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David White
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David White is a software/firmware/marketing professional and a long time investor. He has worked in the networking field, the semiconductor equipment field, the mainframe computer field, and the pharmaceutical/scientific instrumentation field. He has bachelor's degrees in bioresource sciences... More
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  • My Background In Engineering Seems To Be Under Attack Let Me Address A Few Issues

    Job#1:

    First there is some question about credit for a network throughput improvement at one company. The network part of the product was very slow at first in a new product that I was working on. It would only support about 1.5 systems. However, the specification called for at least 4 systems. At the same time a parallel project of longer duration using a different operating system was having the same problem as my product. The bigger, longer term project had had many people look at the problem. Almost all of them were getting paid more than I as I was still fairly new. I came up with a hypothesis for what might be going on. I talked to a bunch of the afore-mentioned people. I was told repeatedly by many people that I didn't know what I was doing. I was told that they had not been able to come up with a solution; and my attempt would not work. I was basically told I was a tyro; and I was dismissed as such. My boss let me go ahead and try. He had some faith in me; but probably more than that, I at least thought I could solve the problem; and no one else had been saying they could.

    I was able to come up with a working solution for my project that provided a 4-5 fold throughput improvement. This essentially "saved" my project from being a disaster with the customers. I eventually got a promotion and a 20% raise out of this (prorated for a six month evaluation period down to 10% as the entire division was switching to a new evaluation time table. I left the company not long after this. However, I heard that they made what was essentially my change into a new product they sold as an enhancement to a previously released product. In other words they made even more money off of my ideas. Naturally since I had left the company by then, another engineer was given credit for that. However, he was one of the people who had scoffed at me originally. He along with others had not been able to solve the problem himself for the project he was working on. He may have even changed the way it was done? I don't know. However, it was almost certainly my realization of what the operating system linked problem was that he based any new product on. Since I was not there, I do not know if he just basically copied my change, or if he improved it in some way.

    There has also been some debate about why I left that company. Essentially I left because I felt I was being slandered too much. Before this happened one guy who I had complained about chose to leave the company, although I did not demand that. He had basically admitted that everything he said about me was likely to be negative.

    Later there was a bit of a fiasco about my behavior at one point. To counter some of the slander I posted some of my qualifications on the wall outside my office. Since my GPA was what some of the slander was about, the notice said that I had attained a 3.6+ GPA for my last 100 semester units of work (essentially a college degree's worth). This was true; and I can prove it.

    The real problem some people had with my claims was another claim I had made about knowing more than two women. This was misunderstood. Some apparently jumped to the conclusion that I was claiming to be a better software engineer than them. In reality I was saying that I knew more about the particular type of chemistry that most of the company's products were centered around. We made autolab hardware and software products. I pointed out that I was one of the few software engineers who actually understood why we were doing things (from a chemistry standpoint). I had a conversation with my boss and the head of HR about this. I cleared up the misunderstanding. After that they did not have a problem with what I had said any more. Instead of me singling out the two women as lesser software engineers, I had been saying that they were the only two software engineers who came close to understanding as much as I did about the chemistry. Virtually all of the male software engineers were completely ignorant of the chemistry aspects.

    A fundamental truth is that it helps to understand what you are trying to produce, if you want to have a chance of putting out a good product. After clearing this up neither my boss, nor the female head of HR had a problem with what I had said, although both thought I had been a bit brash. They thought I should tone down my approach. They understood that I felt I was being unjustly demeaned. I was not fired based on this. However, I did decide to leave at that time anyway. Since I wanted to get what benefits I had accrued I asked them to lay me off. I didn't think the situation was going to change quickly. Since I have since heard that one of the women later in her career wanted to hire me for a management job, I do not think there were huge hard feelings there.

    I would also point out that I heard the lab manager there eventually became a main software manager in that division. To me this only seems to validate my point that the male engineers did not have a good grasp of the chemistry. There was one who did; but at the time he was working in marketing. There were a number of marketers who had excellent chemistry knowledge; but that did not necessarily help the engineers on a day to day basis.

