I visit beautiful Lake Tahoe to hang with the mysterious and magnificent Big George, aka Dr. Ray Sidney. Ray was the fifth employee hired at a Silicon Valley startup named Google, which later gained prominence for taking over the world. Today he is Lake Tahoe’s most prominent philanthropist, enthusiast of the epic sport of curling, and master of trickery and gravity-defying stunts on the wake surfboard.
Ray has had a wild ride, emanating from a lifelong fascination with mathematics and peak performance in general. He hails from the highest levels of academia, having graduated from Harvard and then grabbing a Ph.D. from MIT in math), then headed west to land on the ground floor at Google. His first workplace was sharing a bedroom in a Palo Alto duplex; later he was the guy in charge of ordering fitness equipment for an early corporate campus! He was in charge of database security, and once (unknowingly) blocked the CIA from doing Google searches because they were flaunting the rules! Feeling burnt out from the crazy pace of Silicon Valley startup life, he took a sabbatical of a few months, which is stretching into a few hundred months, most of which have been spent on the water or frozen water with his tremendous passion for athletics. An important takeaway from Ray’s story, especially in today’s era of celebrity worship, wealth obsession, and social media posturing, is that he never intended to strike it rich in the romanticized fable of the dotcom world. Rather, he enjoyed math, and academics, and solving software engineering problems for the pure challenge. In fact, Ray reveals that his plans during sabbatical were to work on some personal math projects!
Alas, transitioning to sudden wealth and expanded opportunities have Ray diverted from the singular focus of software engineering to become involved in a dizzying number of causes, programs, and athletic interests. He is a competitive curler who funded Lake Tahoe’s fledgling curling club and travels around North America for camps and competitions. He is widely recognized (or barely recognized, depending on his attire) as Lake Tahoe’s leading philanthropist. He has donated millions to create fabulous athletic facilities around Tahoe and down in Carson Valley, including a new football/track stadium at Douglas High School and a championship running track at the middle school. His seven-figure donation supported free bus service to transport Tahoe casino workers to and from Carson Valley. He was the founding sponsor of Brad Kearns’s kids fitness charity called Running School. He supports a variety of academic causes like giving back to the Hertz Fellowship program that supported his academic journey and the X Prize Foundation. He recently earned an MBA degree from UC Berkeley just for fun!
This show will get your reflecting on the beauty of a pure motivation for life goals, the value of a focused, precise mathematical approach to peak performance, and the importance of getting over yourself even if you are a heavy hitter. Indeed, George takes none of this stuff too seriously, as evidenced by the nickname he bestowed on his eco-friendly architecturally wondrous home on the lake: Tahizzle—of course a nod to Snoop Dogg, who has yet to visit but has a standing invitation. Cruise on his boat named Jorge Mucho (como “Big George” in Español) and you are more likely to get Borat impersonations than Warren Buffet stock tips.
One can agree that Ray is living the good life and doing a great job giving back to all whom he encounters, but he also reveals that for all his freedom and folly opportunity, he struggles with overstimulation and a tendency to distraction like the rest of us. Brad and Ray agree to a future show addressing these matters of importance.
Ray tells of his journey from a young math student to being in on the ground floor of Google. [08:16]
What were the early days at Google like? [12:23]
Is it more secure to be with a startup company or with a big organization? [18:49]
What were the competitive circumstances in that environment? [22:04]
In the first year, they increased their employee count by 20 percent. [24:16]
Did the money appear right away? [26:33]
The term “sponsored links” means that somebody paid for the ad but it does not mean it is not a reasonable answer to your query. . [28:42]
Ray’s job, in the beginning, was not only helping supply the fitness equipment but more importantly, he was working on getting the software to work faster. [32:34]
Did they have to have a big warehouse for all the computer capacity needs? [33:24]
They have to keep all those computers cool [36:02]
When leaving Google, Ray felt burnt out. [38:11]
What happened when Google went with IPO? [41:43]
Ray held out in the economy mode until Google’s IPO kicked in. [48:44]
Is there a way to figure out a future that is financially secure is it just luck? [1:08:04]
- Big George doubleboard wakesurf
- Big George curling great success
- Big George eats it off the high chair
- First 20 Google employees, where are they now?
- Hertz Foundation Interview
- Lake Tahoe Philanthropy: Tahoe Daily Tribune 1
- Lake Tahoe Philanthropy: Tahoe Daily Tribune 2
LISTEN:Download Episode MP3
Get Over Yourself Podcast
Brad: 00:00:08 Welcome to the get over yourself podcast. This is author, an athlete, Brad Kearns, discovering ways to be healthy, fit and happy in hectic, high stress modern life. So let’s slow down and take a deep breath. Take a cold plunge and expertly balanced that competitive intensity with an appreciation of the journey. That’s the theme of the show. Here we go to get over yourself.
Brad: 00:05:09 Respect all around for big George Ray Sidney. We’re here. You’re in the hot seat. Thank you for joining the Get Over Yourself Podcast. Much respect.
Sidney: 00:05:20 Thank you Brad.
Brad: 00:05:21 And this hot seat was occupied recently by Larry Sidney. Fabulous show and he said how his big brother led the way on that first skeleton ride and that gave him the courage and the inspiration to try for his Olympic dream. So now I guess he completed a podcast and he’s led the way for for us to sit together. We’ve been talking about doing a show for a long time because I have some really important questions for you and I think your, your story is quite interesting. I know you’re a reluctant guest and you’re like, yeah, okay, whatever. But uh, we have some fun stuff. Most of all I’m wondering if, uh, Borat was the greatest acting performance of our generation.
Sidney: 00:06:01 You know, I think it was pretty top shelf stuff. I mean, I know there are those who feel that Ali G really was a check kit was the top, but I think Borat really exceeded. Okay.
Brad: 00:06:13 Yeah. I feel like in my lifetime I had Sean Penn when I was a young man. Fast Times at Ridgemont High, I saw that about 30 times. And he basically shaped the culture of the surfer dude, which still to this day is continued to be a main, you know, fundamental element of modern culture. Very important component isn’t that surfer dude, uh, you know, disposition that he characterized. And then we had Borat, it’s showing us the, Oh, exposing the dumb ass Americans and their prejudices and things like that. And also just, you know, taking, taking, acting to the next level. Kind of like Jim Carry I guess too on his shows. Right.
Sidney: 00:06:50 I would agree. Uh, I think that, uh, the record stands for itself on, on, um, on how well Americans can appreciate a Borat. Um, and his, uh, his country.
Brad: 00:07:03 It’s great country. So when we, you and I get together, we try many times in speaking conversation to bring Borat reference and keep sharp for this reason. Anyway, uh, You have this kind of story that is fascinating to many people because we’re captivated by this, uh, amazing technology.com Silicon Valley, uh, go there and strike it rich because people were getting these IPOs and stock options. And then they say, I’m off into the sunset. And you also have that great academic experience, which many parents are wishing and dreaming that their kid could maybe one day go to Harvard and MIT and then head off to a career. And so you kind of did all that. But, um, we, we reflected on this many times and I’d like to share that with the listeners where yeah, you started out as a guy who was really interested in studying and learning, especially on the mathematics side. And then it kind of led to this thing. So why don’t, where do you want to start from your, your early days as a, as a high school kid heading over to UConn to take some classes? Or where do we start?
Sidney: 00:08:16 Uh, I dunno, I don’t, uh, uh, you know what your, your myriad listeners know about me. Um, but yeah, you know, I was, I wasn’t very academically focused kid and I grew up in a, in a very academic family. My parents were both educators. My father was a math professor and I always liked math. I was always good at math and I always did a lot of math. And, uh, and that, that was true when I was a little kid. That was true when I was in high school. That’s true when I was in college and I studied math and I went to Grad school to study more math and I was just figuring on staying academic track the whole way. And that was, yeah, it was something that I found interesting. Something that I enjoyed. It was, seemed like a natural career path. And then know in graduate school I, I change trajectory really only a little bit.
Sidney: 00:09:06 I, I finished Grad School, I got my phd in math, but, um, I had decided that that was, that was the end of the academic path for me. And then I would actually go a go, we called it work in industry and not necessarily heavy industry, but you know, like coding or computer security, uh, definitely, you know, desk jobs, but a, that kind of industry. And, uh, that’s, uh, that’s where my, where I found myself and, uh, and it’s kind of funny for me just to reflect on, um, you know, people have always had concerns, you know, hey, you know, why go to college while you go to college to make sure you can have a good job. Um, you know, you get good education as a key to a good job is the key to, you know, being able to buy a good house, a, have a good life.
