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Wally Rhines – An Engineer’s System Engineer

CEO of Mentor Graphics Wally Rhines is honored for his technical and business achievements with the 2015 Kaufman Award.

By John Blyler, Editorial Director

Last night, Dr. Walden (Wally) C. Rhines, chairman and CEO of Mentor Graphics Corp., was awarded the prestigious 2015 Phil Kaufman Award for Distinguished Contributions to Electronic Design Automation (EDA) by the EDA Consortium (EDAC) and the IEEE Council on EDA (CEDA). (see EDAC video)

Other writers will recount the actual event. I imagine that many will label Wally as the engineer’s engineer – and rightly so. He received the Kaufman award as much for his technical expertise as for his business acumen, specifically for “pioneering the evolution of IC design to system-on-chip (SoC) design and as a leading voice of EDA.”

Anyone who has listened to Wally’s presentations or talked with him over a cigar and brandy, will quickly recognize that his technical depth goes beyond the EDA space into other domains and engineering disciplines.

For this reason and others, I say that Wally is really an engineer’s “System” engineer.” (I use the capital “S” to emphasize systems beyond a particular domain.) He has consistently focused on the big picture for both semiconductor technology and process development. By the latter, I mean successfully moving his company into markets that would benefit from the tools and process solutions created by the EDA community, for example, automotive electronics, aerospace and medical.

Without neglecting Mentor Graphics’ position in the ever more complex EDA space, Wally has proactively reacted to broad supply chain pressures to engage beyond the semiconductor tor market. This change is evident as Mentor’s continued growth in the design and manufacturing of printed circuit boards, software development and connectivity in the quickly emerging Internet-of-Things (IoT) markets.

By taking a systems perspective, Wally has acted on the forces that are greatly reshaping the semiconductor industry while others seem to just talk about those changes.

In the future, perhaps there will be an award for successfully transitioning up the semiconductor supply chain and outward into other industries. If so, I know an excellent candidate.

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