After collage I started my career with IBM in a place called East Fishkill, NY. At the time the plant I worked in was the largest semiconductor fabrication facility in the world. The site employed 14,000 people across three shifts. The place was big to say the least.
This photo is only half of the plant!
I worked as an equipment support technician. I worked in almost every building on site repairing and maintaining the equipment that was used to produce computer chips. All the buildings were connected by tunnels and the place was so big that for the first several months I would go out on a call and get lost. I would have to call the shop that I worked out of and tell them where I was and ask for directions. At one point I started writing directions on the wall as I moved from one location to the next. This worked well until they painted the place (bastards!).
I worked in the equipment field for about seven years. While doing this I had the opportunity to work on all kinds of exotic equipment. Everything from the machines that grow the crystals that are used as a substrate for chips to high powered lasers that could cut 2 inch thick steel like butter and leave the cut edges looking like they were polished!
At some point I decided that it was time to move ahead in my career and the industry. So I put in for a transfer and was picked up by a physical design group within IBM. Thatís how I got started in this side of the industry. Iíve been involved in physical design ever since.
So now Iím whatís referred to as a physical design engineer and working for Intel. What that means is that I design the data that will ultimately be placed on a chip. So, if you looked at a computer chip through a microscope and looked at the CAD data that I produce, you would see the same thing.
The process of creation goes something like this, first we have a marketing team that does a bunch of market analysis to determine what we need to produce for the market. Then a team of design architects decides what functionality will be needed from this chip and passes that information to yet another team of circuit design engineers. The circuit designers produce schematics (like blue prints) for the circuits that need to be on the chip. The schematics are then passed to a group of physical designers that use the schematics to produce CAD data that represents the actual information that will be placed on the chip. That information is then sent to a fabrication factory and the chip is produced.
Thatís the over view of what I do. If I went into anymore detail youíd get bored if youíre not already.
As far as the work is concerned, I love it! This is what I was meant to do. Working for Intel is a blast as well. The concept here goes like this, hereís the project. Show me what you can do with it. If you succeed they let you know about it. If you should failÖ.well,
They let you know about that too. What company wouldnít.
As for the field of physical design, at this point itís wide open. We never have as many as we need. The last time I looked on the net there was about 500 openings across the industry! Whatís the money like? The path starts around 40K and extends well into the six figures. So, if youíre looking for a career or know someone who is, you may want to look into physical design.