Peggy Yervant Zorian: Grand Master of Time Management

by Peggy Aycinena

Editor of EDA Confidential and a Contributing Editor to EDA Weekly

When you talk to Yervant Zorian, there's one question that comes to mind: Is it the journey or the destination? He runs so fast and balances so many responsibilities simultaneously, one would think it's the multiple end points that are his motivation. But, look again. Yervant Zorian is not waiting for the end of the journey to validate the worth of his many parallel paths. For this marvelous technologist and industry leader, clearly each and every step along the way is a joy. This is a man who loves life and embraces the journey as much as, if not more than, the destination. How else could he remain so positive in the face of so many overwhelming obligations?

As Vice President and Chief Scientist at Virage Logic, Zorian helps set direction for the company and manages an extensive, far-flung R&D team. But that's only his day job. Currently, he also heads up the Exhibitor Liaison Committee for the Design Automation Conference and is organizing the Management Track for DAC 2008 in Anaheim, Calif.. He has had, and continues to have, multiple assignments related to the Design Automation & Test Conference (DATE) in Europe. He just finished running the second annual two-day DFM&Y Workshop at the International Test Conference (ITC) in Silicon Valley in collaboration with U.C. San Diego's Andrew Kahng, while also participating as always on the ITC Steering Committee itself. Previously, Zorian served as vice president of the IEEE Computer Society responsible for Conferences and Tutorials, and continues to be active with that group. He was also long-time editor-in-chief of the IEEE Design & Test magazine - virtually a full-time job in itself -- while juggling that role with his work in industry. He continues on in an emeritus capacity with Design & Test today. He also continues, as he has for many seasons, as chair of the IEEE 1500 Standardization Working Group.

Over the years, in and around all of this, Zorian has authored over 250 papers, written four books, organized countless panels, given a plethora of technical talks with an emphasis on his expertise in self-test (his Ph.D. in EE is from McGill), raised a family, and traveled the globe. Last week he was at IMEC in Belgium. This week he's in Silicon Valley. Next week he's in Japan. Hence, Yervant Zorian is not only a Fellow of the IEEE and winner of both the IEEE Industrial Pioneer Award and the Hans Karlsson Award, he's also the owner of countless Frequent Flyer Miles. It's a miracle that he had any time to speak with me at all, but speak he did - with his distinctly upbeat point of view - first about DAC and then about time management, a skill he thoroughly mastered a long ago.

Management Track at DAC 2008
"At DAC, I have a dual responsibility," Zorian told me. "On the one hand, I'm heading up the Exhibitor Liaison Committee, which includes some level of coordination across that committee and the Strategy Committee. The other piece of my DAC responsibility is assembling the special Management Track. This will be completely different from the Executive Track that you may be familiar with from DAC in the past, or from DATE. Those events were created to attract additional senior executives to the conferences. This Management Track at DAC is for mid-level managers, not senior executives. The intention is to discuss actual projects and the decisions these managers must make at every step along the way under very difficult circumstances.

"As we all know, designs today are quite complex because of the level of integration, and because of the many different options presented to product managers over the course of a project. Selecting tools and a foundry, making a series of decisions about IP choices, whether to access third-party design service or use internal development, and which packages to use -- these are among the many difficult choices presented to the manager. Our special Management Track at DAC will address these choices, and will include six or seven managers from different companies in charge of various types of projects speaking about the decisions that go into creating these very complex, state-of-the-art chips."

Zorian added, "With help from our colleagues, we are working through various channels in the industry to identify the managers who will be invited to give a series of 30-minute talks during this special track. These speakers will represent different classes of chips - cellular chips, graphics chips, etc. --because the needs and processes can vary widely between classes."

"Traditionally, DAC has provided a lot of opportunity to discuss both commercially available EDA products and leading-edge research from academia. This new track falls into neither of those categories. The Management Track at DAC is intended to address questions like: How do you partition a design when the chip will be designed in three different continents? How can you make sure all of the pieces will come together smoothly? How do you pick the right tools, IP, foundry, and process node appropriate to your design? DAC has always included papers that address the technical challenges of design, but this type of real-world discussion will be new in the 2008 Management Track."

The 2008 Exhibitor Liaison Committee
Turning to the other side of Zorian's responsibilities at DAC, we spoke about the Exhibitor Liaison Committee and what exhibitors might find to be fresh and appealing about DAC 2008. Zorian said, "The same reasoning that has led to the establishment of the Management Track is also being applied to the Exhibit Hall. If we look at the problem from the bottom up, of course every exhibitor should come to the conference with recent products and say: 'This is what we've been doing lately.' That's how the Exhibit Hall was built, and we continue to appreciate the time the companies spend getting ready for DAC. We want to work to optimize the experience for the existing exhibitors, but also expand the scope of the conference.

"This is why the Exhibitor Liaison Committee wants to see more of a top-down approach for 2008. The question we're looking at is: If I were running a design, what would I want my designers to learn from attending DAC? This is what we want the Exhibit Hall to reflect -- what information should be provided to the designers who attend DAC?

