John Mitchell: Focus on the Future


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In a far-ranging interview, Dr. John Mitchell and Barry Matties discuss the upcoming IPC APEX EXPO, IPC programs, and the challenges (and opportunities) facing our industry. If you think Dr. Mitchell's assessment would be pessimistic, you'd be wrong. 

Barry Matties: John, what are you most excited about for the upcoming IPC APEX EXPO? 

Dr. John Mitchell: Getting together with the industry again. Unlike years past, it’s been a long time since most of us have been together face-to-face. While we’re going to have a lot of tremendous and compelling content, the thing I’m most excited about is for everybody in the industry being able to reengage. 

We’re an industry that enjoys and needs to work together, and we’ve been held at bay for too long. Throughout 2021, at every conference I’ve attended, people are really excited about seeing each other again. And since APEX EXPO is one of the premier events for the industry, that is the thing I’m happiest about—getting people back together again, getting them excited. 

In addition, I’m also excited that we’re partnering with Altium, whose AltiumLive design conference will be co-located with APEX EXPO. 

Matties: Tell me about that. How did that come about and what’s the benefit? 

Mitchell: IPC has been providing standards and education on the design front for decades. But there’s a dearth of good, experienced, young engineers. We’ve been trying to encourage students to consider engineering and design as a great career path. Altium, similarly focused, makes a lot of their software freely available to students. 

AltiumLive connects all aspects of the engineering design and development community, and we think that co-locating AltiumLive at APEX EXPO will benefit our attendees, too, since we have so many design programs to offer.  

Matties: This will really give the designers an opportunity to get there, perhaps a day early, and get out on the APEX EXPO exhibition floor and maybe spend some time in conferences. 

Mitchell: Yeah, they can do APEX EXPO professional development courses beforehand, and then they can experience Altium Live as well. We’re looking forward to that. 

Matties: I think this next APEX EXPO will be, for many, the first event that they will have attended in-person since about two years ago. Has the last two years impacted the format for it? 

Mitchell: The biggest impact really is about making sure everybody is safe at the event. In accordance with the guidelines in California and the San Diego Convention Center, we expect the requirement will be that people show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours. (Most people coming from overseas must do that anyway when they get on the plane.) Attendees will find a COVID Q&A on our website that explains our protocols more fully. 

Matties: Do you expect a lot of international participation? 

Mitchell: We had some concerns about that a few months ago, but with the U.S. re-opening its borders to international tourists, we’re encouraged. Our registrations show that we have people signing up from literally everywhere, even from places where they’re going to have to quarantine when they go back. We found that very gratifying and encouraging. 

Matties: Speaking of registrations, how is that tracking? Are you seeing an increase over the last in-person event or is it an adjusted goal? 

Mitchell: I think people are being more cautious right now because they just don’t know what’s going to happen. The whole Delta variant July caught everybody by surprise. We thought we were getting out of the COVID concerns, and everything was going to be rosy. Then Delta hit, and people thought, “Oh wait, whoa.”

That was a few weeks before we opened registration, so I think there’s some cautiousness. We have a lot of people saying, “Yeah, we’re still planning to come,” but they’re not ready to commit. To be clear, I am speaking about individual registrations. Most of the exhibitors have signed up, so we are encouraged by that.

To read this entire conversation, which appeared in the December 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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