Sidney: 00:09:53 Right. And there is some truth to that, but I, I guess, uh, you know, for me, I went to college and Grad school and study this stuff I did because I, I enjoyed it. It felt natural and I, I wasn’t too worried about getting a job and I wasn’t thinking of setting myself up for, you know, when you kind of tremendous financial success. I mean, my, like I say my, you know, my father was a mathematician and I figured I would follow in his footsteps on that, inherit the family business, if you will. Um, and, uh, it just seemed, uh, no, it seemed like something, I understood it and it seemed like I knew what I was setting myself up for. And then later on I, uh, I worked in industry and, and, and then I ended up working at what was then a small startup. Uh, this was Google and my, my big claim to fame in life arguably is that day I was the second engineer there. And now it doesn’t mean that that anybody could have a predicted with 100% certainty what was going to happen with a world was going to happen with me. Um, including me. I certainly didn’t predict that. Uh, but you know, things worked out pretty well. Probably most of you have heard of Google. Ah,
Brad: 00:11:06 if you haven’t, Google it. Exactly what would happen if you tapped in Google into the Google search bar. I wonder? I think it might, maybe it would be like a gag, you know, cause the sense of humor behind all that stuff. They have like a big Dracula guy appear on your screen and ruin your windows hard drive or something.
Sidney: 00:11:22 There have been a few Easter eggs in, uh, in the Google scape, but, uh, I don’t know. I don’t know of anything along those lines. But, uh, she wears there. There’s something you could do where it’ll wait a turn, your turn, your ear, the image on your screen upside down. I think they’ve done things like that. I forget what maybe you should Google barrel roll, try that, but I could be misremembering.
Brad: 00:11:41 Try that. We’ll come back to the show. Thank you. Let us know through the email. Get Over Yourself. Podcast and g.mail.com oh g mail g that came from Google, Huh? Oh No, we’re all intertwined here. Mixed in. So back at that time, uh, you, you were, you were educated on the east coast, Harvard, MIT and Harvard Undergrad, MIT for your math phd, and then you decided to head West for job opportunities or better surf or what was that a step going like?
Sidney: 00:12:09 Well, so I had lived for, as you say, I lived out east for some, but I grew up in Connecticut and I had gone to school mostly in Massachusetts, Harvard, MIT, um, and, uh, moved out to the Bay Area largely because my, well, my wife at the time, my ex wife, uh, wanting to,
Brad: 00:12:26 she’s thrown like flowers. She come to California to make the fields for growing crops. Yes.
Sidney: 00:12:32 Uh, yeah, she grew up in LA and she, she wants to be closer to that and we moved out west and I, sorry, sadly, said goodbye to a, the Boston area and, and moved to the Bay Area and the Bay Area has for, for many moons now, been a very exciting place to, to be a technologist or to be an engineer. Um, and, and now, now more than ever I guess. Um, but, but this was back in 1996 when I moved out there and it was a definitely a phase change in my life. Um, and I, I worked various jobs out there and, and then it was at the very start of 1999 when I started working for Google will actually started as a company. Um, it was kind of, you know, it was a Stanford research project first, then it was actually a company, uh, started in September of 1998 and then a few months later I signed on to work with the folks there who are the two founders and, and two other people. And everybody was working out of half a house in Menlo Park
Brad: 00:13:40 that was there. They’re like, oh, make room for this new guy. Can we, can we fit a desk in to the, the little a duplex or whenever it was. Huh?
Sidney: 00:13:46 We did. There were a few of us in one bedroom.
Brad: 00:13:49 A bedroom.
Sidney: 00:13:50 Yeah. Well it was half a house. Right. So, uh, he was, uh, it was tight and it was not too long before we, we fully outgrew that and moved on to a [inaudible].
Brad: 00:14:00 So 777 acre corporate campus? No.
Sidney: 00:14:03 Yeah, a few steps in there. But yeah, we moved into what ended up being kind of a, a magic sweet in a, in Palo Alto magic because it has, um, um, just dated some, some other pretty well known companies. So actually, uh, maybe, maybe before paper, uh, maybe even before Google was there. I think paypal may have been in the same suite, uh, for awhile. Uh, I could be getting that wrong. I know that danger was there. Danger is not a household word except in the sense of danger of course. But danger was a nontrivial, a player in mobile software back in the day.
Brad: 00:14:37 Uh, as you were growing through the, the different size campuses, weren’t they doing things like having a doctor and level of mathematic people order fitness equipment and Spec out their gyms and so forth?
Sidney: 00:14:49 Yes. One, one random thing. I, I um, with some assistance from other people as I did most of the, uh, ordering equipment for, for our, uh, our gym and the first Mountain vVew building then is correct. Um, Marissa Meyer actually helped a little bit on that one as well.
Brad: 00:15:05 Just when she was like the, the, the demo person to see how much she could bench and then get the right plates on there
Sidney: 00:15:11 At Google it tended to be about how much you can bench. Absolutely.
Brad: 00:15:15 So, uh, you’re, you’re coming here with, uh, an educational pedigree, which would command a decent job and, and compensation. So when you went for this small operation that was a startup, was it kind of a flyer, a step down from working for a larger firm? I mean, what did that look like? Where you, where you, you’re having, where you kind of buying into these two guys dreams at? This could be something really cool or it was an opportunity to start on the ground floor of something?
Sidney: 00:15:42 Well, so in the Bay Area, and especially Silicon Valley for, for decades, stock a stock options and well and other kinds of stock compensation has, has frequently been a big part of a compensation package. It’s not always the case. And, uh, you know, some companies, uh, don’t give options at all. I mean, it may, it may or may not be a reasonable thing to give. And some companies, you know, they’re limited to certain kinds of positions. Um, but it’s definitely a, a classic way to, uh, to help attract talents, especially for, for something that’s just, you know, that’s a startup as an early stage company. You, you pay, ideally you pay people salary and you pay people a stock options. And sometimes, uh, sometimes it’s just stock options. If you don’t have money, you know, if you don’t have money to pay people with, you’re not going to pay people money. And so there you better have a pretty good story for your, um, potential employees there because if the company doesn’t have some kind of liquidity event, you know, if, if, if there’s no way to convert that stock into money, then, then you’re not, then you’re paying them something that’s not worth anything. So, happily for me, even in the very early days, Google actually had some funding, uh, when I started there, uh, in the middle of Okay. January 11th of 1999. Um,
Brad: 00:17:04 well that’s trippy mathematical one, one one nine, nine. Huh. You know, it’s kind of spooky.
Sidney: 00:17:10 There was a magic time. Um, and, uh, well we’ve, even when I started there though, we had some amount of funding from some angel investors and I actually never had to do without a salary. Um, it was, yeah, I guess, uh, there were, it was not the highest of salaries, but it was not a starvation wage either. Um, and I certainly have known plenty of people in the Bay Area working for companies that we’re not paying them for some or all of a relationship. And sometimes that works out well and sometimes it doesn’t. What can you say some, sometimes companies do that? Well, we are currently short on cash, but we’re busy raising money and we’re thinking in six weeks we’re going to have some money. We’ll be paying you guys.
Brad: 00:17:53 It’s going to be huge. Huge. I just swear this sometimes happens.
Sidney: 00:17:56 That’s definitely the promise out there. And, and it took me a while living in the Bay Area before I realized that, you know, all private companies, they’re always talking about, oh, we’re planning on going public, you know, in the next year or so. And I think things changed when a Sarbanes Oxley was passed. Uh, but so it’s a little,
Brad: 00:18:14 What’s that? Uh, uh, legislation?
Sidney: 00:18:16 So that’s the legislation that, uh, puts a, that mandates a whole lot of somewhat onerous rules, uh, as he followed for a com taking a company public and for. And I guess once it’s public also just kind of accounting and a and, and more. But uh, the idea is that they don’t want, you know, it’s in the short of it is it’s supposed to be investor protection. This is supposed to help protect people who are putting, you know, buying, buying these com, buying shares in these companies from, from getting took, if you will.
Brad: 00:18:49 I guess same for a startup employee who’s hearing the sales pitch from the the founder and coming aboard for no money. It’s going to be awesome. We’re going to go public a couple few months, a couple of few months from now. It’s just hang on, we’ll give you some free food. There’s some donuts in the, in the kitchen since you’re in bedroom number two,
Sidney: 00:19:07 free food is another modern day. A classic in the Silicon Valley of course.
Brad: 00:19:12 So, I guess you sat with these guys, you have of course, many career options, but you kind of believed in the story and the opportunity that, uh, was a veiled by this very small startup. But I’m wondering, because if it’s that small, there’s really not a whole thing to go on if you were the, the hundredth employee to start at Google and they have some great momentum and they’re getting lot of just having the best search engine, that’s one thing. But this seem like a, it must have been just, um, kind of a whim.
Sidney: 00:19:41 Well, yeah, so I was mulling over a few, uh, job possibilities there. And, um, this was certainly the, the earliest stage company. Again, you know, there were only four people there, um, at the time. And
Brad: 00:19:56 Was one of them the housekeeper or you’re saying four people actually working and then, yeah?
