Ted Pawela, Altium COO, Shares Vision for the Future

Judy Warner
|  Created: July 20, 2018  |  Updated: February 5, 2021

Ted Pawela, Altium COO, joins Judy Warner to discuss how Altium intends to fundamentally transform the electronics design industry, what Altium’s vision for the future looks like, and what to expect in Altium Designer 19. They also touch on Altium’s upcoming international design conference, AltiumLive: Annual PCB Design Summit, and why everyone in the community is encouraged to attend. Learn about Altium’s vision to bring PCB design and manufacturing closer together — a world where design turnbacks and respins can be avoided by bringing DFM constraints into the design tool itself. Listen to this special episode of the OnTrack podcast to learn more and remember to share your comments and ideas below.

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Show Highlights:

  • Ted started out in ocean engineering - multidisciplinary in nature, not just physics or mechanical.
  • Altium’s commitment and advocacy of engineers/industry - Altium stands for the Engineer
  • The Altium origin story - anyone who needs a tool should have it, so let’s give them tools no matter what age or budget i.e. free product including Octopart and Upverter
  • Upverter is for the makers and inventors of tomorrow.
  • It’s our mission to transform the electronics industry.
  • The whole product realization process is discontinuous. We want to change that.
  • AltiumLive announcement and AD19 announcement
  • Goal is to deliver incremental PCB design capabilities that would take us to places we haven’t been before - like High-Speed Design - it’s not something we can deliver in one release. AD18 was the foundation.
  • Design and manufacturing worlds can come closer together.
  • The power of CAD can be problematic - it can be overwhelming, needs to be feedback from the tool to help find problems.
  • New company acquired - PCB:NG (NG=next generation) is board assembly manufacturing, low volume, high mix. Good for prototypes. Their mission is to create a manufacturing line where designers can know everything about it so design constraints can be removed from the start.
  • Ciiva - another company trying to solve the same problem. They created a bill of material that allows you to know the lifecycle state of what you are selecting.
  • We all want manufacturing insights at design time, Altium is bringing the pieces together to transform the industry.
  • AltiumLive - Designers, manufacturers, fab, assembly, all came together to discuss industry problems. It’s about inspiring the community to think about current industry challenges and discuss possible solutions.
  • How many Industry Conferences are out there? PCB West, DesignCon (chip and board level), PCB Carolinas, Electronica, Embedded World - but are there any that put the PCB designer front and center?
  • Altium wants to provide this for the PCB designer; see AltiumLive 2017 Retrospective to see the presentations from last year. You don’t have to be an Altium Designer user to come to AltiumLive.
  • Altiumlive 2018 this year will have one day, before AltiumLive officially begins, of extra learning sessions you can add on, the two options (which will run concurrently) include:  University Day, focused on learning Altium Designer or High Speed Design with Lee Ritchey.

Links and Resources:

Altiumlive 2018






AltiumLive 2017 Retrospective

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Hi everyone, this is Judy Warner with Altium's OnTrack Podcast, thanks for joining us again.

Today I have a rare treat for you, but before we get started I'd like to invite you to please subscribe to our podcast on your favorite podcast app or favorite us on an RSS feed, and remember we also record this on video simultaneously, so if you want to see our sunshiny faces you can go over to YouTube on Altium's channel and go under videos, and you'll see all the podcasts recorded in video.

I'd also like to invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn, I share lots of information to engineers and PCB designers and I'd love to connect with you there as well and on Twitter, I'm @AltiumJudy. So today, I have the rare treat of inviting in one of our esteemed executives; I esteem you Ted. So Ted Pawela is with us today, he is the COO here at Altium and we're going to talk a lot about the direction of Altium and really kind of get a peek behind the curtain. So I'm excited to share him with you, so Ted, welcome.

Thanks Judy, I appreciate you having me on here and I'm actually really excited about the the podcast series that you're doing, and see a lot of the feedback from people and it's a little bit humbling to be here given the actual magnitude of the guests that you've had here from industry and so forth, so I'm not sure I can live up to that but I'll do my very best.

Well, I think you rank but  we're glad to have you. So before we get started, I thought it'd be fun for the audience to know a little bit about your engineering background. So you haven't always dwelled in the halls of the executive world; you kind of came up through engineering, so tell us a little bit about your background there?

