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A Success Story

As a software/firmware engineer, I've created quite a few devices used by startup and hi-tech companies.

Today, IDT is one of the world's largest phone companies. But I first worked with them when they were a small startup with about two employees and a small run-down office.

Back then IDT didn't have special phone equipment for their business. But the founder knew what he wanted to do and I helped him build the initial hardware that was a big early step in making IDT the billion-dollar company that it is today.

An excerpt from "On a Roll: From Hotdog Buns to High-Tech Billions," written by Howard Jonas, IDT's founder:

Why not bypass the European phone lines altogether? We could adapt the system I had used with my parents when I was in college. I'd call collect, using a code name, and they would refuse the charges. Then they'd call me back. Essentially, callback worked on the same principle. The European user would call a number in the States, and an operator would recognize his signal. Then he'd hang up, and within a few seconds he'd be called back with an open, American line over which to make his calls. Instead of paying for a call from France to New York, as an example, he'd be using an American line, and his bill would reflect the cost of a call from New York to Paris instead. Depending on the country, he would save more than half the cost of his international phone calls. At first this whole process was done manually, with operators placing the return call. They had to work around the clock to accommodate different time zones. Eventually I designed a box and with the help of a computer engineer built one that mechanized the process and automatically redialed the caller. My phone bills are now manageable, and the callback industry had been born.

The lesson I learned from this is that if you look hard enough, you'll find a way to circumvert obstacles. In fact, sometimes you'll do it so effectively, and get such a big advantage over your competition by doing so, that it actually pays to go out looking for obstacles to circumvent.