Engineering your development

Author : Mark Gradwell

24 May 2017

EPDT explores the value industry events can offer to electronics design & test engineers for professional development.

NIWeek kicks off this week in Austin, Texas, moving from its traditional sweltering August spot to a more manageable May for the first time. Test and measurement disruptor National Instruments has hosted its global technical user conference in ATX annually for almost two decades, growing it into an impressive event which attracts a global audience of several thousand engineers, educators, and students, with around a third of delegates coming from outside the Americas.

Offering professional-grade keynotes; external speakers and case studies; 200+ hours of interactive technical conference sessions (arranged in tracks that map to technologies, applications and industries); 35+ hours of hands-on sessions; 125+ exhibitors, academic and partner tracks; panel discussions; industry awards; certification and training; and networking opportunities, NI bill it as the ultimate learning environment for engineers wanting to learn how to implement advanced technology for industrial design, measurement and control, while discovering emerging trends in science and industry. Of course, it’s also a platform for them to announce and promote their latest products, evangelise their platform and approach (to a receptive audience), and generate buzz and media coverage. EPDT has attended in the past and it’s fair to say one description we’ve heard – the LabVIEW love-in – is fairly accurate.

That said, we wholeheartedly believe industry events, including those run by technology creators and vendors, like NIWeek, as well as others run by exhibition companies, conference organisers, publishers, public bodies or institutions, can be enormously valuable for engineers (and their employers) looking to invest in their skills and knowledge development. Most of us recognise that engineering has become increasingly multidisciplinary, with lines blurring between electronics and mechanical engineers, design and test engineers, and software and systems engineers (and all alongside the ubiquitous need for RF, wireless and communications engineering skills). And the pace of innovation, resource and budget constraints, consumer expectations, time-to-market pressures and the grand challenges society faces, all amplify the demands placed upon engineers to deliver remarkable solutions every day.

The right industry events can provide invaluable opportunities for engineers to learn and develop their skills, hear from other engineers about their applications, explore new technologies and approaches, see them in action, and network with their peers. Some of these opportunities can be accessed online (NIWeek offers livestream and on-demand access to keynotes, for instance), but if you can justify any cost (some events are even offered free-of-charge) and the time out of the office, there really is no substitute for the face-to-face experience and interactions. And whilst many large global events do take place in the US (particularly those hosted by American firms), there are also plenty of local offerings closer to home (NI offers a condensed, but still very worthwhile version of NIWeek, NIDays, in the UK and many other countries around the world).

Over the coming weeks and months, EPDT will look to explore and share those that we think are worth your time and attention – and we would love to hear from you about the events you value (or even those you don’t!), and why. Why not get in touch!

Mark Gradwell

Consultant Editor, EPDT

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