Messages from the Chairmen
The chairman and chairman emeritus describe the past and future.
In this month’s column, the chairman and chairman emeritus for the PCEA give their viewpoints on the importance of organizing. And as always, I’ll provide a list of events coming up.
PCEA Updates
This month I am excited to bring to our readers an inspiring message from not one but two of the PCEA’s chairmen.

Many readers may not know that our PCEA board has two chairmen by design. Our idea from the beginning has been to preserve the experience from our past organizational associations and use it as our compass as we move ahead.

Steph Chavez serves as PCEA’s chairman. Steph’s primary interest is to lead this organization into a future that respects the ideas and efforts – the legacy – of those who have served the electronics industry so well in the past. To fulfill that interest, Steph relies on his counterpart, chairman emeritus Gary Ferrari, for his wisdom and experience. Gary’s compass was magnetized by a career of serving the electronics industry and bringing together and leading electronics industry professionals.

This month, then, please trek along with us and enjoy this special “messages from the chairmen” interview as transcribed and lightly edited from our Zoom interview.

Message from the Chairman
An interview with PCEA chairman Stephen Chavez, MIT, CID+ and PCEA chairman emeritus Gary Ferrari, MIT, CID+.

Kelly Dack: Thank you for joining us, gentlemen! With me are Steph Chavez and Gary Ferrari, chairmen of the PCEA. Let me explain what I mean by chairmen. Steph Chavez is the officiating chairman of the PCEA. We also have Gary Ferrari, who serves as chairman emeritus for the PCEA. I’d like to start by asking Gary for some perspective on the past, and it’s important that PCB designers are connected in some way by an organization.

Gary Ferrari: Well, way back in 1991, Dieter Bergman and I started the Designers Council. The main reason for starting was to respond to feedback from designers. PCB designers had expressed that engineers have IEEE and other organizations to participate in. They mentioned all they had were sore eyes from staring at their computer screens working all day long. (Laughs) They wanted to be represented. They wanted to have opportunities to learn from each other and to learn from the industry. That was the main thing. They inferred, “Everyone else has different kinds of credentials; we don’t have any official credentials at all.” That is when we started the exams and certification programs. The CID and CID+ were created “by designers, for designers.” We had this as our mantra and even a logo. At one time we had t-shirts and other different schwag, all kinds of stuff. It grew rapidly.

Dack: So, Steph, why is it important designers connect with the other stakeholders? Gary mentioned some of the other stakeholders. What’s your take on why it’s so important, especially nowadays?

Stephen Chavez: When I think about our profession in the industry, to evolve, we collaborate. We have to get knowledge, because design is more than just someone sitting in a cube or behind a computer by themselves. It’s a collaboration among engineering, fabrication and assembly – all the professions. And when we think of design as a team concept, we truly must have all the stakeholders involved. With stakeholder collaboration, cross-pollination of the designer, manufacturer, test, engineering ideas meld together to become the holistic makeup of the new hybrid designer. As designers collaborate, not just within their own company ecosystem but outward in the industry, PCEA is striving to add synergy within this collaboration. We want to help printed circuit engineering professionals take it to the next level with all the different industry associations. I think that’s the next evolution that we are seeing now.

Dack: Can you share examples of how the PCEA membership is doing that collaboration? How are they feeding off and supporting one another?

Chavez: I have a lot to say, but since Gary is the emeritus, I’ll be polite, and I’ll let him speak first. (laughs)

Ferrari: One of the biggest items I see, which we didn’t have in the past, is that the chapters are now actually working together. They’re sharing. They are meeting together. One chapter is on one side of the country, and another is on the other side of the country. They are spreading out beyond the chapter itself with their own programs. I think this is outstanding because I remember years ago, some of the chapters in the Designers Council felt isolated and lost enthusiasm. It was the same guys all the time, the same people and no fresh ideas. However, Steph took a different approach. I’ll let Steph describe it because it’s beautiful.

Chavez: With the pandemic, the silver lining is the ability of collaborating virtually, no matter where you are in the world. So, while our physical footprints are smaller, our virtual footprints are much larger. We can effectively collaborate across our platform. Our PCEA chapters are doing this, and we see the chapters are growing astronomically. Our multi-chapter events had never happened before Zoom. We didn’t have the chapters sharing like, “Hey, what did you do that was successful? Let’s take some of that and do that here in my region or in my state.” And even in areas that don’t have a local chapter, they can still affiliate and gain that perspective and knowledge by being part of the overall PCEA collective. That’s what we see as a huge benefit, and it is spreading like wildfire!

Dack: I don’t want to pass up the opportunity to ask your perspectives on Gary’s role as emeritus chairman. Steph, can you explain?

