A Fortune piece from May of this year gave some insights into his plans (as well as provided a nice overview of his career) (https://fortune.com/longform/microchip-designer-jim-keller-i...).
> Keller won’t talk much about the massive chip redesign he’s overseeing—chip designers seldom do—and Intel’s new chip probably won’t be ready for another year or two. Still, both Intel and Keller have scattered some clues about how the chips might work. The new chips will cleanly separate major functions, to make it easier for the company to improve one section at a time—an approach that evokes the chiplet model Keller used at AMD. Keller also hints that Intel’s low-power Atom line of chips may figure more prominently in his future designs for PCs and servers.
It doesn’t sound like at press time he was planning to leave.
Keller also did a great interview on Lex Fridman’s podcast, which was released in February of this year (https://youtu.be/Nb2tebYAaOA).
Keller then did a presentation at the Matroid conference (held at the end of February) (https://youtu.be/8eT1jaHmlx8).
I hope he’s ok, since the Intel statement specifically mentioned “personal reasons”.
Management who runs this company are straight lunatics. The sheer amount of shelved projects, pointless reorgs, layoffs-for-show is staggering.
I do work in a corp, but thanks God our leadership is much more down-to-earth, even if I earn less money, I am able to retain relative sanity (due to my allergy to bullshit).
Then for Keller and Intel, here is a possibility: Have the status quo at Intel bring in Keller and then ignore him so that (i) being at Intel he won't be doing things at a competitor that hurts Intel and its status quo, (ii) being ignored he won't be able to change the status quo at Intel, and (iii) being at Intel and ignored his career will stagnate so that in the future he will be no more threat to the Intel status quo.
That is, maybe the Intel status quo competes with people down the hall -- not the first case of that -- by ignoring them and for a chip architect competes with him by bringing him into Intel so that they can ignore him.
Broadly a new direction for him might be to quit being an employee, e.g., fighting the politics of the status quo, and start being an employer as a CEO of his own startup.
Quite broadly in the US, one of the keys to progress is to have lots of startups to get around whatever organizational dysfunction exists in older companies.
One of the reasons for this situation is the propensity of BoD members to be conservative, that is, risk adverse, to pay attention to the definite and well known bird in the hand, even if it is getting sick, and ignore the not well known and risky birds in the bush. In particular, such a BoD wants a CEO who just does a good job managing the existing business. Typically a BoD won't fire a CEO for failing to get new products into new markets but might fire a CEO who spends $100 million pursuing something new that fails. So, lots of CEOs just stay with the bird in the hand.
Corporate would spend any amount patenting things, but shelve every single thing. Innovation upsets the gravy train. So as long as you are on top of the market, change is inherently bad. Even a whole new, unrelated product line competes with existing products if a customer for both might be the same company.
A co-worker once sat listening to execs from EMC chatting about competitive threats: uniquely from other divisions of EMC. With 80% margins on existing product, nothing new looks attractive, nothing outside the company is competition, and it doesn't even matter what outsiders hear.
Such a company also benefits from buying up apparently competing companies and disbanding them or jacking up their prices to match. In the '80s, Mentor Graphics's business model depended on buying and shuttering Cadence-like companies. Cadence was the first one too big to do that to, and MG finally had to figure out another business when the gravy train dried up. They collected lots of rent until then, and the managers left flush and found other crooked opportunities.
It's easy to spot other companies in similar positions, past and present.
Seriously...Jim Keller doesn't apply to work places....places seek him out. The interview process is Jim interviewing the company, not the other way around.
I know a lot of folks (almost certainly myself included) who struggle to not make it obvious when they loathe coming to work in the morning.
This candidate was great, and from what I heard, she got an offer from my team and another team at the same company, but chose the other one; I probably didn't sell the position well enough?
Anyway, not the most insane thing Yahoo was doing at the time, lol.
This is great. I'm 12 minutes in and I'm getting the kicks from the way this guy describes concepts (that I already know, more or less) in a simple way.
For the Fortune and Lex Fridman interviews, Keller would likely have had to get Intel PR’s approval to participate. In Lex’s interview, you can see him wearing an Intel guest badge, so I assume the interview took place on-site.
Making my predictions for 2020, I thought that co-operation with fungal systems would slowly ramp up this year. Probably just that I'm looking for evidence I was right, but it's a fun connection to draw about someone who seems in some way at least adjacent to that scene.
Any other tips for interviews with similar architects?
