PCB Designers Motivated by Data Quality

John Watson
|  Created: May 19, 2019  |  Updated: December 8, 2020

When you look at the many steps involved with a single PCB design, it is easy to get lost in those details. Figuring out our next steps is often overwhelming. When that happens to me, after taking a deep breath, I repeat a common phrase that has become my professional mantra. “Eat the Elephant.” The old riddle is, how do you eat the elephant? Answer: One bite at a time. It is a skill to take a massive project and break it down to its parts. However, what happens too often,  instead of focusing on the next few steps; you concentrate on the rest of the elephant still to eat, which only leads us to being frustrated and unable to finish a project at all. It’s because you are focusing entirely on the wrong thing. In PCB design, you need to keep that Eat the Elephant attitude and allow it to drive everything you do. Take the project no matter what size and dissect it, take your next bites.


Before we tackle the question of this blog, just a short word regarding motivation. I was looking forward to writing this particular one because it gets into a great question. That question of “why”. This question gets down to one’s motivation for doing something. You see, we are so quick to jump into how, of course, we want to get the whole thing started. However, we never consider ‘what’, which is the objective we are trying to accomplish, and more importantly why we are doing it, which gets to our underlying motivation. In the words of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” When we answer the question of why before anything else, it simplifies things. That way when we lose “focus” (we’ll say), then you can remind yourself why you are doing certain things and get refocused.

Motivation is Subjective

To complicate matters, even more, motivation is very subjective.  What motivates one person is not the same for another. Which means that it is difficult finding what may motivate someone and keep them motivated.

Why is PCB Data Management so Important?

The obvious answer is that our jobs depend on it. Since I have become accustomed to eating, a paycheck is very helpful. As we have seen in another blog, the PCB Data Management system is a crucial and essential part of the PCB Design process. We are responsible for completing and assuring that the highest quality design possible, and that is directly connected to that quality of the data we use.


There is a common practice in the world of computing called Pipelining, also known as a data pipeline. It is a set of data processing elements connected in series, where one element outputs the input of the next. What we are creating here with our PCB Data system and our PCB design process is a data Pipeline. The Data is inputted into one end of the pipe as the starting point and feeds into the process. Along the way, individuals, with specific “roles” according to our earlier business dictionary definition, convert the inputs into outputs to keep it moving down the pipeline. This continues until the data reaches the end where it comes out the other side as a finished product of a completed and hopefully working PCB design.

A concern is, since everything is intertwined and connected, if the data is not correct at the source, then no degree of massaging it changes that fact. Better said, if you have linked the pipeline to the sewer system, don’t expect flowers to pop out the other side.

PCB Design is Art

From personal experience, I believe the PCB designer is a unique class of person. Designers are required to have a diversity of skills in a wide range of sciences — Electronics, physics, mathematics, materials, chemistry, metallurgy and much more. Furthermore, PCB Designers have a huge passion for the overall process and PCB Design. With those skills and passion, comes an attitude that drives them. However, something else runs much deeper for them; it is this question of “why.” Correctly–why every one of us does what we do.

Ask anyone, how they see PCB Design? The answer is usually the same. It is Art. I agree. You finish a 16-layer design with all the advanced routing techniques of match length tuning and differential pairs. It is absolute art. Think about this; every PCB design is unique; you can give the same schematic to a group of people, and none of those designs will be the same. That is the primary reason why we should care about PCB Data Management. The PCB design is art, and we want to participate in that creative process. It’s also the primary reason that many do not autoroute PCB Designs because they want to stay connected to that design process and the creative process of our craft.


If you get anything from this particular blog, find your own particular why. Know precisely “why” you do what you do. I hope you realize that as a PCB Designer, your purpose is much more than just filling a cubicle for eight hours a day; that more important than how you do something, is why you do it.

When you realize that purpose feeds it with a passion, ask anyone, this “thing” called PCB Design is far more than a career–for many this is a passion. When you combine your purpose with your passion, then you realize your true potential with not just what you do but instead who you are.

Would you like to find out more about how Altium can help you with library management? Talk to an expert at Altium.

About Author

About Author

With nearly 40 years in the Electronic industry with 20 of them being in the field of PCB Design and engineering, John has stayed on the cutting edge of the PCB industry as a designer/Engineer and more recently as a trainer and mentor. His primary work has been in the Manufacturing field but it has also expanded to several PCB Service arenas. As a veteran, he proudly served in the Army in the Military Intelligence field. John is a CID Certified PCB designer. Presently pursuing his Advance CID certification. Now as the Senior PCB engineer at Legrand Inc, he leads the PCB Designers and Engineers in various divisions across the United States and China.

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