One of the things that is lost on many n00bs in the tech field is that many different types of personalities are required for a tech venture to be successful. You need dreamers, engineers, sales people, accountants, support staff and janitors. These different types of people have different needs and different ways of interacting with the world. Sales people can be just as vital as engineers for a business to be successful, but many times they can barely stand each other.
Why this is significant is because in this hyper investment based landscape the people that are presented as the visionaries and leaders of the tech world are many times the best sales people of our world. These are the folks that are good with people, know how to smile properly, and spare half a thought to other peoples feelings in one way or the other. Founders jet set around the world from conference to conference, public speaking event to public speaking event and it gives the impression that these people are the backbones of the industry. The problem is that they are very important, BUT they require a lot of people behind the scenes grinding away that you may never hear from.
I appreciated watching the interview with Linus Torvalds put on by TED. It was nice to see a leader in the industry point blank say he didn’t like public speaking, and to be honest about how he goes about doing what he does. He talked about working out of his office that is completely boring to the point he had the room painted the same light shade of green used in mental institutions that’s supposed to relax the mind. He talked about the most important thing from a computer for him was that it was absolutely silent. No fan noise at all. He just wants to sit is his slightly green room, staring at his screen, perhaps with his cat on his lap.
He talked about dealing with people, and how he specifically is not a people person. Discussing how he disliked hurting people’s feelings, and yet still had the tendency to do it. This is why he likes the open source world because at the end of the day even if you hate someone the work is what matters. He even stated his confusion when people tell him he should be “nicer”, and how they react when he says that maybe they should be more “aggressive”. How him being told to be nice is thought of as a kindness, but his counter advice is seen as proof that he is in the wrong.
The interview even went into questions about whether Linus is jealous of companies making billions of dollars off of the foundations of his work. It was curious to see the response that if the companies had not pushed Linux forward then it would not be where it is today.
Overall it was a refreshing interview. In a time when the airwaves are monopolized by Elon Musk, Steve Job’s ghost, and the countless cheerleading startup founders it was good to hear someone of repute talk about their little green office, cat, and issues communicating with “normal” people. You should definitely spend the 20 minutes or so to watch the video: