Answering your Questions about Power Design  

FAE Confidential

Field application engineers (FAEs) working at power semiconductor and power supply companies have to deal with a range of customer problems and issues. These customer experiences can be enlightening on many levels. In working to serve customers, FAEs also must deal with their companies’ business priorities, organizational capabilities and management styles, which can help and at times hinder their efforts to serve customers. In FAE Confidential, FAEs share their experiences, putting the technical work they do in a real world context and offering lessons learned. The columns presented here were originally published on the How2Power home page. If you’re interested in writing an article for FAE Confidential, contact the editor.

The War On FAEs (Part 4): Personal Reinvention

by C.V. Ferro

The earlier parts of this article series discussed the evolution of the role of the semiconductor FAE from the good times of the early years when FAEs had some autonomy and influence within their companies, to the more recent times when their influence has waned, or worse yet, their roles have been devalued and their work undermined. In this latest edition to the series, the author shares recent experiences as an FAE that forced him to reconsider his career choice. –The Editor. Read the full article…

Supporting The Design Engineer (Part 2): Life After Covid

by a member of the OT Club

As discussed in part 1, in the years before Covid, engineers at OEM companies became turned off to taking meetings with component suppliers because the meetings were all about the suppliers’ interests. Rather than serving the customers, they were mainly about getting the tracking info out of them so that everyone in the supplier world could justify their existence. This was well underway before Covid. But then Covid magnified the reasons customers don’t want to meet with vendors. Here in part 2, I’ll discuss those changes and what engineers want from component suppliers today. Read the full article…

Supporting The Design Engineer (Part 1): Life Before Covid

by a member of the OT Club

In the electronics industry, Covid has had a significant impact in accelerating trends that were already in motion. In other words, the changes I am about to describe were already occurring, only slowly. But then the arrival of Covid with all the associated corporate rules, policies and regulations that followed, fast forwarded the change in the ways that FAEs at electronics companies and others interact with their customers’ engineers. So, changes that probably would have taken a decade or more without Covid took effect in just a few months to two years. Read the full article…

Policy Vs. Engineering: The Brawl For Common Sense In Design

by CV Ferro

Sometimes safety issues arise during a product design review and the engineer is required to speak up and say no, it’s not ready. But what happens when the pressure is on to meet deadlines, and management puts heavy pressure on the engineers to release the design to production? How do you withstand this pressure? And more importantly, what could happen if you don’t? Read the full article…

If It Ain’t Broke, Let’s Break It!

by a member of the OT Club

In previous columns, the OT Club discussed how finance dictated changes in the roles of semiconductor field application engineers (FAEs), but they also had an impact on the in-house application engineers who respond to customer inquiries. This is something I witnessed during a stint at a major semiconductor company. This falls into the category of something you just cannot believe unless you lived it. Read the full article…

The War On FAEs (Part 3): Management Shifts To Active Aggression

by the OT Club

Today, as semiconductor FAEs we often find ourselves in a hostile work environment in which management has initiated a full-scale war to get rid of us or at least minimized our standing. In this third and final part of the series, we will delve further into the factors that created the current atmosphere for FAEs and how these factors have affected us. We’ll also offer a couple basic strategies to deal with the day-to-day frustrations of being an FAE. Read the full article…

The War On FAEs (Part 2): New Management Brings Benign Neglect

by the OT Club

In part one of this series, we recounted the heyday of the semiconductor FAEs (field applications engineers), which started in the late 60s and lasted into the 90s. During this time, companies treated their FAEs like kings, encouraging and supporting them in all their efforts to assist customers, and valuing their input on market requirements when defining new products. We also contrasted the work conditions for semiconductor FAEs during the good times with those that exist today to highlight how much the role of the FAE has changed. But how and why did the FAE role change so radically? Here in part 2 we attempt to answer that question by discussing the period when companies began to question the value of their FAEs and started cutting back on the support they were given. Read the full article…

The War On FAEs (Part 1): Remembering When FAEs Ruled

by the OT Club

If you’ve been working in the electronics industry for a while, as a user of electronic components, you may have noticed some changes in the levels and quality of service that your semiconductor FAEs provide. If you’ve been working on the other side of the fence, as a semiconductor FAE, then you may be even more keenly aware of these changes. The writers of this article fall into the latter category. As longtime semiconductor FAEs, we have experienced the changes first hand. This article is about the long-term shifts in how semiconductor manufacturers have treated our role as FAEs as a result of the “financialization” of the business. Read the full article…

Advice To Power Supply Designers (Part 2): The High-Performance Semiconductor Vendor Brings Value

by P.S. Wacher, Semiconductor Industry Veteran

In part 1, the author discussed how engineers working at power supply companies can identify the “needy” component vendors, who tend to waste the engineer’s time, compete almost solely on price and don’t offer much in the way of leading technology or service. While it’s important to recognize and avoid such vendors, it’s equally important that designers be able to identify those vendors who do bring value and help the customers design and build better products. In this part 2 article, the author describes the characteristics of these high-performance or preferred vendors and how they work with customers. Read the full article…

Advice To Power Supply Designers (Part 1): Beware The Needy Semiconductor Vendor

by P.S. Wacher, Semiconductor Industry Veteran

Due to the market pressures, U.S. power supply design engineers have aggressive schedules and project deadlines while operating with limited personnel. Therefore it’s logical to expect that these customers are now less likely to freely allocate their time to component vendors that do not offer them a compelling advantage/service to support their objectives. In this two-part article series, the author—a longtime semiconductor FAE himself—discusses why companies (and their engineers) need to be careful in determining which semiconductor vendors they meet with and how much time they spend with them. Here in part 1, he explains how engineers can identify the “needy” semiconductor vendor that wastes the customer’s time and offers little beyond low price. While cost pressures may give these vendors a foot-in-the-door with customers, there are serious risks to working with them as the author explains. Read the full article…

Saving Face American Style: Engineering Integrity Can Be Detrimental In Post-Global Business Culture

by Paul L. Schimel, PE

A dear friend wrote to me about an interview he’d had for an FAE position at a big power semiconductor company. It started out with an urgent call from a senior staff sales engineer. But as my friend told the interviewer about the deep skills and experience he would bring to serving the customer, it became apparent that such abilities would not be considered assets in a business where sales booked per quarter were all that mattered. Read the full article…

The Case Of The MOSFET Failure

by Paul L. Schimel, PE

With its hush-hush tone and private eye logo, the FAE Confidential column evokes memories of old-style detective stories on TV and in print. This very first article in the FAE Confidential series is very much inline with the private-eye theme as the author relates how he solved the mystery behind his customer’s blown MOSFET. Here he explains how he worked with his company’s RMA department and the customer to determine the likely reason for the device failure. But as you’ll discover, the greater mystery here is not so much why this particular MOSFET failed, but how the system of dealing with such customer problems has evolved to a place that makes finding such answers less and less likely. Read the full article…

To read the latest edition of FAE Confidential, see the How2Power home page.

Want to read more about
the latest developments in
Power Supply technology?

Signup for our newsletter How2Power Today

About | Design Guide | Newsletter | SiC & GaN | Power Magnetics | Power Links | Events | Careers | Bookstore | Consultants | Contacts | Home | Sitemap   

This site is protected by copyright laws under U.S. and international law. All rights reserved.