"Designers have a number of needs. They need to know about tools. They need to know about design services. They need to know about the foundries. And, they need to know about which IP might be useful to them. When the designer comes to the DAC floor, we want to offer all of this information to them, a snapshot essentially of the whole ecosystem."

Zorian acknowledged that this new expanded vision for DAC might not be realized in just one year: "Yes, showcasing the entire ecosystem is a challenging task. We'll need to solicit more exhibitors to do that, and present to them a compelling reason for coming to the conference. Clearly, accomplishing this vision is not a one-step process. It may take multiple years and require looking at the conference in a new and different way. DAC is not just about design automation now, but is changing to reflect the point of view of actual, real world from design to manufacturing."

I asked Zorian how the DAC organizers are getting the word out about this evolution in the mission statement. He said, "We're getting the word out in a number of ways. We're working with MP Associates, and with different, potential exhibitors, presenting them with the value proposition of exhibiting at DAC. Of course, we're also working with existing exhibitors to encourage them to embrace this larger worldview.

"We started this effort within the Exhibitor Liaison Committee by inviting individuals from the new exhibitor categories to participate on the Committee. The ELC today is built with multiple players -- representatives of large, medium, and small EDA companies, plus representatives of the foundries, the IP companies, and players in the embedded software space. Now the ELC represents the entire ecosystem, and is working to implement this new vision in the coming years. Of course, the DAC Executive Committee (EC) is fully backing this effort, not only in terms of evolving the Exhibit Hall but also in terms of evolving the entire conference. Everywhere, within all of the DAC committees, we're looking at the bigger picture."

I asked Zorian if, within an increasingly global economy, he is ever concerned that other regional conferences are slowly eroding the impact of DAC. He responded, "Even though there are excellent regional events that satisfy users in those locations, it's still the case that if people only go to one event throughout the year, that event is DAC. It is still the major presence internationally. DAC continues to provide the principal international leadership for the industry.

"I personally think that DAC is in the right place. As we see more and more challenges emerge in the semiconductor industry, DAC is stepping up to help answer those challenges and expanding its role step by step - particularly as we move from limiting our concerns to just the design phase to enlarging those concerns to include manufacturing. If we fail to push the conference, if we fail to provide programs that address the entire solution space, there will be gaps in the industry. And that will not be a happy thing to see.

"DAC shouldn't be a follower; it needs to stay on track to be a leader. That's why the DAC EC has such a large number of capable and visionary people who know that it is important to address the upcoming challenges. New process nodes, DFM last year, process variation this year, maybe reliability next year, and so on -- we need to move with the challenges, to be proactive and not just reactive. We have a vision for the future and how DAC will influence the industry.

"And while we work on that, we are also answering questions about conferences themselves - are they an integral part of the landscape and still important for corporate visibility and the evolution of the technology? It is an important fact of life that people do not just wait for DAC, or any conference, to get information. In between DAC, there is the Internet, there is the DAC website, the DACeZine, and other elements that play continuously throughout the year. DAC's ability to stretch itself this way to meet the needs of the industry year-round is very important to all of us. An important part of DAC's mission is to provide information to move ideas from research to products."

The Secret to Time Management
I noted that as impressive as all of this sounds, particularly the idea of reaching out to a whole new population of potential exhibitors at DAC, it also seems mind-numbingly time consuming. I asked Zorian if between his work, his endless committee obligations, and his travel, he actually ever sleeps.

He chuckled and said, "This is what we all do. We balance our many responsibilities. I personally try to balance my work properly, between doing research with my team, my responsibility for a product line at Virage, and my volunteer professional activities. The secret of my success -- the secret of success for all of us -- is time management. If you look at all of the people around us, including the very capable people who accomplish so much, what is important for all of us is how we manage our time.

"There are clearly always many more things to do than time allows. So if you have two or three times more to do than you have the hours to do them in, the issue is about prioritizing. About deciding not which things to do first, but which things will get done at all and which things unfortunately will not get done, and that is actually what time management is about. It's not only about which hour to do which task, but which task I will do at all. Realistically, we all need to learn to choose the right tasks, and learn to drop the others."

Zorian responded on a characteristically positive note when I asked him if he ever looks back with regret at tasks that were dropped in favor of others. "Yes, we all have issues with things we wish we had done. However, that applies to more than just our daily functions at work or our volunteer committee work.

"We all have a whole other element to our lives, as well. Our families, our social relationships, and all of the other things that we need to attend to outside of work, also put demands on our time. But these are all important, as well, and all need to be taken into consideration. Ultimately, it's about learning to strike a balance in life. This is a learning process for all of us. Everyone who is successful has worked to find this balance. Or continues to work to find this balance."

Zorian chuckled again and said, "And yes. Sometimes I do find time to sleep."

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Peggy Aycinena is Editor of EDA Confidential, and a Contributing Editor to the DACeZine and EDA Weekly.