Sidney: 00:20:01 Four people working wow. And, um, it was, uh, uh, you know, hey, you know, you can, you can take your job there. You don’t know where it is now. You can take a job at a bigger company and then, hey, you know, you, uh, you know, tough times and they closed some division and you know, here, or you were hired two months ago and now they’re laying you off because the whole division doesn’t exist anymore. Like in a bigger company. I mean, you know, um, that’s right. Anything can happen but, but of course, yeah, the odds are better that you’re going to have a job in a year if you’re working at some, some gigantic, a enterprise. Then if you’re working at some little startup,
Brad: 00:20:37 I don’t know, maybe they’re even, because if you’re on such a small team, it’s like they’re count if you, if you have a sick day, um, you know, Google’s, productivity that day was down 20% and so they need you more desperately than any large enterprise where it’s like, hey, let’s, let’s cut a few head count here. We had a bad quarter. So I would imagine you are at least feeling secure for a couple of years of hard, hard labor in the trenches.
Sidney: 00:21:02 Well, it depends on how the funding situation for the company pans out. So you know, like if you have some, some big company that is making money then you know that they can pay their bills including they can, you know, afford to have employees. They may, they may decide that well for the sake of our margins, for the sake of our investors, we need to close down divisions. We need to lay people off, whatever. But if you have a little startup that is nowhere near profitable, then you know they, they, they’re only gonna have so long a run there only enough, so much money. And then when they run out of money, they kind of closed the door. It was her, you can again, you can do things to stretch that money. For example, you can tell people, okay, for the moment, unfortunately we will not be paying you wages. We’ll give you extra stock and what little money we have, well we have to pay rent or go sometimes. Sometimes you can also pay rent with stock and we, you know, we have to pay for Internet service that’s non negotiable that you need. Anything else is kind of gravy, I guess. As long as you have your Internet service, you’re good. Anything else? Pay With stock if you can, if you’re a tight for money.
Brad: 00:22:04 So seems like from that point, uh, you plunged into, was it an all consuming career where you guys are doing the proverbial round the clock and uh, you know, racing in this technology battle to be, I would imagine you have to prevail as a top search engine. We can all recall those old time search engines that are no longer around ask Jeeves or Altavista or what have you. So what, what was the competitive circumstance like in the work environment?
Sidney: 00:22:35 Well, so we all, we saw this a competitive opportunity that we, what we saw this, this big opportunity I built, but we also saw the competition. So, um, you know, and it’s, it is the case that even the, uh, the greatest technology does not always win in the marketplace. There, there are many reasons that can happen, including, um, including, okay, you have a great idea, you know, great, great engineers to build it. Great sales and marketing people. And you know, some kind of bad leadership at the top or you know, any, any of the other things could be the sticking points. Um, and sometimes, okay, it’s, it’s great all around. Everybody knows that who, what you’re doing, but you know what, the time is wrong. People are not, you know, and then this is not the time for that, that people are going to be willing to pay for it. So in, in early Internet days, um,
Brad: 00:23:24 You, you could be before your time, you can be, before you had this fabulous, incredible thing and be too early to market, you can be from the future flat on your face. Yeah.
Sidney: 00:23:34 Now, if you’re from the future and, and you say, okay, I know what a various stocks are going to do for the next 10 years, you can make yourself a lot of money. If you’re from the future and you try to sell future product that there’s no market for now, you could lose a lot of money. So it’s not always good be from
Brad: 00:23:50 FYI for all those from the future, all your time, travelers, you know, be smart. Um, Write down those Superbowl scores and then go bet on them in Las Vegas when you come back from the future, that’s,
Sidney: 00:24:03 That is the way and drop Brad a line to let him know about a, uh, the results there. Um, now I forgot what was the question?. Oh, so, you know, we were all
Brad: 00:24:13 With other search engines or whatever the circumstances were.
Sidney: 00:24:16 Yeah. And it was, you know, we were not a very well known. Uh, when I joined there, again, the company was only a few months old. Um, and, and we saw this opportunity, but you know, an opportunity is, is, is, uh, partly an opportunity to build a lot of stuff to be able to build product. And so we had kind of a basic search engine working just very, very simple website with a, with this great search technology and there was so much to be built. And so all of us, all of us felt like, like we had this great opportunity and we wanted to make the most of it. And so everybody’s working all kinds of hours. Um,
Brad: 00:24:55 There’s a growing quickly adding headcount at a rapid rate after you started
Sidney: 00:24:59 pretty quickly. The reality is, you know, when you’re a small, when you’re a small company, so, okay, so before me, there were four people, so hey, adding me on. Oh my God, we just grew by 25%. So, uh, you know, just, just like a, in the real world when, when species, a species increases population, you know, it has some kind of exponential growth. Uh, you know, so it is too, with most companies that, that, you know, you’re okay. Maybe, you know, you talk about in a year we increased our headcount by 20%, and for a mature company that’s, that’s where that would be huge to increase your, uh, your, your employee count by by 20%. Um, you know, if you’re a startup with, with two people or three people or something like that, you’re probably hoping to finish your first year with a, you know, I don’t know. It depends, you know, 15 people, a hundred people all depends. But, but you’re hoping to, to have several, at least several times as many people if you’re starting from basically nowhere. Um, but so in the, in the early days, I mean, Google was very much the, the prototypical startup. We, we thought we had this opportunity. We really believed in, uh, in both the opportunity and the product itself. And so we wanted to make the most of it. And so, you know, we worked hard. We worked long and, um, we, we, you know, tried to have a good time doing it. And I think, I think we did. Um, but it was a, it was some, there was some long, long hours and I know
Brad: 00:26:24 You’re still recovering, so let’s see. Now it’s a 14 year breather.
Sidney: 00:26:29 Can’t rush these things that you’ve got to have, got to make sure you recover.
Brad: 00:26:33 But those, those long hours, we’re also, um, from what little, I understand there wasn’t a direct economic application in the early days. Other words, you’re making this cool search engine. Uh, but the immediate monetization of that was, was not even a, a, a central element. It seemed like everything was focused on not making money and having, having a blank homepage and all those things that some other companies just tried to cash in right away. And obviously it didn’t survive to the extent that that Google did.
Sidney: 00:27:04 Right. And so, so Google specifically, um, you know, it was not founded with the idea of, of uh, selling advertising. And I think I seem to remember that Larry and or Sergei, um, we’re kind of on the record as saying they felt such things where evil, none, maybe around the middle of 1999, we thought, you know what, let’s take a look at this. Maybe if we do this in a different way, it wouldn’t be evil. And it does seem like maybe we’re leaving some money on the table there. Maybe we can make a little bit of money doing this and that would kind of stretch our cash situation. And it’s always nice, uh, not to be constantly in fundraising mode. So, um, so in somewhere in the middle of 1999, I think it was that, that, um, the original ad server at Google was, was created. And I think the first ad was for someone who sold lobsters. Somebody was selling lobsters
Brad: 00:28:03 First one, their very first one,
Sidney: 00:28:05 I believe either the very first one shown are the very first customer. Probably those are the same. It turned out to be a, a bit of a hit and it turned out that maybe we can make a lot of money doing that at Google. Yeah. Don’t, don’t know
Brad: 00:28:22 Everyone realizes how the operation has been profitable with that ad being the, I mean, mainly that’s the, the technology of having a ad connected with the search term was kind of the breakthrough that has ushered in this modern era of targeted advertising. It’s really fascinating.
Sidney: 00:28:42 Yeah. And so, so again, Google was not the first search engine or, or portal to do this. And you know, all the, all the big players at the time were doing it. Um, Google’s advertising has been through, you know, they have several different versions of it. They’ve been through some iterations and they’ve done some stuff and stuff that’s a very technical and very, very intelligent over the years. And they were always modifying and optimizing their, their ad systems. Partly too, you know, they, they try to make any of the ads helpful rather than annoying and uh, you know, you, you can judge for yourself whether that’s 100%, uh, that they pulled it off 100%, but hey, um, and then partly to, uh, to get more or to make more money off the ads. And so those are, those are two of their, uh, their motivations.
Brad: 00:29:31 Yeah. So quickly to, to uh, describe it, uh, for, for the lay person, if you go into Google and type in “personal trainer a Palo, California”, uh, you hit return and you see some, I guess organic search results, but you also see an opportunity for some personal trainer out there to get an account with Google and put their name into the mix if anyone types that search term in. And then if someone happens to click on that, that person is getting charged by Google a certain amount of money every time someone clicks on their, on their ad. And so it’s very elegant because you don’t have to pay for the ad until someone clicks on you. And then if you have a really killer term like “weight loss”, the pay per quick is a lot of money where if you have a search term, like a guided tours of smokey fire areas on mountain bike and there’s probably not going to be many demand for someone claiming that search term. And so it’s, it’s that free market where you, you bid on the search terms and decide how much you want to pay for your business to be number one when it comes up to painting your car, whatever.
