In the meeting room of Tianshu Zhixin, Liu Yuan appeared on time at the interview site. He is wearing a gray T-shirt and jeans, his expression is slightly serious, and his language is plain but straight to the point.
Liu Yuan has a 14-year career as a chip engineer and has participated in and led 15 chip tapeouts. He is now the head of SoC chip of Tianshu Zhixin, a local chip startup company.
In recent years, China’s chip industry has been booming. Chip engineers have ushered in the spring of career development, and Liu Yuan, a highly qualified engineer, is the backbone of China’s chip industry.
Liu Yuan is an engineer who enjoys front-line R&D very much. He likes to work with a group of engineers with their respective expertise to solve problems together. He told reporters that he may continue to focus on research and development for a long time to come.
In 2007, Liu Yuan graduated from the Department of Microelectronics of Fudan University and successfully entered the AMD Shanghai R&D Center as an engineer focusing on SoC chips. He spent 11 years at AMD. In 2018, he joined Tianshu Zhixin, a local chip startup company, as the head of the latter’s SoC chip.
When Liu Yuan graduated as a chip engineer, Jacky was studying at university. In 2013, Jacky graduated from the Department of Microelectronics of Xi’an Jiaotong University and joined Huawei HiSilicon successfully. Also become a chip engineer, and his direction is to do server interconnect chip research and development.
But unlike Liu Yuan, Jacky finds that his interests are more extensive. He likes communication and coordination. He has switched from HiSilicon to Zhaoyi Innovation, and then switched to Go to a foreign-funded EDA company to do technical support and become the head of this company’s Xi’an station. “For so many years, I have dealt with many chip companies, cutting a little bit of the market, and a little bit of technology. I like to do serial work. This kind of work is quite meaningful.”In the era when Liu Yuan and Jacky graduated, chips were not so popular, but Abramovich, a younger chip engineer, recognized the opportunity in the chip industry and transformed from a hardware engineer to a chip engineer.
In 2016, Abramovich, who studied electronic communications, graduated from Southeast University with a postgraduate and successfully entered a foreign communications giant as a hardware engineer. The hardware development language used by Abramovich is also the development language commonly used by chip engineers. In 2019, with the sanctions of Huawei, the domesticSeeing, Abramovich, on the one hand, out of his interest in chips, on the other hand, he also wants to make a little contribution as a chip industry. From this foreign communications giant to a famous domestic chip design company, he became a digital-analog hybrid chip engineer. .
Abramovich’s new job transition is very smooth. Compared with the previous hardware engineers, he prefers the current chip engineers. At present, his career plan is the same as Liu Yuan, he likes to focus on the front line of chip research and development and become a senior chip engineer.
Join the chip industry
Liu Yuan studied in the Department of Electronics of Fudan University. At that time, computer and electronics were both very popular majors, but he was very The chip also has no clear recognition. The four-year undergraduate degree gave him a certain understanding and knowledge of the chip industry, so he studied at the School of Microelectronics of Fudan University when he was admitted to the postgraduate school.
Liu Yuan, who graduated from postgraduate in 2007, entered AMD’s Shanghai R&D Center. His department is responsible for the development of discrete graphics cards, and he has been doing SoC-related things personally.
Liu Yuan has spent 11 years at AMD, and has grown into a very senior chip engineer. He has participated in the development and tape-out of many AMD chips.
“When I was in graduate school, I had a lot of opportunities to understand the chip industry and also had practical experience in operation. Therefore, when I entered AMD, I didn’t get used to it. In addition, AMD has a complete set of System, everyone can get very good support and growth.” Liu Yuan said that in his graduation years, foreign investment was still preferred, and his treatment was better than that of local companies, and his management was formal and his career prospects were good.
Liu Yuan feels that even in a chip multinational company like AMD, there is no difference in the ability of Chinese engineers. Instead, R&D is very practical and can do a lot of work. Very detailed. “If you want to say something different, Chinese engineers may be more conservative in communication and expression.” Entering the information society, the chip industry as an information-based industry is increasingly valued , Both private capital and national policies are tilted in the chip field, which brings industry development dividends to chip engineers. Senior chip engineers are constantly being poached by competitors with high salaries, even if companies do not switch jobs in order to retain employees, salaries have risen.
