ECE Career Change: GPU Validation to Power and Performance Architecture

Hey, hope you don’t mind the PM out of the blue. I saw one of your comments on an old r/ECE thread about how you moved to a power architecture position.

I am a GPU validation engineer finishing up my MS part time. I was wondering if you had any general advice on moving into an architect role. The chips are super interesting, I just do not see much growth potential in my current role. It could be easy to get locked into test plan development and execution for the next few years.

Ideally, I’d like to get into something where I can code custom applications or models to benchmark the hardware and perform workload/competive analysis, thus driving design improvements. I realize power and performance are often too sides of the same coin here when considering a power budget. So I’d be open to either perf or power roles.

I guess my question here is what I should even look for as far as job titles go? I am trying to get input from more experienced engineers without tipping off coworkers that I plan to leave lol.

I’ve studied CS and EE so far and have a background in memory design with a touch of ML/DL algorithms.

random friendly internet stranger

GPU validation can be an incredibly deep and fulfilling career. However, if you’d like to explore other career paths and your heart is set on working on performance, power, and competitive analysis, the role can be stifling.

Luckily, there are ways to transition from a role as a GPU validation or verification engineer into a performance or power architect. I’ve seen colleagues make similar transitions and even had a buddy move from post-silicon validation into a power architect role on my team just recently. I’ve outlined the steps I think would help you transition from GPU validation into power and performance architecture.

  • Shift your current validation work to power and performance validation. Validation typically implies that the work is done post-silicon but in case you are pre-silicon or a mixture of both the same concept still applies. Validation and verification are broad fields and there are power and performance components to both of them. Have a talk with your manager and say that you are particularly interested in power and performance and you want your work to allign with these topics.
  • Self study power and performance. The Internet is rich with resources. Here is a book that I found useful in power architecture job interviews: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6gAEloqIG0FeUVjYnFuZl9DR0U/view?usp=drivesdk&resourcekey=0-sSyT0imPE3C-yHXuWoJUHg
  • Grow your expertise with power and performance tuning. At the pre-silicon stage this means running power simulators such as PTPX or working with simple power workloads in an emulation environment. At the post-silicon phase this means understanding the power and performance architectural features. The end goal is to build deep fluency in power and performance features and to accomplish this you’ll need to dig through architectural specs, study block diagrams, power delivery, firmware architecture, and ask tons of questions.
  • Build on your adjacent skills. ML/DL is a growing area in power an performance architecture as GPUs and CPUs increase in complexity. There might be a few ways to collaborate while using your background. For example, understanding whether a game or a workload is CPU bound or GPU bound is a tough problem and can benefit from applications of ML/DL.
  • Build rapport with power and performance architects. Architects are always in need of help in the form of data collection and analysis. A great way to start building the bridge that you will eventually walk across is to collaborate with power and performance architects by helping with data. This isn’t glamorous work but its necessary and its a way to not only be known within the teams you want to shift to but its a chance to learn from the architects.
  • Ask the power and performance architects if you can shift to their team. If you’ve done the due diligence to learn the power and performance features, have been great about producing and analyzing data, and have built a pleasant working relationship, you should have no problems. In fact, you will be welcomed with open arms. I cannot stress how difficult it is to hire power and performance architects.
  • Since you asked about position titles, these are the titles that I’ve seen; Power Architect, Performance Architect, Power Management Architect, Silicon Power Architect, AR/VR Power Architect

Do what is prescribed in the bullets above. Be patient. Do the work. And get that awesome career. I don’t like to make promises but I’m confident that there is a clear line between you and your career goals. If i’d have to make a guess about how long this whole process would take, I would gander between six months and two years. Two years may sound like a long time but its just a small portion of your overall career. Best of luck.

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