Profiles in Design: Pat Byrne, Tektronix

EDN Staff -January 11, 2016

“Engineering is practical problem solving in service of great breakthroughs.” –Pat Byrne

DesignCon’s 2016’s Wednesday keynote speaker will be Pat Byrne, president of Tektronix. Before assuming his current role in 2014, Pat was a vice president at Danaher, Tektronix’ parent company. Prior to joining Danaher in 2012, Pat had been chief executive of Intermec Technologies, a publicly traded, radio frequency identification (RFID) specialist based in Everett, Wash. Before running Intermec, Pat spent eight years in executive roles at Agilent Technologies, and 17 years at Hewlett-Packard Co. He holds a BSEE degree from the University of California at Berkley and a MSEE from Stanford University. In advance of his talk at this year’s DesignCon, Pat agreed to chat with us as part of EDN’s Profiles in Design series.

EDN: What is it that you like most about engineering?
Pat Byrne:
Engineering is about solving practical problems in service of big objectives. For example, I recently saw the movie The Martian about an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars. It’s a great movie for engineering, similar to Apollo 13, because it shows how he improvised to solve practical problems but in the end did something that had never been done before. It’s just a movie but it makes the point – engineering is practical problem solving in service of great breakthroughs.

EDN: What has surprised you over the years in terms of technology?
Byrne: Consumers are driving technology innovation more than enterprises. When I started in technology 20-30 years ago, it was large corporations that drove technology for enterprise-related applications. Now the most sophisticated technologies we have in our lives are in our smart phones or cars or on our wrists. The pace of innovation driven by consumer cycle times and the consumerization of technologies has been a massive shift, one that means technology is now moving much faster and at lower power.

EDN: What did you think we’d be able to do now that we still can’t?
Byrne: The transportation industry is still as it was 20 years ago. The experience of sitting on an airplane or in traffic is not that different, if anything, it is worse. I expected that those dynamics would have changed substantially through technology because moving people and goods efficiently is a large part of the economy.

EDN: Can you give us a preview of what you will be talking about at your DesignCon keynote?
Byrne: In a consumer-driven electronics industry with faster and faster cycle times, our customers have shifted from linear waterfall style development methodologies to a highly parallel multi-organizational development approach. The complexity and compliance requirements of system designs have also grown. This has placed a new set of requirements on the tools and methodologies being used to design advanced electronics and the verification of those electronics in preparing them for the marketplace.  

We will discuss the innovations in development needed to serve multi-organization development processes. We see changes in the role of test in design verification and in design simulation technologies. The focus needs to go from all of the accumulated risk being at the end of the development process to pushing more of that to the earlier phases in the development cycle. This is often referred to as “shift left.” It means shifting left from the testing phase of the development process to design verification phase where testing, simulation, compliance, and validation tools work together.

EDN: What are the biggest misconceptions about test & measurement?  

Byrne: Test and measurement should be seen as an innovation platform to enable competitive advantage rather than a hurdle to overcome.  

EDN: What’s next for you/the industry?
Byrne: The next phase for the industry is to create partnerships that can develop solutions that will enable customers to break down barriers between exciting new ideas and their realization.

EDN: Any advice for new engineers?
Byrne: Work on a great team. You will learn the best approaches to solving problems and creating great products. Early success will serve your ambitions, whatever they are.

EDN: What do you do to recharge/have fun?
Byrne: Golf is great fun. Even if the balls don’t always “go straight down the fairway,” it’s a great way to spend an afternoon with friends.

You can catch Pat’s talk on Wednesday, January 20 2016 from 12-12:45 p.m at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

Also See:

Want to learn more? Attend DesignCon 2016, the premier conference for chip, board, and systems design engineers. Taking place January 19-21, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, DesignCon will feature technical paper sessions, tutorials, industry panels, product demos, and exhibits. Register here.
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