Sidney: 00:30:38 Yeah. And a lot of people are not fully aware of this. Um, I think, I think the ads on the Google page are marked as, I think they’re called “sponsored links” Um, certainly they’ve used that term before. I think they’re still using it. Um, and that lets you know, if you’re, if you’re, uh, aware of it and let us know, okay, these somebody, somebody paid for these, that does not mean that they’re not a reasonable answer to your query or that they are do not provide what you’re looking for. They might well, and hopefully they do. Um, but it means that somebody has paid to have their, their company or their, their project a come up there.
Brad: 00:31:11 Yeah. It seems like there’s a good deal of scrutiny, which is what, what makes it high quality is that you can’t just randomly, it’s like when you search on Youtube for “greatest catch ever” and you’ll see a Super Bowl result when Lynn Swann made the catch at the 50 yard line against the Cowboys and then you’ll see some kid in his backyard catching the nerf ball. You know, there’s not that, there’s not that scrutiny, but I think with the advertising, there’s probably a, there’s a lot of safe guards so that you’re going to get quality results. That’s why they, that’s why Google prevailed. Right?
Sidney: 00:31:42 Uh, that, that is definitely a part of it, that, um, again, at the ads like the, like the search results themselves, uh, have some good relevance to the query. I mean, so I think, I think these days, well, if you’re looking for something that you either, you know, you want to buy some things and it were, it’s worthy of, you’re doing a little bit of research on exactly what product to get or you’re going to order it, you know, you’re, you’re game to order it online. One of the few places you’ll probably start out is, is Google. You’ll just search some description of the product and then you’ll see what comes up. And that’s, that’s where you’re going to start doing your research. And you may go, you may end up going right to a vendor’s website to learn more, you know, or the manufacturer’s website to learn more about it. Um, you know, we’re, maybe there are some, maybe there’s some, some alternative deeper research you need to do, but, uh, but that’s certainly one of the starting places for shopping.
Brad: 00:32:34 So can you describe your role or do you have to be a mathematician to understand what was your contribution in those early years?
Sidney: 00:32:41 No. So you’ve got the fitness center going and
Brad: 00:32:45 get healthy. We had a two TRX things hanging from the wall and a big giant stack of freeweights.
Sidney: 00:32:50 We had lots of, uh, lots of fitness equipment back there. Um, but that was a yes, that may not have been my major role, my major role, at least in the early days. Uh, I was very interested in improving performance, so getting, uh, our software to, to work faster, to give results more quickly and to use less, uh, less cycles, less less, uh, process or power so that we could, you know, given computer could handle more queries at a time. That was definitely an interest of mine and I spent a fair amount of time on that back in the early days.
Brad: 00:33:24 Now you’re getting more traffic. Do you have to add these server machines and make a big giant room stacked to the ceiling or go rent a warehouse just to have the capacity for, uh, hundreds of thousands, then millions and billions of searches a day?
Sidney: 00:33:40 So this was actually, um, a place where removal was kind of an innovator. So most, most companies with a, um, a big web presence were, uh, they, they ran their, their servers on these, these big expensive server boxes from, from SGI or from a more commonly, I guess from Sun. Um, and, and you would have, you know, it have to be a big a would have to be, you know, it’d be, it’d be a single computer running all this stuff and I’m happy, you know, really fast. And those boxes were really expensive. Um, and Google was on a different paradigm. Each event, each fit servers we’ve just run on essentially, really a PC. Um, and originally it really, it actually was just a regular PC. Like you could go buy at the store.
Brad: 00:34:31 Oh. And to Staples, I’ll be right back. I’m going to the world, organize their information, need to go get another PC.
Sidney: 00:34:36 Exactly.
Brad: 00:34:37 Oh it’s you again. What’s your name again? Larry. Sergey. Yeah. Okay. It’s over there in the corner. There’s a box for you.
Sidney: 00:34:44 Apparently back in the old days when they were still at Stanford, Larry and Sergey, when they want, you know, want when they want and more servers for their, uh, for the Google project, they would uh, hang out a little bit at the delivery dock at Stanford Computer Science Department. And then when they would see, hey, look at this a, they just delivered a bunch of PCs. Let’s see which professor those are earmarked for and go, go talk to that professor. Maybe. Maybe we can score a few of them. That would be the way they, they uh, upped their number of machines back in the day. It’s a little different now. Um, yeah. But anyway, so, so Google famously decided that we are not going to run on super computers. We’re going to, we’re going to just go, just gonna run in this, you know, commodity hardware, basically PCs. And if we need more, you know, if we’re, as our traffic grows and our server grow, uh, we’re just gonna throw more PCs in there with appropriate software that we’ve written, of course. And that’s the way we’re going to scale. And so, um, yeah, I, I, I could not guess how many computers Google has these days. I would, you know, some, some millions, maybe many millions. I don’t know. I’m, I’m, I’m making that up. Mid millions isn’t even a real word. I don’t know.
Brad: 00:36:02 Well, you see those pictures like the, the, the, the funnest one is in Sweden where it’s built into the underground, a glacier so that it’s automatically cold, but it’s like a football field in length, just filled with servers. And we have these images, these giant, giant operations. So I guess that’s, that’s where it’s gone. It’s just massive volume of servers?
Sidney: 00:36:22 Correct. Correct. Um, and these servers do not have to be located at a place where Google and you know, we’re Google engineers are in droves or Google executives or Google salespeople are these, it’s, you know, call it a server farm and use in the early days, Google and other companies would, would rent space from a company that specialized in having space for, for hosting servers. And if a computer crashed, you would actually maybe, you know, you might call up that company, Hey, uh, this server in our, in our space crashed. Can you go and reboot it for us please? Um, that was, that was long ago. And at some point, Google, maybe Google does that still in some countries or in some places, but, but on the whole, I think now Google owns or you know, it essentially has its own buildings with yes, huge rooms for a bird servers. And Hey, if you can figure it out, like 100,000 servers in a computer, servers in a, uh, in a room make a lot of heat. They use a lot of energy and they make a lot of heat. The energy turns into heat basically. Um, so anything you can do to, to make, uh, make it cheaper and more, uh, environment and your greener to, to cool those is great. And so if you can, yeah, if you can build, or I know a lot of the server farms are located right next to a nice, cool river. And so you can just to have pumps constantly circulating, taking a river water, using it to cool the room, that does not mean that you flood the room, but, uh, there’s, there’s slightly smarter ways of doing it. And then the, the somewhat heated up water then goes back into the river. And if you, if you do this right, you’re not, then, you know, it was very ecologically friendly and, um, and also very cost effective.
Brad: 00:38:11 So, uh, things are progressing. And then unusually, so you kind of got tired of the whole deal and you bailed the relatively early before any, uh, magnificent, uh, public offerings happened. So tell me about your, your retirement from Google.
Sidney: 00:38:30 Well. So yeah, originally I, uh, there was March of 2003 and I felt like
Brad: 00:38:37 If we rewind the show, we realized he started in 99. So you hit the four year mark, they had a little cake for you and then you’re like, yeah, I’ve had enough of this.
Sidney: 00:38:46 Well, so like a lot about the company and I still even now, many years later, I have close friends from those days if you still wear their clothes, you have a custom bike gears. Exactly. I do have some, some Google swag. Um, but I felt like I needed a break. I was feeling kind of burnt out and I felt like I needed a break and I thought maybe a month or two or three. Um,
Brad: 00:39:09 for a 112. Yeah. Well the muscle, your initial, your initial thing was like sort of a sabbatical and it was undetermined length or, well,
Sidney: 00:39:20 I went, you know, we called it on leave know, so I going to take some time off also
Brad: 00:39:25 when we Google you today, it says Ray Sydney on leave or wait a second, are you still on leave for you?
Sidney: 00:39:30 No, no. Eventually I decided, you know, I’m still feeling burnt out.
Brad: 00:39:34 And how long were you on leave? Like how long were you personally thinking that you might go back?
Sidney: 00:39:38 I don’t know. I think, I think I probably officially quit probably the, at the end of 2003 or so is my guess. I’m not sure exactly. Um, but my last day actually working, I think it was March 11th of 2003. Um,
Brad: 00:39:54 so we got threes and nines and one’s in 11 hours and so many numbers out there. Yeah.
Sidney: 00:39:59 Um, and again, I know, hey, I didn’t know then and I don’t know now what the future holds, but I just thought, okay, maybe a little time. Uh, I have some interesting projects to pursue.
Brad: 00:40:11 And projects of the work nature, like a consultant you mean or, no, and it wasn’t a cleaning your apartment?
