Tim’s Takeaways: Success Begins With a Little Confidence

haag_bruno_gaido_275.jpgBruno Gaido was a young radioman-gunner portrayed by Nick Jonas in the 2019 movie “Midway.” An early scene shows a Japanese bomber trying to sink the USS Enterprise by crashing into it with his plane. The scene shows the bravery of Bruno as he ran across the deck of the ship and jumped into the rear seat of a parked airplane, using its guns to shoot back. His shooting damaged the bomber just enough to force it off course, thereby saving the ship just as the bomber crashed into Bruno’s plane, cutting the plane in half and spinning it around.

This spectacle was amazing, but I quickly dismissed it as “Star Wars” action-adventure fiction. Could it seriously have happened that with just seconds to act, a man heroically saves the day while the attacker hits the plane he’s sitting in and yet he survives? Talk about a classic “jumping-the-shark” moment. It seemed like such a Hollywood fabrication that I decided to research this event to get the real story. Imagine my surprise when I learned that not only is it a true story, but the movie was based on eyewitness accounts and ship records, so that is exactly how it happened, including Admiral William Halsey spot-promoting Bruno to Aircraft Machinist Mate First Class for saving the ship.

As impressive as that was, I learned some other interesting facts about Bruno not shown in the movie1. For instance, Bruno had a reputation of being a tough customer and was known as someone who got the job done without a lot of self-promotion. In fact, when Admiral Halsey promoted Bruno, a search party was formed because Bruno was trying to avoid attention. In addition to shunning the spotlight, he was known to invest in others for their benefit, not his own.

Here's one example. In June 1941, Lt. Junior Grade Norman “Dusty” Kleiss, a pilot new to the Enterprise, set out to make his first aircraft carrier landing. Learning to set a plane down on land is hard enough but landing on the narrow strip of a moving ship in the middle of the ocean can be incredibly challenging for even the most experienced pilots. Remember, this was 80 years ago when computer navigation and automated systems were concepts that hadn’t even been imagined yet let alone incorporated into an airplane. The only thing that carrier pilots could rely on to get them safely back on the deck was their skill, experience, and confidence—characteristics that were in short supply for a greenhorn like Kleiss. However, when he got into his plane, Kleiss found Bruno Gaido sitting in the rear seat instead of the sandbags normally used to simulate a crewman’s weight on a qualification flight. Because of his inexperience, Kleiss tried to talk him out of coming with him, but Bruno simply responded; “You got wings, don’t ya?” Kleiss went on that day to be qualified with several perfect landings thanks to the confidence instilled in him by Bruno Gaido.

Sometimes the difference between our failure and success is determined by the faith and confidence that others have in us.

I’m sure we’ve all benefited from the confidence that others have shown in us over the years. When it came to my first solo flight as a student pilot I was just as anxious as Lt. Kleiss. To be completely honest, I wasn’t just nervous, I was terrified. But my flight instructor calmly looked me in the eye and said, “You can do this.” And so I did. One time while I was searching for work, I had stopped believing in myself. In that instance, a hiring manager gave me the shot of confidence I needed when she said, “My company needs what you can do,” and she hired me. But perhaps the best example, and one that still gives me confidence whenever I think about it, is when many years ago my design manager gave me the assignment of laying out a new generation of motherboard for a large computer manufacturer. This was going to be a high-speed design using new CAD software and design tactics that I was unfamiliar with. I would also be required to work onsite at this company for several months away from my regular team. It was an intimidating prospect, but my boss gave me the assurance I needed by telling me that he believed in my abilities to get the job done.

As we all know, the current demographics of the printed circuit board layout industry is changing. Many designers are approaching retirement, and engineering groups are looking for new designers not only to continue their work but take it to the next level. Circuit board technology is also changing. The next generation of PCBAs will require new design methodologies to support their evolving specifications along with new materials and processes to manufacture them. But no matter how much the software and hardware in our industry will change, the simple fact is that printed circuit boards of one type or another will still be needed for a very long time. To keep the electronics innovation process flowing, it is essential that we all participate in the growth of the PCB design industry as much as possible.

