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Sarah Connor is a badass
I sat on my couch one evening as yet another phone call came in, “I’m sorry, there is no one available to take your call,” my robot said. After the beep another robot droned on about how Marriott Hotel was happy to announce… blah, blah, blah.
If you have not gone to to see a visual representation of the ongoing cyber war: To get information, sabotage a network, it’s all about money, and power, I suggest you check it out.
Other technological battles
In all wars, where blood or electrons are spilled, victory goes to the most prepared. While the above-mentioned battles may or may not directly affect you, there are battles for scarce resources raged around us every day. Who gets the promotion, the raise? Which company gets the contract, the order?
In engineering, our battles are no less real and have actual economic consequences for our lives. I had a professor in college that talked about placing tools in his toolbox, techniques, ideas, recipes for doing what we do each day. He was an academician, it might be better for those of us on the front line to put weapons in our duffle bag.
An Electrical Engineers most awesome weapon
By far the most awesome weapon in our arsenal is the CAD program. We develop schematics, analyze circuits and layout boards. This is where I spend most of my time. It is my most important weapon. If it were a knife you would want to make sure it was sharp and ready. You cannot just casually use a CAD program. You must learn all its capabilities and nuances (features, whatever).
If you know me at all, you probably know I prefer Altium. I have tried many platforms and have decided the tool that is best suited for the job is this software program. You may have another one you use, Eagle, ORCAD, Allegro, PADS (sorry please switch soon), Kicad. Whichever you use you need to keep learning how to use it more efficiently. This is part of continually learning, something that every engineer should be committed to do.
What resources are available?
1. Start with basic training. Take a class. This is the best way to get going in a software package. It will give you a well-rounded understanding of the capabilities of the CAD program.
2. YouTube. I just can’t believe this is free. You can learn almost anything at the touch of a button.
3. Online videos – Altium has an incredible online video library ( I recommend you watch every single one and practice what you see.
4. User Groups – Salt Lake City has one of the most active Altium user groups in the country. Figure 1 shows the February meeting. There were almost 80 people in attendance. This is an incredible resource. If you have access to a user group – go!
5. Webinars – Tomorrow there is a free 1-hour lecture on some of the neat features of Altium. They are going to discuss the PDN Analyzer for power supply design. They have these available all the time, some are more sales pitchy and others are pure learning.
6. Conferences – Altium holds an annual PCB design Summit each year. In 2018 it will be held in October in San Diego. I have heard nothing but good things from those who have attended and I plan to be there this year.
7. Books (or PDF’s) – There are a number of books available for free that go into great detail about the things you can do, but probably had no idea of how to do, with your CAD Program. A simple google search will get them to you.
If you want to be better able to handle the situations you will be placed in, you should prepare now. I have outlined 7 things you can do to improve your skills. I love Altium, so I showed those resources, but whatever program you use, you can find similar resources. You have to make learning more about the tools you use everyday a daily routine. The time you spend improving your skills will come back to you like compound interest.
Final thoughts
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