Sidney: 00:40:18 Closer to it. Um, you know, just some, some research projects and math and computer science programming stuff, some little little projects, you know, hey, everybody’s got projects that are personal interests you mean? Yeah, yeah. Personally it’s kind of academic stuff, whatever. But, uh, I didn’t end up doing too much on any of those. Uh, uh, just, uh, you know, the rest of the year went by in a hurry, it seems like, and, and I hadn’t gotten a whole lot done and I didn’t feel like going back to, to work at Google just because I was still feeling burnt out on that. And it wasn’t until, actually, it wasn’t until years later that I thought, hey, you know, maybe I should’ve considered some other role there instead of being a software engineer. But at the time
Brad: 00:41:01 center tell boy, yeah, the personal trainer. Oh boy. You
Sidney: 00:41:06 know, anything. Right. Okay. We didn’t have a pull back then, but, hey, uh, yeah, I, I just, at the time, I really identified with, with being a software engineer, I felt like that was, you know, software engineering is what I do, software engineers who I am, and I didn’t feel inclined to try something else. And it’s, it’s funny, a genuinely did not even occur to me until years later that night. You know, maybe I should’ve thought about that. Maybe there was some other role that would have been a good fit at the time, but know, uh, yeah, so I kinda spent the rest of 2003 not being super productive. Um,
Brad: 00:41:43 Again, there’s no, uh, it’s not a publicly traded company. Correct. So you walk away with some options as they’re known now, but they’re basically worthless.
Sidney: 00:41:54 Well, so, okay. And this was, I had stock because I had to exercise my options, but, but again, so, okay. So I have stock in a nonpublic company who knows if and when I can do anything with that stock, as you say. Um, and you know, uh, let’s see. So I actually, I went on leave from Google about a year and a half before Google IPO’d. And, but when I went on leave, who knew if there’ll be an IPO, certainly IPOs happen. Um, but until it happens, you don’t know for sure that is going to happen. Sometimes. There have actually been in a, in Silicon Valley, some high profile, almost IPOs, um, even in the same space as Google. So, so notably, uh, a former intern at high flyer, I believe that’s the term that people use a Alta Vista for those of you who remember that one, um, was going to have an initial public offering or IPO and thereby making their stock, um, tradable on, on an open market. Uh, and then they decided, you know, maybe a few days before the scheduled IPO, uh, you know, the markets are, I believe the term was frothy, too frothy. So let’s, uh, you know, it’s kind of unpredictable. Let’s pull the IPO for now and we’ll do it later, but sometimes later doesn’t arrive. And so Alta Vista actually never did go public. And, um, they’re, they’re star went down and down and down and eventually for, I don’t remember how much, but a relatively small, such small sum of money, they were a acquired I think by all to, I think by Yahoo. Um, and they were once the, uh, they were once the darling of Internet search, they were the one to beat. And so, okay, Google beat him.
Brad: 00:43:52 Was Google facing pressure to go public PR prior to this 2004, because remember the.com, uh, sensations, was it [inaudible] 99, 2000, maybe kind of closing that window in 2001. But during that hot time when everybody and their brother went public and some of these flimsy companies actually, uh, were trading for a lot of money for a short time. And everyone who was involved with getting rich, uh, these guys were kind of on the sidelines, the decision makers at Google.
Sidney: 00:44:19 Well, so what’s, what’s the reason a company company goes public? A company goes public too to financially reward its stakeholders checks. We’re going public. Really? Yeah. So who are the stakeholders? Stakeholders. Uh, they vary, but you know, the, you know, any, anybody who has stock in the company basically, um, because what the IPO, the, uh, does it make it creates a market for the stock in the company. So who holds stock in the company? Well, in the case of Google, you know, every employee or almost every employee, I don’t, I don’t know for sure. Um, but so employees had stock and that includes the founders and other executives. Um, the angel investors who put money in very early on, the, um, the, the venture capitalists who put money in, um, in, in 2000, I’m sorry. Uh, yeah, in, in the year, I don’t know, I guess in 1999 and I don’t know that more money was put in later and a few other parties because Google, as did others, Google did in fact pay some vich rent with, um, uh, with stock and
Brad: 00:45:31 a massage therapist and a famous massage therapist who became a millionaire.
Sidney: 00:45:35 Well, she was an employee, you know, so, uh, you know, the massage therapists were employees like, like other employees. And so I think they were calm state was with star, you know, in addition to salary. And so, um,
Brad: 00:45:45 I’d ordinarily tip you but about a cache, but here is a certificate that may one day be worth something.
Sidney: 00:45:50 Yeah. And these things happen. These are some interesting things. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the show Silicon Valley. Uh, I’ve, I’ve watched a few episodes that people were telling me, Oh man, you got to watch this.
Brad: 00:45:59 And I’ve seen a few episodes.
Sidney: 00:46:01 I do need to watch more. I do find it pretty funny and pretty, they have pretty well captured some, some parts of, uh, of Silicon Valley culture and behavior.
Brad: 00:46:11 They similar show where you got a cameo?
Sidney: 00:46:14 No, it wasn’t driving every candidate. Uh, oh, um, the
Brad: 00:46:17 cameo by name Betas Bay. Uh,
Sidney: 00:46:20 this was a, an Amazon show that I’m like, yeah. You know, it was one of their first shows, the first shows that Amazon created and they, that lasted one season actually. I, uh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I thought it was an amazing show. Actually. I wouldn’t mind watching some more seasons, but uh, since they don’t exist, they probably won’t.
Brad: 00:46:39 What was the dialogue that came up in the script for that?
Sidney: 00:46:44 You’ll have to,
Brad: 00:46:45 I think it was my friends Todd and I was trying to find it, but I thought the guy said I want to be like Ray Sidney. And they said, who the fuck’s then he said exactly. He was this guy who was early Google and he, he um, he blew town and now he lives the good life and Lake Tahoe. And I think just for an aside, there was also a formal article of where are they now? That was on some Internet resource. Right. And they, they listed the, the early Google people and every one of them, I think, maybe I’m exaggerating, but every one of them is accounted for. Like Larry and Sergey are still running the show. And then this person’s here running this other company and this person did this start up and then you like stick out like a sore thumb, like, uh, wake surfing in Lake Tahoe. So is that an accurate characterization or the, are these that you worked with and these people, you know, going on to continue technological careers while you’re gone in continually different path?
Sidney: 00:47:39 Well, it depends. I certainly know at this point. I had been gone from Google for a long time. Again, I last worked there in March of 2003. And that, that really is a long time in human years and dog years, internet years, you know, you, you name it.
Brad: 00:47:54 Yeah. I tried to go get a meal there when I was passing through and I said, hi, I know Ray Sidney, I was going to come have some of your salmon. And they said, who the hell who the f that I got shut down?
Sidney: 00:48:03 Unbelievable.
Brad: 00:48:04 We didn’t have a visitor badge and they said, get outta here. No respect anymore. Back to anymore. Yeah.
Sidney: 00:48:09 Next time you know, you have them, give me a call. Um, uh, yeah. You know, when I go there and I, uh, you know, once in Blue Moon I’ll go there and, uh, if I for some occasion and have a, have a meal with somebody and I kind of say no, not a lot of familiar faces at this point. Uh, that’s still some great people there. I mean, great people that I, that I know from the ancient days and then great people that I don’t know and don’t know are great, but apparently I’m calling them great. Anyway.
Brad: 00:48:35 Um, uh, so okay. We were in on the sidelines here with a year and a half waiting period.
Sidney: 00:48:44 Oh yeah. So, you know, when I went on leave, I had my savings and I went into what I call it economy mode. I didn’t know if there would be an IPO. I didn’t know when there would be an IPO and I just, I didn’t want to have to go back to the daily grind, whatever before I was ready to do so. MMM.
Brad: 00:49:09 Can’t be king of the world if you’re a slave to the grind.
Sidney: 00:49:13 Yeah, that’s true. Um,
Brad: 00:49:16 so he’s in economy mode hanging still in the Bay Area,
Sidney: 00:49:19 living in the bay.
Brad: 00:49:20 Are you picking up odd jobs like building fitness centers for other technology companies or what have you
Sidney: 00:49:25 should have that angle? Yeah, I mean I could still do that. Um, no, you know, at the end of 2003 I was feeling kind of lame about not getting much done on my, uh, more cerebral projects that I had envisioned working on.You get your MIT Alumni magazine where they have the distinctive accomplishments at the alumni in the back and then says, oh, I don’t see my name in there. I guess they don’t want to know about my recent mountain bike ride across the mountains, uh, from Auburn to Lake Tahoe.
Sidney: 00:49:53 Was it a good one? Oof. Those, I still remember those mosquitoes to, uh, yeah.