    Job#2:

    I worked at one company for about seven years. For the first about 1.5 years I worked on a software project. Most people thought I did a great job; and I was given great raises. For another year I worked on a new software project that was supposed to be company wide. The work I did on this project was generally thought to be good to great at the time I did it. The head of the project for the company later told me that he still had a high opinion of me, although some other people had been bad mouthing me. I had been interacting with his group too.

    After about one year, I did not like the way the architecture was going. I did not like that my manager and the other top engineer in my group were agreeing to everything the "priority group" was telling them they wanted to do. I first thought we needed more memory overall for our part of the project. I felt that even if we managed the first release okay, we would too soon run out of memory. On top of this the "priority group" wanted to use 600K for a RAM disk. I didn't see why they couldn't deallocate this when they had done what they wanted. The RAM disk would mean that my group's part of the project would have to jump through many hoops to make our part of the project work. We already had a memory problem. However, the other senior engineer in my group convinced my manager that he could do an overlay strategy that would get around this problem.

    There were several problems with this. First it would add unnecessary complication to an already complex project. Second some not insignificant amount of memory would have to be kept empty so that the overlay parts could be moved into and out of memory presumably off the RAM disk. Third some of the memory on the RAM disk would inevitably be lost to things not fitting exactly. We didn't have this to spare. Fourth some of the program was "real-time". It was unclear that you would be able to have all of the real-time components you wanted in active memory (not on the RAM disk) at the time you needed them, if you used an overlay strategy. This aspect promised to be a disaster. At the very least it promised to be hugely complex.

    As a result of the disagreements, I ended up quitting that software group. I moved out of software entirely into firmware development. I like to think I generally did a good job there. However, a company bought my company out; and they decided to move all of firmware development to Japan. At the point of that decision there were still many planned and promised (to the customers) projects that needed to be finished. I and many others in the firmware group were promised large bonuses ("golden handcuffs") if we stayed to a certain date about two years out. We were all going to be asked to leave eventually; and we knew it. The management wanted to be able to maintain project continuity. A lot of firmware engineers were laid off right away. These were generally newer additions, although many had a wealth of experience. As part of this I got them to agree to fund some education at Stanford, so I essentially got an even bigger bonus than most.

    As I said I generally did a good job, although I made some mistakes on the last project largely due to the fact that they refused to give me certain design documents I needed to do my job. They wanted to restrict the number of people who got them because we were all leaving. They didn't want the US engineers to copy their product into a competing product quickly. Not giving me the documents was their mistake and not mine. From what I have heard, most of the firmware engineers who remained for the final project (and had to correct any errors I made agreed with my position).

    I left at essentially the originally agreed upon date with a number of other firmware engineers. I was "fired" only in the sense that essentially everyone in the firmware group was eventually "fired" due to the firmware function being moved to Japan. I was friends with the woman who was heading the last project. She offered to put me on it at one point (and I was essentially a Stanford engineer, so I was not without talent). I declined her offer because I was interested in finding a job that was not a "dead end" job. Knowing you had no future there was depressing, although most people were being nice to each other.

    Not too long before I left, the software project that I had quit on essentially failed. This was several years after I had left the group. I had done the low level work for that project initially. I heard that the "first release" did not even run. They apparently tried to blame this all on low level problems. However, they discovered that they did not have enough memory. I was accused of not letting them know about a supposedly huge increase in the amount of memory the "priority group" was using for their communications stack. I eventually came to the conclusion that they had completely forgotten that they had agreed to let them have a 600K RAM disk. It wasn't the communications stack size that was the problem. Further I had not even been working on the project anymore at the time the "priority group" put in the communications stack. I had been loading off a hard disk that would not be there in the final product.

