Alumnus Profile: Craig Hillman, Ph.D. 1996

Friday, July 15, 2016

Craig is the Founder and CEO of DfR Solutions, a company providing software and consulting services to the electronics community. When Craig founded DfR eleven years ago, he noticed there were numerous industry standards in place to ensure quality manufacturing, while there was nothing that helped technology companies guarantee a reliable design.  He decided to change that. As a result of his efforts, DfR has become the preferred destination for technology companies launching the next big thing. Just this past December, Craig had the exciting opportunity to review the designs of an automated drone, an Internet of Things (IoT) gateway, the latest electric automotive powertrain, and a 24-hour wearable for world-class athletes. For each technology, Craig’s role was to ensure they would meet market expectations of reliability. 

To make the transition from structural ceramics, his research focus at UCSB, to electronic hardware, Craig secured a position as the Director of Laboratory Services in an electronics reliability consortium located at the University of Maryland. In his new position, Craig applied fundamental material behaviors, research methodologies, technical teachings, and practical knowledge from his graduate education in Materials.  For Craig, the rigor he learned as a graduate student at UCSB Materials eased the transition into a new field, demonstrating that once understood, fundamental material behavior can be applied across numerous unrelated systems. 

Craig’s career highlights have been a bit unconventional. During his time at the University of Maryland, he found much more satisfaction in solving challenges for companies then performing esoteric research. When the upper echelons of the University of Maryland indicated that this was not compatible with an academic environment, Craig accrued one of his career highlights: the opportunity to start his own company. During his time as CEO, Craig had many learning experiences, including the day his highest performing employee left to join another firm. While the moment was very painful, Craig now recalls it as one of his strongest hours because he eventually realized that DfR was more than one individual. This realization drove Craig to bring onboard middle management that enabled his company to reach the next level. 

Craig’s advice to current and future UCSB Materials graduate students evolved from the unexpected turns of his career. Knowing that it pays off in the long run, Craig encourages new graduates to pursue a good postdoctoral research experience despite any perceived financial or temporal disadvantages. Craig advises people, regardless of career level, to pursue exciting interests. He believes a person never works better than when motivated, and if someone is bored, regardless of knowledge or intelligence, producing good work is difficult. And, ultimately, if a job is simply not working, leave. Craig recognizes that leaving – quitting – is scary to think about, and even harder to do, and he also knows that sometimes it is the better option. 

Craig received his Ph.D. in Materials from UCSB and his B.S. in Material Science from Carnegie Mellon University. His Ph.D. dissertation focused on structural ceramics and his advisor was Prof. Fred Lange. Craig conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Cambridge.

News Type: