Design Con 2015

Gene Frantz, TI Principal Fellow and DSP visionary, to retire in February

October 22, 2012

Visionary, catalyst, enabler, teacher, mentor, seeker, finder, and, of course, father of DSP are all terms that could be been used to describe Gene Frantz, Principal Fellow at Texas Instruments, but on February 2, 2013, the 39-year veteran of TI will officially add ‘retiree’ to that list, but only on paper.

In reality, Frantz is really starting the next phase of his career, a phase in which he will most likely take a post at Rice University teaching a course on something like ‘The Entrepreneurship of Technology’, a role befitting his aptitude and natural tendencies. “My goal is to look for the next big thing,” said Frantz, "and what better place than with all those Ph.D students.”

Such a role, and it would be more mentorship than ‘teaching’, would be the condensation of his years of experience on the road for Texas Instruments spotting unmet needs and combining those with cutting-edge signal-processing technology to create the opportunities that would help drive the company’s – and the industry’s -- growth.    

        
Gene Frantz will retire from his position as Principal Fellow at TI on Feb. 2, 2013, after 39 years.

This experience started most notably, with the launch of the Speak & Spell learning toy, which, celebrates 30 years this year (see : "30 Years of DSP: From a Child’s Toy to 4G and Beyond.") . That toy was the start of a DSP revolution that would forever change the technology landscape.

In preparation for his departure from TI, Frantz sat with EDN to discuss his legacy and this second stage of his career, a potential third stage, as well as everything from how to release creativity and innovation to the changing state of engineering and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the electronics industry and its participants. In between, Frantz elaborates upon why semiconductors are like plankton, why getting fired multiple times was good for him, what it takes to succeed in engineering, and the opportunities presented by the cloud, 3-D imaging, body signatures, and personal medicine.

I’ll be highlighting our discussion on these and many other areas in an on-going series of blogs here in the Design Cycle.

In the meantime, “I don’t feel like I’m retiring,” said Frantz. “Typically our industry is a sport of young people: I agreed with that when I was that young person driving it and I agree with now that I am no longer that young person. But the best success of that is to have a gray hair or two keeping the kids pointed.”

It’s with that mindset that looks forward to his next stage at Rice University. “I’m not really moving away from technology, but more toward that set of young people who are trying to build that next generation of technology in general.”

In that role, he will be helping young innovators to bring their ideas to market by stepping back and asking the questions to help decide what’s not a good product, and then how to make a really great product. His guidance will include everything from technology to getting venture capital and product development.

While he promises to remain available for the young engineers at TI to guide and encourage them, he’s cognizant of the need to, “just move away and make sure there’s room for the young kids to grow.”

“It should be fun! If I do my thing right in the area of personal medicine, I’ll have to think of a new career.”

Looking forward to seeing that: Thanks -- and good luck, Gene!

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