How can we help to develop a pool of new layout designers that are ready to take on the challenges of the next generation of electronic development? As we have seen from the example of Bruno Gaido, one of the most effective methods for helping a greenhorn designer is to build up their confidence and give them the stable foundation they need for success. Here are some ideas that I use when working with new people on the job:

  • Look for the diamond in the rough: Not all designers will follow a traditional career path. If you find someone with interest and aptitude, try giving them a little encouragement and see where it takes them. A young high school graduate named Mark Eaton was working as an auto mechanic in 1978 when a college coach encouraged him to enroll at his school and play basketball. Eventually, Mark went on to rank second in the NBA for career blocks behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, spending his entire professional career playing for the Utah Jazz. Just imagine if that college coach had seen only a mechanic instead of a potential NBA superstar. May we all learn to look beyond what we simply see on the surface.
  • Be accepting of new personnel: Change can be tough, and it is understandably difficult to see a trusted co-worker move on and replaced with someone new. But face it, this scenario is going to repeat itself many times over; we must accept and make the most of it. That leaves us with two choices: we can either bury our heads in the sand (which I don’t recommend because the view isn’t all that interesting from that perspective), or we can welcome our new co-workers with open arms. And as I have learned, more often than not these new people bring with them fresh ideas and new ways to get things done that help in ways I would have never thought possible. It’s a winning combination for everyone.
  • Help them to succeed: When working with a new designer, make sure to start them with projects they can grow with and learn from. Otherwise, you may risk discouraging them before they have a chance to reach their full potential. You will also want to ensure they have adequate training in your processes and procedures and be prepared for their questions. The goal should be to create an environment that encourages their success as a designer of your products, and not merely how to punch a timeclock and collect a paycheck.
  • Hold a crown over their heads and help them to grow into it: As these new designers come up to speed, don’t be afraid to increase their responsibilities according to their abilities. In this way you will further help build their confidence. However, it is essential to keep an eye on their progress to ensure your new designers don’t overcommit. I’ve seen far too many new employees burn themselves out because they took on too much or were not managed correctly and got in over their heads.
  • Encourage learning: Explore different paths of continuing education to help your new designers grow in their careers. There are many options available out there that range from simple online seminars to large-scale design conferences. Not only will your designers learn new skills at these venues but investing in their future like this will also pay huge dividends in building up their confidence.

Probably the best advice is to treat new designers and employees the same way that we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes. Yes, they can get the job done by hiding in the corner and doing only what they are told to do. But to truly excel in our industry requires taking a few risks, and that takes confidence. It’s up to us to help build that confidence in those we work with so they can reach their full potential. If you are questioning your own ability to build confidence in others, let me be the first to say, “I know you can do this, I believe in you.” Until next time everyone, keep on designing.

References

  1. H-004-5: Toughness—Aviation Machinest Mate 1st Class Bruno Peter Gaido, by Samuel J. Cox, March 29, 2017, Naval History and Heritage Command.

 This column originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of Design007 Magazine.

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2022

Tim’s Takeaways: Success Begins With a Little Confidence

10-06-2022

Bruno Gaido was a young radioman-gunner portrayed by Nick Jonas in the 2019 movie “Midway.” An early scene shows a Japanese bomber trying to sink the USS Enterprise by crashing into it with his plane. The scene shows the bravery of Bruno as he ran across the deck of the ship and jumped into the rear seat of a parked airplane, using its guns to shoot back. His shooting damaged the bomber just enough to force it off course, thereby saving the ship just as the bomber crashed into the Bruno’s plane, cutting the plane in half and made it spin around. We can learn a lot from the confidence of Bruno Gaido.

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Tim’s Takeaways: Manufacturing Documentation—Keep the Builder in Mind

08-04-2022

It was the end of May, which among other things, meant that the Major League Baseball season was once again in full swing (pun intended). While my wife was happily settled into the couch with her Seattle Mariners cap, T-shirt, blanket, and coffee mug cheering on J.P Crawford and the rest of the team, I re-watched “Field of Dreams,” and was again mesmerized by the voice that speaks to Kevin Costner’s character: “If you build it, they will come.” As circuit board designers, it’s probably not all that unusual to hear similar voices speaking to us, especially after staring at a layout for hours, and hours, and hours. But in our case, the message is typically a little different, and sounds more like, “If you document it correctly, they will build it.”