That's true it's probably not a very prototypical upbringing into the industry and so forth, but I actually  started my... I guess you could say my engineering career, back in the education space. My undergraduate degree was actually in Ocean Engineering, and the interesting thing, I think about Ocean Engineering and Altium, is that Ocean Engineering is one of those disciplines, or one of those engineering fields that is multidisciplinary in nature, so it doesn't focus only on mechanical or only on physics, or any given thing, but it's actually very multidisciplinary. In fact, like when I think back on it, I did a thesis project that was to create an underwater acoustic transponder system - which sounds pretty fancy, but it was basically a device where you could send acoustic signals underwater to tell this device to do something. In this case, it was to release a buoy from the bottom, that had a rope tied to it. It might be attached to an anchor or something else you might want to recover, and that system, we had to actually design the electronics as well as the mechanical system. It all had to work underwater so I think back on that a lot because, following that, I spent a lot of time more in kind of mechanical domains, and so this in some ways as a homecoming for me.

To come back to being at Altium and be involved in electronics, so that was kind of the beginning. I worked in the underwater defense industry for 10 or 11 years as a real engineer doing actual design work and at that time I wasn't really focused on electronics, but more in the worlds of underwater acoustics and mechanical systems and how those converged. So they're kind of different kinds of physics, different equations that you have to solve, and so I spent a lot of time trying to make those two things mathematically work together. And then from there I actually ended up, because I was working with software, and in this case it was Ansys software and, actually Abacus software at the time you know, that has now become Somalia over at TISOL, but I was working with those two softwares which are simulation softwares in the mechanical world and I was presenting at conferences and things like that. And I had the opportunity actually, to join Ansys and I did, and that kinda took me from that world of, real hardcore engineering into the software side of the business and and I loved that and I've now been at a number of software companies, all engineering software companies, and it's become something that I have a passion for, and that I really enjoy and love and feel really fortunate to have found my way to Altium.

Well we're glad to have you, you've definitely been a change agent here for good and what I really love about Altium and I think that you appreciate it like I do, is if you walk through these halls very long here at the La Jolla office there really are a lot of people that have kind of that cross-disciplinary feel or... but we really do advocate and care about the engineer and that sounds kind of corny.

But I think because there are lots of people, even like myself that were in fabrication or where I was selling and sort of in the weeds, It makes me feel excited to come to work in the morning and to be able to advocate and to help enable, sort of the next generation of technology, and be part of that so...

Yeah, I'm excited about that as well and I think, fundamentally it comes down to this sort of basic notion that's independent of any industry, is that if you do the right thing for your customers and you really think about them, that they do good things by you as well and so I think we get that here.

From the top of the organization through to, and across all places in the organization and definitely that is kind of a cultural element here that I both appreciate and I'm kind of committed to perpetuating and extending as much as we can.

Well a fun note here, is that Ted actually hired me into the organization.

That's true...

-and I actually reported direct to him when I first joined and I - I think we really resonated on that note, and that really, Ted's really been the empowering force behind everything that I do here personally at Altium. So I really appreciate this Podcast, the Newsletter, AltiumLive, so we've had a blast doing some of that stuff and doing things really with with the designer and engineer mind. So that's been fun - well to your point, I think that's a good jumping-off point what we wanted to talk about today is Altium's identity, you know.

What from your perspective, what is it that Altium stands for?

So, I think, you said it, maybe in different words at the beginning of this and I think Altium stands for the engineer, for the designer, for the people who actually have to do the work. And I think that it's one of the things that makes us different from other software companies so we're not really thinking about things like, typical things that I've seen in other companies, like how do we sell higher into organizations? How do we get executives to buy in so that we can do kind of  top-down? How we can get top-down decisions to standardize on our software and things like that. The thing about - that I really noted about Altium - and the culture of doing business and working with people here, is that it's really focused on that. The guy who's got to do the work.

And and I think largely, I believe that's the thing that we, that we really stand for and you'll probably remember that... you know, I tell the story to a lot of people and pretty frequently, about when I came here you know, trying to uncover what I felt was, or what was the fundamental kind of characteristics of Altium's brand and it's identity and, and it kind of rooted in a discussion I had with one of our board members David Warren, who has since retired, but but David was one of the first couple of guys into the company and when they started the company it wasn't, it wasn't a company yet, it was actually a couple of guys who are trying to build electronics at the time, and this goes back 30 years or so.

