Essential Career Advice From Kayak Founder Paul English by Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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If you’ve ever booked travel online, you’ve probably heard of Paul English’s company Kayak, which he founded in early 2004, and which grew to become one of the most popular search engines in the travel industry. But what you may not know about Paul is that he studied music and computers in college, learned Latin in high school and is a serial entrepreneur, having founded or co-founded four other companies in addition to Kayak (, GetHuman, Boston Light, and Intermute), and three nonprofits (,, and I caught up with Paul on our From the Dorm Room to the Board Room podcast to discuss his career journey. The following excerpt from this interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Andy Molinsky: Tell us something you learned from growing up that’s been an asset to you today?

Paul English: I’m one of seven children. So, a family of nine and we grew up in, I think, probably like a three-bedroom house, one-bathroom, small house. And growing up in tight quarters made me very focused on who’s around me, who’s doing well today, who’s upset — kind of like family dynamics. That was drilled into me for the 18 years I’ve lived at home. And that has caused me to think quite a bit about teams. What’s working well on a team? What’s not working well? So, I think that programming of me started as a child.

Molinsky: Did you ever get any advice earlier in your career that maybe you didn’t take but wished you did?

English: They say you only have one chance to make a first impression. And looking back on my career, I know that when I was sort of like a hotshot programmer, and then director of engineering, I was very impatient. I wanted everything immediately. I was really picky about quality, the user experience, the quality of the code. And I was probably a little rough with people. As I look back, I regret that, and I wish I had been more of a mentor and coach than a critic. So, I would encourage people early in their careers, if you’re really strong at your craft, don’t just become a critic to people that you perceive as not as strong but become a coach.

Molinsky: How about misconceptions that you think college students have entering the workplace?

English: At school you’re taking five classes at once and they are all different topics. When you work in a professional company, you typically only work at one thing, and rather than a jack-of-all-trades you have to learn how to become a master craftsman. And rather than having assignments that take weeks as a student, you’ll work on things that take months, if not longer, as a professional. And you’ll need tenacity and stamina to perfect something with a team over several months, or quarters, or years. It’s such a different feel than working in academia.

Molinsky: How do you balance being an individual contributor and a member of a team?

English: I remember when I went to the first Tom Brady Super Bowl in New Orleans in 2002. St. Louis announced their players one at a time when they went out to the field. And it was time for the Patriots, who all ran up the field together, as a team rather than individuals. In a company, you need to do your job as an individual and make sure you’re productive as a member of that team. But the success is the success of the team.

June 12, 2019 at 02:19PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs