The Age of Enlightenment
Listening to all of this, there does seem to be a contradiction. People need to travel for that all-important, team-building face time, yet we also all embrace distributed, always connected, remote teams working together in a virtual network from their Centers of Excellence. How can we have it both ways? Is there some kind of optimization algorithm to calculate the exact, necessary, and sufficient number of face-to-face meetings needed to maximize cooperation and productivity across centers?
Vic Kulkarni - We actually do have a kind of an optimization algorithm for this. In my own case, I have looked closely at how many time I need to go to India personally, and how many times different levels of managers need to meet with their teams.
We have determined that at the CEO level, I need to meet with the teams once a quarter. Product teams need to meet once a month. It's once a week for directors to be meeting with their direct reports. And, on a daily basis, everyone must stay connected by e-mail.
The truth is that once you meet someone in person - and then, even if you only see them in person every 2 months or so - you establish and then re-establish the trust that's important for success. The two guys who my wife and I are taking out on Saturday - I feel they need to see me every several months. It's important.
We've looked a video conferencing, and know that can be useful. But it's not really the same as sitting across a table from someone. Skype also has made it easier to stay connected, but the truth is, if an engineer is sitting in a production meeting that's a [virtual] conference, it's possible to put the phone on mute and do your own thing while the meeting is progressing. However, when people attend a physical meeting, their minds can't wander. They can also learn something from the body language of the other people in the room.
One of our top guys at Sequence is Tom Miller, who is general manager of our front-end unit. He is physically located in Seattle in a one-person office there. I don't see him in person at all. Recently I bought a Skype camera so I could see him sometimes and tease him during meetings. But, in fact, the level of trust between us is so high - he starts at 6 AM like I do, he comes to Santa Clara every 3 weeks to see me, and the sales force and various customers - I never have to worry where Tom is. And, he's not just some black box in Seattle. When I talk to him, I can actually picture his face because I know him so well.
And actually, right now, one of the most remote people in the company for me is someone who sits about 20 feet away from me. I interact with some people in India more often than that person who sits so nearby here in Santa Clara.
Okay, so given all of these complex realities, how do we go about fully educating the next generation?
Vic Kulkarni - I think the most important thing is for them to understand the concept of team - that knowledge must be shared. That has to be a really strong message for the next generation. However, in some ways, I think cyberspace has really already taught them a lot about knowledge sharing. Their interpersonal skills may not be as good, but when they spend time sharing video games - playing a match against someone, say, in Denmark - the younger generation may already be very comfortable with the idea of knowledge sharing. They definitely know how to use all of the new technology to achieve a [sense of] community.
Do you ever think that this overwhelming environment of electronic gadgetry and electronic noise that we live within today is a threat to our overall quality of life?
Vic Kulkarni - That's actually an interesting question. I was recently visiting with a senior technologist at a company in Korea. He was telling me that despite all of the functionality that they are currently putting into their cell phone product - video, online access, music - that one small company in Taiwan is actually beating them in the market. The product out of Taiwan is just a cell phone with a number pad. There's no additional wireless capability, no movie downloads, no MP3 player, no nothing. Just a phone with a number pad.
We need to start to forget all of the garbage that we are [layering] on products. That's how Sony lost against Apple. Sony actually had a better MP3 player, but the [simplicity of the] iPod won in the end.
Do you yourself ever get away from all of the electronic noise pollution?
Vic Kulkarni - Yes I do, and I thank my wife for that. This past weekend, we went to see the Monet exhibit at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. It's the kind of thing we force ourselves to do to get away from it all.
What do you see for the EDA industry over the next 5 or 10 years?
Vic Kulkarni - I can't speak to 10 years, but I can speak to 3 to 5 years. There's going to be a great opportunity for all of us in the EDA world to add to that vertical market idea. There's nothing new there, but we haven't done a very good job of it. Thanks to [Cadence CEO] Mike Fister, we are beginning to think along those lines more effectively.
In the EDA world, we are beginning to think about our customers' customers - and the solutions are a combination of IP, EDA tools, and focused customer consulting. People ask us, for instance, "Vic, can you help us design a low-power cell phone?"
Well, we can't do it alone, but if we have certain IP - wireless or high-speed MAAP, for instance - and if we had knowledge from 2 or 3 of our partners coming together, it would be feasible to produce the solution the customer needs. That is the future model for EDA.
How does that vision dovetail with recent 'messaging' from several of the large EDA players that they would like to dominate the market as sole providers?
Vic Kulkarni - I think the answer here is standardization. The end customers, companies like ATI or ARM or Philips, are asking for standardization. And, this is one reason we are excited to have announced our support for the CPF, the Common Power Format. The end result will be to produce design intent in such a way that, frankly, no single company will have a monopoly.
From ESL, to RTL, gates, and final signoff, design intent will be captured in this Common Power Format. This will allow smaller companies to compete more effectively. Working with the IEEE to establish the standard - whoever wins, IEEE will be the key. It will allow all companies to add value, and people won't be worrying about just one company controlling everything.
If the end users weren't 'there' for this standardization, it would be one thing - but I hear that companies like NEC and Freescale are supporting it. And not just the marketing guys from those companies, but the Ph.D's in the companies, the tech folks, are talking about. It's a sincere effort on the part of many to bring this standard together.
So finally, how have all of the events and trends of recent years impacted the EDA industry in particular?
Vic Kulkarni - I think we've learned one lesson over these last several years - it has helped all companies in the EDA industry to be much more conscious of their operating model. It's not just rah, rah any more - we've had to learn to be far more effective over time. The managers in EDA, and the VCs alike, are paying closer attention to operating expenses.
And it has made the process of creating a business in EDA far more interesting. It's no longer just about creating some technology and getting sold to Cadence. Now it's about building up a skillset within the company. Now we all know for sure - what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.