You know CAD software, E-CAD software in particular, it existed but it was really expensive. It only ran on expensive high-end computers and I think, nobody in the room, yourself included may remember those days but I remember those days when we had to buy Apollo workstations and big expensive machines.


You know that $50,000 in back - this was back in the 80s...

-that was your barrier to entry so it was a lot of money and a lot of people who were involved in design didn't have access to that, they didn't have those budgets.

And so, and these two guys were among those. And they actually set out to say, how could we - how could we have software like that for ourselves? Well they decided to create it, and they wanted to create it in a way that it would be accessible not just for themselves but for anybody who needed it so they built it to run on on PCs and that was the genesis of Altium.

There were people out there who were doing and trying to do amazing things in the world of technology and engineering who didn't have access to all the tools and they wanted to provide that access for themselves, and for others, and you know for me, and for the company, I mean that's really a core part of what we stand for. Be for the engineer but make that technology accessible and make it accessible to people who need it, even when they don't have big budgets to work with, sometimes they don't have any budgets to work with. So that, to me, that's really what Altium stands for.

Yeah I think we have the best sort of origin story ever, especially because Dave Warren, at the time was - I believe he was teaching at University - he said to me once that there was all these young passionate people that have these great ideas and no access and so there was he was kind of incensed by that and that sort of, filtered and still sort of lives in this company, this feeling of anyone - anyone who needs a tool should have it. Because you can have a great idea at any age, at any phase so let's give them tools. And I really love that, that it's lasted long past the time that Dave Warren and these two guys sort of kicked this company off, it's really persisted and I really I really like that.

Yeah, I think it's not just persisted because it's in the spirit of the employees who work here and everything, but I can tell you that we make our decisions on that basis. I mean the basis of, kind of being true to what we represent, and so we think about that. We think about who are the underdogs, and how do we empower them? And not, kind of like leave them behind, in pursuit of purely making money in business - and we are a business - we're a commercial business, and of course we want to make money; our shareholders expect us to make money and, on the other hand, we think that there's many ways to do that. And you know, everyone may know, we have multiple products and kind of like multiple price points - that's one way. But we also try to think out of the box a little bit and so as an example; we have, I guess one of our brands called Octopart, where people can go and search for parts and so forth, and you can do that as an engineer and you don't pay to use that - it's actually kind of a seller pays model right?

So when somebody buys parts after they've searched throughout the parts and we may get a small fraction of that revenue, or people advertise on that site and we get a little bit of revenue from that, but we don't have to charge it to the user and we think about - that's an example - but we are always thinking about how do we take a product like Upverter for example, that actually was, before we acquired it, they charged a subscription fee. We made it free, with the intent that we would find ways to kind of indirectly monetize that in a in a seller pays kind of model.

Because we want to make that technology accessible to the maker community, to the kind of inventors and creators of tomorrow who who don't have money today. So you know, it's like I said, it's a core part of the decision-making process here; is how do we stay true to that vision of making technology accessible to everyone?

Yeah, it's just so refreshing to hear from an executive a software company I think - you know - it's not something I think you hear a lot, like money does lead in many cases, but it's clear to me that there's a guiding principle behind that. That,of course you have to be disciplined and answer to stockholders and do all those things, but you can do that in fresh and new ways and...

That's the key, because I think again, we want it, we need to be a sustainable business or else the technology that we provide won't be here.

In ten years or something and of course we don't want that to happen…

Right but there are, interesting and different ways you can do it requires that you maybe, are willing to think outside of the conventional wisdom or the best practices and so forth and… that's one of the things that I like about Altium, is that we really do try to break those... mmm... norms and...

-and you know, think about how we can do it differently and just don't accept status quo. Don't accept best practice just because that's the way it's always been done.

Well to me, it's innovation and...

-and we try to build innovation into our software all the time, so we're building innovation into our model too which I really love. So what would you say, do we... would you say we have a defined mission? I mean, beyond what you kind of spelled out, so like an actual defined mission?

Oh absolutely, so I think everyone at Altium, we've refined this thinking in the way that we articulate it internally, but if you were to look at the things that we present externally, like when we do go to shareholder meetings, and in particular, we do a technology day to our Investor Community and we've done it the last several years in Australia. And that you can see the presentations on the web and so forth, but that's a real clue for anybody who really wants to know where Altium is going. If you'd look at those things directionally that gives you a lot of guidance and the thing that we say over and over and over again is that it's our mission to transform the electronics industry.

