What I do at Imagination

I recently had cause to write a bit of preamble about my job at Imagination for PowerVR. It explains what I do quite well and it’s worth publishing here for anyone interested in a job in the PowerVR Competitive and Performance Analysis group but can’t get a good feel for what we do from the formal job specification. Apologies for the minor bouts of wordy marketing speak.

I’m the lead engineer for Imagination Technologies’ Competitive and Performance Analysis group, formed in early 2010. Prior to forming the new group I worked 50/50 on competitive analysis and developer technologies. As well as leading the group’s engineering effort, I also manage the group on a day-to-day basis, reporting upwards into the Business Development management structure just two levels from the CEO.

The group’s primary responsibility is the understanding of Imagination’s PowerVR graphics architecture, and the architecture of competing solutions. That gives us the knowledge that underpins and drives the group’s engineering efforts and allows it to comprehend the actual and theoretical performance characteristics of embedded graphics solutions, both on the market today and coming in the future. We have to fully appreciate the constraints of modern embedded SoC platforms in order to do so.

It’s my job to figure it out as much as possible, to provide context to performance and competitive data which needs disseminating to my customers, and where the recipients often belong to a non-technical audience. I attack the problem from a number of different angles, including but not limited to: software architecture of directed microbenchmark tests; TRM analysis; the graphics driver; simulation and emulation data; working very closely with the graphics architects, product management and hardware team leads; information leaks and mining; source code and binary analysis; data from industry standard graphics benchmarks. Data collected from each approach and source gets transformed and filtered, quickly and accurately, in order to answer questions from my myriad customers and inform them as best I can.

Day-to-day, the direct consumers of my analysis can and often will include PowerVR engineering, sales and marketing teams; existing and potential PowerVR IP licensees, often all the way up to their graphics architecture leads and senior management; and independent ISVs. If lead licensees need answers about the architecture and performance characteristics of competing graphics solutions, they call me. If our internal developer technology and business development software engineering teams need to understand our existing and upcoming architecture, they call me.

The Competitive and Performance Analysis group is primarily a sales and marketing asset, helping glue those teams to the other PowerVR engineering teams in Imagination’s technology business. Primary points of contact for that are our product management, research and driver teams. We conduct analysis for pre-sales activities, helping the sales team understand the businesses and SoCs they’re selling into, along with what they’re competing against. We’re also there post-sale, helping the customer realise the performance levels we worked hard on in the pre-sales phase.

The group has a collection of standard published collateral that anyone in the company can draw from in order to better understand embedded graphics technology and the competitive landscape. I’m responsible for maintaining those and customising them for any specific activities the company is undertaking, to help win and maintain PowerVR licensing business. Essentially, if there’s a performance level or trait that someone needs to uncover or understand, it’s our job to generate the data required to understand it, and it’s my job to do the deeper analysis on the data and communicate the end result in the right form and in the right way.

Finally, I manage the group day-to-day, prioritising our workload correctly and making sure we give the right work the right focus. Managing and directing such a small team requires a constant level of anticipation and prediction as to what’s coming next, so we spend our limited resources working to generate the right answers from the right data. I also select candidates, conduct all of the engineering interviews and make the hiring recommendations not just for Competitive and Performance Analysis but also the wider Business Development group.