NF: These days, business travel to China is fairly typical from the US. Yet you were part of one of the first groups to be invited to travel to China. Can you tell us about that experience?

BP: China was emerging from its Cultural Revolution and was woefully behind in technology. We were taken to their technology center in Beijing and shown their X-band waveguide reflectometer setup as an indication of their capability. There was no sign of automation! My role was four full-day spectrum-analyzer seminars. I lost my voice, and the attendees could not have been more considerate: They brought soft drinks and offered to postpone. However, I could whisper to the interpreter and he had his full voice.

I had some free time, and my wife and  I—all of us were encouraged to bring our wives along, and five of us did—walked the streets around the hotel and the Forbidden City, which was close by. Everywhere we went, people smiled and nodded and were quite friendly. A bike rider said, “Hello, how are you?” as he rode past. While we nine were setting up and doing our lectures, our wives were provided with a van, interpreter, and a tour guide. Their stops included a first- or second-grade class—they sang for the students—and off-limits areas of the Forbidden City. We all got a tour of the Great Wall. All in all, it could not have been a better experience.

Blake Peterson (center) and his colleagues take in the sights during an early China trip.

NF: You created “Blake Peterson University (BPU),” a required training series for all college hires at Agilent. What advice do you find has transcended time and changes in technology? And what basic knowledge do engineers still need to know?

BP: “BPU” was coined by someone else. I certainly was surprised, and honored, by the tag. It is true that for many years, I was involved in training new engineers joining marketing teams or the field sales force in some capacity. I’ll let someone else decide on the merits of my involvement. However, I did feel that the real basics—how to describe it: the ABCs of technology—are needed to form the basis for understanding more advanced technology, and I did my best to provide that basis. And technology certainly has advanced since I retired.

Peterson receives his "Living Legend" award from Editor-In-Chief Nancy Friedrich and Penton VP Market Leader Bill Baumann.

NF: Through all of your years as an educator, mentor, and technical writer, you have met and trained countless people. You devoted a lot of time and energy to your career. Yet you are known for being a family man. What advice do you have for young engineers about life and balancing work and family?

BP: First of all, find a job that you really like so that it does not weigh on you at home. Also, find a job that allows time for family. I had the perfect job at HP/Agilent. I travelled internationally a lot and my wife accompanied me on several of my business trips. I had freedom to come and go as needed when my wife was battling cancer. I certainly hope that there are companies out there with similar philosophies and that people are fortunate enough to find one.

NF: On behalf of the RF/microwave industry, thank you for all that you have done to educate engineers and move this industry forward.