And specifically, what I mean by that, is that creating electronics is more than just about the design process and the design tools and and so there's what I would - kind of call it a value chain - that's involved right, you have people who think about the product and what's the intent of the product and that kind of breaks down into requirements for mechanical systems, for electronic systems, and all of that.

But even then, the job's not over, because there have to be components that are supplied to that or that are selected from that and then found and acquired. There has to be a board that gets manufactured; the bare board. There has to be the assembly and fabrication of the full, system level board and everything and sometimes it's multiple boards, and then it's all got to be put together and so the job’s not really done until everybody does that and the thing that is sort of striking about the electronics industry, is that that's a really discontinuous process, we kind of like, all think within our sort of domains with our blinders on and we believe that it's our... it's gonna sound a little silly - but it's our self-directed destiny to kind of change that. That's what we want to do, so the mission of the company is to really change, to transform the way that electronics are conceived, designed, manufactured and delivered to the world, and we think there's lots of opportunities to do that a lot better.

Well I know personally, a lot of people have asked me about, why are you buying these... you know, how does... why? I remember Happy Holden last year saying; Upverter? And so it's because they think of us primarily as just a CAD provider right?

And so I think not a lot of people understand that we have our sights set much higher than that - along those lines - I'd like to dig into that a little bit more. But before we do that, we are sort of - AltiumLive will be here in San Diego in October, and we will be, at least doing a marketing release then, of showing what will be in Altium Designer 19.

We will.

And you mentioned to me that I had kind of thought - even just working here - you're down the hall from me but my impression was that Altium Designer 19 was going to be sort of an iterative release and that Altium Designer 18 was massive. We changed the platform, we really revolutionized the tool in so many ways so I thought: well we're going to catch our breath, add a few little bells and whistles and be on our way down the road, but you're telling me no, it's going to be big. So, can you without giving away the secret sauce, tell us a little bit about sort of the intent?

Yeah well, so I mean there's things that are still  forming, it's kind of like the cake is still in the oven baking right now, so not necessarily ready to share a lot of detail but here's what I will tell you about that.

First of all you're right, Altium Designer 19,  it's not just another release, just like 18 wasn't just another release and, in fact, if I shorten it just for the sake of simplicity, AD, AD18, AD19 and, AD20 are really a set of releases that are linked together in a fundamental way, and so what we wanted to do with that series of releases was in part - it kind of gets to this thing that I was talking about, this idea of transforming the electronics industry and specifically what we wanted to do with AD18, 19 and 20 - was to deliver incremental PCB design capabilities that would take us to places we hadn't been before so, and specifically into high speed design. Historically... you know...

Yay! my favorite subject

I know you have lots of time invested into that segments of the industry and know lots of people there and and we think that's important that we can do better to support that and AD18, 19, and 20, that was one of the core kind of objectives there, was to help Altium to kind of grow up in terms of high speed design capabilities. But it wasn't something that... I mean it's kind of massive, and it's, in terms of being able to do it, so it wasn't something we were able to deliver in a single release...

-in fact when I think about high speed design, specifically AD18, was kind of like delivering foundational capabilities that are required to do the kind of complex and large designs that typically we see in high speed.

So you didn't see particular high speed capabilities there, not big ones yet, anyways in AD18, but what you did see was that we moved from our old 32-bit platform to 64-bit.

We went from single threaded activity to multi-threaded within the application, and things like that; that are kind of the plumbing...

Yeah, it's like the foundation...

That's right, they need to be there for us to be able to exercise those high-speed capabilities that we wanted to build in. With AD19 you'll start to see more of the capabilities now coming out. It won't be complete but there will certainly be designs in the realm of high speed that people will start to be able to do and it'll become visible that we're really going somewhere with that and then AD20, will be the one where we move a lot towards a more completed set of capabilities for high speed.

