By Judy Mottl, EE Times´ TechCareers
The rumor that ASIC design is dying a slow death is one that Rakesh Kumar wants to put to rest completely.
"The need for engineers working in ASICs is alive and well. It's not dead. There is a lot of work being done with ASICs though there is debate over its popularity," says the president of Technology Connexions, a six-year-old San Diego consulting firm.
In fact Kumar goes as far as declaring that in some industry sectors ASIC design work is happening like "gangbusters" and the demand for engineers is intense.
"There are companies clamoring for engineers with certain skills. If you have the credentials you are in big demand," he adds.
Those credentials include experience with the verification aspect of ASICs design, one of three main engineering career prongs when it comes to building the application-specific integrated circuit, explains the consultant.
The first is front-end design work, in which the idea and the architecture is built out, and the second is physical design—a task that is being outsourced more than any other.
The hottest area, from a career perspective and design work level, is the verification space, says Kumar, adding that design shops today are "clamoring" for people and even hiring on physical designers to train them specifically for verification work.
To move into the role, engineers have a few options, says Kumar. There are some courses for re-skilling, or better yet, engineers can approach their boss and ask for on-the-job training experience.
"A great way to move into verification is right now, on the job. Take the initiative in your current role to move outside of what you're doing and learn the skills for the different design areas," says Kumar. While noting there have been some trends indicating that companies are moving design work from ASICs to FPGA, Kumar says he sees a bigger industry trend that engineers should track.
"There is a trend to gain better integration between process technology and design technology and that opens up another career path for engineers. In this segment, designers focus on the variability aspect and companies are looking for engineers with that broader perspective," he says. By keeping tabs on the industry trends and what companies are doing with design work, engineers can keep their career moving forward, he adds.
"To me that's career planning and there are no limits where ASIC design engineers can go if they're wiling to go where the demand is going. You might just need flexibility to move to where the work is," Kumar says.