Liu Yuan also expressed that these years of intuitive experienceThe salary of chip engineers is increasing, but compared with engineers in the Internet industry, there is still a big gap in the salary of engineers in the chip industry.
But this industry is indeed full of temptations. Jacky said that in the past few years, when engineers changed jobs, they needed to contact job opportunities by themselves, but now they often receive calls from headhunters and usually change jobs. Both have increased.
A well-known domestic IC foundry is also plagued by employee hopping. The high-paying digging of outside companies has caused a serious loss of senior engineers.
Abramovich’s transfer to the ranks of chip engineers also illustrates the attractiveness of this industry. Abu said that his salary has increased from this time, and his new unit has better job positions and career prospects.
Jacky, who works in Xi’an, often counsels college students on future career orientations in Xi’an colleges and universities. His point is that the industry should lower the threshold to allow more non-profits Graduates of prestigious schools also have the opportunity to enter this field, which can solve the problem of talent shortage. “The circle of chip engineers is relatively closed, all of which are domestic colleges and universities. The threshold is relatively high and the number of graduates is relatively small.”
According to the “White Paper on Talents in China’s Integrated Circuit Industry” (2019-2020 Edition)” statistical analysis shows that the number of employees in China’s integrated circuit industry is increasing year by year. In 2019, the number of employees is about 512,000, an increase of 11% year-on-year. The average salary of the semiconductor industry has increased by 4.75% year-on-year. The development environment is gradually increasing. Trend to improve. However, after the current industrial development trend, the total supply of integrated circuit talents is still insufficient, and there are also structural imbalances. It is urgent to solve the disconnection between industry and education through the construction of integrated circuit disciplines and the construction of an education platform for integration of industry and education. Supply and demand mismatch and other issues.
Technology is equal
For chip engineers, everything depends on technology. If you are an expert in this field and have a certain depth of technology, then you will be very “valuable”.
“Technology is technology, and technology is equal. If you encounter a problem, you know this link best, then it must be solved by you, and others will Trust you and provide you with support.” Liu Yuan said that the chip industry relies on accumulation. Accumulation takes time, and it is useless to rush. Time cannot be bypassed unless you want to cut corners.
Liu Yuan said that AMD gave him two personal feelings of equality and openness.
“No matter how high-level people in AMD are when they talk to you, they are very humble. When they encounter technical problems, everyone discusses how to solve them. At the same time, AMD is also very Openness allows us young people who have entered to really learn something.” Liu Yuan said.
Similarly, for the sake of technology, Abramovich chose to change jobs. Abu said that his foreign company department was relatively marginal. Although the working environment is relatively relaxed, the technology is mainly self-experienced and learned from the project, and he is still wary of Chinese engineers, and it is relatively difficult to access the company’s new core technology. “It’s not the same when entering a local company. Technically, it will certainly not guard against Chinese employees, but try to train them with all one’s strength. The feeling is different.”
Liu Yuan It is said that the communication between chip engineers revolves around the technology itself, even if the exchanges between multinational engineers are the same.
When the problem of how China solves the problem of chip “stuck neck” was thrown to three chip engineers, the answers were roughly the same, which required time and accumulation.
Liu Yuan said that solving the “stuck neck” requires some patience from everyone. Chip is a long-term industry and it is too expensive.
” It really needs financial help, policy help, and a large number of experienced engineers. These factors must be appropriate and must be put together, and you Give it enough patience and time. Technology itself has certain objective laws. If you want to do this thing well, you have to give him so long. If you shorten the time, then he can only sacrifice certain things. Children come as a price.” Liu Yuan said.
Jacky, who has turned to market and strategy in recent years, looks at the “stuck neck” phenomenon from another aspect. “Chips are divided into linings and face. In the past 20-30 years, we have used other people’s linings to make our own face. Now it takes time to have our own linings.” Jacky said that in the past, the Chinese market was oriented and companies only To make products with market prospects, but ignore some basic research and development, now realize the problem, take some time to catch up.
The young man Abramovich is still studying fast. He still can’t give an answer to this “grand proposition”, but he also firmly believes that it will take some time for the Chinese Engineers to Catch up.