So that's one sort of key thing that I would say is that - certainly at AltiumLive, and as we come out with AD19 - you will see real capabilities that start to bring us into that world. The other thing though, is making real this idea of beginning to bring about industry transformation, and specifically, even at AltiumLive last year, one of the things we heard over and over again in the talks was people who were in board fabrication and assembly and manufacturing and who think about DFM and things like that, who were saying over and over and over again: you guys out there in the design community don't think about us. I know the manufacturing world, not nearly enough and often enough, and conversely  we heard from people on the design side saying kind of similar things back to manufacturing so those two worlds have been historically siloed, as you said.

It comes up, I cannot tell you how often this comes up in this podcast series it's just a persistent problem, everybody knows it's there.

Yeah it is a huge problem and I think in one of the things that I'm really excited about with AD19 is that you're going to see some you're gonna see some things that are fairly dramatic in terms of helping to bring those two worlds together to where people who are doing design will be in contact with people who are involved in manufacturing while they're designing. And you know, the ultimate endgame for that, is that you would imagine a world where when you are doing design, you don't only have design constraints to think about but the manufacturing constraints are things that guide what you can and can't do and how you create that so that you avoid those kind of like downstream... not exactly mistakes,but those downstream things that you didn't think about that cause design turn backs and spends that are really not needed.

Right, they're not needed and cost so much money and time.

Yes so, AD19 is going to be, I think it's gonna be really impactful and kind of transformative in the way that design and designers, and people in the manufacturing side of the business will be able to work together. So I don't want to spill too much of that, but it's gonna be, I honestly think this is  in many ways, a bigger, more transformative thing than AD18 was which was pretty huge, for us at least, in seeing our tool transform.

When you said that to me I'm like: wait what? I was shocked when you said that to me about a week ago I was like, wait I work here and I don't know, and I talked to developers regularly and I think because I get just little glimpses of pieces I'm not seeing the overarching where I think you, from where you sit, you're getting the overarching perspective.

Maybe so, but like I said, I think the key thing here is it will really be something that changes the way we think about CAD and what we should expect from our CAD tools.

Which is great; I've said for many years, that the power of CAD has actually been problematic, because, if you are not 30-40 years into this industry you can get so much power in that tool. It's like, I was saying to someone, I go: there needs to be a feedback from the tool that says, no stop dummy, you know. Like there is no place that says, no stop, this is a bad idea...

-those cores don't match. Those holes are too small those vias are... you know. There's, of course we can put in parameters and things that help them design well, but there's... so to hear that coming together would just be life-changing, so that's very exciting.

Yeah, and like I said, it's not something that I think we won't realize - that full vision of AD19.

It'll be that again, this combination of 18, 19, and 20 - you'll be able to see now with AD19, how those things kind of link together and we'll be telling people, we'll disclose our road map for AD20, so people can see how that whole thing plays out but there's gonna be a lot there and it will be enough to change the way that designers and manufacturers are working together. It will change more; well it'll be changing them in even more dramatic ways as we are able to deliver everything through those three releases.

But there's gonna be enough there that I think, it's really exciting to think about, and talk about and you know...I guess, the other thing for me, or maybe not the other thing - but on a related note - I remember last year at AltiumLive how all those conversations seemed to be centered around standards. And so, couldn't we come out with a single standard for how data is represented and so forth and...

(that's a hot topic)

Standardization, I just have to say, I mean standardization is such a hard thing to do to get everybody within an industry to do that and  I think the reality is that standardization isn't the answer. The standardization is a solution that people kind of assume is the right way to solve the problem, so they... and so we tend to kind of like think about how. First, you know, how could we solve this problem? If the problem is that people just don't work together and when I design I don't end up with something that's manufacturable until I go through many spins, as an example that's the problem right and then, the solution is just to make it work right. I mean as a designer, or as for somebody in manufacturing, do I really care about standardization? No, I don't, but what I wanted to have happen is that it just works.

-and I don't have to think about it, I don't have to do anything extra, nor does the person on the other side of the wall that we're throwing things back and forth over. We just want it to work.

-and that's the approach that we're taking and and again you'll see the it gets to what you were saying  why do we acquire these companies for example?


So we did, just recently, a small acquisition of a company called PCB:NG; NG is for Next Generation and that's a company that does board assembly manufacturing and they do it on small scale, so it's the idea that they do low-volume, high-variety kind of, high-mix kind of designs. So when people want to build prototypes and so forth and their whole mission has been to really change, to be able to create a manufacturing line where the designers can know everything about it so they kind of design in those constraints from the start. Which is very aligned with the idea that I was talking about, and where Altium has been thinking, and now if you rewind back  a couple of years ago we acquired a company called Ciiva and Ciiva was really focused on a couple of things. One was to have a Bill of Material that was smarter, and smarter in the sense that you understood straight away what was the life cycle state of the components that you select.

