Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why you need to learn SystemVerilog?

In VLSI industries, everybody talks about SystemVerilog [SV]. We also find lot of job opportunities for the verification engineers who have working knowledge in SV. Students also look out for the VLSI design courses that focus more on verification and SV. They also strongly believe that SV knowledge is highly needed to get into industries.

Why so much noise about SystemVerilog? What is happening in the verification world?

I still remember, few years back everybody was talking about the hardware verification language 'e' and Specman. Industries used to search for the strings "e" and "Specman" in the resume. Cadence also acquired Versity to increase their market share in the verification. But now the VLSI industries are moving towards SV and migrating their legacy testbenches from the proprietary HVLs and HDLs to SV.

This change in the verification community clearly indicates that you always need to update yourself on the latest technology to maintain your market value, whether you are a student or an experienced verification engineer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Are you getting enough interview calls?

You registered in most of the prominent job portals and floated your resume. You are sincerely tracking all the news paper advertisements and applying for at least 5-10 jobs every day. But not getting any interview calls. This clearly indicates something wrong with your resume. You should know how to build your resume.

Let us first understand why most of the fresher are not getting interview calls.

Average Academic Record
You may not be able to attract the selectors just by showing your average marks. You may have good record on extracurricular activities and sports but that might help only during the final HR interview. You have to do something extra to make your resume more valuable.

Lack of information about industries
You have excellent academic record, but still not getting interview calls. You really need to understand how to project your knowledge in the technology that has huge demand and attract the interviewers.

Economic Recession
Industries stopped recruiting even experienced engineers. They do lay-offs too. In tough situations, you really need to spend your time usefully to build your skill sets.

I can list out many reasons why you are not getting interview calls. But if you understand some of the basic things that I outlined here have serious impact on getting calls, you could rewrite your fate by making your resume distinct.

You can't make your resume distinct and valuable just by adding more information and formatting it with colorful fonts and bullets. You have to build your resume. Do some home work. Find out what industries expect from fresher. Improve your knowledge and skills based on the job opportunities. Add the new skill sets in your resume.

I would like to provide some suggestions to make your resume valuable and distinct.

- Make your resume simple and well formatted. It should be 2-4 pages maximum.
If you are a fresher, maximum 2 pages enough.
- Summarize your knowledge and skills at the beginning of your resume.
- Find out which technology has so much demand and what industry people expect from you. Learn those things and add it in your resume.
- Do some specialized courses and increase the value of your resume by adding new projects and technology.
- Interact with experienced people and find out which technology has huge demand.
- Inform very clearly what you are currently doing.
- You can have different kinds of resume based on the industry type. This helps you to attract them by projecting the information that they are looking for. But only few variations are enough.
- Be honest. Make sure that your resume is 100% genuine.
- Take the help of HR consultants/Head hunters to format your resume.

Simple idea, Search for good resumes in Google. Why don't you follow the same template, if it impresses you at the first sight?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nuts and Bolts of Technical Interviews

Are you what you perform during the interviews? Except few, many fresh engineers fail to impress the interviewer. I would say they fail because they are not sure how to sell themselves. If you want to sell yourself and get the job, you should know what industry people expect from you.

Let us look at some of the important things that influence the final result of the interview and get you the job.

If you want to sell any product, you need to share good information with the consumers. Usually people use brochures for the same. Similarly your resume is your brochure that highlights your skill sets, knowledge, interest etc.Your resume creates first impression and gets you the interview call.
Nobody knows who you are. Industries will approach you, if they really find your resume impressive. It should highlight the knowledge and skills sets that they are looking for.
Do some homework. Find out what industries are looking for. You need to gain skills and knowledge to make your resume valuable. This will help you to differentiate from others

-Make your resume well formatted, simple and distinct.
- Make sure that what you claim is actually you are.
If you have no knowledge on any particular technology, do not mention it in your resume.
- You need to be precise on highlighting your skills.
For example, you can say "I am good on Verilog, very good on Digital and worked extensively on UART project”. Interviewer will ask questions based on this information. He will ask basic questions from Verilog, advanced concepts from digital but he will try to understand how you did UART. He will ask you to draw the block diagram, waveforms and expects you to explain the operation in detail.

Communication Skill
Language is like your dress. You look great on good dress. Improve your language.

- Learn how to introduce yourself
- You should know how to explain the concepts clearly
For example, you can use pens and papers to draw the waveforms, block diagrams etc. I have seen many fresher explaining the waveforms in words
- Don't talk too much unnecessarily and show your language skills, if you are trying for technical positions.

Listening skill
Actually listening is part of effective communication. You can't give correct answer if you don’t listen to the question.

