Getting out of EDA

Over the last year I’ve had lots of meetings with people who used to work in EDA and have lost their jobs, or, in some cases, still have a job but want to make a longer term change. The subject that comes up all the time is “How do I get out of EDA?”

This is not unreasonable. EDA has shrunk its employment over the last couple of years and it is unlikely to come back again to its previous level. So some people will need to find jobs in new industries.

If you are an engineer in EDA then you know how to do very technical programming. You could certainly do other forms of technical programming. But the sweet spot in the job market is in internet companies and there is a lot of specialized stuff there that you probably don’t have experience of. If someone wants to get an internet startup going quickly then you want people who already know Ruby on Rails, mySQL or the iPhone developer kit or whatever. Not someone really smart who could probably learn that stuff eventually. Personally, I think this is silly. A smart programmer can suck up a language in no time and will run rings around someone less good even with a lot of domain experience. Good programmers are not 30% better than average ones, they are 10 times better. But even if you get hired, you don’t get paid for all that deep knowledge of, say, placement that you’ve spent years acquiring.

If you are in marketing or management it is even more difficult. At one level you have experience of running business to business (b2b) marketing for a software company. But you have years of understanding of IC design and none of relational databases or whatever, which makes it hard to make that transition. Furthermore, most internet companies are business to consumer (b2c) or internet-based business to business which is very similar.

I interviewed over a year ago with a b2c company and I was amazed that they seemed interested in me. It was bit like the Groucho Marx joke about not wanting to be a member of any club that would have him. The fact that they seemed interested in hiring me for a job that I was so manifestly unqualified for (although it would have been interesting to learn) made me doubt their competence.

If you are in some other domains you get stuck in those domains. I have a friend who is in finance. That allows you to work in all sorts of different companies, but always in finance where all companies look very similar. She wants to get out of finance, which is a similar problem. She’s smart enough to do all sorts of jobs but the only jobs that will pay anything close to what she is used to are ones that value all that financial experience.

It’s a tough transition to make. Your experience is what makes you valuable in EDA (or finance or whatever). If you go somewhere where that is not valued it is very hard to make anything close to what you made in EDA. After all, EDA pays pretty well so long as you have a job.

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