MemCon and Different Folks

On July 17 & 18 I attended MemCon in Santa Clara. I was able to attend only the first half of the conference due to the pressures of work back in the office. The most frequently discussed topics were NAND Flash and cell phones although a number of other topics rounded out the conference. My reaction to one particular talk can be found on the Different Slants website. If you design products that use memory of any type, you might want to consider attending one of these conferences when they are in your part of the world.

Since my job at Siemens was euthanized last year, I have had time to participate in a variety of workshops and conferences. While having coffee during one of the breaks, it occurred to me how different the people are at different types of events.

When I was in my teens and early twenties, I was aware that I was not a particularly well socialized individual. I was not anti-social but, I certainly did not seek out other people. I occasionally made friends with others with whom I shared common interests, electronics, motorcycles, and things that went boom.

Later, in my thirties, I began working as an engineer. This brought me into contact with more people like myself. We are characterized as people who would rather do something than talk about it. We are compulsive problem solvers (as long as the problems don’t involve other people). Over the years, I must have slowly assumed that engineers (and I) were “normal” people.

Standing in the exhibition hall at MemCon, it dawned on me how different people are. Many of the other events I have been attending are for entrepreneurs. To be an entrepreneur, requires working with lots of other people. You need their ideas, support, money, etc. Starting a business also involves a lot of problem solving, but they are different kinds of problems. They usually involve people.

So I am standing in the middle of this big room and there are hundreds of engineers all around me. Some are talking to colleagues they came with. Others are just eating or reading the conference schedule. Those moving about are careful not to bump into me.

At business conferences, this does not happen. If I stand by myself, it takes only about one minute for someone to approach me and start a conversation. It is never idle chit-chat, they always start by asking what kind of company I have, what is the product, the market, the business model. There is an exchange of business cards. If we have something in common the conversation runs a bit longer, if not, the other person excuses himself and goes to talk to someone else.

Then I started thinking about my job as an EDA manager. I made a point of stopping by each engineer’s cube at least once a month and asking if there were any outstanding tool issues. Why? Because if I didn’t ask, most of them wouldn’t tell me. After all, my cubicle was 100 feet away and it took 4 digits to dial my phone. An engineer would find it easier to try to work out the problem himself than explain it to someone else.

This also got me thinking, What are the chances of another project I have started, PCBcentral, succeeding? PCBcentral is designed to be a “social” site for people who design and manufacture printed circuit boards – engineers. To work, engineers must join, and share information and interact with each other. Can a website be made so compelling that it gets engineers to talk to each other? Never mind that I am not yet a competent web designer.

If you have the answer, please let me know.  In the mean time, I am still learning how different people can be.

1 comment

  1. Hi Rick,

    In my opinion, most web sites that become popular are usually just read. It is not that easy to get people to write on another’s site. Even then, it is hard to get people to work towards a common goal using only the web.

    I used to have a discussion group with about 30+ people on the list. I hardly received any posts from the majority of them. They preferred to read or lurk, as the case may be.

    I do not know a compelling approach to get people to participate together online. It seems that to get real work accomplished, use the online medium to inform people and then hold a meeting at a real world location. From my twelve years of using the Internet, that seems to work the best.


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