NI founders Truchard and Kodosky: The human ties that bind
11/7/2012 10:41 AM EST
A key development
Much of development effort on LabVIEW was the brainchild of Kodosky, today called the "Father of LabVIEW" who is still involved on a daily basis with R&D at the company he co-founded. He's earned nearly 70 patents for work on the technology. In its history, LabVIEW has morphed from a spreadsheet to a multifunction programming language widely used around the world.
"I wanted to create a tool that would do for the test and measurement world what the spreadsheet did for financial analysis," Truchard has said often, looking back on LabVIEW's evolution. "Jeff, like any aspiring programmer wanted to create a programming language. We both got our wish."
Relatively quickly in their evolution, the two men found their strengths: Truchard proved adept at running a company; Kodosky was a brilliant technologist.
In 2011, National Instruments grew to more than $1 billion in sales and employs more than 6,000 people. Their company routinely finds its way onto lists of the best places to work in high tech, and the recognition is perhaps not surprising. The company has cultivated a strategy of hiring the best and the brightest from Texas universities, such as the local University of Texas. The burnout rate among new-college-hires in the frenetic NI world can be high, but those who make it past that tend to stick around for decades.
How do they keep it up as the company larger and more water passes under the bridge?
"It starts at the top and it begins with giving permission to innovate, ," Truchard said. "In our case, it's critical that you're innovating toward a common vision. We work hard to ensure our vision is carried out within the organization."
Another trait that makes both men stand out among the thousands that have started and run companies in the past 40 years is how much they give back and look to the future.
Truchard has been part of the Engineering Foundation Advisory Council at UT, his alma mater, and has chaired the Texas STEM Industry Advisory Council, which addresses the declining interest and preparation of young people to pursue careers in technical fields. Kodosky was instrumental in founding the UTeach program, which started at UT but has spread to more than 30 universities. Its aim is to encourage and train education students at the college level to teach science and math.
Kodosky and his wife, Gail--both of whom came from New York--are a force within the greater Austin community. They have donated millions of dollars over the years to Ballet Austin, Austin Lyric Opera, Austin Symphony, Conspirare, Austin Chamber Music Center, Austin Classical Guitar Society, Festival Institute at Round Top, the University of Texas' Butler School of Music, and more.
"Like so many others who came here, we fell in love with Austin and made it our home," Kodosky was once quoted as saying. "We have always felt it is everyone's shared responsibility to create the kind of community we want to live in, and we are proud to do our part by supporting the performing arts as well as science education in Austin."
Among other plaudits, the two men were honored by Woodrow Wilson Foundation with the group's 2011 award for corporate citizenship. In 2012, EE Times and EDN honored the two with the ACE Lifetime Achievement Award.