“In 2017, when I learned that several of my former colleagues came to Zhixin, I also I want to join this team because a few of them have been working on technology for so many years. We know each other well and feel that we can do something with them.” Liu Yuan joined Tianshuzhi from AMD with the idea of ”doing something”. Core, I hope these people can work together to have a say in the GPGPU (General Purpose GPU) market.
“Although I have taped out many times in AMD before, and I am very excited every time, this time is different. I feel more excited by doing it myself.” Liu Yuan refers to the first 7-nanometer cloud training chip BI of Tianshu Zhixin.
The information disclosed by Tianshu Zhixin earlier shows that BI is my country’s first fully self-developed high-performance cloud 7-nanometer chip, GPGPU cloud high-end based on general GPU architecture Training chip, single core can perform 147 trillion FP16 calculations per second (147TFLOPS@FP16).
Liu Yuan said that because it is a SoC chip, a complete process is needed to turn the design team designed into a chip. “In the past, at AMD, every process has a support team to help you, allowing you to execute it correctly and do this thing well. The probability of error in this project is very small, because so many products have been made and polished. But there is no process and no platform. We need to build the platform while making the product.”
Liu Yuan said that the reason for building a platform is to continue designing chips in the future. Use, make sure that there is no problem with the product after coming out of the platform. “I don’t want to be a one-off sale. I hope to continue to iterate and optimize this platform. It turns out that when I entered AMD, the platform already existed. Every link has a support team. If you make a mistake, someone will point it out to you immediately. The platform is to leave anyone, and the product can still come out on time, but our start-up company relies entirely on the experience of engineers, and builds it from scratch.”
Liu Yuan It is said that before sending this chip to the tape out, every link has been checked countless times, and I am worried that there will be problems, hoping to be foolproof, and the tape out is successful. “Tanking out a film is very expensive. A small company like ours can’t allow mistakes”
JackyNow it is also “doing something” for the Chinese chip industry. The EDA company where it works is docking with many Chinese chip design companies, and it needs to do technical support work for these companies. In addition, as mentioned in the previous article, Jacky has been providing career direction counseling for many graduates, hoping that they can successfully find a suitable career direction.
Jacky said that he does not rule out that one day when the time is right, he also chooses to start a business. Years of technology and market experience have provided him with the quality requirements and ability elements of an entrepreneur.
Abramovich has few people in the research and development direction of digital-analog hybrid chips. He is very satisfied with what he is doing now and is striving to become a senior chip engineer.
Returning from a foreign company to the mainland
Liu Yuan and Abramovich’s first job was a foreign company. Local companies are transferred to foreign companies. But generally speaking, with China’s emphasis on chips and the influx of capital into the chip industry, more chip engineers have returned from foreign companies to local companies, or are more willing to choose local companies when they graduate.
Liu Yuan believes that foreign-funded enterprises are more formal and can learn a lot from a lot of process-oriented things. However, many foreign-funded enterprises are not willing to focus on their core business. R&D is in China.
“My current salary is higher than the original foreign investment, the process is also very complete, and I will encourage and urge employees to learn, I feel better than foreign companies.” Abu The job-hopping reflects the choices of many young engineers now, and the advantages of foreign companies in terms of salary and job prospects are no longer obvious.
Jacky, standing on the front-end EDA platform of the chip industry, has also seen the rise of a large number of start-up chip companies in China in recent years. Jacky said that market demand and capital boost have created a large number of start-up chip companies. At present, a hundred flowers are blooming, and a number of competitive companies will be born in the future.
“The venture capital industry and many companies that are going to go public offer chip engineers very high salaries, which are attractive to many engineers.” Jacky said. At the beginning of the year, chip engineers had good opportunities.
Indeed, today’s Chinese chip industry has gathered many factors such as policies, funds, and markets, and chip talent has ushered in the best era.
According to third-party statistics, as of October 27, 2020, there were more than 270,000 businesses in China that included “integrated circuits, chips, semiconductors” and their status was active , Related companies that survive, move in, and move out, which will accommodate a large number of chip talents. In addition, last year the country put forward the goal of achieving a 70% chip self-sufficiency rate by 2025, which gives chip companies a broad stage.
“When you look up and you can’t see clearly, then bow your head and walk the way under your feet.” Liu Yuan said that engineers focus on technical details, and doing their own thing is the most important thing. Because the chip is a very strict thing, the technology has the final say.