Q&A With Jyotika Athavale, IEEE Champion, on Advancing Standards Development Worldwide

Synopsys Editorial Staff

Mar 01, 2024 / 4 min read

In an age of constant innovation, companies rely on standards to improve the safety, reliability, and efficiency of their services, products, and processes. At the core, standardization initiatives help develop a unified framework for the electronics industry that leads to high-quality solutions and boosts productivity.

One organization that’s working to raise global standards is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association (IEEE SA). Synopsys’ very own Jyotika Athavale, director of engineering architecture, is a senior member of IEEE, the chair of the IEEE P2851 standardization initiative, and the current president of the IEEE Computer Society (CS). She spearheads and influences international standardization initiatives in IEEE, ISO, IEC, and SAE to meet the evolving needs of technology. Last year, she received the 2023 IEEE SA Standards Medallion for her leadership, technical expertise, and guidance in the development of IEEE 2851-2023, the IEEE Standard for Functional Safety Data Format for Interoperability within the Dependability Lifecycle. And recently, she was chosen as a finalist in two categories of the Women Leaders in Electronics awards sponsored by Electronics Weekly: Woman of the Year – Design Focused and Woman of the Year – Industry Focused. Winners will be announced on April 23. 

To celebrate her achievements, we spoke with Athavale to learn more about the IEEE 2851-2023 standard and what the IEEE SA Standards Medallion means to her.

ieee standards for functional safety

Q: What sparked your interest in engineering and standards development?

A: I was always interested in math and science in my formative years, which drove my passion for engineering, pathfinding, and innovation. It wasn’t until I started working in functional safety at Intel that my work in standards grew, and I learned what a complex universe it really is.

Synopsys was coincidently my first job out of school, so being back here feels like home. Of course, I enjoy exploring new methodologies for silicon health and lifecycle management RAS [reliability, availability, serviceability] architecture, but what’s unique about my role now is that it’s directly linked to my pathfinding work in standardization and drives input for technology requirements.

Jyotika Athavale

Q: Can you tell us more about the IEEE 2851-2023 Standard?

A: It’s about defining what a dependable lifecycle looks like for safety-critical systems and methods and data formats for interoperability to enable a seamless exchange of data. This standard helps facilitate this exchange by providing a common data format across application domains. If you consider automotive, industrial, medical, and avionics application domains, they all have their own set of governing safety standards. We are defining a unified data format via the IEEE P2851 WG to help facilitate easier data exchange across application domains, levels, and technologies.

Ultimately, we’re bridging the gap that companies often struggle with because they’re investing effort and time to reconsolidate, compare, and integrate data without common methods, languages, or formats for the exchange. The new standard helps reduce time to market, streamlines engineering lifecycles with fewer resources, and enables the reuse of products across application domains.

Q: What does the 2023 IEEE SA Standards Medallion mean to you?

A: I’m honored but can’t take all the credit. I’m very proud because it represents the hard work of the entire P2851 membership team and those who helped along the way. We initiated the project in 2019, had over 30 companies join the initiative, and liaised with partners like ISO, SAE International, and IEC to receive input and drive the adoption of this standard. This milestone came to life via the power of collaboration, commitment, and perseverance by everyone who contributed to it.

Q: What’s next on your plate as you continue to foster this standard and others?

A: Our end goal is for this standard to grow and become a family of standards covering multiple functional safety topics and extending to adjacent domains like cybersecurity, SOTIF, reliability, and real-time interactions. We’ve already started the next phase, which is the IEEE P2851.1 standard, covering functional safety and reliability interoperability topics. The working group is putting together a roadmap to identify the specific topics for data exchange, and those involved in dependable technologies are eagerly waiting for the new standards to be released.

Speaking of dependable technologies and computing in general, I’m excited to collaborate further in this area with IEEE since I’ll be starting my term as the 2024 president of the IEEE CS. In addition to overseeing global IEEE CS programs and operations and launching new initiatives in standardization, conferences, and publications (particularly in RAS, AI, and other nascent technologies), I want to be a role model to inspire other women to take on leadership roles in these technical fields and promote mentorship by connecting individuals across both CS and Synopsys. I’m also looking to drive further collaboration between industry, academia, and government. This is a key strategic initiative for next year.

Q: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming engineers wanting to pursue a technical career in standardization?

A: Remember to be fearless, confident, and dedicated and, of course, work hard. Looking back at my journey, I got involved in standards development a bit later in my career, so my advice would be that it’s never too early to start getting engaged. I’m also a huge advocate of mentorship; I personally have a great mentor who I work with at Synopsys, and I’ve mentored a lot of engineers in my career. Once you take the first step in getting involved, you’ll be able to watch, learn, contribute, and make your mark in standards!

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