The Digital Layout: PCB Engineering on the Move

In this month’s column, I examine the PCB engineering job outlook and evaluate the career moves we are making. Next, PCEA Chairman Stephen Chavez shares some important attributes for personal development that will keep our edges sharp. Finally, I provide a growing list of industry events for 2021. 

PCEA Updates
The pandemic came upon us like a supersonic jet—unseen and unheard as it passed over and through us. It compressed the atmosphere of our lives, our industry, and our jobs. As it appears to be moving on with the help of remote working, masking, social distancing, and vaccination, the industry is moving to positively decompress. NPI programs are revving up once again and causing sonic shock waves of hiring activity and job movement. Were you one who was furloughed, laid off, or had your hours cut back due to the effects of the pandemic? Boom! It’s time to become an industry shock wave and clap back.

Check out the PCB industry hiring pages. There are pulses of hiring activity here in the Pacific Northwest—and most likely in your area as well. One PCB designer I know moved to a company that is staffing up for new projects, which left a void in his company. I am happy to have recently been given the opportunity to fill his position. But my movement left a void in the company I left, which is now trying to recruit another designer to fill my place. Will they hire a designer who was previously laid off? Will another designer depart his or her job to fill it? Design resource movement will go on and on and hopefully that is a good thing if we all can learn from it.

So, what did we learn from 2020?

Regardless of the 5 Ws—who, what, when, where, and why—our present state of being is subject to unforeseen circumstances. We’ve seen that a supersonically growing economy can be put on hold by the smallest of organisms—a virus in this case. We’ve seen that our strengths can become weaknesses if not paired with the diverse strengths of others. We’ve seen that no one is an island. We cannot exist alone. We’re in it together. Hopefully, we’ve seen that we need a healthy industry ecosystem full of workers—moving about—which are healthy in mind and spirit.

What must we do as we move forward?

Write down your ideas, visions, and goals. These are concept seeds which, upon sprouting, will help you to consider options to move positively within your organization. They can help you to become a positive shock wave and foster positive movement within or even without if the culture or atmosphere becomes too compressed. 

Find your strengths and feed them. Upon starting my new position at a new company, I was delighted to receive a copy of a book by Don Clifton, Discover Your Clifton Strengths. This positive surprise let me know that the leadership of this engineering group is interested in helping me to understand my strengths and match them with the strengths of others in our engineering group.

We grow by pushing away the compost of our surroundings. We must push toward the light. As PCB engineering professionals, we must reach for technology and skill set nutrients which are easily found within the pages of this publication and the upcoming events sponsored by the PCEA and many other electronics industry organizations.

Are you new to the PCB engineering industry? Maybe you consider yourself a seedling. You will need to learn all you can in your present position and then eventually transplant to avoid becoming root bound. Again, this may happen inside or outside your company, but it must happen. Look to your organization’s management as your gardener. For the organization to benefit, you must grow. Are you an old timer in this industry? Your management team should consider you a valuable, aged, majestic oak. Most likely you have already been transplanted many times before and are thriving because of it. You provide shade and seeds for future ideas which can be planted anew. You make it easy for them to answer the most profound PCB engineering staffing question: “When is the best time to plant a tree?” Answer: “Thirty years ago.”

Message from the Chairman

by Stephen Chavez, MIT, CID+

My message this month is short and simple. When it comes to printed circuit engineering, there is so much more to it than simply connecting the dots. It involves knowing how to design a PCB correctly, successfully steph_chavez300.jpgcollaborating with others, effectively communicating with both internal team members and your suppliers, and mastering your CAD system. These are all major attributes of most successful printed circuit engineers.

As companies and engineering teams continue to push the envelope with their designs, the use of their CAD systems, and their ability to effectively work together in bringing their respective products to market on schedule and under budget, it forces many of us to constantly evolve and to continue our professional development. It’s extremely competitive out there. Even as industry veterans with decades of experience and education, we must constantly keep evolving, learning to stay in shape, and be competitive so we don’t get left behind or, worse yet, become obsolete. That’s why PCEA is a great industry association to get involved with.   

“Collaborate, Educate, and Inspire” is the core mission of PCEA. We share the latest industry information, technologies, educational content, and industry best practices. Building long term relationships both professionally and personally, as well as mentorships, are also topics one will find within the PCEA collective. A good example of these topics in motion was our most recent event with our Orange County (California) PCEA chapter. Scott McCurdy and his leadership team brought together approximately 100 attendees to address “Designing for RF—Tips and Tricks from the PCB Pros,”[1] presented by EMA, one of our (PCEA) sponsors. Kudos to Scott and his leadership team for putting on another successful event. I also want to thank EMA for bringing excellent industry content to the table, and for everyone who attended to add to their respective bags of magic. The collaboration between PCEA and EMA was another home run.   

With so many industry webinars; Zoom, GoTo, and Teams meetings; and the flood of “free” online content out there now, we are bombarded. It’s been “information overload” for quite a while now. It’s hard to find the time to attend these industry events, and to decide which content is worth giving up an hour or more of your time for an online presentation, YouTube video, or podcast. But you can rest assured that if PCEA is putting on an event, or collaborating with another industry association, we are bringing you the best and most relevant industry content.

We’ve been on lockdown for over a year, but we are slowing coming out of it. I cannot wait to get back to attending live, in-person industry conferences. I’m sure most of you feel the same. Like always, we adapt to the times and the evolution of the industry as this new way of collaborating virtually, but there is no experience quite like attending an actual industry conference. I can’t wait to see you all in person at the next industry event. 

Over these next few months, we will be rolling out quite a bit more educational content as we integrate and collaborate with our sponsors. Our partnerships with industry sponsors allow us to present even more outstanding educational content when it comes to printed circuit engineering. I highly recommend you get involved with and join the PCEA collective, if you have not already. When you join and participate, your percentage of long-term professional development increases significantly.

I continue to wish everyone and their families health and safety. Best of success to all as 2021 continues to unfold.

Warmest regards,



Next Month
Next month is hopeful and wide open for coverage of a potpourri of PCEA activities. Tune in to this column for the latest events and ideas.

Upcoming Events
Below is our list of upcoming events. Hope to see you at any of these.

Zuken Innovation World 2021 (Digital Edition)
August 4-5, 2021

DesignCon 2021
August 16-18, 2021
San Jose, California

PCB West 2021
October 5–8, 2021
Santa Clara, California

SMTA International 2021
Nov. 1–4, 2021
Minneapolis, Minnesota

PCB Carolina 2021
Nov. 10, 2021
Raleigh, North Carolina

Nov. 16–19, 2021
Munich, Germany

Spread the word. If you have a significant electronics industry event that you would like to announce, please send details to, and we will consider adding it to the list.

Refer to our column and the PCEA website to stay up to date with the up-and-coming industry events:

Sometimes it’s just way too easy to describe our work in metaphor. This month, we covered PCB engineering career movement by drawing parallels to everything from sonic booms to Gardening 101. Whether we use metaphors or cold, hard numbers and statistics—as our PCEA Chairman Steph Chavez mentions—the goal of the PCEA is to collaborate, educate, and inspire. We want you to value yourself along with those you work with and work for. We hope we are reaching you.

See you next month or sooner!


  1. To read a review of this webinar, click here.

This column originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Design007 Magazine.



The Digital Layout: PCB Engineering on the Move


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