And the parts that you select - are those things even available anymore? So you don't select and design in things that you couldn't even buy if you wanted to.

And then there's the notion… that it happens frequently by the way - it does happen frequently.

And it's such a headache.

And in Ciiva you know, the other thing that they were really focused on was to understand those manufacturing constraints as well and so there's kind of this nice convergence of thinking where the Ciiva guys were trying to solve that problem, PCB:NG guys were trying to solve that problem, and Altium is trying to solve that problem, and so bringing them all together now gives us a way that we can say, how do we make it just work and so having that small manufacturing company gives us a way that we can prove this out. We can make it happen having sort of, like full access to everything in that facility and on their line and as well having the people on the side of thinking about the supply chain in the Bill of Material and the design side. We can do all of those things and so we don't intend to kind of like make PCB:NG into some big volume manufacturer. It's never gonna be Foxcon, what we want it to be but we want to make it just work and once we prove it there, then we can take it to all manufacturers.

And that's the idea and and so we'll again, start to give you a glimpse of that, and more than a glimpse, we'll give actual real capabilities in AD19 that will allow people to begin to solve that problem or, not even salvage, just make it work.

Right just make it work.

So AD19 in my mind is, is a huge step forward.

Well I'm very excited so I'm gonna put a pin in our conversation real quick and just let our listeners know that, all of... you know, sometimes people just think of us being the creators of Altium Designer and don't realise we sort of have been acquiring these companies so we will have an area at AltiumLive in San Diego and in Munich if you're able to join us, where all of those brands will be joining us. I'm hoping to put them in an area that I'm calling Altium Alley, so we'll have Upverter, Ciiva, the PCB:NG, and so, we can start to see how this all fits together.


So I'm excited about that. So let's talk a little bit about AltiumLive, since we are rolling out AD19 at that time, at least to give a sneak peak of it. You and I worked very closely together and sort of had a shared passion for the idea - it was AltiumLive, our first ever users' conference was really Ted's brainchild and then, I was brought on board and then we worked closely together and then it took a village - it took an Altium village - to put on that users conference so can we talk a little bit about why AltiumLive, why do we decide, as a company to begin doing a users' conference, and sort of what, is our intention behind that? Because we want to sell more software?


Well of course we want we always want to sell more software.

Of course, we do, there's no doubt about that... I'm obviously being very facetious.

-yeah but if I come back to the beginning of our conversation, you know I mentioned this notion that if you do the right thing for your customers that they support you and and good things happen as a result of that and and I think,  AltiumLive is really built on that idea. So we wanted to create a forum in which our users, but more than that, people in the industry could come together to kind of talk about and collaborate on how do we solve the challenges that we face as an industry. So the fact that we had manufacturers there and manufacturer's reps and everything else as well as... you know, so these are people that don't know Altium Designer. If they saw it they wouldn't know whether it was Altium Designer or another tool per se...


-possibly but they're involved in the industry and they're relevant right, to the way that we do design and so forth. As well as all the design people. So we wanted a place where our users could come and they could learn and they could get better at their craft and they could connect with one another so - I think Judy you came up with the idea - that it was about, connect, learn and inspire...

-and that's really the idea right, I mean in terms of connect; it's always good to be able to meet your peers, to talk with your peers, who you face common challenges with, and talk about how do you overcome those, how do you approach them, how does your company support you in those things. Those are always really valuable conversations and so that's - I think - what the connect part is all about. Learning is pretty obvious, people always want to learn how do I get better and that's both in terms of using tools but more than that, it's about becoming better as an engineer. So a lot of the curriculum, if you will, that was associated with that, and in the sessions that we had they weren't about how do I use Altium Designer, they were how do I solve these challenges from an engineering perspective...

Right, what are better routing practices...

