The Other Steve and Being Proud of Your Engineering Degree

Not Steve Jobs which we all know but the other Apple Computers Founder — Steve Wozniak, affectionately known as Woz.

Here's excerpts from his upcoming book, "iWoz" due for release in November 2006:

  1. Woz is now, and always has been, an Apple employee.
  2. In the sixth grade Woz scammed gubernatorial candidate Richard Nixon with a certificate from the school’s ham radio club. The certificate was made with crayons just before the ceremony, and Woz was the only “member” of the club.
  3. The Apple IPO made the most millionaires in one single day in history up to that point in time.
  4. Woz and Jobs worked as Alice in Wonderland characters at shopping mall in San Jose.
  5. Woz didn’t return to the University of Colorado after his first year because he ran up too much computer timesharing costs.
  6. Woz tried to call the Pope by impersonating Dr. Henry Kissinger. He almost got through except that the Vatican called the real Dr. Kissinger to verify the call.
  7. Woz and Jobs got robbed of a blue box at gunpoint in Sunnyvale.
  8. The statement that convinced Woz to leave HP to start Apple (uttered by Allen Baum) was, “You can be an engineer and become a manager and get rich, or you can be an engineer and stay an engineer and get rich.”
  9. Woz lost approximately $12 million in each of the two US Festivals that he put on.
  10. Woz taught computer technology to elementary school students for ten years.

Thanks to Guy Kawasaki's great post here.
As I read Guy's blog, several things jumped out at me reading it as a Singaporean citizen. We all know the following statements to hold a lot of truth.

In the context of why Silicon Valley succeeded and why others couldn't,

Absence of multi-national companies—especially the finance industry. If your companies have to compete with conglomerates or banks like Goldman, Sachs throwing money at people, it’s going to be hard to get anyone for a startup. Pity the startups in New York, London, and Singapore. Come to think of it, how many tech success stories have come from these cities? There is intense competition for employees in Silicon Valley too, but we’re using the same currency: the upside of equity, not high starting salaries…

Yeap, very true. We have a lot of pple applying to banks because in Singapore, that appears to be the MO to a prosperous life. I have blogged about this before in my earlier article, its sad that many fresh graduates, especially those in the technical disciplines strived the hardest for a career in finance and banking. We have no innovation in the high tech sector when our best and brightest engineering minds opt for banks over engineering companies. Where A*Star pumps millions into training dozens of PhDs in overseas colleges, we forgot the thousands in NUS and NTU and the polys every who see engineering as a dead-end education in Singapore and cast eyes of envy towards the business schools. We should be pumping millions instead into changing the mindsets of local engineers, especially engineering undergraduates to not just be involved in procedural, process-oriented, maintenance-related engineering tasks and be engineering drones but product innovators, creative, disruptive engineering breakthrough work. I am not an engineer, but I have observed enough enginners in Silicon Valley and Singaproe and it doesn't take an engineer mind or a genius to observe and hypothesize why Singaporean engineers lack the passion and drive in their engineering education.

The answer does not lie in the next papragraph, but it gives us a direction towards which many NOC returnees like myself should aspire for after our stints in the entrepreneurial hubs of SV and Route 128.

The goal is to infect them with the disease called entrepreneurship and show them that there can be more to life than “a job;” that two guys/gals in a garage can change the world; and that a lot of money = millions of dollars. Sure, some people will never return—like me. But those who do return come back with a much broader perspective on what life and a career can be. Maybe they will build another Silicon Valley because they’ve seen it done before. Here’s a dirty little secret: Silicon Valley is more a state of mind than a physical location, and you can’t alter a state of mind by staying at home.


One thought on “The Other Steve and Being Proud of Your Engineering Degree

  1. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Things that would’ve killed Apple

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s