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Tim's Takeaways: Today's Preparations for Tomorrow's PCB Designs

06-02-2022

What skills actually prepare you for your future career? Tim Haag reflects back on an eighth grade typing class that baffled those around him because "everyone knew that I had absolutely no aptitude for any sort of literary or language skills." Yet, despite his atrocious spelling skills, Tim excelled in typing and those newly-honed skills served him well as he began to learn about laying out circuit boards on various computer design systems. It was one random decision amongst so many others. What was it for you?

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Tim's Takeaways: Gremlin Avoidance Tactics to Improve Productivity

03-22-2022

Sometimes I am really envious of those who work with steel, on a construction site, or even tilling the earth. All of these are tangible activities; you mold the steel, or build a house, or harvest a crop. Instead, I work in electronics. Most of the time it is a good life, but every now and then a nasty little gremlin will pop up its ugly head and mock you. It could be a circuit that just won’t give you the performance that you need, a short that you can’t find, or worst of all, an intermittent problem that just won’t go away.

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Tim's Takeaways: The Misadventures of High Voltage and Other Related Problems with Power

01-27-2022

If you’ve read my column before you know how much of a fan I am of aviation, especially when it comes to older airplanes. You can imagine how ecstatic I was when 11 years ago my wife gave me the greatest gift of all; a half-hour ride on a fully restored WWII B-17 Flying Fortress. This plane was the real deal folks. A four-engine heavy bomber stuffed with gun turrets, narrow and cramped crew areas, and the cold hard metal of unforgiving hardware that could give you a serious bruise on the forehead if you weren’t paying attention. From wingtip to wingtip, the “Liberty Belle” was saturated with a rich ambiance of history that emanated from every one of her nearly 400,000 rivets that held this aircraft together.

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2021

Tim's Takeaways: Say ‘No’ to File Hoarding: Data Management Tips

11-24-2021

There are a lot of different types of “collections” in life that need managing, and like my proliferating pile of tax paper publications, they all need their own eloquent solutions to keep from getting out of control. Take for instance the amount of data that is generated during the design of electronics. The first thing to consider in our world of PCB design is just how much data there is that needs to be managed. From a casual overview it may not seem that extensive, but let’s break the average design down into its four separate pieces. This gives us the schematic, circuit simulation, PCB layout, and analysis, and that is just a generalization. Designs often have more pieces than that in them, especially when you consider the depth of system level design.

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Tim's Takeaways: The Collaborative PCB Design Process—A Necessity for Efficient Manufacturing

09-24-2021

Circuit board design used to be a more complicated and lengthy process than it is now with the need to build scores of test circuits, develop multiple prototypes, and toiling with manual design operations. The one good thing about all of this time was that it gave ample opportunity for everyone to be involved.

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Tim's Takeaways: Some Timely Advice

07-14-2021

Who inspires you to be a better designer? For Tim Haag, he finds motivation in the story of Bert Christman. Read on for how this daring Navy pilot's life relates to advice in the world of circuit board design.

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Tim's Takeaways: DDR Routing, and Other Big Fish in the Lake of Technology

05-21-2021

Tim's fishing story relates well to designing circuit boards. Intrigued? Read on, he explains how "there's always a bigger fish."

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Tim’s Takeaways: Conquering Layers of Challenges in PCB Stackups

01-25-2021

When he first started laying out printed circuit boards many years ago, Tim was working for a computer systems manufacturer whose PCB designs were all multilayer boards. While there were a great many things that I learned during my time working there, it also fostered one bad habit; He became accustomed to relying on being able to use multiple layers for routing instead of planning a more efficient layout. Here, he breaks it all down.

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2020

Tim’s Takeaways: PCB Vias, ‘You Have a Go’

11-13-2020

Do you remember the old TV show “Stargate SG-1?” With the exhortation of “SG-1, you have a go” from their commanding officer, the stargate would instantaneously transport an intrepid band of heroes to new and exciting locations each week. Tim Haag details his realization that the stargate is nothing more than a giant via in space!

