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Missing Search Skills

James Truchard, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of National Instruments Corp. (NI,, the Austin, Texas-based test products and automation vendor, is a strong proponent of systems engineering as a discipline.

James Truchard, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of National Instruments Corp
James Truchard, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of National Instruments Corp
“The automation engineers of the future will have to be able to work from the systems point of view. Rather than simply working as mechanical engineers, or electrical or electronics engineers, they’ll be putting the whole system together,” Truchard observes. This means that training people at the systems engineering level will be critical, he says, and that tools suppliers such as NI will need to work hard to provide the infrastructure and the appropriate level of abstraction needed by future systems engineers.

In general, NI today is able to find and hire engineers with the kinds of skills the company needs, says Truchard. But there is one area in particular that he believes schools need to improve upon.

“Almost no engineers are graduating with a high degree of skill in finding information that’s available around the globe,” Truchard declares. “And we have tremendous access tools in things like Google to find that information.” Competitors around the world have access to the same information that we see here in the United States, says Truchard. “So if we’re not learning how to find information on a global scale, we’re going to be left behind,” he warns.

Truchard himself is well-known at NI for his Google search skills. “Here at National Instruments, I try to set a high standard for that, and then hope that the engineers are coming up the curve,” he says. “But I’ve been amazed at how challenging that has been.”

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