Quite often, I come across this question: What is the career path for an ASIC verification engineer? It’s astounding to see the number of people having doubts and queries regarding career in the field of ASIC/SOC Design Verification. Even though this doubt is primarily surfaced by Students, Recent College Graduates and Junior Engineers, the number of Senior Engineers having this confusion is also equally significant. Hence, I thought of sharing my perspective on this with all our readers.
I am working as an ASIC verification engineer for more than 16 years now, and to be honest I had the same question in my mind in early stages of my career. I was literally confused. But I had some great Mentors who guided me and helped me with all my doubts and queries. I was lucky to have people around me who shared their experiences and stories with me. They motivated me and showed me the right path.
And as I look back, I see that I have learned a lot over the years. I have worked on Verification of several complex design projects at different companies with amazing technologies and with some of the best minds in the world. I still continue to enjoy a career in Verification and here are my inputs based on what I have experienced:
Over last several years, complexity of designs have increased and it continues to increase. Verifying a design is always crucial, as any functional defect in the manufactured chip is going to cost huge money in terms of a new tape out and would present the potential risk of losing a design-win opportunity in the market. My experience shows that project life-cycles are shrinking and there are always bugs to be found in lesser time for every subsequent project. Hence, new methodologies, processes, and innovations are critical and would continue to remain important. Many people feel that innovation in ASIC/SOC Design Verification is only limited to EDA tools. This is NOT true. EDA tools facilitates lots of usage models, but in reality these usage models are defined and applied by Verification Engineers and Architects.
Becoming an expert in Verification Domain is not an easy job. It involves much more than just running a test. A successful ASIC verification engineer should have good software programming skills, thorough understanding of various verification concepts (for modelling testbenches/stimulus), sound hardware/logic design reasoning skills (for understanding the internals of design micro-architecture), and good critical thinking skills (that facilitate understanding all aspects of a design and finding all the defects efficiently).
In today's SOC design world, the scope of an ASIC verification engineer has increased from mere functional simulations to Formal Verification, FPGA/prototype emulation, HW/SW Co-Verification, Performance Verification, and many more. There are career opportunities in each of these areas where you can deep-dive, build your expertise, and become a valuable asset for a company.
With all that said, you can build a career starting from a beginner level Verification Engineer to an Expert Verification Engineer who could be respected, could influence people, and could contribute towards goals of a company all the way from product definition, design architecture, SW development, and even customer deployment and interactions. I have personally seen some people doing this.
It’s always good to have a mentor who can help you with all your queries and solve all your doubts regarding your career. Usually I try to have my role models as my mentors. If you working in an organization, look for the people who you think you would want to be like in next 5-10 years. Talk to them about their career progression, how did they reach there, and discuss your career plans with them.
There can be different designations through this career path, and these designations may vary from company to company, but that should given less importance. According to me, Learning should take preference. And like any other field, becoming an expert is not an easy affair. You are the one who need to put in all the hard-work to achieve success. There would be difficulties, there would be obstacles, but you need to be strong and motivated enough to move ahead. And, having clarity on different career options available for VLSI Verification Engineers would definitely help!
Best Wishes !
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