With the CEO of Cerebras (a buzzy and well-funded chip startup) on the ARK Invest podcast: https://ark-invest.com/podcast/cerebras-wafer-scale-engine-a.... I will say that the interviewee here was a little bit more coy, and the podcast generally is geared more towards a business audience, though they have had very top tier technical talent on.
Also from ARK Invest was this discussion of the just launched Nvidia A100 GPUs: https://ark-invest.com/podcast/fyi-ep67-nvidia-gpu/.
From the Matroid conference, the chief architect at Groq (another buzzy chip startup): https://youtu.be/q-lBj49iF9w
We have no doubt he is one of the best player in the field from the history. But doesn't the huge project like CPU development require a lot of good workers rather than one genius?
He has a long track record of doing just that. It's not that he is the only guy on the team; it's that he has a knack for building teams that do this extremely well. And has done it at multiple companies with multiple architectures, with multiple design goals.
It requires a lot of good workers and one genius.
Some people are just masters at seeing the big picture.
In that regard, it would make more sense that he left due to going against the current and finally throwing in the towel after finding more resistance to what he wanted to do?
So, that one person is important in the sense that he can get stuff done, set the vision, tone, drive, passion and inspiration.
This is not to detract from the contributions that Elon has made, but to indicate that there are potential Elons all around you. How many engineers would've built something similar if they had resources? Consider that even John Carmack, despite millions in personal fortune, had to abort Armadillo Aerospace because it was too expensive. If he had a PayPal-size exit, we may've had a SpaceX many years earlier!
Paypal sold for 1.5B , and Musk just got 165 million.
That's not a lot of money for building a space company, especially while buying into and growing Tesla at the same time.
Musk risked and almost lost everything, with both SpaceX and Tesla coming close to bankruptcy at the same time.
The SpaceX approach of ignoring conventions, building components in house on the cheap, plus Musks drive/vision and capability to attract young and motivated (relatively cheap) employees probably made the difference there. As well as ultimately attracting Nasa funding to develop a commercially viable rocket.
Multiple times in the book it describes how he gambled it all on whatever project he was working on and it paid off for him. He is clearly brilliant and exceptional at hiring great people work for him. I think it's also important to realize that survivor bias is also at play here.
Yup. The odds of winning three 1-in-1000 bets is 1:1e9, so we should expect to have a couple Elon Musks in the world out of dumb luck. =)
Edit to add: Elon was first included on the Forbes list of billionaires in 2012, 10 years after he founded SpaceX. At that time Forbes estimated his net worth at $2 billion. In October 2011 they estimated his net worth at $680 million.
I think the key point is that he wasn't doing it just to make more money, but to do what he always wanted to do (make humanity an interplanetary species). Taking the time to break that huge goal down into steps that can be individually profitable (and thus fuel the next stage) and then executing on them so well is just... awesome.
Your comment inspired me to go hunting for the original SpaceX pitch deck (or similar initial documents). I found one but it's a lot more recent - anyone have a link to the first one?
There are hundred's of billionaires, wealthy from selling their companies. How many of them thought about building a company like SpaceX, literally putting their whole fortune on one thing, which at the time, had no clear chance of success.
There are many, not potential, but actual Elons out there. Only one has the right circumstances buoy him to the place where his visions come to fruition. And those circumstances include every factor in the spectrum, from personal traits, ideas, capabilities, etc to social, economic and cultural factors.
Almost all of technological change, one that spearheads mankind's next push into the great, is driven by people with will the size of mountains. It is their will that shakes the foundations, bull dozes the old, constructs the bigger, faster, higher new.
And Intel probably lost such a person.
> There are hundred's of billionaires
So why couldn't a non-brilliant billionaire team up with a brilliant non-billionaire to make cool shit happen? Or a capital-raising syndicate? Isn't that how capitalism is supposed to work?
Unfortunately it's the baby in 1 month with 9 mothers problem.
Just like SpaceX is killing it vs Blue Origin where one was on a relative shoe string and the other basically as much cash as it could reasonably spend, throwing money at a problem usually isn't the solution to the problem. Magic Leap also comes to mind in this category.
That is what the original commenter meant. If there are Elons out there with no money, they could band together to go to a VC, but then the risk taking process is skewed, because the brains and brawn are distributed.
Intel had such a person. Patrick Gelsinger, mentored by Andy Grove. But Intel's Broad ( Andy Bryant ) decided he was never going to be CEO and so ultimately left Intel. BK became CEO, and the rest is history.
