An Ex-Employee’s Thoughts on Intel

photo credit: Josh Bancroft

I could tell you that Intel never valued its employees and was a mediocre company at best. I could also tell you that I hated Intel so much that my last day consisted of thrashing apart a printer and extorting millions through a malicious virus. Yet the truth is that Intel was a great company to work for. When my interest in entrepreneurship grew, they accommodated my work-life balance with a 30 hour part time schedule. When it came to perks, they matched my 401k contributions and footed the bill on generous health benefits. Even my commute was an ideal 6 mile sprint against traffic; I definitely had it good except for one thing…

Why I quit Intel

Admittedly, there were times when I was disillusioned with my career, yet switching paths within the company was not only an option, it was highly encouraged. There were also times when a higher salary would have sufficed, yet I was at the point where I could easily sustain myself financially while comfortably saving for the future so money wasn’t an issue (having no kids and renting out my extra bedrooms basically took care of the bills). Ultimately, the reason I left Intel had nothing to do with money or my career, it had to do with the fact that I was working on someone else’s entrepreneurial vision and not my own.

The dirt on Intel

Intel is great, but it’s not perfect. The biggest obstacle at the moment is unifying the 70,000 or so Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomer workforce into a culture of innovation like Google and Apple have done. CEO Paul S. Otellini has his work cut out since some employees are restless for change while others are comfortable in their ways. Take for example the horrendous 70’s cubicle farm that Conan O’Brien poked fun at during his visit. An attempt to redesign the office environment into something more open to collaboration and innovation was met with complaints from individuals who actually liked being isolated in a drab cubicle. Or take for example an attempt to give free vending machine snacks to designated business groups à la Google. When others caught word and complained about the unfairness of such an act, the vending snacks were made free to all employees and it was only a matter of time before greedy individuals began ransacking and emptying the machines when no one was around.

To be fair, all of Intel’s troubles can’t be tied to the current culture. I’ve witnessed talented individuals save the company millions through cost reduction projects only to receive a $25 check and a paper printout for a plaque. Or how about this interesting paradox; Intel builds the most advanced processors yet employees will never use one unless they buy one themselves (for the record, my work laptop was a five year old IBM T41 ThinkPad although an upgrade to newer HP’s was underway). And even if an employee decided to buy a new computer, it is likely that a college student would fair better when it came to discounts on Apple, Windows, and PC products.

My thoughts on Intel’s future

I think it is only a matter of time before Intel regains its spot amongst the top innovative companies to work for. Numerous talented individuals and experts can be found throughout the organization; take for example my Oregon counterpart who was so fed up with a vendor’s non-working part that he took the liberty of redesigning it himself to make it work. There are hundreds of other examples I can recall where engineers modified and upgraded tools to do things that were beyond their capacity – the ability to never take “No” for an answer is one thing that is perfect about Intel’s culture.

One also has to take into account that Paul Otellini has learned a lot from his partnership with Apple and his stint on Google’s Board of Directors (since 2004). For starters, the focus is currently on lean (think Toyota) practices and becoming a more productive and nimble workforce. Internally, Intel has even embraced blogging, podcasting, and Wikis although a majority of the workforce has yet to fully adopt these technologies. Externally, it’s common to see Intel taking advantage of all available marketing and communication channels from MySpace to Second Life to YouTube to Twitter. Personally I think Intel’s future is definitely bright, yet if the ransacking of a vending machine is any indication, they have an interesting road ahead.

The Closet Entrepreneur

Post Scriptum: CLICK HERE if you would like to see the reply I received from Intel’s CEO when I wrote to say goodbye and good luck.

» This entry was filed under General


  1. Good luck Tomas! What does the future hold for you now? Does this mean you’re now a full time (out-of-the-closet) entrepreneur or will you still be doing your own business part time?

    – Jim

  2. TOMAS

    Thanks for the well wishes Jim! I guess you could say that I’m out of the closet since I’ll be working on the biz full time. Luckily, I learned quite a bit from working a 9-to-5 and now transitioning to full time entrepreneurship so I’ll still be posting things that are relevant to Closet Entrepreneurs.


  3. Awesome Tomas – exciting times ahead 🙂

  4. TOMAS

    Thanks Ahmed! I’m hoping to communicate what I’ve been working on within the next month, so definitely exciting and hectic times ahead! 🙂

  5. Good luck my friend, nice post. Did Intel start matching 401k contributions? They never did when i worked there 3 years back, they just had “profit sharing”.

  6. TOMAS

    Hey Atin! You know, I’ll have to double check that – I thought they matched contributions but now that you mention it, maybe it was the profit sharing that made it seem like my 401k was double what I put in? Good catch, I’ll edit the post for ‘correctness’. 😉

  7. Great blog, Tomas, and a very fair assessment of our company. Best of luck in your new endeavors!

  8. TOMAS

    Hey Jeff, what a surprise to see a comment from you! If anything, I felt that you embodied the “new blood” at Intel! And at the very least, you had my vote for “Best Intel Blogger”!


  9. So….

    Does this mean that technically you’re out of the closet?

  10. TOMAS

    Hey Adam, ‘technically’ I am not employed nor running my own business (at the moment due to self imposed vacation) so I believe that I still qualify as being a Closet Entrepreneur. 😀

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