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NOVEMBER 2019 I DESIGN007 MAGAZINE 15 Steffen: My dad was a PCB designer. He didn't have an engineering degree, but he knew enough to demonstrate basic electronics to me when I was a kid. I was exposed to electronics pretty early on, and I always found it exciting. But I was mostly interested in how it worked, so engineering was more appropriate for me, and I got my BSEE. As for PCB design, that originally came out of necessity. You can only get so far with a breadboard. I started laying out and hand etch- ing simple circuits in high school and gradu- ated to professionally fabricated boards while working on university organization designs. Over time, I started appreciating the artistic aspects of it. There's a science to engineering, but there's an art to PCB design, which is in - teresting to me. There are an infinite number of different ways to design the same board, and having that freedom is a different experi- ence compared to the more regimented circuit design process. Shaughnessy: There's this idea, true or not, that designers are more artistic and electrical engineers are more scientific. Do you find that to be the case? Steffen: I should clarify myself because referring to design as pure art is not exactly the right sen- timent. There's just as much science in prop- er layout as there is in design. Particularly af- ter listening to professional designers like Rick Hartley speak, you realize that there's physics involved that isn't covered in undergrad engi- neering courses. It's exciting to be able to come to an event like this and learn what goes into it from experts in the industry because it's im- mediately useful. You can take home these con- cepts and use them right away; you don't get that in such a practical format from the engi- neering curriculum. That said, I think design is still an artistic process, and it helps to have an artistic mind. Once the critical parts of the board are designed, much of the rest of the de - sign comes down to what "feels right." From a purely scientific standpoint, there is not just one right answer, and that's where artistic de- sign comes in. Shaughnessy: You have been in the industry for about seven years. What do you like most about it, and what was the biggest surprise? Steffen: It's always changing, and there's al- ways something that's new. Companies contin- ue to innovate the way people use electronics and interact with them, and there are always better components being developed to enable this. There are also many different parts and ways to assemble them that, a lot of times, you're doing something that nobody has ever done before. You are constantly inventing new things that don't exist anywhere else. It's fas- cinating work. Shaughnessy: What is Crystal Group's main sweet spot? Steffen: Crystal Group makes ruggedized com- puter hardware, largely for industrial and mili- tary applications. We've positioned ourselves mid-way between the standard commercial equipment manufacturers and the big govern- ment prime contractors; we're more rugged than the former but less expensive than the lat- ter. We provide hardware for many major mili- tary platforms, as well as energy exploration, autonomous vehicles, and other industrial ap- plications. Shaughnessy: What advice would you give to somebody coming into the industry? Steffen: Find a mentor. That's something that I struggled with for a long time and still do. There's a lot of information online and in books, but it's scattered and can be hard to find. Try your best to find somebody who is willing to take you under their wing and who you can ask questions of and get their opin- ions on how best to do things. There's so much breadth and depth to the industry that jump- ing into it blindly can just lead to frustration; I know that from personal experience. Shaughnessy: And regarding tribal knowledge, people learn how to do one thing a certain way, and then when they take a test, they miss

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