PCB Creativity and Training: To Take A Training Class or Not?

John Magyar
|  Created: February 21, 2017  |  Updated: March 16, 2020

online training for pcb design is not this frustrating, promise

When it comes to learning a new PCB design software, how important is it to take a training class?

Something I often ask new users, infrequent users, or prospects considering Altium, is if they thought about taking a training class. The answer predictably starts with a grimace, proceeds with a hesitant “yes, however…”, and typically concludes with multiple objections regarding time away from work, cost of the course, and other associated expenses. Such a reaction is similar to that of considering a visit to the dentist--one knows it’s the right thing to do, delaying the decision could have unexpected consequences, but the time off, the driving, the expense, the hassle.

So the question to take training can end up deferred indefinitely and the usual justifications set in. The current project is way too critical to step away from now. Management will have endless questions regarding the expenses. Or my favorite, “it’s just another EDA tool, we can Google our way through a couple of board layouts--we’re a pretty sharp group with years of experience, we’ll get the hang of it.”

Every project is time and budget critical. While stepping away from a project for three or four days seems inconceivable, it can actually save time in the short term and long term. A qualified corporate instructor not only takes you step by step through the entire design process, he or she has deep insight on the development of specific capabilities and can help you avoid problems. Three or four days invested in training could potentially save you as many or more days avoiding complications or contentious iterations with fabricators and assemblers on current and future projects.

Planned expenses usually require a prudent justification. Something to keep in mind is that a qualified instructor can introduce you to time-saving techniques and methods to improve your productivity. Even though you may currently be able to get a design through the entire process from start to finish, a passionate instructor can discuss dozens of tips and tricks, saving you minutes, hours, or even days on each board. Certified instructors know where users commonly get tripped up and can show you how to steer clear of potential problems.

Finding information online is easy. Getting accurate instruction online can easily be misleading. Google searches can retrieve pages of information on just about any command usage in any design tool. However, is such information always correct? Or is it presented in the interest of best practices? Unqualified information sources can lead you astray and ingrain bad habits which one day will result in unexpected consequences. Respins hurt--especially when they can be avoided by proper knowledge of the design tool’s capabilities.

Over the years I have instructed well over one hundred classes. The most rewarding moments have been when students realize they have been struggling with some aspect of the design or verification process, simply because they never knew a certain command, shortcut, or methodology existed. It is very common for me to hear “What? I never knew that one simple command could have saved me days of effort on our last project!" Instructing is like being an astute tour guide--taking students on a journey from point A to point B, keeping them on path while also showing them as many interesting and useful things as possible.

So no question, training is not something to defer or ignore. Jumping right in and getting trained by a corporate certified instructor can be an enjoyable experience saving you time and money almost immediately. A classroom setting gives you the opportunity to focus on the design process and directly engage the company instructor on a multitude of topics. The classroom is also a relaxed environment to meet potential clients, industry specific contractors, or like minded professionals. Definitely a much better experience than going to the dentist, but just as important. So why question it?

How Can Training Make You More Creative?

Training can make you more efficient, save you time, and expose you to features and functions you may not have known. But perhaps more important, training can unleash your creativity with the time and functional gains. And, when your creativity is opened, you have fun doing what you enjoy. Find out more about how training with Altium can help you enjoy your job more by downloading this white paper.

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About Author

About Author

With an emphasis on microprocessor systems design, John earned his Bachelor of Science degree from SUNY Polytechnic Institute. He initially worked as a design engineer in the Defense industry developing diagnostic test programs for complex PCBs. Subsequently, John has worked as a senior application engineer in the EDA industry supporting a wide range of ASIC, FPGA, and PCB design and verification solutions.

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