My Challenge at Arrow

Arrow Electronics Five Years Out - Innovator Club logo
NOTE: Ricardo no longer works at Arrow. But now instead of guiding innovation from afar, he is now on a new endeavour: Repo Consult and Outsourcing.

I’m really proud of the companies that I have worked on, and I have the pleasant feeling of good work done. I always say that I had merits at these companies and the biggest of these merits was my dedication. But, before Arrow, I was an engineer, a developer. I did my best to be a good professional, I tried to teach my team and to be a nice colleague. But that time came to an end.

One day, I joined Arrow. Although I will always be a developer by heart, I was no longer one of them by practice. I became an FAE. I started to visit customers and to watch other developers from different industries. And that is when the journey began. Working for Arrow has been a paradigm changing experience. But let me say a little bit about the type of systems that I was used back in my development times.

I was a High-end FPGA designer. A circuit board with 8 layers? Easy, it gets big above 20 layers. Megahertz? Slow, let get to Giga. BGA? Throw it in, the more the better! Why save U$ 10,00 if you can spend it to make it more robust? To make it faster? Well, of course I didn’t do it alone: teams of 10 or more engineers, plus several other software guys. That was my world.

Then there was this customer I had visited on my first visits. He was a lone developer for the company complaining that he could not make his board less than 2 layers to lower his costs. He used an old, +15 years, 8 bit micro. In a through-hole DIP (dual in-line package). The whole board had less than 20 components, including resistors and capacitors. I did my job: I offered new tech. A lot of new tech. After all my suggestions, the guy said:

Do not be proud of this impressive new tech you have suggested. Unfortunately, the ability to build this system is nothing, next to the pressure of the cost.

I can swear that he sounded like Darth Vader. Jokes aside, I was trying to help them to get at least up to date; he had dangerously old tech. I insisted that he should change that old stuff… But no, he wouldn’t: it would be expensive, he had no resources, no time and neither the skills. Even though this was not the frightening part.  I was almost dropping when I ran out of arguments then I said he might get into trouble if his system goes obsolete. Well, his reply was the real frightening part:

Then I’m out of business.

Yes. That was it. And I was shocked. I couldn’t understand why and how someone would not be able to change such a simple design. I took a full day to understand that. In those few weeks, Arrow not only made my world bigger but more importantly it made me realize that I could help these guys just like I used to help my team. I had to do something.

Almost at the same time I’ve discovered this “Arrow 5 Years Out” thing. It was a synergistic push to what I was beginning to do. First I had to step out my bubble and face reality; there are all types of project and the merit lies on the idea, not on the complexity. Second: to really  help, I should share every single bit of knowledge that I had.

From that new mindset, I started to see customers, specially the developers at customers, as part of my own team. I decided to learn from them, to teach when I could and to exchange knowledge whenever possible. As expected, it worked just fine. It gave me confidence to write a book, to write here and more importantly is that it gave me the very same joyful sensation back then when I was designing.

The desire to help and to get every developer I met to be 5 Years Out was and still is the biggest challenge I face at Arrow. That is my 5 Years Out mission: to get them to design good and life changing new tech. I do want designers to have real satisfaction on what they did, not only instant fun. I do want them to have the pleasant feeling of good work done. I want them 5 Years Out.

About rftafas 183 Articles
Ricardo F. Tafas Jr graduated in Electrical Engineering at UFRGS with focus on Digital Systems and achieved his Masters also in Electrical Engineering on Telecomunications Network Management. He also author of "Autodesenvolvimento para Desenvolvedores (Self-development for developers). Ricardo has +10 years experience on R&D Management and +13 years on Embedded Eystem Development. His interest lay on Applied Strategic HR, Innovation Management and Embedded Technology as a differentiator and also on High Performance Digital Systems and FPGAs. Actually, he is editor and writer for “Repositório” blog (, editorial board member at Embarcados ( and he is Management and Innovation Specialist at Repo Dinâmica - Aceleradora de Produtos.
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments