A World Built by Scientists and Engineers But Run by Salespeople

It’s not often that I get to quote entries from the FunMurphys blog, principally written by Kevin Murphy, my brother the rocket scientist, with a few entries by Carl Drews and myself. But he had a great short post today with a pithy quote I wanted to tie to some observations by Bob Metcalfe.

From “The World We Live In

Our interpreter (OK, we called them guides) at Northern Tier was in college studying to be an engineer. So naturally I gave him enough wisdom and advice on the subject to last a lifetime. During the conversation, my son piped up with “scientists and engineers run things, right?” I had to correct him.

“We live in a world built by scientists and engineers, but salespeople run it.”

From “The Legend of Bob Metcalfe” a November 1998 profile in Wired (emphasis in original, links added).

“Flocks of MIT engineers come over here,” Metcalfe tells me, leading me up the back staircase at Beacon Street. “I love them, so I invite them. They look at this and say, ‘Wow! What a great house! I want to invent something like Ethernet.'” The walls of the narrow stairway are lined with photos and framed documents, like the first stock certificate issued at 3Com, four Ethernet patents, a photo of Metcalfe and Boggs, and articles Metcalfe has written for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

“I have to sit ’em down for an hour and say, ‘No, I don’t have this house because I invented Ethernet. I have this house because I went to Cleveland and Schenectady and places like that. I sold Ethernet for a decade. That’s why I have this house. It had nothing to do with that brainstorm in 1973.'” He pauses for effect, as we arrive at his top-floor office. “And they don’t like that story.”

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