Roughly Speaking

Geoffrey Hazelett

Getting Local

PCEA chapter meetings can be a great source of education and collaboration.

I am excited that my local PCEA chapter has gotten some traction and we are having regular meetings! After a couple years of false starts and hiccups, the Oregon/Pacific Northwest chapter got the spark and the ball rolling with members coming to connect and learn from each other. Which is exciting! I was able to reconnect with someone with whom I worked almost 20 years ago. He was attending from another country, but still views Portland as his “home area.”

As our meeting progressed, we had a good educational segment and then an active discussion about topics to discuss next time. A question came up about a mechanical exchange format, and we just happened to have someone in the meeting who works for the company that manages that format! And if we didn’t, I am sure we could have reached out to our separate networks of contacts to find an expert to talk with us about it. Meanwhile, additional topics of interest were shared, along with requests for recommendations on specific types of quality fabricators and assemblers. So add that to our list of people to invite and reach out to.

PCEA chapters meetings are great ways to network with other experts in the PCB industry and really dive into the core values of collaborating, educating and inspiring. With meetings that continue to embody these values, I know that we will all benefit.

PCB West and PCB East are great examples of crossroad events that bring together material suppliers, ECAD suppliers, fabricators, assemblers and designers to the same event to speak openly and work together on much larger, albeit less frequent, basis than your local chapter. I lost count of the number of times I have turned to a designer and asked if they have talked with their fabricator, only to see them look dumbfounded that they hadn’t, like they had thought it was illegal to do so. Sometimes multiple levels of separation exist between the fabricators and designers, these layers consisting of management, buyers, brokers, contract manufacturers, etc. Many times, designers and fabricators start a dialogue only after something has gone horribly wrong and the blame game has begun. Not a very welcoming environment if one is looking to ask about a new technology or how to do something unique! So environments where designers and fabricators can connect and collaborate are vital to advancing technologies, improving yields and reducing waste.

If your local chapter hasn’t gotten off the ground yet, I encourage you to poke around. Organically getting a group together to talk about common interests and how to assist each other should be the target, so focus on finding compatible meeting times and schedule them in advance. For my local chapter, we seemed to get a lot more attendance when we shifted the meeting from after work to the lunch-time hour. Additionally, instead of focusing the meeting on the details of the organization, such as who would fill different titles or roles, we focused on providing value to our members. Collaborating, educating and inspiring each other to know more, be more and do more for each other and our industry.

If you can’t tell, I am excited in a way that I was never excited about other industry meetings. We aren’t necessarily bringing in world-renowned experts, although collectively we do know a few whom I am sure would be willing to talk with us for 20-30 minutes on a topic. Our focus is on bringing value to each other. As we all learn and have the opportunity to share our expertise and knowledge, our respective knowledge silos are opened and trust is built among ECAD, material suppliers, designers, fabricators and assemblers.

I have felt the excitement and connection possibilities at PCB West and PCB East. I hope my local chapter can continue to spark similar possibilities for those who don’t have the opportunity to make it to those conferences. Likewise, I hope your local chapter is also engaging and expressing PCEA’s core values to you. I want this to be an encouraging word for you, that we struggled in our local chapter for some time, but we finally found our footing.

To find your local chapter, visit, or contact PCEA president Mike Buetow ( to learn how to start one. For more ideas about helping your local chapter, feel free to reach out to me at ending bug

Geoffrey Hazelett is a contributing editor to PCD&F/CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY. He is a technical sales specialist with more than 10 years’ experience in software quality engineering and sales of signal integrity software. He has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering;