For the most part of my career, I worked as a CAD and design flow engineer. In the fall of 2012, I moved to a different role as an Applications & support manager at Cliosoft Inc. In my opinion, this was a very good opportunity for me to work with other CAD engineers and teams.
Having worked with different CAD teams in my career, I have often felt that the CAD engineers do not get the credit, which they richly deserve for the effort they put in. Most CAD engineers did not plan on being CAD engineers when they graduated from college. What moved them in the direction of CAD is the “discovery” that they have an excellent understanding of UNIX, design methodology and programming and had good communication skills.
In the semiconductor industry, the CAD/EDA engineers wear a number of hats during the course of a project. Sometimes they don the role of a system administrator, where they predict and provision compute resources for a project or depending on the size of a company, even help in tasks such as setting up simulation farms for the project. With the growing number of geographically dispersed design centers, and the ever-increasing size of the design data, good network access speed and efficient utilization of disk space becomes a top priority for designers working remotely. In addition, there is growing concern about controlling access to sensitive data when it crosses national boundaries. CAD teams often work very closely with IT solution providers to provide the best-suited solution.
The CAD team also interfaces between the design teams and EDA vendors to evaluate the design tools to ensure the correct tools are set up for the design project. Their deep understanding of design flows and scripting capabilities help them set up and automate the flows for the design project to ensure that the tapeout happens smoothly. And at times CAD engineers have also stepped into the trenches to help with design implementation.
If you think of the design team as the offense, the CAD engineers are the defense. No matter how good the offense is, it needs to be backed by a good defense to win the game. CAD engineers rarely get the glory, but as the Super Bowl recently proved yet again: defense wins championships. So the next time around if you bump into a CAD engineer, remember to give him a pat on his back.