It was interesting to read the news about my former employer Synopsys coming out with a byproduct in the form of supercomputer . In normal circumstances, you don’t expect an EDA company to build a super computer, even in your wildest imagination. Believe it or not, some Synopsys engineers developed world’s 242-nd powerful supercomputer (see this link from eetimes). The number 242 doesn’t matter much. They did it. That’s all it matters.
This news is not entirely surprising to me. Not that, I was aware about this plan of Synopsys (if ever they had one!) to build a supercomputer of any sort! I had a long and enjoyable stint at Synopsys at the beginning of my career and I enjoyed every moment of working there. The work culture and the freedom given to engineers to explore new ideas, support to innovate wild engineering issues are something you don’t get to experience in every high tech companies. I think Synopsys in those days were like the Google these days, where every smart engineer longed to work with. Mind you, not everyone necessarily worked in EDA software design in Synopsys. They had a wide portfolio of work groups. For instance, I was working part of a small team focused to develop digital communication (wireless) modem design. I had developed myself as a wireless communication algorithm and system design engineer. It was an enviable looking team spread across three centers (Aachen Herzogenrath in Germany, Bangalore in India and Mountainview CA in USA) of Synopsys. Now, if I were to look back, this team (Could you identify me in this list of photos?) had an amazing bunch of guys. The caliber of this team was something Synopsys failed to use to the fullest potential, especially now that wireless industry prospered big time after Synopsys rather mistakingly decided to get away (from wireless design services). But then, Synopsys is not the only company in the world got this perception wrong. In business, these things ought to happen anyway! Nevertheless, wireless group was some sort of money making machine for them in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
This example is brought in to re iterate the fact that Synopsys always encouraged different engineering opportunities, most of them as part of the services division. Besides, they heavily support their research and development staff to go after adventurous and forward looking problems, whether it is directly related to EDA business or not.
To help matters, they used to get some of the smartest campus out graduates in those days. Synopsys and Cadence were two of the most preferred destinations for EE and CS graduates from IITs and NITs in India and other schools around the world. Things appeared to have changed these days. They are no longer conservative in recruiting, simply because the need of the hour is grow big in number! They are a big company now. The freedom you enjoy in a smaller company is not pertinent when the company grow in proportions. These days, I tend to hear that Google culture is akin to the earlier Synopsys culture.