Blast From the Past: Presentation Notes for “eng-fizz-mentor-night-030408”

I just came across my presentation notes for a talk with UBC Eng Phys Students back in ’03. It’s cool to me ’cause I still get good reviews wrt/ presentation ( and it is 4 years old ). Most people like the Sedin Twins association. It’s still very relevant.  It is in bullet form

——————— notes below ———————

Why am I here today? Fizz a Defining Point

My Eng Phys years were a defining point for me.

I really learned how to learn.

I lost my fear of the inside of a computer

Streaming CCD data to memory.  Hardware and Software.

I could apply the knowledge.  It was a break through for me.

I resonated with the other eng phys students who had other hobbies.  We weren’t all school and no play.

In the boom years I decided to give back in the form of the Eng Phys Chair

I’m really happy that I did.  I’d do it again.

Your Future – The Knowledge Worker

You might as well read Peter Drucker’s books.  He defined your future’s working reality decades ago.  

I find it eerie to read him. So often right & decades ago.

He says knowledge workers —“Get the right things done”

I like to think of this as “In school I wrote tests designed by others and in the working world I design tests and then write them.  

The designing of the tests or “determining what is the right thing to do”? That is the really new thing for all of you after school.

the Eng Phys degree’s breadth of theory and practical knowledge develops a basis for the “the what is the right thing to do” skill.

On My experience as knowledge worker

I started at PMCS in 1989 when there were 18 employees.

Licensed to print money. At the peak we had 1800 employees, $700M USD revenue, greater than 60 % gross margin, and 30% after tax profits. We had almost doubled revenue for 8 consecutive years. ( this is achieved by a handful of companies every decade )

An e-mail will hit a PMC chip a few times (most people say 5 times) before it gets to any destination on the planet.

this is a very cool point to me. Our technology is used by a large % of the planet.

I’ve worked in almost every department in our company over the years. 

Product engineering

Design and Development

Product Validation – ( lab testing of products)


Business Development ( Mergers, Acquistions, Investing, Partnerships, etc)

Product Strategy — I’m currently a CTO-like guy who works in marketing.

I left for a few years to work at a Venture capital Start-Up in the US called “Packet Engines”.  The product was Gigabit Ethernet Switches.  Packet Engines was acquired by Alcatel.

I came back to PMC.

What did I learn over the past decade?

Choosing a path – Theory

Strengths, Performance, and Values.

Play to your strengths — acknowledge your weaknesses and move on.  

Focus on being a star and not mediocre.

You’ve got to like it and be good at it.  It is gonna be your life.

You’ve got more control than you think.

Money is not the most important piece of the equation.   But it counts.

Projects need money to exist.  Often the money that you are paid is proportional to the amount of money a project gets.  It is a big reality.

Choosing a path – Very Challenging in Practice! 

My mentee, Doris Tang, quickly reminded me of one of the challenges with the following question.  She asked,  “If you seem to be happy in almost any role, how do you know what you want to do and if it’s right for you?”

I remembered many co-ops asking the same thing.

I’ll defer to an expert.  Peter Drucker says, in the essay – Know Your Strengths and Values – ” This is not a decision that most people can or should make at the beginning of their careers.  But most people, and especially highly gifted people, do not really know where they belong till they are well past their mid-twenties. ( ie 27 at the soonest)”

People really do take this long. 

Canuck’s Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi as examples

Do you remember them in their early-twenties?  

They were very highly skilled people who knew hockey was their game, but took many years to find their specific contribution.

Choosing a Path – Is Your Next Challenge.

Determining your core Strengths, Performance areas, and Values is your next learning challenge.

You all are equipped with immense skills now you have to apply them to yourselves as well.

Patience and Perseverance are required.  

Just like in the Dr Seuss Book “Oh the places you’ll go.”

On School — Math Rules!

No one knows what is gonna be cool in the future, but we can be certain that math will be involved.

<<Humour>> — Math 400 ( or was that 10k) will never be cancelled.  

Sad but true.  Academic hazing will continue.

It is a rite-of-passage and a reality.   The real world is humbling.

Math Defines Fizzers

I’ve come tell people that I have an applied math degree.  It describes my skills much better than an engineering degree. Engineer implies builder of tangible things to me.  I build knowledge.

Fizz Degree — Short term vs. long term

Is great long term, but has significant hurdles in near term.

For example at PMCS we rarely hire Eng Phys new grads ( guess less than 5%) yet there is a high percentage of people with ( guess around 25%) manager, director, VP, etc titles who have a Fizz degree)

A look around Vancouver’s tech scene says Eng Phys is great

MDA’s CEO, Creo founders, PMCS’s 1st CEO, there is a long list of success. 

 Based on dollar value this is more than 90% of BC hi-tech.

the challenge is getting in the door.  

Getting in the door requires real experience.  It is a “catch-22”. 

Co-op has made this a lot easier than in my day 

( humour —-that was when we walked to school and used slide rules )

To complete the long term vs short term picture note that complete short term thinking is BCIT.  

You’ll get a job quick and be stuck there forever.

Manners & Etiquette – Your Mom is correct.

Manners are a big deal

This is a universal truth. ( One can’t hide from this. )

No one wants to work with a “jerk”.  

Honesty, Integrity, etc.  all these kind of words will make or break your career, and or life.

PMCS CEO Bob Bailey is an excellent example.  He is exceptional in his people skills.  Add an anecdote here.

Communication Skills are big

All work is done with lots of people. A PMCS chip involves over a 100 people over it development lifetime. 

Other Realities – Career, Family, and Etc

Overall, it is important to know that there is more to life than just a career.

I believe that most fizzers understand this.  But be careful not to forget.  It is very easy to get caught up in being successful.

I forgot for a while and was forced to find out again.

I caught a virus somewhere amongst my hundreds-of-k-air-miles a few years back and have been able to work part-time since.  I’m improving all the time.  In person most people can’t see my illness.

I’m very lucky that I found time for family during my intense years.  I really need them now.

Conclusion – You’ll do it.

You are going to find your role in the universe in 5 years or so.

You’ll be awesome.  

Just watch. 

Perseverance, discipline, effort, and Patience are required.

{ You’re like the Sedin Twins … they’re gonna be great when they’re 27 😉  }

Extras – Time permitting

Iain’s Brief CV.

UBC Eng Phys ’89, SFU MEng ’97, McGill BSc Physics ’85 

<<humour>> almost all of 80’s in University 

co-donor for Eng Phys Chair

co-founder PMC-Sierra

co-winner Nodwell Prize

Director, Product Strategy @ PMC-Sierra 

technical and marketing position

specialize in starting new products and programs

mentor to junior staff in marketing

Like reading and sports – golf, hockey, skiing, water-sports, more

Middle of pack – You’re still 0.000? % of population.

I was not near top of Fizz Class based on marks – middle of the pack

But what does middle of the pack really mean in a class where everyone was the brightest kid in their high school year.  If not many years.

I find the working world mix is more like high-school than university. 

 Even in a “highly educated place like PMCS.


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