Open VLSI doors for a Fresher

What does a VLSI industry expect from a fresher & how does this industry works?

As a fresher, most of the people are unaware of the VLSI industry. Simply we could describe it as the industry which makes chips that we use in our day to day life!

Most people think, it is difficult to get a job in VLSI domain. I had the same thought while pursuing my bachelors. This is because of the lack of awareness on this Industry. Some basic skills and knowledge are required to work in VLSI domain.

Some of the big players in VLSI are Intel, AMD, Xilinx, Micron, NxP, Nvedia, Qualcomm etc.

To know what the industry expects, first we need to understand the role of engineers & skills required in VLSI industry.

Engineering Roles in VLSI

● FPGA
● ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuits)
● Physical Designers
● Board Designers

FPGA: Engineers design, develop and build prototype followed by verification of circuits in a specific FPGA board. Since it is a board more or like an Arduino, one has the provision to reprogram it and create new circuits within it and play around.

In ASIC, Engineers involve in making a specific chip which is only used for a specific purpose, and once manufactured no further alterations are possible.

Physical designers are supposed to design gate level circuits using CAD tools.

Board designers will design PCB boards using the above mentioned ASIC, FPGA, Processors etc and make the end product.

In the VLSI industry, verification is the most critical area to be focused since it is not acceptable to have even a single bug in a chip. It’s because of this, ratio of designer to verifiers in VLSI industry is about 1:3 leading to a conclusion that there are a lot of job opportunities for them.

What VLSI industry expects from you?

Board designers require good knowledge in analogue electronics. Other than board designers, rest of the three Domains expects digital design skills.

When you hear the term VLSI, most of the people will be thinking about transistors, their integrations and so on. But beyond that, it’s important to understand that the backbone of 80% of the VLSI industry is digital circuit design.

Freshers need to have a clear idea about the digital circuits from the very basic Number system, Boolean algebra, Truth table, Combinational circuits- MUX, DEMUX, ENCODER, DECODER, ADDER, SUBTRACTOR, Sequential circuits – Flip Flops, Latch, Counters, Registers, FIFO to Kmap, Static timing analysis, FSM, Basic Architecture of FPGA’s, etc.

For those who are aware and have a keen interest on digital circuits, VLSI is the right domain. And for those who are unaware about the same but at the same time, feel that this may be my cup of tea, never step back because once I belonged to the your category, and took 3 attempts to pass LCD. It’s after that, I realized the scope in this industry and start developing skills and now i find it really interesting and worthwhile.

Does knowledge on programming Language necessary?

Obviously, as a hardware designer, you should learn any of the Hardware Description Languages (HDL) (Either Verilog / VHDL). EDA lab during 3rd semester (Xilinx ISE Design Suite) of B Tech is the best reference with regard to the same.

Even though one need not have in-depth understanding about hardcore digital design programming, Industries are expecting at least any one of the HDL (Verilog/VHDL) and design small combinational and sequential circuits using this HDL.

It’s easy to understand the basics knowledge of HDL and the basic difference between a software and hardware description language through YouTube videos.

Remember, If you have a clear knowledge in LCD, Verilog/VHDL is not a big task for you.

Tools Used in the VLSI industry

● FPGA Coding and designing : Xilinx Vivado, Intel Quartus Prime
● Verification Simulators : Cadence NCSIM, VCS, NC Verilog, Model Sim etc
● CDC and Lint Checks/Code Clean up : Synopsis Spyglass
● Board Design : Cadence Allegro, Mentor Graphics Xpedition etc
● Physical Design : Cadence (Cadence Encounter RTL Compiler, Encounter Digital Implementation, Cadence Voltus IC Power Integrity Solution, Cadence Tempus Timing Signoff Solution)
● ASIC : Synopsys (Design Compiler, IC Compiler II, IC Validator, PrimeTime, PrimePower, Prime Rail).

Knowledge on the above mentioned tools are not mandatory, since most of the companies will be providing training on these tools. One shall know the tools and names of different vendors. Understanding the basic digital concept and Verilog / VHDL is mandatory in VLSI.

Grabbing a job in VLSI

1. Create a LinkedIn profile adding all your skills and qualifications,
Don’t hesitate to click CONNECT. Follow/connect to profiles that give info about placement drives/opportunities in different companies. Also follow the companies in LinkedIn, so as to get regular updates.
2. Employee Referral happens in all companies, so we have a chance to get referred if we know people who are working in different companies. Ask them about the openings. So constant contact may fetch you a worthy job.
3. We have so many reputed institutes that provide VLSI Diploma courses [industry based] with placements, so we can opt for courses.
4. The last step is we should keep on tryingg our best. Attend interviews with confidence.

Hope this article could give you a basic idea about what one should learn as fresher to be in VLSI domain.

 About the author

 Er. Anand P S did his B-Tech (ECE) graduation  from APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, Kerala.  He is currently working as the VLSI engineer at Wipro Limited, Hyderabad. He is an active member and volunteer of IEEE and  volunteered for IEEE Kerala Section student activities at various capacities.

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