Career Day Interview with Ethan Grigsby
What is your name? What is your career?
My name is Flip Kromer, I’m an inventor and entrepreneur — meaning that I start businesses from scratch. Added all up, the companies I’ve started earn tens of millions each year in revenue, and have grown from a couple friends at the start to create more than eighty highly satisfying jobs.
What do you do at your job?
My latest company is Vigilante, a restaurant with more than 150 board games to play right at your table. I designed and worked to build special tables that make playing board games super awesome: dice, chargers, card holders and other fun things are built into the table. Probably the most magical feature is that each table has a robot above it — when you push the button at your seat the robot waves its arms, which tells the server to come over and take your order or bring you a fork or help you with a game. I custom designed the mechanics of the robot and the tiny computers inside each robot and each table, along with the programs that let them talk to each other.
Did you go to college, and if so which one? Do you think it'ś important to go to college?
I went to Cornell University and then went to graduate school at UT here in Austin. (Hook 'em Horns!) It took a lot of work and time in those schools to learn all the skills I needed to help build Vigilante, and now I get to invent things nobody’s ever done before.
Here's a question. How hard would you work over the next years if I made you an offer: “When you graduate college I’ll put more than a million dollars in a bank account and each year eventually pay it all out to you?” Because that’s how it already is in reality.
College graduates typically earn about 25,000 more per year than non-graduates. Add that up over your whole career and it’s actually a fair bit more than a million dollars. So go home tonight and tell your parents “I’m going to college, no matter what it takes, and I want your help to get there”.
But there’s one other thing that’s just as important as college: learning how to use computers, especially for making graphs and explaining information. Excellence at any job requires constant learning about how to do that job better, and that means relentlessly gathering and interpreting information about your performance
Top football players work with teams of people to understand their stats. A well-paid auto mechanic is in large part a computer technician. All the servers at Vigilante use computers to track customer orders. The best chefs in the world run their kitchens like scientific laboratories. Vigilante’s chef is constantly looking at our numbers to reduce food costs, use his team’s time better, understand which dishes are popular and which to replace.
And most importantly, anybody who moves out of a base level job to a job leading a team will be expected to measure their team’s performance and then explain mathematically how to improve cost and effectiveness.
I can think of very few satisfying jobs that can be done well without using computers skillfully.