- Listen sincerely. Don't pretend that you are listening.
- Don’t go on mute, just for the sake of listening.

Planning and Preparation
Understand that interviewer will ask questions based on your resume. So make sure that you know everything that you highlighted in your resume. You need to plan very carefully on answering some of the HR questions too.

Sample HR type questions
- Why you want to be a chip designer? But you said you like C programming.
- Why you did not score much in your engineering course?

- Be natural and honest while answering to HR questions. You should really know how to display your positive attitude.

Small Things
Small things make big difference. Always remember this.

- Be on time. Good to be in formal dress
- Smile at the interviewer
- Be honest. If you don’t know, say 'I don’t know' but express it in positive way.
- Learn how to approach and solve the technical puzzle.
Don’t say blindly you don't know the answer. Try sincerely. Most of the interviewers will be very keen on your approach on solving the problems. They will also provide clues.
- Learn how to motivate/attract the interviewer towards your technical strengths
For example, if interviewer keeps on digging the information that you don't know. Say “Sorry sir I am not sure about this stuff but I am extremely good at the other thing that you are looking for".
- Analyze your personality and understand your strengths and weakness.

It’s very difficult for me to summarize everything that one needs to know to crack through the technical interview process. But I would say if you follow the basic things that I mentioned here and practice properly, you can get through it very easily. To practice, you can take up some mock-up interviews and few real ones.

Sachin Tendulkar also fails on the cricket field and sometimes scores ducks too. But he makes sure that he scores century in the next match. Approach your life like Sachin. You need to face the real interviews and learn from your mistakes. I did the same.

All the best !

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

VLSI Vs Software

When your friends talk about any chip design course, you might think it’s for ECE/EEE engineers and not for CSE/IT engineers who want to become great software programmers. If you are a CSE/IT engineer, you probably move away from that discussion.

If you have an assumption that VLSI design course is only for the electronics engineers, you really need to change your mind set. A good C/C++ programmer who has good knowledge in digital fundamentals can easily become a verification engineer. You will be excited when you understand how we really verify the complex chips. Let me brief how we make use of the software concepts to verify the chip.

Hardware designers use Hardware Description Language [HDL] for designing the chips. But the verification engineers use Hardware Verification Languages [HVL] for verifying the chips. Testbench is the program that generates stimuli to the design and verifies the functionality of the same. Trust me, writing HVL based testbench is very similar to C++ programming.

At present SystemVerilog is the standard HVL that is becoming prominent in the verification world. This language is completely based on object oriented programming [OOP] concepts. We verification engineers use all the software concepts like Object Oriented Programming, Polymorphism, and Inheritance etc. to architect the testbenches.

Software execution is completely sequential but hardware programs execute concurrently too. Hardware designers always think in terms of digital logics like flip-flops, multiplexors, etc. Their programming style is entirely different from software programming. One needs to have verification mind set and think like a software programmer to write effective testbenches. So industries prefer software engineers to verify the complex chips, especially for writing the testbenches using latest verification technologies.

You can refer my blog "Functional Verification" at to explore more on verification concepts and technologies.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

VLSI Trainings

Today I am working in a leading EDA industry because of the VLSI design course that I did 8 years back. After finishing my engineering course in 1997, I was working in an engineering industry as a electrical engineer for more than three years. I was not happy about my 'Market Value' and life status and I decided to change my field. I did *PG Diploma inVLSI Design* and got into an VLSI design company. These kind of certified courses are very effective and they change your life too. But one should know how to choose the right VLSI institution and evaluate the worth of the course.

There are so many VLSI institutions offer VLSI design courses in India. Many educational institutions are also into this business. I am not going to rate them. But I would say most of the VLSI institutions are charging heavily and they don’t justify for the same. Here I am highlighting some of the important points that one needs to consider when he chooses the VLSI training institution.

*Course contents:
Please understand that VLSI is not Verilog/VHDL or EDA tools. Course should focus mainly on VLSI design fundamentals, design and verification methodologies and ASIC and FPGA flows. More importantly, it should teach what industries need.

Many of the institutions teach what they know. I would say they simply dump you with all the stuff that they have. Ask few questions and understand the worth of their course.

Sample Questions:
- Are you teaching how to architect the design?
- Can you just brief me about the lab exercises?
- How many days theory and labs?
- Can you differentiate your course from others?
- Please brief about the latest technologies that you are imparting.

Find out the background of faculties that are imparting the course. Experienced engineers who work in the VLSI industries are the right people.

Sample Questions:
- Can you please tell me who is going to teach all the subjects?
- Can you tell me who created the course contents?

*Training methodology/style:
Trainer should explain the concepts by providing the real time examples. Course should be more hands-on and less theoretical. They should follow industry standards for the projects.

