Have you ever seen the Internal structure of your smartphone? Nope, right? If you will have a look at its internal structure then you will find that there are numbers of Integrated circuits (ICs) connected inside. Not only in your smartphone, almost in all the electronics devices you will find these ICs in huge numbers. Do you know, these ICs are very important for the proper functioning of the device. Processors (Contains numbers of ICs inside it) are considered as a heart of the device. Whatever commands you give through various Inputs that directly goes inside the processor and after executing them, the processor produces an output which is shown on the display. As of now, we talked about ICs and processors. But do you have any Idea that what actually integrated Circuits (ICs) contains inside it?
An Integrated Circuit contains billions of transistors inside it which together perform any specific functionality. Integrated Circuits are embedded in nature that means they are built to perform any specific task. Now, among these all from where VLSI term comes?
What is VLSI?
So, VLSI is an acronym of Very large scale Integration. VLSI is a process through which billions of transistors are integrated together on a small piece of silicon. Don't even think that it's an easy process, which can be done through various existing technologies. Lots of challenges are involved in it & that is why it is quite a popular term. Now, you must be thinking then why it is in trend most of the times?
So, do you still have your last phone which you used before getting the new one? If have, then just have a look on it. You will find that your new phone is much thinner than your last one. Your new phone is now able to run more apps at a time than your previous phone. Battery usage of your new phone is also quite good than the last one. Agree? This is all possible because of the new innovations in the VLSI field. If I try to explain this thing in technical terms then simply over the years technology node has been reduced. The processor of your older phone might have been designed on the 28nm technology node while the phone which you are using currently may have a processor designed on 12nm technology node. So as we are moving towards the lower technology nodes the size of the circuits are getting reduced so as the mobiles and other electronics items are getting thinner. Also, performance of the device is getting better. So, we are getting benefitted through it. Nowadays you must have heard about Mediatek P70 helio processors, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processors. Most of the top-tier flagship phones rely on these processors. These processors are made on 12nm & 7nm technology node respectively. So, this is just to provide you an idea about how fast the VLSI industry is changing and because of its fast innovation, we are getting an improved version of existing electronics devices on frequent intervals. So, I hope as of now you will have a clear picture regarding VLSI & its innovation in your mind.
Now let's talk about something from the student's point of view. Now, what I have experienced is that most of the students have little bit Idea about all of these things but what they don't know is that how to enter in this field as a fresher? How to grab an internship opportunity in the VLSI field? Which courses they should do for a better understanding of the VLSI related subjects? Right?
So, in the remaining part of this roadmap, I will emphasize the ways through which one can apply for the full-time job or as an intern in VLSI companies. I will also enlist some of the courses which will be quite useful for the students who want to make their career in VLSI. So let's start:
There are so many ways through which one can apply for a full-time job or as an Intern in any VLSI company.
1. Linkedin: It always stands at the top in my list. Linkedin is the best platform for jobs & Internship if you use it appropriately. Grow your connections first. And then simply ask your connections who are already working in this VLSI domain that whether they can refer you in their company for any open Job/Intern position. If they replied affirmatively then go through the process directed by them. But make sure you have certain things related to VLSI in your resume which makes you eligible for the job. If you didn't know anything related to VLSI then no one can help you in getting the job. Also, there is a specific section related to Job you can find on the LinkedIn website. You can check this section frequently as most of the companies post about there new openings here with all the required details.
2. Internshala: It's a good website for Internships. You can easily find Internships related to VLSI domains. But again in order to grab those internship opportunities, you should have those skills which can make you different than others. Otherwise, you will simply keep on applying but no one will select you. You can also do some training courses on this website to enhance your skills.
3. Companies Website: There are so many companies which are working in VLSI Domains. Some popular names are Intel, Broadcom, Qualcomm, MediaTek, STMicroelectronics, Synopsys, Invecas, Cadence, etc. You can visit the websites of these companies. In their website, there will be a specific section known as "Career Section". Under the Career section, you can provide all the asked information and upload your resume. If companies will find you suitable and if they have any open positions then they will definitely mail you.
So, these are some ways through which students can apply for Jobs and Internships if any of the company related to VLSI do not come for the recruitment process in their college. If companies visit your college then you can simply appear for their screening tests and if you pass all their tests and Interview then you can get a job easily.
Now, let's discuss about various things which should be in your resume if you want to get a good job in VLSI domain.
