APEC News Release
Infineon's Aung Thet Tu Looks Forward to APEC
Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019
By Teddy Durgin
APEC 2020 will be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans from March 15-19. One of the guiding forces behind the five-day event is Aung Thet Tu, Director of Marketing & Applications at Infineon Technologies AG. He is on the APEC Steering Committee, has been a long-term co-chair of the Professional Education Seminars, and he will also be co-chairing this year's plenary session.
"I was just an attendee originally," he said, recalling his early days of APEC involvement in the late 1990s while at Unitrode Corporation. "I started going to APEC regularly because it's such a great conference for learning. Around 2001, PSMA or Power Sources Manufacturers Association -- one of the three sponsoring organizations [the other two being the IEEE Power Electronics Society, or PELS, and the IEEE Industrial Applications Society, or IAS] -- asked me to present in one of their Saturday workshops on silicon integration. I was involved from that point on with PSMA, eventually becoming part of the board of directors. This led to being PSMA's representative for APEC and being the general chair in 2015."
Tu continued, "As one of the sponsors, PSMA spends a lot of time on making sure APEC works. I would say they are the majority force behind the popular Industry Sessions, which used to be called Special Sessions. PSMA has multiple committees that focus on everything from semiconductors, capacitors, and magnetics to advanced packaging, safety, and energy harvesting -- all of the topics that an electronics engineer would care about. Many of these committees are the ones who put together the APEC Industry Sessions with well-known invited speakers from the industry."
One of Tu's early APEC tasks was serving on the professional education seminars team. APEC Seminars focus on the practical and applied aspects of the power electronics technologies and business.Sunday the 15th begins with the professional education seminars. There are 18 seminars and three time slots -- Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon, and Monday morning. With 18 total seminars, there will be six running parallel during each slot.
"So, you have to choose which one you want to go to based on the topic or the speaker or your professional interest," Tu remarked. “You'll need to sign up for the three-hour-plus Sunday professional education seminars separately, though. When you register, you're asked if you are interested in 'seminars only' or the 'technical program conference only' or both."
The plenary session opens APEC officially on Monday afternoon. According to Tu, the objective is "to provide a view of what the future holds for applied power electronics. We try to mix the industry viewpoint with the academic viewpoint, because both are equally important for APEC. We try to find a balance between the theoretical and the practical. Sometimes, we achieve both on the same topic. We also try to cover different power electronic fields that are trending in the industry. Attendance-wise, we normally get anywhere from a third to half our total registration. Last year, I think, we had close to 2,000. The plenary is kind of like the opening ceremony of the Olympics … except we don't have flag-bearing people marching around the room!"
As with many of his colleagues, Tu gives freely of his time to make APEC happen. "You get to a point in life where you realize you should start giving back," he said. "This industry has done a lot to get me to where I am, and being a part of APEC is a way I can give back. Unlike other conferences, which are more commercial tradeshows, APEC gives you many opportunities to learn. Really good and innovative ideas are discussed freely there. It's pretty amazing actually."
For anyone attending APEC 2020 for the first time, Tu concedes that the experience can be overwhelming. There are so many parallel sessions that advance preparation is a must. "Between the Technical Sessions with the latest research topics [over 600 accepted papers] and the Industry Sessions, I think that some days there can be something like 10 potential parallel tracks that will be going on," he noted. "How do you choose your spot and where you want to go? It can get very overwhelming. What most of us used to do when there were only six or seven parallel tracks, we would have this APEC program booklet. And on the plane ride to the conference or even the week before, we'd start circling the ones we would like to attend [and] then start looking at the conflicting slots and settle on which ones to go to."
Technology has improved that aspect of the conference. "Today, it's easier in some ways," he acknowledged. "That information is now in our APEC app. You can plan out your conference on your phone. You can do the same thing as before, mark the sessions you want to attend, and the app puts it on your APEC calendar for you. Then, you can see what you want to do and what you can do by opening the calendar up.
For those who do get overwhelmed, there will at least be a great host city to soak in with its food, music, and culture to let off some pressure. New Orleans was actually the site of the first APEC 35 years ago at the Fairmont Hotel, and so it's a bit of a coming home. "There really were many cities for consideration," Tu said. "We ask, 'What would be interesting for the attendees? What would it cost attendees? What would be good for the conference? And what would it cost the conference?' At the end of the day, New Orleans was the best choice for 2020."
Tu approached the choice of a host city and so many other decisions he has been a part of with the same philosophy that has made him a success throughout his career. At Infineon, he is in charge of marketing of the company's industrial gate drivers portfolio. "That includes finding the right products to make; making sure those products are successful, both technology-wise and commercially; and making sure we stay profitable."
And his operating philosophy? "Start with the end in mind. That way, you already have the finish line defined, and you can start working towards that goal. This has been helpful to me in so many things I've done. If you start with where you want to end, I have found it's a lot easier to get there."