Are Engineers and PCB Technologists Homegrown?

September 17, 2018 Judy Warner

Mihir and Milan Shah

Over the past year, I’ve noticed a subtle trend in the designers and technologists we’ve interviewed for this newsletter. Have you noticed it? There have been a number of times people cited their parents as the ones who inspired them to pursue an electronics career. (Think...Rick Hartley, Nicole Creeden, Bill Brooks, Charles Pfeil, Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, etc.). This is especially true at Royal Circuit Solutions, which is located just north of Silicon Valley. Read on to learn about Mihir Shah, a second generation board fabricator and EE, and how his dad inspired his sons as well as built a business that nurtures many father-son PCB experts.

Judy Warner: Mihir, tell us about your background and professional history please.

Mihir Shah: I’m an Electrical Engineer with a diverse background, having worked on everything from electric vehicle powertrains at Tesla to high-voltage power electronics at Taser, and many things in between. I also spent some time as Chief of Staff at Taser, and over time learned a lot of great practical skills that have helped me be successful in my current role as Director of Special Projects at Royal Circuits.

Warner: How has your father influenced you to pursue a career in the electronics industry?

Shah: My father has been grooming my brother and I to join the business since we were children. While he always gave us a lot of freedom in terms of choice of study, his passion and excitement for the business always kept the family aligned around its success and role in our lives. We were always encouraged to challenge ourselves, and being very hands-on boys, my brother and I both ended up falling in love with electrical engineering and electronics in general – joining the business after working on the design/customer side was an obvious choice after a few years in the industry.

Warner: How old were you when your dad bought Royal Circuits and did you hang out around the shop?

Shah: My dad bought Royal Circuits when I was 13 years old. We moved our entire family to California from Illinois to live out this dream, and what a dream it’s been! My dad has been in the board industry my entire life, even before Royal, and my brother and I spent summers and holidays at the shop, doing everything from cleaning out drill machines to helping ship out boards when we were crazy busy. I even spent a summer in high school working at a partner assembly shop as a hand soldering technician – needless to say I was quick to apply to university after that backbreaking experience.

Warner: No doubt, hand-soldering is not as easy as it looks and it's very tedious! What have you been most surprised about since you moved from engineering to fabrication?

Shah: Just how manual the board fabrication process still is, and how many moving parts there are to build and assemble boards – whether it’s a $100 job or a $10,000 job. As much as we’re working on making the front-end process of quoting and ordering boards as seamless as possible, there are still so many technical and complex processes involved (that require incredibly skilled and reliable people), it always amazes me to see us run like a well-oiled machine daily. 

Warner: I so wish we could show every engineer and designer how truly complex it is. Board fabrication deserves more respect than it often gets, unfortunately. What impact do you personally hope to have on the business?

Shah: On the operational side, I want to continue working towards our goal of making ordering PCBs as easy as ordering anything else off the internet – seamless, transparent, fast. On the long-term side of running the business, I want to make sure I continue my father’s legacy of building a successful company with a virtually 0% turnover rate that continues to feed incredibly happy employees and their families, and is run by a team/family of incredibly passionate people. I love my dad, and I love this company. I want to continue developing my passion to match his, and share that with all of our customers, employees, and families.

Editor's note: Royal Circuits has had less than a 1% employee turnover in 20 years. Several sons have followed in their father's footsteps and joined the Royal Circuits “family.” See the photos below of some of the father-son duos who serve on their team.

Fabian, Teo, Santiago

Rudy Sr., Rudy Jr.

Johnny, Riki

About the Author

Judy Warner

Judy Warner has held a unique variety of roles in the electronics industry since 1984. She has a deep background in PCB Manufacturing, RF and Microwave PCBs and Contract Manufacturing with a focus on Mil/Aero applications in technical sales and marketing.

She has been a writer, contributor and journalist for several industry publications such as Microwave Journal, The PCB Magazine, The PCB Design Magazine, PDCF&A and IEEE Microwave Magazine and is an active member of multiple IPC Designers Council chapters.

In March 2017, Warner became the Director of Community Engagement for Altium and immediately launched Altium’s OnTrack Newsletter.
She led the launch of AltiumLive: Annual PCB Design Summit, a new and annual Altium User Conference.

Judy's passion is to provide resources, support and to advocate for PCB Designers around the world.

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