* Projects:
The projects that you would be doing as part of the course are the key things. This increases the value of your resume. You can easily differentiate yourself from others by doing industry standard projects. By doing the project, one should be able to understand the complete project cycle and how we can tape out the design as a team.

*Personality Development:
Candidates should be trained and well prepared to face the interviews. Many institutions don't do this. I feel many fresh engineers don’t know how to face the interviews. You know, at the end of the day you should know how to sell yourself and get the job.

*Guest Lectures:
This helps the students to interact with the industrial experts and assimilate the concepts clearly.

*EDA tools:
EDA tools are highly needed to explore what you learn. But it does not mean that you need all EDA tools from all EDA vendors. Some institutions use EDA tools from all the EDA vendors blindly and charge the candidates heavily. Exposure to EDA tools usage is a plus but in industries we do not select candidates based on his EDA tool skills. We focus more on fundamentals and concepts.

It should provide good learning environment with adequate hardware and software.

You really need to get through the written exam and impress the interviewer during face2face interview. To achieve this, all you need is good knowledge and hands-on experience in VLSI. So don't go behind popular VLSI training institutions and certified courses blindly. None of the VLSI industries care about the certificates and institutions.

You can directly reach me at for any more help/information. All the best ...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

VLSI Job Opportunities

VLSI means Very Large Scale Integration. It’s all about Integrated Circuit[IC] design. Usually we call it as *Chip design*. Anyone who is planning to start his career in the semiconductor industry needs to have better understanding of the jobs and growth opportunities in the VLSI domain.

What's special about VLSI?
VLSI field is highly technical and completely based on electronics engineering. Only electronics engineers can get into the semiconductor industries because it requires minimum BE *Only ECE/EEE* as a basic qualification. But still CSE/IT engineers can also try for some specific jobs, with good knowledge in digital fundamentals and software programming.

Though VLSI is treated as hardware design, VLSI engineers design the chips using special hardware description languages [HDL] like Verilog and VHDL, as software programmers. Software industries mainly look for your IQ and programming skills. They do not differentiate candidates based on their knowledge in their engineering domain.

In VLSI domain, if you are really passionate of electronics engineering, you would perform well and grow fast. It’s very easy to differentiate yourself from others because you are competing only with the other electronics engineer.

There are plenty of job opportunities in the semiconductor industries. One needs to have better understanding of the job titles and job profiles. More importantly, one should know about his/her strengths of their personal attribute and choose the right job accordingly. Let us look at the various job opportunities in the VLSI industries.

Design Engineer - Mainly responsible for the design implementation.
You need to be technically sound. This job does not demand high interpersonal skills but still you need to be effective on communicating your ideas.

Design kinds
ASIC - Application Specific Integrated Circuit design
FPGA - Field Programmable Gate Arrays
AMS - Analog Mixed Signal design
DFT - Design For Test
Custom Designs - Transistor level
PCB - Board Design

JOB Titles
Front-end designer - ASIC/FPGA
Back-end designer
AMS designer
DFT engineer
PCB designer - Board design
Library developer

Verification Engineer - Verifies the design and makes sure that the design works properly.Huge demand for this position because 70% of the projects in India are the verification projects.

You need to be extremely good at programming.
If you like software programming/coding/scripting, this job is good for you. Still you should update yourself on latest technologies.

Verification kinds
Front-end verification - simulation
Acceleration/Emulation - Validation
Hardware Software co-verification
Product validation - Validating the EDA tools
Behavioral Modeling - modeling the design
Verification IP implementation - TB developers

JOB Titles
Front-end verification engineers
Validation engineers
Modeling engineers
Verification Consultants

CAD Engineer - Mainly responsible for managing the license and EDA tools
Evaluates EDA solutions and methodologies
Integrates various EDA tools and develops flow
You need to know how to interact with others. This job demands good interpersonal skills. You should always update yourself on the latest technologies and methodologies.

Application Engineer - Interface between the R&D and customers, Promotes EDA solutions
You need to know how to interact with others. This job demands good interpersonal skills and lot of traveling. If you feel that you are highly communicative, good presenter, good at building relationships and good at technologies etc., you are the right candidate for this job.

JOB Titles
Field Application Engineer - Pre-sales
Corporate Application Engineer - Post-sales
Application Consultants

Marketing & Sales - Promotes the brand and sells the products.

A good application engineer can easily become marketing or sales executive, if he has interest on sales.

I have just outlined the personal attributes that are highly required for these jobs. But it does not mean that only these attributes are enough to get into the industry and perform well. If you really want to differentiate yourself from others and perform outstandingly, you need to be a good team player, flexible, knowledgeable, hard working, positive and energetic, irrespective of the work/job that you do.