Speech at Silverado     CAD: the Heart of Computer Science

Super Programmers

In late 1985 it became evident that the growth of AutoCAD, the need to support new hardware, and the pressing need to develop new products was outstripping the capacity of our programming staff, still largely made up of founders of the company. In addition, we saw that in our rush to expand we had lowered our standards, recruiting people who did not always share our key developers' commitment to excellence. Having built what we thought was an ideal environment for programmers, it seemed to me that we should try to attract more high-productivity, broadly-talented people.

I wrote some ad copy which I hoped would select for people with the properties we were looking for. Thanks to the efforts of Mauri Laitinen, we finally ran the much-revised advertisement below starting on March 17, 1986. I date the return of the company to the highest standards of technical excellence and innovation to that date, his effort, and this advert.

Are you one of those rare software people whose productivity is hundreds of times above average?

Autodesk, Inc., the leader in computer-aided design, founded by people like yourself, invites you to join us.

We're The Best: You're The Best

Our company was built by people who never said, “I can't do that.” If you're the person we're looking for, you'll be able to design, implement, test, and debug complex software, both alone and collaboratively. The code you write will meet the highest standards of efficiency, maintainability, and modularity. You'll know how to integrate changes in large, complicated programs, and you'll combine design and implementation skills with an intuitive feel for the evolution of the product as a whole and for its position in the marketplace.

You'll be able to find or develop the theory you need to get your job done. You'll be literate, and able to communicate complicated technical concepts in simple and readable language. Your work documentation will meet the standards of the best tech writers and be suitable for immediate inclusion in our user manuals. You'll be able to express yourself clearly and persuasively, whether in a design session or while speaking with prospective customers at a trade show. And you'll take personal responsibility for all your work, as a matter of course.

You'll care enough for the commercial success of your programs that you'll work effectively with marketing and sales people, contributing ideas to best promote the benefits of the products you'll be developing. You'll take an active interest in the work of other people in the company, and be willing to apply your expertise to help with their problems and develop their skills.

We Don't Want Less Than The Best

What will we do? We'll pay you more than anybody else in the industry. Your pay here can start as high as $60,000 and rise as high as your contributions justify. There's no ceiling on the pay scale for technical people here; you can earn $100,000 if you're worth it and prove it to us. We give our workers stock options that mean something. Unlike companies that look at options as a way of enslaving employees, we intend our options to let you share in the success you'll be helping to create. If we do our job, you won't want to leave. And since we're a public company, your options represent real stock with real value, not funny money.

We value productivity and excellence. We continually strive to minimize politics and bull. We couldn't care less about hours and personal style (except when you will know that it matters). Many of our key producers work at home. We don't care about your degrees and titles; we care what you've done, and what you can do in the future. We value people like you; after all, that's all this business really is.

What You've Heard About Us Is True

We're in the computer-aided design business. We sell only software. Our company was founded in 1982 by 14 programmers and we built it (with no venture capital and no debt) to a size of 215 people with offices in 5 countries and monthly sales exceeding $2 million. We sell a program called AutoCAD that runs on most MS-DOS 16-bit machines and some 32-bit workstations such as the IBM RT, Sun, and Apollo. In fewer than three years, we've sold more CAD systems than any other CAD company, micro, mini-, or mainframe. We've passed IBM and Computervision and we're pulling further ahead. We write exclusively in C (AutoCAD has more than 100,000 lines of it), and we develop a lot of our own software tools.

Our newer products include CAD/camera, a revolutionary raster-to-vector conversion program; AutoCAD AEC, a series of applications to dramatically speed up architectural and mechanical drawing and design; and AutoLISP, a full LISP interpreter built into AutoCAD. We do most development on our target machines. Relevant experience is nice, but if you're as good a person as we want, you'll be able to pick it up in a week or two.

We try to make this company the kind of place people you would want to work for. If you're the person we've described, we invite you to write us a letter describing what you can do, and what you've done.

During your interview, expect to discuss almost anything with five or ten other super programmers (three of them are on our board of directors). If you're a head-hunter, forget it.

Our company is continuing to turn the industry upside down. You can make a difference here and reap the rewards of your efforts. We couldn't find a company like this one four years ago, so we built one to our specs. Maybe they'll be your specs too.

Speech at Silverado     CAD: the Heart of Computer Science