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If you like Pierre Omidyar's story, you might also like:
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Pierre Omidyar
Pierre Omidyar
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Pierre Omidyar Interview (page: 5 / 8)

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  Pierre Omidyar

From early on you were interested in gadgets, including computers. How did this first manifest itself?

Pierre Omidyar: I've always been into the gadgets and I guess when I first saw a computer -- I'm trying to think if it was third -- it might have been third grade. It was pretty early on actually and it was an early TRS-80, you know, Radio Shack. Kind of the original Radio Shack TRS-80 computer, 4K of memory. I think this one had the 4K or the 8K expansion module, which was like as big as a desk, you know, and learned how to program Basic on it. And I used to actually cut gym and sneak into the computer room -- which wasn't really a room, it was a closet where they kept the computer between classes -- and played on the computer.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

Did you pass gym?

Pierre Omidyar: Good question. I don't know if I failed gym or not. I don't think I failed.

It sounds like even then you were kind of entrepreneurial.

Pierre Omidyar: I always kind of just went ahead and tried things and one of the things I learned later -- you know, more kind of professionally -- is that a lot of people don't just go ahead and try things. They'll have an idea and they'll say -- they'll convince themselves or other people will convince them that it can't be done. You know, one or the other. Actually I think that the first is even more dangerous and more serious. It's convincing yourself that it can't be done. And I never learned that for some reason, so I just kind of had this naive approach to -- well, gee, you know, why not. I'll just go ahead and do it.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

We've read that early in high school that you wrote a program to print catalogue cards at six bucks an hour. Was that your start?

Pierre Omidyar: That was my professional debut. Six bucks an hour. And it's funny too, thinking about it, because it was using computer technology to print out library cards for the card catalogue. And so all it was, was a program to just format. You know, somebody would type in the information and it would format it the way the librarian wanted, so they could put the cards into the card catalogue. So this is incredibly basic computer technology. This is no database there. No search engine, nothing like that. But yeah, six dollars an hour. And also, at that time I also worked on the software to help schedule classes, which was key. This was in high school at tenth or 11th grade, I think, when I was working on that, and I resisted the temptation to put in some code in there to make sure I never had classes on Friday, because I wouldn't have been able to get away with it, but I thought about it.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

Was there ever any doubt in your mind that computer science was what you wanted to do?

Pierre Omidyar: I always wanted to be involved with computers. My original kind of career choice, what I thought I was going to do was more computer engineering, which was, I thought -- you know, figure out the hardware and the software and combine the two to learn about computers. When I got to college at Tufts I was accepted into the engineering school to do an electrical engineering and computer engineering program. I learned quickly there in my first semester -- actually my second -- well, I learned very quickly that the engineering program was a little bit too rigorous for me. I took a class. I took a chemistry class, and I think that was second semester of freshman year, because it was required for the engineering program, taking chemistry. I had no interest in chemistry. And I had worked -- I worked so hard for that class trying to understand what was going on and study for the test and everything, and did so poorly. I remember for the mid-term I had studied harder than I had for anything else and got 25 out of 100 on the test. And it was at that point I said, "You know what, this is kind of ridiculous." So I transferred out of the engineering college and went to liberal arts and just did the pure computer science.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

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This page last revised on Oct 20, 2010 00:15 EDT
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