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Tim’s Takeaways: Thermal Management for PCB Designers—Staying Out of the Fire

09-09-2020

If there’s one thing in life that really feels the pressure of being in the hot seat, it’s the PCBs that we design. But PCB designers often feel a lot of pressure while doing their work, which puts them squarely in the hot seat. Tim Haag shares four techniques in thermal management for PCB designers.

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Tim's Takeaways: Navigating Industry Expectations

05-29-2020

While some expectations are normal—and, well, expected—in the workplace, there are also those that do more harm than good. Tim Haag unpacks negative expectations and shares suggestions for improving communication in the workplace, as well as positive expectations that you can set for yourself.

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Tim’s Takeaways: Working From Home—5 Tips for Newbies

03-24-2020

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many people who have worked in an office environment for their entire career have suddenly found themselves shifted to working remotely. At first, this may seem like it isn’t that big of a change, but it may be a bigger deal than you realize. Tim Haag, who has worked from home for over 17 years, shares five tips for making the most of this situation and working successfully from home.

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Tim’s Takeaways: Clearing Up the Buzz

02-14-2020

My first “real” job in the world of electronics was working at a Radio Shack store back in the late ‘70s. It was a step up from flipping burgers, but it didn’t last long. However, there was one notable aspect of that job; I was there during the time that Radio Shack introduced its first personal computer—the TRS-80. Although it is practically unimaginable now, in those days, there wasn’t much in the way of personal computing available for the general consumer.

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2019

Tim's Takeaways: Realizing a Higher Standard for PCB Design

10-09-2019

To the untrained eye, one circuit board may look pretty much like any other, but as we know, there are major differences between them. Not only are they different in purpose and design but also in how they are manufactured for specific industries. If you are designing medical equipment, for instance, you will have to meet many different regulatory requirements from organizations, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organization (WHO), and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), among others.

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Tim's Takeaways: Clear Communication Takes the Cake

07-10-2019

Whether baking a cake or building a circuit board, it’s all about clear communication. If the person writing the recipe had not made the choice to clearly communicate what their intentions were for baking that cake, I would have been lost. A missing ingredient here or an incorrect oven temperature there and my birthday surprise would have ended up in the garbage in the same way a successfully built circuit board starts with clear communication from the designer. Circuit board manufacturers want to create a perfect PCB for you, but they can only do so to the extent of the instructions that you give them.

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Tim's Takeaways: Rules Keep You from Crossing the Line

06-20-2019

Driving rules are designed to keep drivers between the lines of traffic instead of crossing over those lines into dangerous situations. Similarly, design rules are also intended to keep PCB trace routing between the lines instead of crossing over them as well. But you might be surprised how many people refuse to use the full potential of their DRCs to protect themselves, and in some cases, refuse to use them at all.

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Tim's Takeaways: I Think I’ll Go for a Walk

04-08-2019

Many years ago, my boss at a PCB design service bureau had his own unique way of encouraging us to take a break. He would come through the design bay and call out in his deep baritone voice, “DARTS!” and we would all follow him into the break area for a quick game. In addition to the benefits of taking a break, forcing our eyes to focus in and out as we threw a dart was a great way to relieve us all from the eye strain of older CRT monitors.

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Tim's Takeaways: A Job Worth Doing

02-28-2019

I get it. We PCB designers are made of the kind of tough stuff where we will work ourselves to death if given the chance. But in our all of our efforts, are we really doing it right, or could we somehow be doing it better? Let’s take a moment to consider some other ways that we might help ourselves to improve.

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2018

Tim's Takeaways: Contract Positions—Go the Extra Mile

10-10-2018

For newbies just entering the industry or experienced designers who have always worked for a corporation, the transition to contractor can be a real culture shock. The allure of working from home and setting your own hours can quickly be replaced by the realities of chasing jobs and wondering where your next payday will come from. However, there are some wonderful aspects of working as a contractor that can make it very worthwhile.

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Tim's Takeaways: Where Have All the Designers Gone (and Who Will be Taking Their Place)?

