Archive for August, 2009

The Road Not Taken

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Fork in RoadI’d like to offer you the opportunity to help someone out who needs to make a key decision in her life.

As I’ve written about and spoken about recently, the economic woes of the past year have impacted many of my peers and I’m sure yours as well. Especially hard hit seem to be those in the middle of their careers, a group that I count myself a part of. For those of us who have faced or are facing these uncertainties, I think it’s only natural to second guess the key decisions we made in our careers and wonder if we made the right choices. Some may have decided to take a chance on a new opportunity only to have it evaporate. Others may have passed on that opportunity only to see their current “safe” position turn out not to be so safe after all.

It’s with this in mind that I received an email from a young woman at a crossroads in her career, having to make just such a decision, one that she prays she will cherish but fears she will regret. She has the opportunity to move from her current “safe” position of many years to a new opportunity filled with uncertainty. In order to afford her the best possible insight and advice, I’d like to open this up to you (with her permission) since you all collectively have a ton more experience than I will ever have.

As you read her email, you’ll realize that she is facing several smaller decisions as part of this one big decision, namely:

  1. ASIC vs. FPGA
  2. ASIC Design vs. IP development
  3. Existing company that she knows vs. a new company that she has to learn
  4. Comfort zone vs. Temporary Incompetence
  5. Hands-on Technical Work vs. Management
  6. Expert vs. Generalist

Each of these decisions could be the basis for a debate on its own. Feel free to comment on any of these or all of these or on other aspects that you find important. If you can take some time to respond, I think this will not only serve to advise this woman, but will also be a great guide to anyone looking to make a career change.


I am a Lead ASIC Designer with 13 years of experience in front end ASIC design and have worked on multiple ASICs to this date at a company in India. Everything is fine here, just that the work is getting very repetitive lately. I have an offer from a IP development firm and need to decide soon. The following things come to my mind when I think about the offer:

1. The work would be mostly on FPGAs (no ASICs involved).

2. I won’t work with the Physical Design guys anymore.

3. I may get good exposure on different networking IPs.

4. I am currently leading a sizable design in a big ASIC. Though this position is glamorous and coveted by many, there is nothing new to learn since I have been doing it for the past several years.

I have the following queries,

  1. If I join the new company and start working on FPGAs, will it take away something from me, e.g., my “ASIC Gal” tag?
  2. Will taking up the manageress role and doing project management ‘formally’ be better that working as a Lead Engineer, from a long term employability perspective? or will it be detrimental?
  3. Will it be a one way path with little chances to come back to ASICs without a compromise? (after, say, 4-5 years).
  4. I want to move towards system design/architecture in the future and am thinking that the more IPs I work on, the better it will be for me. Is this assumption correct?
  5. Overall, any other advice as to what I should consider and whether I should take this position.

I would appreciate your reply.