1. VLSI Projects:
Projects are the best way to learn anything. When you will make your hands dirty with some projects then you will understand the theoretical concepts in a much better way. You can design a few circuits like Opamps, ADC/DAC, Charge Pumps, etc. on a cadence tool, which is basically used for the VLSI design process in most of the companies. First, learn how to handle the tool and then start with design. For a better understanding of the designs you can follow few textbooks I am listing here:
I am listing few VLSI projects as well on which you can try your hands:
1. Design of LDO(Low Drop Out)
2. Design of BGR Circuit (Band Gap Reference)
3. Design of 2 stage miller compensated Op-Amp
4. Design of folded cascode Op-amp based on gm/Id method
5. Design of 2-bit delta-sigma modulator
6. Design of an Inverter with a capacitive load
7. Design of Half and full adder
8. Design of D- Flip Flop
9. Design of 2nd order charge pump
10. Design of PFD (Phase frequency detector)
11. Design of 2 bit ADC
12. Design of sample and hold circuit
See, whatever projects I have listed here, none of them have any specification. You can take a few assumptions wherever it requires. First of all, you should be able to design the circuit correctly. If you can design the circuit properly then it will not take too much time to get the desired specifications.
2. VLSI Internships:
If you are aiming for Internships then projects play a vital role in getting good internships while in case of job your internships become important. Getting a good Internship is very important because it helps in a different way. Through good Internships, you can get a chance to work with some of the top companies where you get a chance to interact with some of the great minds. It helps in your learning. Meanwhile, who knows your good work during internships may give you a PPO (Pre-placement offer). Also, the network which you build during an internship can help you in your further career. From the money point of view, you may get heavy stipend too. So, don't sit idle look for every internship opportunity which you can get.
It's quite obvious for tier 3 college students that most of the time they may get a rejection from top companies when they applied for their open intern positions. So the best thing is that start doing any work which you get. Doesn't matter whether you are getting paid or not. At the starting of your career what matters is that how much you can learn. Based on your these small learnings someday you may get approval from some big company. So work, wherever you get a chance to do.
3. VLSI Theoretical Knowledge:
You should have a sound knowledge of your theoretical subjects. Although it’s very good to have sound knowledge in all your subjects but there are some specific subjects in which you should have a proper command, if you are looking to make your career in VLSI. I am listing those subjects here:
(i) Network Theory:
VLSI is all related to circuits. And we can't ignore network analysis wherever circuit comes. You should have a sound knowledge of RC Circuits, Capacitor charging, discharging, Impedance matching concept, Laplace transform, Two-port network, Pole-Zero concept, etc. You can follow the following book for a detailed analysis of the mentioned topics.
(ii) Analog Electronics:
This is the subject on which VLSI rely almost. Prepare and learn it by heart. Follow Analog Electronics Roadmap to study it in detail. Read everything and try to find out the rationale behind everything. This subject is very important and somewhere in the industries all of its topics are being used at some level.
You can watch these NPTEL videos for a better understanding of the topic.
(iii) Digital Electronics:
Nowadays things are moving into the digital era so as the importance of digital electronics is increasing. In this subject also you cannot leave any topic. Each & everything is being used. You should have a clear understanding of basic topics like Flip Flops, Latches, Basic Gates, K-map, Mux, Demux, Decoders, Encoders, etc. Then you can easily take it in use for applications.
You can do Digital Systems course from online platform Coursera for better understanding of the subject.
(iv) Control System:
We want that our system should be stable. We use Op-amp mostly in the negative feedback configuration, so we should have a clear idea of feedbacks and all. Because of all this purpose control systems are used in VLSI. There are certain topics which are quite important and one should try to cover them:
1. Different type of signals
2. Different responses of system and their mathematical expression (Underdamped, overdamped, undamped, etc.)
3. Bode Plot, Nyquist plot, Polar plot
4. Feedback mechanism
5. Stability analysis through Routh-Hurwitz method
7. Pole-zero analysis
8. Frequency domain analysis
So, you can have a look at these topics. These topics are very important and generally you will find the application of these devices in the circuit.
(v) Communication system:
You will find the application of this subject in the specific area of VLSI. Communication is mostly used in data converters like ADC, DAC, Sigma-delta modulators, etc. Also, you can find its application in rf related circuits. You should have a clear cut idea of topics like sampling, SNR, quantization, noise, filters, modulators, demodulators, etc.
4. Your Academics:
Most of the companies set their cut off percentage below which you won't be allowed to sit in their recruitment process. So, for the safer side if you have percentage more than 80% overall in your graduation (or till 6th semester) then almost all the companies will allow you to sit in their placement process. So work on your academics and read all the syllabus topics carefully. So that you can get good marks and can sit in almost all the placements. Sometimes you may have knowledge regardless of your percentages but in order to get the good placement, you will have to struggle there. Generally, no one cares how much you know, they will first check whether you are eligible to sit in the recruitment or not then knowledge comes.
So, these are some of the important points which should be in your resume while applying for VLSI Jobs. Other than this if you have something more to add in your resume than it will be a bonus for you but at least try to maintain the above-mentioned points in your resume. Your main aim should be learning. If you will learn well then definitely you will earn well. So, develop those skills first which industries are looking in candidates.
I, hope this roadmap will help you in shaping your career.
Analog Design Engineer