Brad: 00:50:00 You were feeling itchy there at the end of both? Yeah,
Sidney: 00:50:03 I was in that and my girlfriend at the time was, uh, she was a little annoyed with me for, you know, not being very productive and uh, that’s
Brad: 00:50:11 a, uh, a bad sign for a relationship. I guess I’ll have to say, you know,
Sidney: 00:50:16 maybe, maybe, or
Brad: 00:50:17 those of you out there listening, trying to manipulate or influence your partner’s path in life or you accept them as they are, support them whenever they’re trying to do, including maze around the House with their phd. MIT. This is just mine. Just my input.
Sidney: 00:50:29 On the other hand, it is a good thing if a, you know, the, the members of our relationship, if they inspire each other, how’s that? So inspiring is good. Maybe bullying into action is bad. I Dunno.
Brad: 00:50:41 Uh, I mean, the Dr. William Hughes wrote a great book about parenting and he said, if it’s the parent’s idea, it’s oftentimes a bad idea. Ends up bad. If it’s the kid’s idea, it almost always ends up great. So if the kid wants to build a canoe for Cub Scouts and you’re gonna drive them to the store to get the material, that’s great. But if the parents like, hey, let’s win the prize for the most distinctive would creation. Let me take you to the store. I’ll show you some of these plans. We can work on it together. Son Watch me while I get my power drill out. That usually ends up to be a bad idea.
Sidney: 00:51:15 I think I have a little little experience with that too, although I don’t have any kids of my own at present, but uh, I actually have gone through some of that. Um,
Brad: 00:51:25 okay.
Sidney: 00:51:26 Yeah. Well, hey, you know, and then actually this and this ex girlfriend of mine, actually, we’re, we’re still close. We still talk and do things together. Um, but I did feel even in without her, I felt like that it just doesn’t see, you know, I had thought I was gonna be working on these projects, haven’t gotten much done. Maybe, maybe I need to get a job so that I get some stuff done. So,
Brad: 00:51:48 A job??
Sidney: 00:51:48 I know of all things.
Brad: 00:51:49 The original Arthur, oh it’s been awhile, but yeah, cause Arthur said like he didn’t know what he was going to do. He got cut off and he’s like, I got it. Oh, get a job. And then the grandma wouldn’t hear that. So he was back on the planet. Okay. So you thought the idea of getting a job.
Sidney: 00:52:06 Yeah. And so I had a friend who was looking for engineers to, to work for, um, for him on a project. And so I started working there and I guess I, I just wasn’t feeling it. I was still burnt out, not as preoccupied with wanting to be. And you know, I spent three months there before I decided, you know what, this, this isn’t for me. I’m not, I’m just not into it. Um, so I left there and hunker down economy mode, see what happens and um, it’s got a funny, so, um,
Sidney: 00:52:45 So Google IPO happened in, in, uh, August of 2004 and, and then, you know, kind of very shortly thereafter now I had money, more money that I ever then I’d ever had in my life. Uh, but just a month or two before that, my, my younger brother and sister, a younger brother that you may have met recently, um, they went to Russia to visit, I went on a summer trip to Russia to, you know, and they stayed with some friends and some family friends for us. We’re living in Russia for half a year or a year. And I actually wanted to join them and I didn’t because I was in economy mode and spending a few thousand dollars on our trip to Russia, even if I were going to do it, you know, really ghetto style and really as cheap as I could, still, it was an unnecessary expense and that could make the difference between me having to go back to work when I’m not ready to and me not having to go back to work when I’m not ready to. And so I’m like, okay, well I, I can hunker down at home in Mountain View and I can still enjoy myself, but I’m, I’m still in economy mode. I’m still on a budget here.
Brad: 00:53:56 You fly first Kasikstan, then you take train to Russia is very cheap. You should have gone, okay, you’re back home, uh, hunkering down.
Sidney: 00:54:07 And um working out and all that, keeping fit wherever.
Sidney: 00:54:10 Talked about, you know, I though it was like biking, running, lifting weights, such things. Right. But, but I was in economy mode as I, as I say. And, um, so then I worked out and you know, after the IPO I exited economy mode somewhat gracefully perhaps, uh, and uh, entered a new life I guess. Um, and, and you know, not long thereafter, a few months thereafter I moved from the Bay Area to Tahoe. I wasn’t feeling like I had a lot keeping me in tough, uh, in the Bay Area. Tahoe seemed enticing. I liked the idea of having more, more space, more quiet. I don’t need a lot of city life. I figured I’d be getting in loss of skiing and snowboarding and a lot of that has worked out. Okay.
Brad: 00:54:58 Well you also transitioned to kind of a, uh, philanthropic presence, especially here in the Tahoe area. But you, you, you know, your, your, your boy said don’t be evil was the quote that got passed around. And I believe also there was some message conveyed about being responsible for the, for the wealth. And, um, I remember reading some wonderful insights about that where, I mean obviously came mostly from you, but with this new life that you had a, you also kind of changed your focus and direction to see if you can make a difference in other ways besides writing code.
Sidney: 00:55:37 Well, you know, looks everybody’s, everybody’s part of some community and some people for some people or some community or communities and for some people, you know, they’re super involved in all sorts of ways with all sorts of community organizations, whatever, you know, that that’s not the same thing as, you know, nonprofit. It’s not the same thing. It’s philanthropic, whatever. There are these, these are just, you know, kind of labels, whatever. But there’s all sorts of stuff going on and, and hey, everybody’s part of it to some extent. And, um, you know, for me the fact that hey, all of a sudden after the IPO, I had some money meant that, you know, like, okay, that’s one way I can help, uh, the community or causes that I believe in. Right? I mean, all of a sudden now I have more money than I’ve ever had, and so I can, I can contribute to that. And, you know, I’ve, I’ve put in some of my time on things, you know, uh, I, I certainly know people are plenty of people who put in a lot more time on, on worthy endeavors than I do. Um, I, uh, just hasn’t worked out that way for me, that I, that I get super involved in this stuff. Um, then, you know, for me, I guess it’s easier, more pleasant, more natural to, to, to help out with, with funding for most things, some exceptions, but, but, um,
Brad: 00:56:49 yeah, I mean, if there’s a, uh, a flood and they need people to put the sandbags and place, that’s great, but if they need to buy 3000 sandbags, everyone has their unique contribution they can make,
Sidney: 00:57:01 but you don’t think I can carry sandbags? Yeah.
Brad: 00:57:02 You could probably do both. Yeah. Yeah. Um, so was it such that you were calling around seeing if people needed help? I, I recall the, didn’t the elementary school, like not return your call a couple times or you’re asking them if you could help and they forgot to get back to you or something like that.
Sidney: 00:57:20 Yeah. So, so, so, you know, education in schools are always near and dear to my heart. And so, um, so it was a natural thing for me to try and get involved with the, uh, the school district here where I live. And, um, I think maybe, maybe I, uh, um, kind of showed up suddenly and, and I, uh, you know, sent some sent of emails to, to some of the schools, you know, to the principals and, and yeah. Hey, you know, is there anything that you guys could really use money for? And, um, yeah, sometimes it took a while for them to get back to me. I can think of one example of that. Uh,
Brad: 00:58:01 it will need some new paper plates for our next bake sale. We would love that. Thank you so much. And then the high school said, well, we a new, we needed a fricking new stadium with some turf and a track and that’s a beautiful facility down there. Douglas High School. Um, did you get to throw out the first or the first ball for the football? The inaugural game under the lights. Right. Cause they need an lights too.
Sidney: 00:58:21 I think I would’ve been embarrassed because, uh, some possibility that my foot would have missed the ball. Um, so probably best that I didn’t do that. But uh, yeah, go Tigers. Uh, Douglas High School, I did a, I did help them out with, uh, with their athletic complex there. And, uh, I think it’s a great thing for schools. He’s, he’s a lot of use. Hmm.
Brad: 00:58:43 Uh, you were also the, the founding father of the Running School organization that I ran and we went around and did these kids fitness programs and got kids moving away from their sedentary lifestyle. So it’s greatly appreciated. And I like that, uh, emphasis on, I think you’re, you’re about outdoor, keeping it green, keep keeping, keeping Tahoe natural and uh, open to recreation, the academic part. And didn’t you also get involved with the, what do they call those, the Strange Fellow Foundation or something where you’re helping other foundations? What’s that all about? Oh, so,
Sidney: 00:59:22 well, when I was in Grad School, I had a fellowship from the Hertz Foundation and it Hertz. It’s not Hearst, it’s Hertz like rent a car. And the foundation was actually founded or created by Fannie and John Hertz who, who also founded the rental car company. Um, and they, um, they created this foundation. I believe the stated goal was to ensure the continued technological supremacy of the United States. You could listen to that and think it sounds a little scary or not. But anyway, for most the foundation’s life, they, they provided fellowships for some really sharp students, graduate students studying math or science or engineering. Um, and I was fortunate enough to get one of these fellowships and, uh, and for some years now, I’ve been pretty involved with the foundation there. Um, and I’m now I’m on their board and I, um, try to advocate for them or help them when I can. But, uh, it’s, uh, you know, really interesting community of people there to interact with and uh, just some really sharp folks and some real polymaths. Um, so I’ve enjoyed my, uh, my association with the foundation.
