Chet Kapoor, who once described himself as “the guy who got coffee for the guy that made coffee,” is now a pivotal figure in the technology landscape.
He has advice for others who want to follow in his path. He suggests interning but offering to pay to work for admirable people.
Once an intern for Steve Jobs, Kapoor shared insights with Fortune on his journey from a young dreamer to a highly successful entrepreneur.
Kapoor’s fascination with Jobs and Apple Inc., as detailed in the book “A Little Kingdom,” fueled his ambition to work closely with the iconic tech leader. His move from India to the United States in 1983 and subsequent computer studies laid the groundwork for his eventual internship.
After graduating, Kapoor’s career advanced rapidly. He transitioned from an intern at NeXT Computer to CEO of Gluecode, which he sold to IBM. He then led Apigee Corp., an analytics software company, raising significant funds through an initial public offering (IPO) and eventually selling it to Google for $625 million in 2016. In his current position as CEO of DataStax, Kapoor advises against focusing on priming a business for sale. Instead, he advocates for building a solid business with great people and customers, asserting that success naturally follows.
In his advice to college graduates, Kapoor emphasizes the importance of choosing the right people to work with. He suggests finding a group of people you admire, convincing them of your value and considering paying them to allow you to work alongside them. This approach, he believes, is more beneficial in the long term than traditional educational paths. Kapoor argues that the experience gained from working with smart people pays dividends that are hard to imagine, stating that it’s not the company but the people you work with that define your career.
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Kapoor also acknowledges the financial challenges that might come with this approach. He suggests that if you’re already investing a significant amount in education, redirecting some of that investment toward working with people who can significantly impact your career might be more advantageous. He understands that not everyone can afford this path, but he still believes in the value of direct work experience over formal education, especially in shaping a person’s career path.
Kapoor’s story is a testament to the impact of early career decisions and the power of leading with a focus on team success and personal leadership. His journey from an intern in Jobs’ shadows to a successful entrepreneur offers valuable lessons for aspiring business leaders.
Although not everyone might choose or have the means to pay to work for a mentor they admire as Kapoor suggests, they can still be part of something significant by investing in startups. This alternative allows people to connect with innovative and growing companies, providing an opportunity to be involved in and benefit from the success of emerging leaders in various industries, similar to Kapoor’s impactful path in technology.
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This article Steve Jobs’ Intern, Described As ‘The Guy That Got The Coffee For The Guy That Made Coffee,’ Sold His Own Company To Google For $625 Million — His Advice? Pay Employers To Let You Work For Them, Not Work To Get Paid originally appeared on Benzinga.com
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