PCB Engineering on the Move
Get your skills in order, as the industry is ramping once more.
In this month’s column, I examine the PCB engineering job outlook and evaluate the career moves we are making. Next, I switch over to PCEA Chairman Steph Chavez, who points out important attributes our personal development should include to keep our edges sharp. Again, I am happy to provide our readers with a growing list of events coming up in 2021.
PCEA Updates
The pandemic came upon us like a supersonic jet – unseen and unheard until it passed over. It compressed the atmosphere of our lives, our industry and our jobs. As it appears to be moving on with the help of remote working, masking, social distancing and vaccination, the industry is moving to positively decompress. NPI programs are now revving up once again and causing sonic shock waves of hiring activity and job movement. Were you furloughed, laid off or had your hours cut back due to the pandemic’s effects? Boom! It’s time to clap back!

Check out the PCB industry hiring pages. Here in the Pacific Northwest are pulses of hiring activity, and most likely in your area too. One PCB designer moved to a company which is staffing up for new projects, leaving a void at the previous company. I am happy to have recently been given the opportunity to fill the position. But my movement left a void in the company I left, which is now trying to recruit another designer to fill my place. Will they hire a designer who was previously laid off? Will another designer depart their job to fill it? Design resource movement. It will go on and on and hopefully that is a good thing if we all can learn from it. (Ed. note: Please be sure to fill out the annual PCD&F design engineer salary survey at All individual data are kept confidential.)

2020, what did we learn? Regardless of the 5 W’s – who, what, when, where and why – our present state-of-being is subject to unforeseen circumstances. We’ve seen that a supersonic economy can be put on hold by the smallest of organisms – a virus in this case – which caught us off guard. We’ve seen our strengths can become weaknesses if not paired with the diverse strengths of others. We’ve seen no one is an island. We’re in it together. Hopefully, we’ve seen we need a healthy industry ecosystem full of workers, moving about, healthy in mind and spirit.

What must we do moving forward?

Germinate. Write down your ideas, visions and goals. These are seeds which, upon sprouting, will help reveal options to move positively within your organization. They can help you become a positive shockwave and foster movement within, or even outside the organization, if the culture or atmosphere becomes too compressed.

Feed. Find your strengths and feed them. Upon starting at my new company, I was delighted to receive a copy of Don Clifton’s book, Discover Your Cliftonstrengths. This let me know the leadership of this engineering group is interested in helping me to understand my strengths and pairing those strengths with others to achieve synergy.

Grow. We grow by pushing away the compost of our surroundings. We must push toward the sky! As PCB engineering professionals, we must reach for technology and skillset nutrients, which are easily found within the pages of this publication and the upcoming events sponsored by the PCEA and many other electronics industry organizations.

Transplant. New to the PCB engineering industry? Maybe you consider yourself a seedling. You need to learn all you can in your present position and, eventually, in a new one, to avoid becoming rootbound. Again, this may happen inside or outside your company, but it must happen. Look to your organization’s management as your gardener. For the organization to benefit, you must grow. Are you an old-timer in this industry? Your management should consider you a valuable, aged, majestic oak. Most likely you have been transplanted many times and are thriving because of it. You provide shade and seeds for future ideas to be planted anew. You make it easy for them to answer the most profound PCB engineering staffing question: “When is the best time to plant a tree?” Answer: “Thirty years ago.”

Message from the Chairman
by Stephen Chavez, MIT, CID+

I’ll keep this month’s message short and simple. Printed circuit engineering is so much more than simply connecting dots. Knowing how to design a PCB correctly, having the ability to successfully collaborate with others, effectively communicating with internal team members and suppliers, and lastly, mastering the CAD system are all major attributes of most successful printed circuit engineers.

As companies and engineering teams push the envelope with their designs, the use of their CAD systems, and their capabilities in how effectively they work together to bring their respective products to market on schedule and under budget, many of us must constantly evolve and continue our professional development. It’s extremely competitive out there! Even we industry veterans with decades of experience and education must constantly evolve and stay sharp so we don’t get left behind and or become obsolete. That’s why PCEA is a great industry association to get involved with.

Collaborate, educate and inspire are the core principles of PCEA. Sharing that latest industry information, technologies, educational content, and industry best practices are topics you’ll find within PCEA. Building long-term relationships both professionally and personally as well as mentorships are also aspects one will find. A good example of these topics in motion was a recent Orange County, California, chapter meeting. Scott McCurdy and his leadership team held another successful chapter event with roughly 100 or so attendees. The topic was Designing for RF: Tips and Tricks from the PCB Pros, presented by EMA, one of our (PCEA) sponsors. It was another great event. I also want to thank EMA for bringing excellent industry content to the table. The collaboration between PCEA and EMA was another home run!

With so many industry webinars, Zoom, GoTo and MS Teams meetings, plus the flood of “free” online content, we’ve been getting bombarded with information for quite a while. It’s hard to find the time to attend these industry events, to know which content is worth giving up an hour or more of time to sit through. Rest assured that if PCEA puts on an event or collaborates with another industry association, you can count on the best and most relevant industry content.

It’s been over a year since we’ve been on lockdown, but we are slowing coming out of it. I cannot wait to get back to attending live in person industry conferences! I’m sure most readers feel the same. Like always, we adapt to the times and the evolution of the industry as this new way of collaborating through online meetings and the 24 hours online streaming content are here to stay. Of course, no experience is quite like a live industry conference! I can’t wait to see you all in person at the next industry event!

Over these next few months, we will be rolling out lots more educational content as we continue to integrate and collaborate with our sponsors. Per our mission statement, partnering and collaborating with our sponsors allows us to bring outstanding industry educational content to everyone in the industry.

I continue to wish everyone and their families health and safety. Best of success to all as 2021 unfolds.

Warmest regards,

Next Month
Next month is hopeful and wide open for coverage of a potpourri of PCEA activities. Tune in to this column for the latest events ideas.
Upcoming Events
Below is our list of upcoming events. Hope to see you at any of these!

  • PCB West
    Oct. 5-8, 2021
    Santa Clara Convention Center
    Santa Clara, CA
  • SMTA International
    Nov. 1-4, 2021
    Minneapolis, MN
  • PCB Carolina 2021
    Nov. 10, 2021
    Raleigh, NC
  • Productronica
    Nov. 16-19, 2021
    Munich, Germany
Spread the Word
If you have a significant electronics industry event to announce, 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 PCEA, visit our website: and find out how to become a member.

Sometimes it’s just way too easy to describe our work in metaphor. This month we covered PCB engineering career movement, drawing parallels from the phenomena of sonic booms to to gardening 101. Whether we use metaphor or cold hard numbers and statistics, as our PCEA Chairman Steph Chavez mentions, the goal of the PCEA is to collaborate, educate and inspire. We want you to value yourself along with those you work with and work for. We hope we are reaching you.

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 at