Brad: 01:00:40 I don’t know what a polymath has, but I guess it’s a person. Good at addition, subtraction, multiplication and division,
Sidney: 01:00:46 all the fundamentals. Yeah. So polymath just someone who, who knows about a lot of different things. So someone is, yeah, it kind of the opposite of a specialist. Maybe it’s uh, uh, you know, a renaissance man is, is a little bit, you know, a somewhat similar term. Yeah.
Brad: 01:01:02 So your life is so different today. You’re kind of in the polymath mode where you have numerous interests and passions and you’re traveling a lot and you’re involved in these different projects and investments versus those days when you were highly focused on, uh, programming and something much more narrow. What’s kind of the, the pros and cons or what do you, what do you miss about those, those old days you’re allowed to say nothing. And what do you kind of, um, what do you gain the most satisfaction from these days?
Sidney: 01:01:33 Hmm. Is a many faceted question. Uh, not sure to beat what to begin with. And I think, so for me, I actually, I’m naturally good at focusing really strongly on, on one thing. So for example, when I was in, uh, you know, when I was a software engineer, um, that actually suited me pretty well. Um, that you’re, you know, you’re really okay, you can see it as, you know, staring at the screen, but you know, you’re really focusing on some, some problem. There trying to, you know, make the machine do your bidding if you will. I know it can be done if I’m just, you know, if I can just figure out how, right. And that’s, you know, I think a software engineering as, as you know, you’re constantly solving and you get a little, I don’t know, endorphin rush or what have you, you know, something, uh, from, you know, each time you solve a problem and you see that, oh yeah,
Brad: 01:02:25 I figured something out. Cool.
Sidney: 01:02:27 No, Hey, I feel good. Um, and, and so I’m, I’m, you know, I used to be really good at focusing and thinking in depth and stuff these days. I think a, I like so many of us, I get very easily distracted, you know, partly through, you know, little mobile devices. You May, you may, you may or may not have a mobile device yourself. Um, but even without that, just, you know, email and, you know, various interruptions or your computer and in your life, like everybody’s, uh, everybody always wants a little bit of your time, you know, not, you know, not because they, not because they, uh, want something untoward for you, from you or anything, but just because that’s the nature of been, you know, hey, I always want a little piece of other people’s time to this is, this is the world we live in. And, uh, um, I think most of us are very interrupt driven and, uh, it’s, it’s tough to concentrate. And, um, like many of us, I find it difficult to stay focused on something. I’m very easily distracted and I, I should, uh, do an intervention as account, as an intervention if I do it on myself, um, just to, to really be able to focus on stuff. And so I, I miss what I really miss about those days is as being passionate and focused about, um, something that I was working on. And now I feel like I’m kind of diffuse and easily distracted and I’ve got, you know, all kinds of irons in the fire, none of which I’m not necessarily super passionate about. It’s just, okay, this is just something in my day gets nickel and dimed and you know, the things that I was hoping to get done, well maybe I’ll get them done tomorrow because I got distracted by all these other things and it’s, I don’t know. That’s, yeah,
Brad: 01:04:09 you’re um, you’re hitting me hard with this message man, cause I stayed the same and myself, you know, I’ve written many books and somehow I look at the book on the shelf, it’s like how the f did I do that? Because today all I am is dealing with overloaded stimulus. And it is, I think there’s a little bit of pain involved as you sit back and reflect like what you miss about that all consuming. I remember being that way as an athlete where I was either training or resting or trying to get better and and reading about, uh, my splits are uh, an article about swim technique or something and those days are kind of, um, they’d been flooded over with, uh, the technology is partially to blame, but also our misuse of technology is largely to blame. But okay. We’ll just rewind these few minutes of the recording as the intervention because I need an intervention myself.
Brad: 01:04:59 I will observe though, especially with the fitness aspect and the way you kind of approach challenges including fun stuff like trying to do a 360 on the wakeboard, um, you have that, uh, focus and that engagement where you’re very passionate and precise about and solving it in that mathematical manner, which I think is a great peak performance attribute where you’re, you’re not half assing and uh, ignoring the, uh, owner’s manual and trying to, trying to fiddle with something. It’s more kind of a linear of trying to master this little thing or that little thing. And even if the remote control that’s not working for the blinds or whatever in your smart home that sometimes isn’t that smart. Yeah.
Sidney: 01:05:41 Well, you know, part of this says is just Kinda my, my nature as you know, uh, uh, as a onetime mathematician, one time engineer, you know, I, I like knowing the rules for things. I like, um, yes. Our Ping Pong grant at all last night we speculated about the, the rule about hitting the serve, I thought it had to bounce off the end of the table is one of the rules and there the rules were right there three steps away. And who has the official rules of Ping Pong?
Sidney: 01:06:06 Yeah, that would be me big George. Yeah, absolutely. If you have a ping pong table, how would you not, you know, have the rules? Why wouldn’t you have the rules taped to the bottom? Come on. Um, for the record, not taped the bottom, they’re just off to the side, but, uh, but anyway, um, um, so I think that most of our speculating overrules was after we were already, you know, kind of creating some goofy variants of the traditional sport, but, um, but you want them to be rooted in,
Brad: 01:06:32 in fact, and science and experiments. If one has a pad on each hand, yes. What are the rules? There are no rules. Okay.
Sidney: 01:06:39 Well, we weren’t going to live with that. So when we, um, yeah, I, so, so again, you know, like, I know it was a mathematician. I was a, I was an engineer. I, I like things being mean precise. I like knowing the rules, the rules of the game, which actually, you know, I’ve thought on many occasions that makes it kind of strange that I, uh, that my academic focus was what it ended up being. So my PHd work in Grad School, I was actually, I was actually a cryptographer for some time and yeah,
Brad: 01:07:14 study of the, uh, the, the crips.
Sidney: 01:07:17 Yeah, exactly. Uh, so, so cryptography, you know, secret codes and things like that. Ali G I’m a critic talking for two, Yo, um, it’s a secret codes and commute, you know, communicating under adversarial conditions and these kinds of things and um, you know, arguably, hey, where, where are you less likely to know the rules of what’s happening then in cryptography because you know, in, in computer security. And yet somehow I like to know the rules so I can play within them.
Brad: 01:07:50 Interesting. So I guess that was an attractive challenge to you. I don’t mean from the place coming from the place you came, it was like sort of a compliment to, you know, uh, broaden out your, your skills I guess.
Sidney: 01:08:04 Yeah, I dunno. I think part of the, part of the way I ended up as a cryptographer it was, I just enjoyed the classes and I enjoyed interacting with the most, the colleague who is my, my phd advisor. Um, uh, that was definitely part of it. But anyway, so, um, yeah, I think I maintain some of that, that I, I try to be analytical about by my, about my activities to some extent, I dunno. Um, and you feel that’s a, um, a worthy peak performance attribute, let’s say for a young person trying to make their way in life and, uh, maybe they’re hoping to ascend to a high level in their career or a live this dream that your, uh, your career has played out to be?
Sidney: 01:08:56 Well, I actually, I, I hesitate to draw too many parallels for my own life. For other people. I mean, people, I’m just, you know, think around and think about the people that, you know, even the people that you’re very close with, that you might expect to have something in common with and thinking about how very different you are from each one of them. And so, you know, what worked for me was, you know, certainly I was very academically focused, but I was a kid. I was very focused specifically on math and computer science. I really enjoyed learning more about that and I enjoyed coding and, um, you know, I, uh, and then that in a healthy dose of good luck and good timing and, and good connections. I mean, how did I, how did I start working at Google? Well, uh, the, the biggest, you know, the biggest sales is okay. I, I had, you know, a good academic preparation for it, and I had a few years experience, whatever, but I also knew Sergei Brin, his girlfriend, and, um, and another friend of Larry and, uh, and Larry and Sergei was a common was it was a friend of mine. And so, hey, so I had a, some, some good luck Silicon Valley connections there. Um, that, that, uh, you know, uh, but that made it reasonable for me to meet the guys, meet Larry and Sergei. Um, and all that came together for me. And you know, if I hadn’t, you know, a, if I had stuck around in Boston for a few more years or if my job before Google, if they hadn’t, um, run into some difficult financial times and closed down their Bay Area office so that I was looking for a job, who’s to say there’s to say, I, I, I can’t claim that I’m, oh, that I was destined for, for great wealth of, and I, I don’t know, Destiny’s garbage anyway, but I’m,
Brad: 01:10:45 I’m a mathematician at least.
