Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit – Computer Engineer

Paul Buchheit, Computer Engineer and Entrepreneur is the creator of Gmail and FriendFeed (acquired by Facebook). Paul worked briefly for a year at Intel before joining Google as the 23rd employee in 1999. In 2001, he developed an email system as a side project which eventually became the hugely successful Gmail. While his professional accomplishments are impressive, I say we have more to learn from the way he thinks about the world. The following quote, a portion of the talk he gave at Y Combinator’s Startup School, illustrates this quite well. It’s an expanded version of the quote’s portion found on his Wikipedia profile. Paul learnt programming by tinkering with the 386 microprocessor and a video game.

Paul Buchheit’s World View

“We now, for the first time ever, have the technology and resources necessary to make the world a great place for everyone. We can provide adequate food, housing, education, and healthcare for everyone, using only a fraction of our labor and resources. This means that we can put an end to wage-slavery. I don’t have to work. I choose to work. And I believe that everyone deserves the same freedom I have. If done right, it’s also economically superior, meaning that we will all have more wealth.

We often talk about how brilliant or visionary Steve Jobs was, but there are probably millions of people just as brilliant as he was. The difference is that they likely didn’t grow up with great parents, amazing teachers, and an environment where innovation was the norm. Also they didn’t live down the street from Steve Wozniak.

Economically, we don’t need more jobs. We need more Steve Jobs. When we set everyone free, we enable the outliers everywhere. The result will be an unprecedented boom in human creativity and ingenuity.

You can view the full talk here. If you prefer, you may read the entire text on his blog here.

Excerpts from an interview with Harj Taggar, Triplebyte co-founder and CEO

I conclude this post with this excerpt since it’s great advice. My comments in parentheses.

Q: What skills and knowledge does it take to be a good engineer?
A: Computer science is almost unlike any other engineering discipline because we routinely work at many different layers of abstraction. Someone who is only able to operate at one level is not going to be effective because often any given problem will be at a different level of abstraction from the last. Great engineers understand computers all the way from the silicon up through the different layers and protocols and systems. [This says something about learning in a structured way e.g. at a school. Get the best education you can at the university or college or at a computer science / engineering course online.]

Q: How do you become a better engineer?
A: Doing it. Showing up seems to be the secret to getting good at most things. I programmed when I was in high school, and it was all I did because I didn’t have anything else going on—fortunately. Programming was my hobby, and I always had some project I was trying to implement. I think there’s no substitute for doing a lot of programming because you just can’t get really good in a short amount of time. It certainly took me years before I would say I was any good. [Substitute for working hard? None.]


Y Combinator provides seed funding for startups.

Read the full Paul Buchheit interview here:

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