Syncopated Systems
Seriously Sound Science

Why Hire a Silicon Valley Computer Scientist?

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein are my own and are not intended to represent those of organizations other than Syncopated Systems.

Silicon Valley became an economic powerhouse by spawning California’s first colleges and universities. From these came NASA’s second major research center and the Hewlett-Packard Company, which both started in 1939. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the first semiconductor integrated circuits were created, giving Silicon Valley its name and enabling the 12 people who have walked on the Moon to be Americans.

Though other regions attempt to duplicate and compete with it, Silicon Valley’s reputation continually allows it to reinforce its greatest strength: the nation’s highest concentration of smart, educated, ambitious, hard-working people who come together to create clever things that shape how we live now and in the future.

What I Do

As an independent contractor in the heart of Silicon Valley, I primarily provide research and development (R&D) services including consulting and new product development (NPD)—sometimes called new-product introduction (NPI) or just product development (PD)—emphasizing regulatory compliance, user interface (UI), user experience (UX) and design for manufacturability (DFM).

Much of what I do fits neatly within the definition of computer science, which is the study (and resulting body of knowledge) of computation, automation, and information. Though it can be traced back to the first working mechanical calculator nearly 400 years ago (in 1623), computer science is still a relatively new field; degrees have been offered in the United States for only 60 years—since 1962, the same year that my childhood mentor LaFarr Stuart had his early computer music broadcast on a national radio network and President John F. Kennedy famously declared We choose to go to the Moon.”

Most of my work is, in roughly equal proportions:

  • System design (use cases, architecture, theory of operation, block diagrams),
  • Hardware development (electronic circuits, discrete and programmable logic, PCBs),
  • Software development (computer applications & cross-platform/firmware/embedded).
  • Communication (requirements, specifications, test reports, user guides/documentation), and
  • Management (R&D, budgets, laboratories, supply chains, projects, programs, people).

After earning my degrees, I also taught a college course in introductory computer science oriented toward game development, where I spent much of my early career.

Why Me?

Although nothing can ever guarantee future success, past performance often seems like a good indicator.

So far, I have tackled and solved many challenging problems, and have repeatedly succeeded after others have failed. Although I have certainly had my own failures, through my experience (and paraphrasing the German physicist Werner Heisenberg) I have learned many of the worst mistakes that can be made in my field and how to avoid them.

My laboratory and computer equipment is sufficient for most projects, and it allows me to satisfy most urgent needs very quickly. This has also allowed me to be one of relatively few people able to continue research and development of hardware and software systems working in isolation and/or with remote teammates during the deadly global COVID-19 pandemic.

Through more than 10 years of post-secondary education, I have earned degrees in computer science, management, business administration, accounting, technical communication, plus two others, some certificates, and other coursework, significantly in film/television production. My additional training includes emergency management and a pilot license.

Through my more than 20 years of industry experience, I have become very efficient at prioritizing resources as my responsibilities increased through principal roles, including employment as a Senior Hardware Engineer (starting in 1993) and as a Senior Staff Hardware Engineer (starting in 2010 as the principal hardware engineer on a project budgeted at $1-billion in retail sales). My peers in the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) have recognized the substance of my work by elevating me to Senior Member in 2016, and I have been an officer of IEEE groups in central Texas, southern California, and northern California, where I am the current (2022) Vice Chairperson of the IEEE Consultants Network of Silicon Valley (CNSV).

Please note that although employers generally may refer to a hardware and software developer as an electrical engineer (EE) or a software engineer (SWE), respectively (or one who does both as a computer engineer), some jurisdictions allow an independent contractor to use the title “engineer” only if they are a licensed professional engineer. (The National Society of Professional Engineers, NSPE, estimates that about 20% of engineers are licensed.) Such a license is generally not required of most developers of systems, hardware, or software; if your project appears to require one, I likely can refer you to an appropriate licensed professional engineer or other specialist through my extensive professional network.

I also maximize value to clients by limiting overhead such as commissions and finders fees to 10%. Unlike staffing firms that mark up service costs by 100% or more, when I subcontract, I do so transparently and limit overhead to cost plus 10% (or 0% if otherwise compensated to manage the project).

If you are interested in reading more about my background, please see How I Started.