08-17-2018

We have a lot to pass on to the new designers. We must stress the importance of understanding of the roots of our industry and why this design knowledge is important. I have worked with many designers who don’t understand anything about the output of their design files. They go through a procedure, hit a series of commands, and presto: The design files are all wrapped up in a neat little zip file ready to go out to the manufacturer. That’s all well and good, until something breaks or a manufacturer has a specific question. It would be a great thing to make sure that the designers of tomorrow understand what a Gerber file and an aperture list really is.

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Tim's Takeaways: Hiring the Right PCB Designer

06-04-2018

Like the rest of you, I’ve had times of unemployment, when your daily job is looking for work. You find yourself writing and then rewriting your resume, searching online forums and job search sites, and applying to every job that you can find. I’ve also hired people, and I know what hiring managers face. But hiring managers may be hurting their companies by drawing up a list of expectations so tight that highly qualified people may be slipping between the cracks.

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Will Cool Technology Attract the Next Generation of PCB Designers?

04-17-2018

If I had the opportunity to design some boards that went into medical detection equipment like my new blood pressure cuff, I would be extremely motivated to do that. Maybe what we should be focusing on is not just playing with the new toys, but showing the younger generation different ways to think about how they can improve upon these new toys.

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Customer Support: What do PCB Designers Really Want?

03-19-2018

First, let’s throw a leash around the elephant in the room. That’s my way of saying, “Here are some things that designers want, but we in the support business just can’t give it to them.” The first one that comes to mind: Customers have asked, manipulated, and even tricked me in their attempts to get free software.

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Tim's Takeaways: Good Support Isn’t Just for Customers

03-06-2018

I have been working in PCB CAD tools customer support for years and years, and it isn’t that often that the tables are turned and I have someone who is supporting me. I’ve got to say, it was a pleasure being the recipient of some quality support.

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2017

True Design Efficiency: Think Before You Click

10-09-2017

At the captive shops that I’ve worked with, where the designers were more involved in the entire design cycle and had better access to the corporate libraries, staff engineers, etc., the story was often the same. Some designers would jump into the deep end of the pool of design without any thought to drowning while others would be so busy lacing up their life preservers of preparation that they would take too long getting out of the shallows and into the depth of their design. So, what’s the best approach here?

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Tim's Takeaways: It Really Wasn’t My Fault

09-07-2017

I once received verbal instructions from an engineer who directed me to make a certain change. I didn’t think anything of it. Many months later, this same engineer told me that there were troubles with the board and all its successive versions because of the change that I had made. He ended up making it right in the end. But in hindsight, what could I have done to save myself a couple of months of suspense and worry?

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Tim's Takeaways: Stepping into the Great Unknown

08-16-2017

Many years ago, I was given the opportunity to switch my career path from senior circuit board designer to CAD systems administrator. I wasn’t certain that I wanted to give up the comfort of being a designer; after all, I had been one for a long time. But I knew that this transition would help my overall knowledge base of everything CAD-related, as well as better position me in my quest for a management position. So, I pulled the trigger and accepted the new job even though the idea of stepping into the great unknown like that was very intimidating.

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Tim's Takeaways: Design Tools of Tomorrow--A Real 'Marvel'

04-05-2017

Imagine if you could interact with your design as a hologram floating in front of you the way Tony Stark did in the movie "Iron Man." Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could pick a section on your holographic design with your hands and expand it to the point where you could peer into it, spin it around, and manipulate it as you desired? Want to push a trace down to a different layer? Just give it a nudge in the right direction and the holographic display changes it to the next layer. Don’t like the way a certain area fill looks? Then just grab it with your fingers and pull it out and throw it into the virtual garbage can.

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Tim's Takeaways: 'Sparks' to the Rescue in RF Design

01-03-2017

Just like the early days of radio where Sparks the radio specialist was in demand to get the job done, we now need RF specialists to work together with electrical engineers to create the intricate designs required for RF circuits. You are now Sparks, the go-to specialist who will take care of RF design business.

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2016

The Basics of Hybrid Design, Part 3

06-16-2016

The world of hybrid design is growing, and we have lots of hybrid-specific functionality built into our software that helps designers meet and conquer the unique hybrid design requirements that they are faced with. And yet many designers out there (and I used to be one of them) have no idea what is meant when people start talking about hybrid design.