Sidney: 01:10:47 Well, uh, you know, things happen. That’s what happens. There’s no, there’s no destiny. Now in terminator two, John Connor said, there’s no fate, but what we make ourselves or something like that.
Brad: 01:10:59 Oh, that’s the show quote right there. And then I think I got it.
Sidney: 01:11:04 She’s going to blow away Dyson. But, uh, I know, again, I, you know, so I don’t have some tremendous entrepreneurial flair. I don’t have some incredible business acumen. I don’t have a natural sense of, you know, looking at something and saying, Oh my God, you know, look at this as an incredible opportunity to make money. None of that is me. Um, and so, you know, things in my life happened in such a fashion that I, I had this opportunity at Google and I took it, and in some nearby parallel universe, Google was not the gigantic financial success that it was in hours. And you know what, it just didn’t happen. Uh, and whatever. And I, and I, you know, my, my Google stock ended up worthless. And who knows what I’m doing in that parallel universe. Okay.
Brad: 01:12:03 Some other dudes shredding on the wakeboard and doing three sixties,
Sidney: 01:12:06 somebody else has my wake surfboard. Exactly.
Brad: 01:12:09 Uh, but I think the most important takeaway for me is that you had this lifelong passion and desire to excel and to, to explore your boundaries in your, in your chosen area of, of interest, which was the mathematics and the academics and pursuing the, the, the highest levels of academics. And then just recently for, for kicks, you went down and got an Mba to pair with your other letters after your name go bears. Right? And so that was not economically motivated or what have you. And it seems like none of it was, which, um, for the listener who’s, you know, always subject to these, uh, impure influences. And I say the same story about my athletics, like I was doing triathlons because I loved it. Obviously there it was not a smart economic move to leave my career path. And you make a living doing that, right? And you know, the answer is who cares if you’re, if you’re having fun and enjoying it. And I know we’re subject to real words, real world forces. Like you were when you were in economy mode. Uh, but it’s, that’s an important one to reflect on is what are your, you know, what are your values and what are your, what are your passions and what’s, what’s the impure influence that could be, could be effing with your, with your destiny, because destiny boasted anyway, according to mathematicians.
Sidney: 01:13:19 How’s, yeah. Um, yeah. You know, so, but, you know, people ask me for advice and what they should pursue. So first of all, like I, you know, I don’t know, hey, what are going to be the hot job areas in, you know, 10 years or however many years or the right time horizon there. Um, and you may not know either, or if you do know, you’re, you know, it’s probably by luck in
Brad: 01:13:44 part of you visiting from the future.
Sidney: 01:13:46 Exactly. Exactly. In which case, you know, just, just make your bets, whether it’s on the stock market or the football games or, you know, horses or what have you. Um, but you know what, what if you actually knew what the hot areas were and you, okay, hey, so software is still gonna be incredibly hot. You’ll be able to make a great salary if you’re a good software engineer. Does that mean that everybody should go into software engineering? It does not. It does not. Not Everybody is going to be a great software engineer, just like not everybody is going to be, you know, it can be a great writer or a great actor or a great cook. Um, and not everybody would find, um, yeah, satisfaction doing that. Hey, for me, when I was, uh, in that role, much of my life there, I, I really liked it. I actually, yeah, software engineering first for some people is really interesting, really fun, really satisfying. And you know, I’m, I’m really psyched that, that, uh, you know, here I kind of followed in school. I thought, it’s kind of followed my, my passions. Uh, I took courses that were interesting. I did not take courses because I thought, hey, you’re taking this course that will help me get a job.
Brad: 01:14:57 It’ll go look good on my resume.
Sidney: 01:14:58 So yeah, I did not do that. And, and you know, I, I could have done a better job, you know, with retrospect, uh, I would’ve done things a little bit differently, but things worked out in a way where, where I could, uh, you know, I worked in a field that, um, turned out to be profitable for me and I, and I did stuff that actually really interested me. And, and that right there already, you know, if, if that were the end of the story, that would be a happy ending. Uh, you know, you don’t, you know, if you’re doing it, you know, what, what, what, what’s, what are the, uh, the pithy idioms people say, you know, like if you, if you work in your career, you know, if you, if your job is, if your job is something that you like doing, you know, you will never work, or if your career is something that you enjoy doing, then you will never actually work, right. Because, because it’s not work if you enjoy doing it, something like that. And, um, so, um, I dunno, I mean at the same time, there are certainly some fields where it really seems hard to believe they’re crazy that you could get a job doing it and you might, you know, be leery of that. It’s not a bad thing to, you know, if you, if you go to college is not a bad thing to be prepared to, you know, with you with two viable career paths, uh, if, if that’s, uh, easy to arrange, which it might or might not be, but you know, I’m, you know, from, from my story, I don’t know the, you know, I, I follow the academic path that seemed interesting to me and then, hey, it worked out financially, but when I finished Grad school and I was going to enter the job market, I had no, I had no plans or expectations or intentions of becoming wealthy.
Brad: 01:16:46 Yeah. Something else you said to me a lot along these lines was memorable. I think I was talking to you complaining about my, my financial, uh, my messy financial affairs and, and being irresponsible and so forth. And, uh, you said, you know, um, when you were in your whole life, you sort of lived with a frugal mindset. You and even your, your mindset in your, your character is not changed just because you have more money. And so it, it seemed like a responsible and more satisfying way to live where you’re a discriminating consumer rather than av obnoxious, uh, you know, indiscriminate consumer just because you can afford to, you know, Mike Tyson’s famous story crashed his Bentley on the Brooklyn Bridge and the cops came to tow it and all that, and he says, you know, I, I’m so sick of this to here, just take the car. I don’t want it. He tried to give it Nyp d of $400,000. Bentley. The guy couldn’t accept it. But that was sort of my favorite example of like, you know, not, not that it’s not a satisfying way to live. And that, that stuck with me because, um, you know, you’re a, you’re capable of spending money and enjoying your indulgences and things that you have an interest in. But when you’re buying a little plane to fly around, you’re getting trained to be a pilot and enjoying that process and studying the books. And I’m looking at the, you know, the most, uh, uh, most appropriate aircraft and all those kinds of things. And so to take those, that kind of disposition into whatever your face was, it was a good lesson for me because I’m, whatever, whatever standard of living we’re at, we have to make it work for us with minimal stress. And that’s something that I think we forget today in the age of consumerism and trying to keep up with, uh, the people in our neighborhood or, or feel like we should keep up with our peers. We can get into that negative attitude and, uh, adverse lifestyle practices.
Sidney: 01:18:39 Yeah, I mean, there, there’s some amazing lessons, you know, and this and this day of, uh, transparency into the lives of, uh, of athletes and musicians. And you know, you, there are a lot of interesting cautionary tales about, uh, you know, athletes at the top of their game, at the top of the world, making what can be described as huge banks and yet somehow they spend it all and yeah, we’re frittered it all away. So I’m potentially and, and you know, they’re bankrupt and unhappy and unloved and, and they’ve got nothing, you know, financially to show for it. Um, and, and musicians as well. And you know, most, uh, so, so I’ll say some, you know, musicians and athletes specifically maybe, uh, you know, often come from, you know, they be people who hit it big in those industries, may not have had wealthy families. And so, you know, hey, I’m a lot of people are not born knowing how to be rich and, and so, Yo, you have money and now, okay, my God, I can it, I can buy anything I want. I can, you know, there’s no way I can possibly spend all this money that lasts is faulty or arbitrary month amount of money. Pretty much can be spent if you’re dedicated getting rid of that money. And so, I dunno, I mean I think it’s a, you know, I, I have not, uh, again, I have no natural business savvyness, no natural flair for dealing with money. every now and then I’m, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m saying about, about dealing with, uh, with my situation and my finances and, and you know, if you, if you find yourself suddenly rich, don’t think that, you know, your biggest priority in life is to spend it all.
Brad: 01:20:45 And if you find yourself suddenly pours suddenly poor.
Sidney: 01:20:49 Also don’t feel, don’t be in a big hurry to get rid of all your money. That’s also a good time to, to think about your spending.
Brad: 01:21:00 How can you close the show better than that? Yeah. Found advice. Ray Sydney, thank you for sitting with us.
Sidney: 01:21:08 Thank you, Brad.
Brad: 01:21:09 Thanks for coming to the studios, which is your, uh, your own home looking over Lake Tahoe. Glad to be here. As always. Thank you, listeners, Thank you for listening to the show. We would love your feedback. It’s email@example.com and we would also love if you could leave a rating and review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. I know it’s a hassle. You have to go to desktop, iTunes, click on the tab that says ratings and reviews, and then click to rate the show anywhere from five to five stars and it really helps spread the word so more people can find the show and get over themselves because they need to. Thanks for doing it.