by a written exam. Given the time constraints of the in-person event, some classes even have additional take-home labs and tests! To renew their yearly certification, each AE must complete all labs and pass all quizzes for each assigned class.
Taking a step back: a fundamental principle at work here is that we believe the best way to train someone on complex subjects is to get them to “learn by doing”; and thus there is a disproportionate focus on applied learning via labs. Hence, the general mix of each class is 30-40% lecture and 60-70% lab.
Joe: Can customers themselves get access to this training content?
Jose: Yes! Virtually everything we use for training is available with the SoC KIT, and the workshops that come with the Kit. Here is some background info: http://www.cadence.com/products/fv/iv_kit/pages/default.aspx
Even better: Incisive Enterprise Simulator XL (IES-XL), Incisive Formal Verifier (IFV), Incisive Enterprise Verifier (IEV), or Incisive Specman® Elite, you already have the Kit on your site! The Kit is included in the download package for these tools. Of course you can also download the Kit separately via your support.cadence.com account.
We also use the AE training materials as the source for many of our customer training classes.
Joe: Thanks for sharing the details of this event, and thank the production team for their hard work to make everything go so smoothly.
Jose: You’re welcome, and again I’d like to thank our customers for their patience while we borrowed their Cadence support staff for a whole week, and all our instructors and AEs for their commitment to deliver the best solutions to our customer’s problems.
Joe Hupcey III