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Ron Wolfe: Why did you start working at NI?

Why did you start working with NI?

In 1982 IBM was the big tech leader in Austin.  In fact, my family had moved from the Northeast (I was born in PA) to Austin in the mid 1960s because my Dad worked for IBM, as did my Mom, and later my sisters, a lot of my friends, and even me.  I had done 2 summer internships for IBM and was about to start my 3rd and final internship before full-time employment, and I dreaded it and was worrying about engineering as a career. I didn’t enjoy working at IBM at all – I had worked in offsite support groups characterizing IC chips and I never saw a thing that I felt had any relationship to a product or the company making money. Everything I did and saw seemed so far away from a customer. It seemed like I would have a pretty boring career.

During my college days at UT Austin, I lived in a REALLY crappy trailer off E. Rundberg Lane in Northeast Austin. I had an ex-military muscle-man neighbor named Mark Durso who I had tutored through school at SW School of Electronics to be a certified electronics technician. One evening he came over with a cold beer and told me excitedly about his new job – it was a very small company named National Instruments, and he told me a little about some of the people. 

I was happy for him (and a bit envious because it sounded way cooler than IBM), so I decided to drive over there and check it out before I committed to work another boring summer as a seemingly useless cog inside the enormous IBM corporate machine. First thing the next morning, I parked my crappy old Volvo clunker in a small strip center parking lot on Technology Blvd, walked through a front door with a cheap sign on it, and met Dr. Truchard standing right there looking at me. I said, “Hi, my name is Ron Wolfe, I’m an Electrical Engineering student at UT and I’m looking for a summer job”. A couple hours later, after a tour and meeting people and lots of interesting conversation, I was hired – the rest is literally “History.”

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