I’ve always joked that I was born 10 years too late to participate in the microcomputer revolution of the 1980s and 300 years too early to participate in deep space exploration.
Instead, I grew up on a farm in the 80’s while my parents ran a computer store out of their basement. At eight years old I got to play on the demo units of TRS-80s and Apple II products. I gravitated towards the Apple IIe and little did I know one day I’d be working with one of its main designers, Bernie Sardinha, at Groq.
I actually started programming by accident one day when I was mashing on the keyboard and got a prompt. Curiosity ensued, I bought a book, and it was all over after that. A few years later I got a modem, which led to a phone line within a week, and before I knew it I was playing with pioneering technologies, i.e. interacting with the precursors of the internet.
Senior Principal Engineer
What I found out about myself, both from those early days and as I look back on my career, is that I love working with black boxes. I don’t need to know how something works, just the basic properties, and the result is usually figuring out innovative ways of integrating those properties into a new product or service. Knowing that about myself and seeing the mix of people, technology, and opportunity that Groq offered made it the perfect fit.
The people at Groq caught my attention first. I quickly realized how talented the team is, bringing a really diverse set of experiences and perspectives. It’s created a culture that embraces the spirit of innovation in an extremely cross-functional and cross-disciplinary way. This is pretty incredible because it creates space for any skill set while also creating an incredible amount of trust that permeates all layers of the organization.
Joining Groq was also an opportunity to be part of an organization where personal heroes of mine – silicon industry titans – were working, backing, and advising, and that’s when I really started to get excited. Not to mention meeting Bernie Sardinha. Now it feels like being born toward the end of one compute epoch wasn’t so bad after all – it was just a terrific booster engine for driving the next epoch while working side by side with a leading-edge team.
I’m a software guy. I started my first business after high school – the first residential internet service provider that led to the commercialization of internet in Canada’s capital. After that, I joined a few start-ups focused on real-time systems, like embedded and operating systems and early internet security, and that’s when Linux kernel programming became my specialization.
I went on to the hardware division of Corel, working on early network computers doing Linux kernel ports, and then got picked up by VA Linux, now known as GameStop, as a Principal Engineer. There I got to design some of the first cluster managers for large-scale Beowulf clusters, a job previously done only by national labs.
After that, I landed at Google where I did pioneer work on Android alongside three other folks to bring up the first six phones and was responsible for all storage and Wi-Fi capabilities. I went on to lead virtualization by building the hypervisor that powers Google Cloud Engine.
All of this is to say the Groq technology was completely unfamiliar to me in the beginning, but that’s also part of what made joining even more exciting. Since arriving, what I’ve come to see at Groq is the theme of blending hardware, software, and systems to solve really hard problems in interesting ways.
For the services that I am working on for Groq, aspects of our architecture will allow us to guarantee how long a workload will take to run. What I’ve done and learned before is informing what I see ahead – software being the answer to a class of problems where the stakes are really high, creating an opportunity for Groq to enable a layer of innovation and advancement for the future with machine learning.
As much as joining Groq creates a chance to apply everything I’ve learned throughout my career, it’s also an opportunity to feel like I’m learning something new every day – for the first time in a long time. Yeah, this isn’t always the most comfortable experience. But when learning is set up the way it is at Groq, where it’s a journey you’re going on alongside other people, the anxious feelings that sometimes come with learning, like wanting to perform early and perfectly at ease. It’s more like entering a welcoming community of explorers rather than trying to catch up as a newcomer.
Admittedly, I wondered about what my contributions would look like and if the skills I had were really relevant. But the thing I’ve realized is that, with Groq being an integrated systems accelerator, we actually need more people who don’t specialize in just one thing – say for example, machine learning. Adding talented folks who come from different backgrounds and perspectives will only accelerate us toward our potential as a company.
So no, it’s not quite time travel, but Groq is definitely offering the opportunity and challenge of being on the precipice of the new primitive of computing, or as CEO and Founder Jonathan Ross calls it, “the era of deterministic computing.” This is apparent when I think a solution from my past might fit the bill, and quickly realize the economics, customers, and use cases are different. This is a really beautiful thing though because pattern matching an experience and perspective is immediately valuable and reignites the creative juices I’ve used previously, but now I get to apply them to new constraints, and inevitably the thing, in the end, is going to look very different than anything I’ve ever done before. This is truly new and is going to be exciting.
Groq is hiring. Explore career opportunities to work with San and the rest of the team.