Many of those who can only really do it once, and then retire with all of the money anyone could ever need to live a life of luxury until they die. Elon seems to prefer doing it over and over again without that much concern about his actual financial state.
What do you think rare is, then?
I'd argue that wealth is step 1, but step 2 is a willingness to gamble that wealth, to lose it, and to hustle.
It should also be noted that he was not a founder at Tesla, even. He bought his way in.
Actually Musk has said in the past that they had a LOT of trouble hiring early on. They had goals of reusable rockets right around the start of the company, and most people in the industry didn't take them seriously.
Nobody wanted to work for the laughing stock of a company that dreamed of doing something that most thought was impossible (affordably reusing rocket stages).
it's just that there are lots of low risks ways to make money with lots of capital than to risk wasting it on engineering or 'boundary-push' style business movements.
Big projects are cool, and great PR -- but safe trading and high interest accounts pay out more consistently, and often better.
It'd be nice to move the incentive over to value-building/engineering more than banking, though.
Seems hard to believe that Id wasn't worth a billion dollars. I wonder where the equity went, supposedly the other 3 founders got nothing when they left because that's the agreement they all made when they started it.
Intel has over one hundred thousand employees.
AMD, which does not have fabs, has over ten thousand.
However, Intel has (used to have ? I haven't followed recently but I'd be surprised it changed) two separate design teams, one in Oregon, the other in Haifa, working in a sort of "tick tock" way (each would work on one set of tick-tock when that was still a thing), so that, at least, was definitely an advantage in terms of numbers for them.
Whether those were efficient thanks to Intel's management/bureaucracy or, mattered at all since the 2015 process issues, however, is a a completely different story.
Lacking domain knowledge yourself you can't tell the good from the duds, so you go with the guy with the track record.
Perhaps people here have worked with him and could offer insight?
And how many of them are willing to do management? I know a lot of sharp folks who walked away from Mgmt roles because of the BS and headaches.
Someone who is a technical visionary AND can lead teams is rare and powerful. I'm guessing Keller is at least competent at driving projects, on top of any technical skillsets he brings.
How can we make software more interoperable with hardware? Is moving to open instruction sets like RISC-V advisable from an economic and innovation point of view?
Anti competitive practices that put AMD on a tight spot, that could have rolled over at any time.
Milking their comfortable position with high margin products, due to a choked out competitor and marketing deals.
They had it coming.
Install-time and run-time recompilation. Stop using binaries as the standard distribution mechanism for software; ship LLVM intermediate representation or something like that instead, and let every platform recompile to make full use of the hardware capabilities of that platform. (Pre-compiled binaries can be made available too, but as an optimization.)
Some corporate environments are still captive to architecture, or there would not still be about 10,000 mainframes in use. X86 compatibility is transitioning to a similarly invisible need, obscured behind emulation and virtualization.
I'm curious if there's actually data backing that up. From what I've seen, a whole lot of application development is still being done with C++.
Computer System Design: System-on-Chip by Flynn & Luk
In the world there is context. You're sitting in a cafe surrounded by 20 other average people getting on with their day, and there's some guy talking loudly to no in particular that Bill Gates is trying to steal our blood or whatever.
It's those people sitting on these comment sections all day. That's what I tell myself anyway, otherwise it's too disturbing to think about the other explanations.
And, letters to the newspaper have, for many years, been the province of grumpy retirees and people whose job literally involves writing letters to the editors (activist organizers, PR people, etc.). I'm always faintly bemused when I read the comments in the San Francisco Chronicle, which are near-universally from conservative cranks bemoaning how those big-spendin' liberals are ruinin' everythin' what with their welfare programs supportin' no-gooders and their public transit bringin' in crime why in my youth we had to walk up Telegraph Hill through the snow both ways comin' and goin' and we liked it. I'm pretty sure I could paste in a letter to the editor that appeared in the paper of my youth, the Tampa Tribune in the 1980s, with surprisingly little editing necessary.
Do you provide space in your cafe to accommodate all the neighborhood nutjobs to congregate, and they all start shouting in unison about gangstalking or Bill Gates stealing our blood. How far do you let them go? They rile themselves up and you get a guy barging into a pizza shop wielding an assault rifle to take down a non-existent pedophile ring.
There are social and geographic boundaries out in the world, so that doesn't happen naturally. But on the internet... sigh. It's a problem without an obvious solution.
Can you point to any sources to learn more about this phenomenon?
