APEC News Release
Eric Persson Helps to Steer APEC and Infineon Technologies
Monday, Feb 10, 2020
By Teddy Durgin
Eric Persson has never really wanted to be anything other than an engineer and come up with solutions. At Infineon Technologies he gets to do both … and so much more. "There is a tendency for companies to move engineers upwards on the management ladder and give them more and more management responsibility," he said, during a recent interview. "It's nice. You get nice titles and all of that. But, in the end, I'm really an engineer. I'm not a manager, and I really enjoy problem solving and helping other engineers understand and solve their problems. Infineon gave me that opportunity to move up their 'technical ladder.' So, I get to keep my rank within the company, but focus on solving challenging application issues. It's been a very enjoyable experience."
Persson indeed serves as a power electronics applications engineer at Infineon. But, looking back over his career, he sees it as split into two distinct parts. Early on, he studied analog electronics and magnetics, which led to an interest in power electronics. He remarked, "The first 20 years of my career were designing signal processing and power electronic circuits for applications like medical defibrillators and so on. This was during the time where switch mode power supplies were really becoming mainstream, and there was huge progress being made in that field."
He did design for hire for years, running his own company until he accepted a job offer from International Rectifier in 2000. Fifteen years later, he became an employee of Infineon when it acquired International Rectifier. "When we were acquired," he recalled, "my range of opportunities expanded to include silicon carbide and, of course, high-performance silicon that is still the mainstay of power electronics today. I'm now focusing on server and data center applications for all product lines. Throughout my career, I've tried to keep ahead and stay on top of technology. I've been teaching a short course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on power electronic semiconductors and applications for the past 20 years. The course has evolved over time. It's now called Power Electronics Boot Camp, and it's an extension course that I do with the faculty usually in June. It's something I really enjoy and looking forward to participating in and meeting the new students every year.
He is also very active in APEC as evidenced by the below Q&A interview. What follows is our chat:
APEC: In your opinion, what makes APEC such a special and necessary industry event each year?
EP: This conference has a more than 35-year history. It is sponsored by two IEEE societies (Power Electronics and Industry Applications) and the Powers Sources Manufacturers Association (PSMA). Those three groups steer the nonprofit conference. Any surplus goes back to the sponsoring organizations to spend on additional projects or sponsor new or additional conferences. The overall mission of APEC is to provide a technical forum for the exchange of ideas between practicing engineers in both academia and industry, meeting once a year to discuss the latest trends in power electronics and see all the latest technology in the exhibits.
APEC: What do you personally get out of attending APEC?
EP: For me, it's about the meet-and-greets. It's about seeing all of my former colleagues, students I've worked with, and old customers. The power electronics industry isn't that big. You discover that you know quite a few people. I just learn so much meeting with them, catching up, finding out what they're working on.
APEC: Do you think New Orleans will make for a host city for APEC 2020? And why?
EP: This conference is so big that it has to be planned years in advance. Right now, we're selecting sites for 2026! So, a lot of thought goes into the host cities each year to make sure there will be enough hotel rooms, enough convention and exhibit space, and so forth. Overall, what you want is a city that you can easily access by foot, that has entertainment and restaurants, where the weather is nice, and it's fun to go out. I think New Orleans fits that bill perfectly. I think this will be one of the best APECs to date!
APEC: You are on the APEC Steering Committee, yes? What does that entail?
EP: The way the management of APEC works is we have a paid logistics partner that handles the everyday conference planning activities. But the executive decisions are handled by a rotating crew of volunteers on the Conference Committee. Each year, one of the three sponsoring organizations submits their nominee for the Chair track. It's a long commitment: you start out as the assistant program chair the following year. You learn the ropes. Then, you become the program chair, which is time-consuming, but very gratifying. You move up to Conference chair the following year.
The year after that, you become chair of the Steering Committee, which has the last eight or nine predecessors who have all been previous conference chairs. The Steering Committee handles longer-term planning, big picture policy topics. It makes the decisions about site selection five or six years out. They also take care of amending the bylaws, updating policies and procedures -- all necessary things for a conference of this size where you have as many as 6,000 attendees and a $4 million to $5 million budget. As a conference chairman, it's really great to have a Steering Committee who you can ask and get advice on how to handle different situations and solve problems that we're not necessarily trained to do as engineers. I'm very happy to now serve as a member of the Steering Committee.
APEC: Is there a favorite memory of APEC that stands out?
EP: In 1992, I proposed a seminar and it was accepted. I had never done a seminar, so I was terrified. I spent months putting together my material. I ended up having a large audience for that time, about 150 to 200 people. Even by today's standards, it was a good audience. But it was pretty intimidating! It went well, and I did several seminars over the years after that. That was a great learning experience for me, even though at the time I was really using it as a bully pulpit as a consultant to find customers. But it worked, and everyone got something out of it. I've attended every APEC since.
APEC: Finally, was there some advice given to you early in your career that has really stuck with you?
EP: I have to credit my father. He encouraged me early on that being a good engineer, that's one thing. But if you are an effective communicator, you can really go far. There are a lot of good engineers out there. But good engineers who are able to understand the right level to speak to anyone --whether it's outside the field or a peer or colleague or a superior -- it's a really big advantage and will help you throughout your career. That turned out to be great advice. Because a lot of times, engineers are intrinsically more on the introverted side!