From Silicon To Software

 

Reflecting on the 59th Design Automation Conference (DAC)

design automation conference 2022

By Samir Banerjee, Intern, Synopsys Enterprise Marketing and Communications Group

Next year, the Design Automation Conference (DAC) will celebrate its 60th convergence – its Diamond Anniversary. With such a huge milestone looming, #59 might feel a little overshadowed. It’s a prime number and nobody’s favorite sports jersey. But maybe #59, in addition to bringing the electronic design community together in person, has another unique purpose: a time for reflection before celebration. A time to vigilantly examine our surroundings and bravely look forward at how we can come together as an industry to tackle the changes in the world around us – before we celebrate 60.

I’m Samir Banerjee, a summer intern at Synopsys, and the 59th DAC represented my first-ever tech conference! After spending a lot of my college and career so far locked inside, I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to learn about advances in the industry that our world runs on, face-to-face with the people working on them. Here, I wanted to share some of the unique lessons and experiences that I had on the floor of San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center.

Addressing the Global Climate Crisis

My jaw dropped the first time I saw the chip shortage referenced in a TikTok. I woke up to a world that suddenly recognized the far-reaching effects of silicon beyond of a hand-wavy “chips go in our phones, right?” So it was no wonder that the 59th DAC opening keynote by AMD CTO Mark Papermaster focused on the EDA industry’s responsibilities to tackle global challenges. Joining in via recorded video, Synopsys Chairman and CEO Aart de Geus explained the three urgent requests demanded of our industry. First, we must achieve 1000x performance per watt so we can, secondly, enable breakthroughs in climate technology. In the final urgent request, he issued a call to action to all watching. This year, in the spirit of urgency, he made a change to his trademark phrase: “He or she who has the brains to understand, should have the courage to help.” As the video turned off, the buzz in the room was clear. It was evident to me that, as our industry becomes more prominent, we have more power to make a difference. I understand how valuable it can be for us to come together, be courageous, and stand up for the world our technologies power.

Diversity and Community in Engineering

“Diversity is a mindset. Take ownership. Own your seat at the table.”
– Geetha Pyne, Chief Enterprise Architect, Intuit

The Women in Engineering Panel was the spot for a dose of insight, wit, and inspiration at this year’s DAC. What really made this stand out to me was the honesty that simple awareness is not going to drive results. Susanna Holt, VP of Engineering at Autodesk, opened up about the paradoxical feeling of pride at being The Woman Who Could Keep Up With The Men at work while still not being able to express herself fully in the workplace. “I used to hire in the image of the company I was proud of – the same company I couldn’t be myself at,” Holt noted. She urged the audience to go through the mental labor of constantly checking our assumptions rather than going the easy route of sticking to what we know.

During the Q&A, women in the audience asked about anxieties regarding imposter syndrome, facing retaliation for reporting inappropriate conduct, and gender-coded perceptions (assertive becomes “bossy,” direct becomes “rude”). Geetha Pyne, chief enterprise architect at Intuit, boldly declared: “Own your seat at the table, you deserve it. Diversity is not being a woman or from a certain place. Diversity is a mindset.” Holt added, “You shouldn’t listen to our experiences and think, ‘I’m going to be like them.’ Be encouraged by other women’s achievements. But be yourself. Your form of presenting as a woman, is diversity.”

design automation conference panel

The Women in Engineering panel at DAC was filled with insight, wit, and inspiration.

Hope for such diversity shone brightly at DAC. An audience member worried that going on maternity leave or taking time off to take care of her family might cast a long shadow on her career. But Radhika Shankar, group director of Applications Engineering at Synopsys, reassured her that “companies like mine have launched Returnships, where we will work with candidates to help them reintegrate into the company and have the opportunity to relaunch their full-time careers.” Gazing across the audience, Shankar issued one final declaration: “No matter what your experience is, everyone deserves a chance. That’s why we’re all here.” And as I gazed at the faces in the audience, I saw so many female Young Fellows who had travelled to represent labs at universities around the world – ambassadors as the best and brightest at programs to which women once struggled to even open the door.

DAC’s Next Generation

By far my favorite part of DAC was meeting other Synopsys interns and the many Young Fellows who travelled for the opportunity to share their research, meet members of the industry, and participate in the Hack@DAC competition. I spent Monday through Wednesday getting to know other students who are passionate about the electronics industry. The highlight was interviewing some of them alongside de Geus, who stopped by the Synopsys booth to share some insights on the industry with the next generation of talent. As a veritable industry legend, de Geus’ presence shocked some students into uttering timid greetings, but it didn’t take long for everyone to be engaged in passionate conversation. Students shared their learnings from the Synopsys Academic Research Alliance (SARA) career panel, where they were able to form personal relationships with industry mentors. Some of the Young Fellows playfully interrogated de Geus on technical details of the Synopsys tools they were using in the hackathon. Every question seemed to make him smile, and I was left feeling extremely grateful to be able to work at a company with leadership so passionate about bringing cutting-edge educational experiences to students.

Synopsys for Cloud, EDA for All

The last thing I want to touch upon is access. It felt like a running theme throughout the conference: fighting rising temperatures protects access to a healthy world, the women’s panel urged widening our model of access to the industry, and working with Synopsys’s SARA program promotes access amongst students to our tools and technologies. So it felt fitting that Synopsys’s own Sandeep Mehndiratta’s SKYTalk focused on how EDA must tackle cloud-migration challenges to support the next generation of innovators: “Times are changing. Existing players are moving to the cloud, startups are born in the cloud.” Using recent headlines and case studies, he cleared up misconceptions that cloud migration won’t offer security, predictable performance, or ease of use. The real complexity, he clarified, lies in workflow deployment, adapting to new cost management, and accessing EDA tools without cloud-optimized flows, licenses, or business models. These are the exact challenges addressed by the Synopsys Cloud SaaS and BYOC deployment models, which allow access to any tool, at any capacity, at any time, for every customer.

dac 2022 presentation

Sandeep Mehndiratta, Synopsys VP of Enterprise Go-to-Market, explains how the cloud is transforming EDA during his DAC SKYTalk.

Concluding Thoughts

I opened this post by declaring this a year of reflection, but I believe it is also a year for commitment. After three days of panels, research presentations, and engaging with bright-eyed students and prominent industry veterans; I’m excited to think of all that can be accomplished if we commit our collective talent to the right things. In an industry with such far-reaching impacts on our planet, we must commit to protecting it. And if that planet is home to everyone, we must commit to including voices from every background within that solution. And if we are going to dream about a better future, we must commit to constantly adapting so we can equip the next generation of innovators to build it. This generation faces some of the most complex and impactful problems in history. But after everything I’ve seen, I know we have what it takes to solve them. And I can’t wait to play my part.

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