Chavez: Sure. Gary and Dieter Bergman were the founders – the visionaries – for the PCB Designers Council. They were instrumental in charting the educational and certification programs for PCB designers. Gary is an IPC Hall of Famer and has championed so much of what the trade organizations stand for throughout his career. He has been involved in IPC subcommittees and has chaired the IPC Designers Council executive board. I strongly feel we should always remember our roots to keep us grounded but move forward. Gary’s role within the PCEA is as an honorary chairman because we value his input and his decades of lifelong lessons to guide us. We feel a strong urge to embrace the past while we can. We want to carry those values and experience with us as we move into the future.

Dack: Well said, Steph. Very good! Gary, do you have anything to add to that?

Ferrari: Yeah, just one item. Everything he said is 100% correct. The main difference I’m seeing is that the chapters we had, as Steph mentioned, they were separated. And the only time they had an opportunity to share anything was twice a year at the regular meetings. And never did all the chapters show up. But here and now they are sharing, even with relatively short notice. The movement is just growing astronomically. I’m so proud of the team we have, including you, Kelly! When we started out originally, we didn’t have a large group. We had only a few people who worked with us. But the large groups of people were in the chapters themselves. We now have a vastly more diverse and beautiful organization. I have to give kudos to Stephen and the whole team for that.

Chavez: Let me add one more thing. Gary is truly at the essence of really taking it forward and making a difference. Let’s call it what it is: Gary is our esprit de corps! He refuels us as we look at what he has done and how he continues in the second half of his career. His example gives us that extra bounce in our step moving forward.

Dack: Very good, right on! We’re going to move forward now. I’d like to open it up to either of you for some visionary comments. It’s been just a little over a year since PCEA has hit the ground running. Can you rehash what has been done over the past year? Can you give us a little info on what we’re doing now? And then please, tell us where we’re going. We need to talk about the future. It’s open mic … go!

Ferrari: One of the main items I think has taken a tremendous amount of work over the past year is our website. We started with no website at all both in PCEA and in our previous organization. Previously, in the 1990s, we came out with “The Route” – a newsletter we used to communicate with our members. Now, in the PCEA, it feels great to be leveraging the power of the internet and social media. We have sponsors and so many ways to reach out that did not exist before.

Chavez: To add to that, another difference from the past is the ability for internet collaboration. We evolve and our media team adapts on the fly. We have activities happening constantly. For example, we had our kickoff meeting last year, our initial grand opening. After that, we’ve had several follow-on chapter events. We even held an international tri-chapter event attended by an international audience. Because of the pandemic, we have evolved into this virtual world until we get through it. Eventually we’ll go back to face-to-face meetings, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to walk away from virtual. We’ll continue to embrace and do both. Chapters have come to life in areas we didn’t have chapters before, and it’s truly amazing. As far as a footprint, we have the greater Michigan area. We have St. Paul, Minnesota. We have Portland, Oregon, just to name a few. And we have chapters coming up in the Midwest like the Chicago/Wisconsin area; the New England, New Hampshire and Massachusetts area; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and then we have Texas: Houston, Dallas and Austin. Those are all in the early stages of their formation, but it’s just amazing how it’s taken off. And when we think about the events happening, it’s just that things are happening so fast. And we have those growing pains too. When you think about what we have done, we have started a new industry association and are being successful getting it off the ground. It’s been a challenge, but it’s a worthy challenge, supplying the adrenaline of a startup experience, so to speak.

Dack: What is PCEA looking forward to on the 2021 roadmap?

Chavez: We want the growth we have been experiencing continued with our chapter activities. We also want to spread our chapter growth internationally. We see lots of activity going on there and excitement for engagement. A lot of us are wearing multiple hats right now, so getting more people involved will be a critical part of our evolution. We must make sure to have the right team evolve together. We must share the same vision. With so much activity and so much eagerness about so many ideas, we must be certain we’re doing the right thing in the PCEA that will be best for the industry. This is key, and that’s where I see us in our 2021 evolution.

Dack: That’s tremendous. Steph, Gary, thank you both for sharing your insights.

Next Month
More positive PCEA announcements are pending, awaiting official release. I hope to focus on these exciting topics in our next column!
Upcoming Events
Below is a list of upcoming events:

  • Jun. 7-10, Zuken Innovation World (Scottsdale, AZ)
  • Jun. 8-9: Cadence Live (online)
  • Jun. 15-17: PCB East (Marlboro, MA)
  • Oct. 5-8: PCB West (Santa Clara, CA)
  • Nov. 1-4: SMTAI (Minneapolis)
  • Nov. 10, 2021: PCB Carolina (Raleigh, NC)

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

Refer to our column and the PCEA website to stay up to date with upcoming industry events. If you have not yet joined the PCEA collective, please visit our website and find out how to become a PCEA member.

Never forget your roots. Carry them forward into the future, but be willing to change, grow and evolve. These are wise and profound messages from the chairmen. See you next month or sooner!
Image of Kelly Dack
Kelly Dack, CIT, CID+,
is the communication officer for the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA). Read past columns or contact Dack;