-Right, speakers about specific tools, because it's like, how do I do these things? So the learning part of it was really important. And inspire, obviously if we're going to transform the industry, we want to bring together the people, the stakeholders in the industry, who are likewise, facing these bigger challenges, not just how do I design better, but how do I design in a way that I know it can be manufactured and that manufacturers don't have to go back and completely recast the Bill of Materials and force me to change the design. And how do I  ensure that these parts are actually available and all of that - but it's really again about inspiring the community to think about how we solve these problems of the industry. The fact that it's sort of discontinuous in terms of that flow and so forth and we've got a lot of ideas at Altium about how we solve that, but we definitely don't have all the answers and and nor would we want to try to solve those in absence of all the thought leaders and practitioners in the industry right.

So I think that's the third part of it, is really to bring together those leading practitioners and thought leaders from the industry to say, how do we take this, how do we take our whole industry forward in a way that I... don't want this to sound a little too trivial but,  we talk about IoT how do we deliver 50 billion devices by 2025 or whatever.

-whatever those numbers are, but I think that there's lots of places where electronics are important even in absence of IoT, but the smarter we make our world, the better that's going to be, the more ability we have to solve some of the big picture problems in the world using electronics and engineering and so forth and that's only going to happen when we all come together to figure out how do we do all this better and more effectively.

I loved the convergence at our event it was like magical to see - and such spirited conversations - between fabricators and even our keynotes right. I remember one of the keynotes in Munich saying something about fabrication and then our friend Julie Ellis is like, wait a minute, and then having this really honest challenging almost debate right, but it was so beneficial. I think everybody was really, I think empowered, by having really those frank conversations and really learning from each other. You know a thing that I really like Ted, is that if you look across North America at least, well I would even say Europe, how many events are there for designers? I mean for printed circuit board designers or engineers already, what events are out there? We have PCB West which has some good tracks, Design Con is chip and board level, PCB Carolinas I can think, Electronica, Embedded World... so there's just a handful, but is there any that just focuses and kind of exclusively puts the designer front and center?

No, they're kind of lost - they don't really have a place and what I love about AltiumLive, is that gets to be sort of the center of the conversation but shoulder to shoulder with all the other stakeholders right, so it's like they get their own party  where they can just dig in and get such deep learning not only from really incredible thought leaders like our keynotes but also from each other.

Right, we saw that happening a lot right then, and now you can see it just if you go even on the website for AltiumLive and you look at last year's recorded sessions and so forth you see that pretty clearly. It was pretty striking, and my hope is that over time people will actually start to see this event as something that's not an Altium event it's their event.

And that's the spirit behind it frankly, is that the same as with products, and solving these problems that everything we can't there's no way that Altium can do it on its own or any one company could on its own. We have to do it as a community so I really see AltiumLive as a community and I hope it grows and I hope that the control of the agenda and the content and all of that kind of stuff stays with the users, the designers and the people in the industry who are actually doing the work. That's my vision for it, that it's not us and it's not about our software...

-it's really just about us using the fact that we have lots of customers and users and so forth as a way of using our position to help bring them together.

Right, absolutely, and I've shared with people that you don't need to be an Altium user to come to this event.

No that's true...

-and it's like no one really believes that but it really is true. You could come using another mainstream tool and you would have to endure us rolling out the new release of Altium Designer for 45 minutes...

-other than that, you will just be getting good learning, meeting with other designers so...

Yeah if I go by memory right, we had something in the order of, I don't know, a dozen main stage presentations or so, and of those, two of them were by Altium people.

And the rest were not. We had probably, I think two dozen, actual learning sessions that were, kind of focused on training and developing skills and so forth and of those, I think maybe four or so were really focused on Altium Designer. And sure, we could show what we typically did was show,  how after you spent the bulk of the time learning, how you attack a problem, you'd show how that could be done in Altium Designer, but it wasn't about solving it with Altium Designer, it was about solving it so, and I'm frankly, I'm kind of like proud of that and proud we didn't make it a place where you just  come and hear about Altium and we market to you, and sell to you and so forth it's not about that.

Well you really are the champion of that and I am your proud sidekick in that regards because honestly I didn't know any company would let somebody like me, do this, but it's being driven from the top so I love that, that you're kind of holding on to that. This is about community...