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The Basics of Hybrid Design, Part 2

05-16-2016

In the first part of this series, we discussed the basics of hybrid design from the PCB designer’s perspective, and here we will continue that discussion.

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The Principles of Hybrid Design, Part 1

04-25-2016

What exactly is a hybrid design? We are seeing more and more of our customers exploring the world of hybrid design, and we are getting new customers for whom hybrid design is their sole focus. The world of hybrid design is growing and we have lots of hybrid-specific functionality built into our software that helps designers conquer the unique hybrid design requirements.

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2015

Tim's Takeaways: The Utility Belt

05-12-2015

The utility belt is a great thing to have. Batman would be long dead without his, and Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor would be useless without his. But for a circuit board designer, a utility belt is equally important. All of us at one time or another will have questions about the CAD system we use, and one essential tool to have in your utility belt is a list of people you can go to for help. At the top of this list should be your CAD system’s friendly customer support staff (like me).

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DFM: The PCB Designer as Arbitrator

04-08-2015

Design engineering is usually a combination of electrical and mechanical engineers. Although these two groups can have their own dramatic conflicts between each other, they will usually end up working together because they ultimately serve each other’s needs. But the manufacturing engineering requirements usually come from a completely different department or from an outside manufacturing vendor.

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2014

Like it or Not, You're a Role Model

12-24-2014

"During the years that I built my skills as a circuit board designer, many people helped shape my character. Some were impulsively brilliant at laying out a board, while others were steady and consistent in their approach to work, dotting every 'i' and crossing every 't.' But they were all patient with me, answering my questions, showing me the ropes, and setting good examples for me to follow," says Columnist Tim Haag.

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Blink and You Will Miss It

11-05-2014

Tim Haag writes, "Friedrich Nietzsche said, 'That which does not kill us makes us stronger.' Well, that adage certainly proved to be true in my situation. If I hadn't been ripped from my secure position and forced to contract for a short season, who knows how my future would have eventually unfolded. And if it hadn't been for that brief season of hardship, would I have had the strength and flexibility to succeed later on?"

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Tim's Takeaways: Blink and You Will Miss It

11-05-2014

Tim Haag writes, "Friedrich Nietzsche said, 'That which does not kill us makes us stronger.' Well, that adage certainly proved to be true in my situation. If I hadn't been ripped from my secure position and forced to contract for a short season, who knows how my future would have eventually unfolded. And if it hadn't been for that brief season of hardship, would I have had the strength and flexibility to succeed later on?"

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There Are No Stupid Questions

09-10-2014

Many of us who have been designing boards for years have had to deal with annoying questions from "the kids." You know who I mean: The rookies, newbies, greenhorns, or puppies just starting out in their design careers. We've all had to answer questions like, "Why is library development so important?" or "Why is solder mask green?"

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Tim's Takeaways: There Are No Stupid Questions

09-10-2014

Many of us who have been designing boards for years have had to deal with annoying questions from "the kids." You know who I mean: The rookies, newbies, greenhorns, or puppies just starting out in their design careers. We've all had to answer questions like, "Why is library development so important?" or "Why is solder mask green?"

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Design Rule Checks - For Your Protection

07-09-2014

Columnist Tim Haag writes, "I have designed multitudes of PCBs over the years, but I have a confession to make: It can be hard for me to run that final design rule check. I know that it is important, but at the end of a long design cycle, I just want to be done. I don't want to redo anything, and I sure don't want to look at my own errors. Do any of you feel that way?"

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Tim's Takeaways: Design Rule Checks - For Your Protection

07-09-2014

Columnist Tim Haag writes, "I have designed multitudes of PCBs over the years, but I have a confession to make: It can be hard for me to run that final design rule check. I know that it is important, but at the end of a long design cycle, I just want to be done. I don't want to redo anything, and I sure don't want to look at my own errors. Do any of you feel that way?"

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Customer Support: Not Just for Customers Anymore

06-04-2014

Columnist Tim Haag writes, "In my role as the customer support manager, I have seen plenty of examples of customer support. But my point here is not to focus on customer support as a function of a support technician. Instead, I want to explore the concept of how we should all strive to provide the best level of customer support in our jobs, no matter what we do."

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