Thought Leadership


By Colin Walls

In mid-1971, I was 14 and very idealistic. So I started writing a journal. It began with whole pages about the events in my life and my thoughts. Over time, it quickly degraded to just a few factual lines of scribble and has continued like that to this day. The only change really is that I now record my entry electronically on my iPad. I wonder what my 1971 self would have thought about that.

Having moved house quite recently, there are still quite a few boxes that have not been unpacked or found homes, including those that contain my journals. I was pondering an event in early 1986 and wanted to know the exact date. One of the displaced boxes happened to be in my office, so I opened it and took out the first journal that came to hand, which by happy coincidence was 1986! The date that I was seeking was 10 February …

When I was in my final year at university, I had to give serious thought to what I might do as a career. I had a choice: broadly I could follow my degree subject and become some kind of scientist or I could pursue my hobby and go into software. Choosing the latter resulted in my being buried in job offers (this was 1979!) and I needed to be selective. I concluded that real time software sounded more interesting than “data processing”, as I was also somewhat interested in electronics. My first job was with a mechanical testing machine company. Good fun and excellent experience. After a couple of years I moved on to a systems house and worked almost exclusively on embedded application – even though we didn’t use that term back then. I then decided that I would like to work more with people, while exploiting my technical expertise. This resulted in my joining Microtec Research on 10 February 1986.

Microtec was more or less a startup. There were a couple of dozen people in California and I was the third person at the first overseas office. My job was “anything technical” – tech support, doing demos, developing software, training, fixing the PC (we only had one initially) … 10 years later, we were acquired by Mentor Graphics and that is how I got to be where I am now.

So today is my 25 year jubilee! (I discovered that the term can be used for any periodic celebration, not just royal stuff.) I think it is a time to be jubilant anyway.

I remember, at my 10 year anniversary, someone said “Here’s to the next 10 years!”. At the time, as Microtec had just been acquired, another 10 years seemed far from certain, but a possibility. Even with retirement ages rising, I do not expect anyone to toast me with “Here’s to the next 25 years!”

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at