Interviewed for the Fall 2013 ECE Current newsletter
UCSB Side Notes:
Jeff Blokker completed PhD course work in Electrical Engineering and was a research assistant under Nobel Laureate Herbert Kroemer investigating GaAs device fabrication at UCSB. He left school with a Masters degree in 1984 to form a corporation, CableSoft Inc., that he ran as CEO for 18 years. He has a broad engineering background with expertise in material, software development, networks including wireless and advanced computing. In 2010 he completed a Masters degree in Financial Mathematics at Stanford University.
There’s more growth here than I’ve seen anywhere else. I think the power and the quality of the research at UCSB and the professors at UCSB are more concentrated, meaning they do more with a lot less resources. There’s more vitality in the research in the engineering department at UCSB than I’ve seen in any other place.
At UCSB you can get connected to the top researchers. You can specialize and get a really in-depth experience in the field that you’re interested in. You may even try others that you didn’t realize you were interested in and go in an entirely different direction. I think the diversity of this school really makes it stronger than other universities.
Herb Kroemer was really the teacher you had to impress if you wanted to go on. His classes were notoriously tough but also notoriously thorough. I learned a lot of things from him: to take pride in your work, to work hard and the quality of work. It was really his leadership that set a standard for the entire device fabrication department and it took the engineering school where it was to where it is today.
You need to figure out what the market is and how the market works rather than just going out and developing an engineering idea. You also need to talk to people who have been in business to see whether or not your idea will flourish. The Technology Management Program (TMP) has a business plan competition. It has actually spawned new businesses and allowed these young entrepreneurs to gather feedback about their business plans.
We’re actually very proud to speak of everything that we’ve done. The money has been spent in various different places around Santa Barbara, California, and the world. I would encourage ECE alumni to come back if they have the opportunity and find something that interests them and spend the time to make a simple donation because it will pay back beyond what you can imagine.
I would suggest going back and figuring out what you’re interested in and exploring it at the University with the professors. There may be opportunities there for alumni to contribute and it could be contribution by money, time, effort, or in any way that makes you feel good, but I definitely think that the time and money spent here is a good investment.
Don’t be afraid that you don’t know what you want to do. If you don’t know what you want to do, explore all the different avenues that you might imagine you want to do. College is the time to find yourself and there are so many doors here at UCSB, you should open as many as you can and don’t waste the time because typically, your college years are the best years of your life.