Same here, with the reply!
As it happens, I had that link saved before, but have not had a chance to really dig in to it.
But the high quality nature of its contents is immediately apparent, so it's near the top of that particular backlog.
Thanks for the reminder of its existence.
There is no reason to think that, and everything in his career points to the opposite : him joining another Big Corp trying to make a top of the field chip
How come he can leave AMD to work for INTEL and do exactly what he did in AMD i.e design a new cpu tech?
Isn’t that not-permitted in intellectual jobs?
Edit: also, I have refused to sign non-competes in the past and still been hired. This is something you can negotiate at some companies.
Seriously. NEVER EVER sign anything on the way out of a job. Don't be a dick about it, but don't sign.
That's not crazy -- they're compensating you for the inconvenience.
Whether that's a good idea or not is a different story, and would depend on how easily you could get a job, what it would pay you if/when you got it, and how much/how long the compensation would be.
In the oil industry it's not uncommon to see 1- or 2-year non-competes... with 100% compensation for the same amount of time.
Sorry if I wasn't clear, I meant signing stuff during your exit interview, so on your last day and quite literally on your way out the door.
Any reasonable company would do it this way unless they are trying to screw you.
Says who? Only the piece of paper you signed between you and your previous company and others who do the same. It's not even legal in most of the world for companies to ask that of an employee. It's a shame people like you have been brainwashed into thinking it's normal. It simply isn't and you should expect better of your employers.
Intel and AMD wouldn't exist if that were legal here anyway, both were founded by way of exodus from an eventual competitor. Intel in particular, its two founders were original members of the Traitorous Eight that left Shockley to found Fairchild Semi.
Things are looking very bad for Intel.
It's easy to assume he also helped lay the foundation of Zen2 also; but he said in a recent interview that he prefers "full architecture refreshes" over incremental improvements.
Obnoxious for Anandtech to start doing this too. Is this a new technique? A company?
When I attempted to leave the article with my browser's back button, instead of seeing HN, I saw the "Before you leave..." message on top of more article teasers.
Given how many iOS and Mac devices (many Macs have an ARM processor for things like the touchbar) Apple ships, they’re already one of the larger custom high-end ARM licensees. It will be interesting to see how it goes for them.
I'm good at what I do but my work would have far less impact unless it was done in collaboration with the few people in our org whose contributions are astoundingly good.
You need lots of peoples, sure. But, at the same time, the outocome of a project actually may depend on the knowhow, skill and diligence of an individual developer. Their output is prodigious, quality sky high, and in this manner they function not only as an individual contributor, but also in a way as a productivity multiplier for everyone they collaborate with, as the standard they set keeps everyone else also striving high.
You are correct, in a way - non-collaborating individual contributors are kind of waste and not needed in most cases. But collaborating individual contributors with high standards and high output? You really, really want to work with those.
I recall some statistic about how like 4% of fighter pilots accounted for ~40% of the confirmed kills.
Did he still hold this same position at leave?
I'm wondering (at the risk of being paranoid) why on earth an ad would have your laptop broadcast static.
Granted it's rather far-fetched, but I thought that it could be a possibility.
IMO, if it was health reasons and he still wanted to continue working for Intel, Jim would have simply arranged for some alternative working setup - more remote, email collab, different hours, a few weeks off, etc. None of these would typically provoke the need for an official resignation & press release.
I myself is leaving the company I worked for a while now because of "health reasons". My coworkers and me are not getting along, so in order to save my personal sanity, I'm leaving. If the culture would be wrong at Intel for Keller, they could also publicly say for health reasons rather than blaming some specific reason and admitting the culture at Intel is bad.
Point is, could be anything really.
Also health reasons have the advantage that it is seen as somewhat rude to ask for details.
The other unspecific reason that is used similarly is "familiy issues"
While i can understand why someone would use this "excuse" i see it as a generally bad thing because it fosters that "health" and "familiy" issues are seen as excuses and not always taken seriously.
The fact that we are discussing that here kind of proofs this point.
“Family Reasons” And “Shorter commute” (to some other job)
The commute one I always thought was funny. It seemed to trigger universal empathy.
FTFY. 'Health reasons' are a subject that companies typically won't probe into because of existing legislation around Employers knowing employee's health information (And/or health discrimination lawsuit exposure).
'Family Issues' OTOH is something that's rude to ask about but far less likely to be problematic to actually go into. Also something that I probably -would- ask about in an interview because I'd like to know whether they could come up again.