Let's diverge a bit, and share some thoughts about career choices. I'm always thinking of the next step, including being an engineering manager, what type will I choose to be successful. There was an interesting conversation during the CDNLive's Speaker dinner (this rewards speakers of their sleepless nights) I'd like to share with a legendary figure from the Ottawa Silicon Valley North, Dan Clein from PMC-Sierra.
Dan: Do you know what the different is between a leader and a manager?
Me: Not really (giving him a puzzled look, because I was exhausted from the week of chaos, brain is mushed and not working too well at the moment)
Dan: For a group of people stranded in the middle of the jungle, a leader will climb a tree, look for the solution, get back down, and take his huge machete tool, and start hacking away and lead with his people following. He will take care of them this way. A manager, on the other hand, he will be behind them, make sure they all have the right machetes, have enough food and clothing, etc... He takes care of them in a different way, he watches their back, makes sure they are well equipped.
I then think back to all the managers I've ever worked with, and see which type of boss I had: leader or manager? I've been so busy lately that I haven't thought of these kinds of things, but I really should, since they affect how I behave, how happy and secure I feel, and how I succeed. I thought about my current bosses, why I enjoy working for them (most of the time :) ), and could relate more consciously to what kind I preferred.
During the whole evening, Dan keeps telling more stories (and I'm thinking to myself, "Man, does he ever have a lot of stories!"), sharing more philosophies and ordering more fine wine. Parts of it included how he influenced EDA tool development, which was very interesting based on the simple philosophy that tools should be built for a purpose driven by the users' needs, and not the other way around. How true. Often, over the 5 companies now that I've worked for (all in design except for my 2 years with Cadence), I have found that tools aren't always built with the user in mind. In frustrating cases there have been times when I thought that some EDA tools (or features) were built for what we think the designer(s) wants.
Later in the evening I came to realize that Dan had actually taught me in Ottawa, a Masters layout class while I was in undergrad a long long while back. What a small world! He actually has written a book, says he doesn't care about money (actually gave us a breakdown of how well he hasn't done) but which had made him famous. If you're curious, it's called: CMOS IC Layout (I searched and found it on Amazon). Apparently it's been approved and standardized in China too by the government for class use.
A side note, at the CDNLive speaker's dinner, I saw that the Steer Committee members really care about CDNLive's success and their passion during conversations. Economic times are tough, that's the reality they admit which affects how they operate, yet they are so determined to ensure future success with strategic planning, even during this dinner event. This alone made the dinner worth attending.
To cap off, please support and congratulate the new Chair Sue Strang (IBM) and hope to see you all in CDNLive SJ 2009!