Burn In 3: Murugan Pal

This is the fourth entry in the O’Reilly Radar series about how alpha geeks got into computers. Today we look at Murugan Pal, founder and CTO of SpikeSource. Before founding SpikeSource, he was entrepreneur-in-residence at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Murugan Pal’s Story

I never saw a computer until I was 21. Yes, I am a mechanical engineer when
I graduated from my undergraduate school. I come from a middle class family
in India. My dad used to teach typewriting (with mechanical typewriters)
for college going people. In India, this is one of the important vocational
training courses to prep college students for their clerical or secretarial
jobs. Not any more though. I learnt typing when I was 9.

When I graduated from my college, I was hired as a production engineer for
one of the biggest automobile manufacturers in India. After 3+ months, they
conducted a surprise analytical aptitude test for all the campus recruits of
that year irrespective of their engineering disciplines. I topped among 60+
engineers including computer science majors, and their management advised I
join their IT department as they figured out I am good at it. They trained
me in various programming languages and I picked up programming within 15
days. I realized that this is going to be my career choice and wanted to do
my masters in Computer Science.

I chose Industrial Engineering as a transition path to CS – specializing in
CAD, CAM and Computer Integrated Manufacturing. I took a part time job as a
librarian in ASU campus. I worked out a deal with the professor who had his
office within the library to use his personal Mac, when it was free. I got
attracted to Hypercard software and implemented the library database in
Hypercard on my own. Then as part of the coursework, started programming in
ThinkC. I followed-up with Data Structures course to understand the concepts
of programming in a formal manner, enjoyed it and continued taking CS level
courses on my own. After my graduation from IE, went into CS and
specialized in Computer Graphics and Computer Aided Geometric Design.

Started my career with Allied Signal Aerospace (now Honeywell) doing robotic
manufacturing automation software, moved to bay area and started working on
object oriented (Versant) and relational database technologies (Oracle).