-dang it - so for those of you who are listening, please know that you are welcome to join us at AltiumLive 2018 in San Diego, October 3rd through 5th, and the website is up, registration's open, and because the attendees asked us to last year, we've added a full university's day, where there's more tool training because people actually complained a little bit that we didn't train them enough on our tool. So kudos to us, but we again, didn't want to mingle that into our main program, so we set aside 100 - 160 spots on the front end where we will teach you in the tool, and keep the rest of it rather tool agnostic and then also in parallel our friendly Ritchie has agreed to teach a full day on high speed design which will be a real treat. And all of this, the price is silly-low, and it's in beautiful San Diego so there's just no downside to it as far as I can see so we're all looking forward to seeing you there.


I wrote a note here Ted, and I'm just gonna ask you about it and we may have already covered it but you had mentioned something to me about AltiumX was that about the transformation part, our x-factor?

Well that's a little bit of a, little bit of an internal code name, right now for the the projects surrounding this connection between Altium Designer 19 and manufacturing...


So we've kind of covered it and you won't see a product called AltiumX, but yeah, you know as often happens when products and projects kind of come to life, they don't have a brand associated with them and we look for clever little ways to talk about them internally before we know that people can kind of rally around and know what we're talking about and AltiumX was that, well for this project at least for a while. And we've talked about different ways to brand it and talk about it and so forth but it's really the key thing; is it's a part of Altium Designer, this isn't gonna be a separate product and actually I will say that that's one of the things that's interesting and and I think valuable about Altium Designer, is that it's always been this idea of that it's not kind of like module, by module, by module, but it's one thing that gives you the capabilities that you need and where there are exceptions, it's because we have partners involved and they need to know how much of their product is going on, and so forth but largely if it's Altium, if it's things that we develop internally, we make it a part of that product.

So it's really simple to know what it is you want, you want that one thing Altium Designer, it's really simple to buy it there's one price and it's hopefully really simple to to work with us, and do business with us and in that notion, we call it easy-to but that's when you get to the spirit of Altium, and and our identity and everything, I think that's another piece of it that I didn't talk about before, but it's another part of what we think is really important, is that we just make it easy for people to know what they're  dealing with, who they're dealing with and how they work with us and so forth. Even how they use the product, try to work hard to make everything easy to do.

Right, and I think we're living up to that - we're not perfect, we've got lots of growing to do...

That's true.

Always but when I, because I have the privilege of sponsoring teams and different things as part of my job. Often people will come to me and go, oh my gosh! This was so easy to install it only took me... I was up and running in an hour instead of half a day or whatever, so I I sort of hear that feedback so it makes me proud to be part of this team.

So Ted, thanks so much, I know you're such a busy guy and you're spinning a few dozen plates at all times so, thanks for taking the time to sit down with us and share with the people who are listening to podcast.

Well, thanks for giving me the chance to do that and I hope that I was able to give enough insight and something interesting and exciting for people to think about. Love to have people come to AltiumLive and hear more about what we're doing and also hear from their peers in the community but, like I said we're really excited about kind of the journey that we're on. This whole transformation of electronics and we are now starting to feel like we can, we're starting to see light at the end of that tunnel and we've got a long ways to go but there's enough light there that I think with AD19 and AltiumLive that's gonna really start to be exposed in ways that will stop people in their tracks, and so I'm excited about that.

I'm so excited about that and I don’t even know about some of the stuff you guys do, so we'll all learn at AltiumLive so, I hope you will join us. Thank you so much for listening to our podcast. I do encourage you to register for AltiumLive, coming up in October in San Diego we should be in Munich, I believe the mid-January. We're just locking that down now, so bear with us while we get that locked down. And remember, whether you use our tools or not, you're more than welcome and we would love to have you just join us and rub shoulders and be part of the community. So thank you, again Ted, for joining us today. And thank you for listening, or watching, and we look forward to being with you next time, until then always stay on track.


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About Author

About Author

Judy Warner has held a unique variety of roles in the electronics industry for over 25 years. She has a background in PCB Manufacturing, RF and Microwave PCBs and Contract Manufacturing, focusing on Mil/Aero applications. 

She has also been a writer, blogger, and journalist for several industry publications such as Microwave Journal, PCB007 Magazine, PCB Design007, PCD&F, and IEEE Microwave Magazine, and an active board member for PCEA (Printed Circuit Engineering Association). In 2017, Warner joined Altium as the Director of Community Engagement. In addition to hosting the OnTrack Podcast and creating the OnTrack Newsletter, she launched Altium's annual user conference, AltiumLive. Warner's passion is to provide resources, support, and advocate for PCB Design Engineers worldwide.

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