    I am guessing that they did not even do the overlay stuff. However, my attitude about the whole thing is that I had been off the project for 3+ years after having only been on it for 1 year. The fact that they could "release" a product without having at first tested it was appalling to me. They obviously were under pressure to meet a deadline. How they could blame me after I had been off the project for 3 years was beyond me. It should have been beyond the company's management. I was also still getting blamed for seemingly every problem the even older software project had. Further I was given no credit for the changes I made to other software tools being done by others that apparently worked well (I got 0 complaints). You can perhaps see why I wasn't that anxious to stay.

    Some time after this a software manager (not the one I quit on and not my original hiring manager and not the "priority group's manger's" who told me he thought highly of me) who had left the company after I did apparently started claiming he fired me. First I was in the firmware group for the last four years I was there. The software group and the firmware group had entirely different reporting structures. He was not in a position to fire me at any point in my roughly four years in firmware. I can only guess that the company eventually got rid of him because they did not like what had been going on in the software group, especially what tools group that I had long ago been a member of had been doing. I had made no attempt to get "hired" into that tools group at the time I left. I had no intention of staying beyond my "golden handcuffs end date". I can only guess that he needed someone to blame for being let go by the company (some of the software support function was staying). He apparently chose me as his scapegoat. However, I regard any such comments by him as complete slander; and I do not think I in any way merit them. As I said, I had been in firmware for the last four years. If someone was still blaming me for problems other software engineers had been working on for many years, they are completely delusional in my mind.

    I will eventually add more about other jobs. However, I averaged approximately 15% per year as a raise for my first 7 years and a professional engineer. This is better than most. I got a 20% raise at one contracting job I had for about 1.5 years. I made a large positive impact on the main project I worked on there. I was retained as a consultant at Cisco Systems during the worse layoff I remember hearing about there in which about 70% of the consultants and 8% of the employees were let go. I could go on. I think most people who have worked with me have a generally high opinion of me as a person and as a software/firmware engineer or marketer.

    Aug 07 2:10 PM | Link | 1 Comment
  • My Qualifications

    I have heard a lot of people try to denigrate me. I have heard a lot of people praise me. I try not to believe too much of either. Overall I went to good schools such as St. Paul's School (Concord, NH) -- an elite high school, UC Berkeley, Stanford, etc. Some people point to a particular school as a reason people think well of me. I am sure that is true to some extent. There is something to be said for having a good background. However, many people who still think well of me knew me before I went to any of those schools. Why did they/do they think well of me?

    Some people have cited test scores I have achieved. Others have suggested I somehow cheated on such tests. I didn't cheat. I have by now taken so many general evaluation tests that I am usually confident that I will do well; and I have done well consistently, although better in some cases than others. If challenged, I usually point to my MCAT scores. The last one was the best, but it was still clearly me. Those scores were above the average scores of the admitted classes of the top five medical schools at the time the test was given -- a long time ago. Yes the average score has gone up a bit; but my scores would still be good even today. It is virtually impossible to cheat on that long and arduous test. Yet I did well; and those scores match up reasonably well with the many other scores I have achieved.

    After one test rumors spread that I was the smartest guy in the state. I had a hard time swallowing that; but I am a smart guy. I tried not to worry about it. Many said I cheated on that one; but I didn't.

    Some have noted a discrepancy between my National Merit ranking in high school and the results of the tests I cited above. My SAT scores were as high as many of the people in my class that received Honorable Mentions for National Merit Scholar (a lot of the class). After the PSAT and the SAT, US Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (my class at St. Paul's) told me the PSAT was used mostly for ranking people for the National Merit Scholar Program. I thought it was a practice test. I did not take it seriously. In the first term of my senior year of high school I took a Skills Build class at St. Paul's. After improving my reading ability substantially, I scored 720 on the English Achievement and 790 on the Math Level II. Had I taken that class earlier I might have qualified as a National Merit Semi-Finalist (and perhaps even received a National Merit Scholar award. It is Murphy's Law that you find out these things after the fact. Since that time my test scores have been consistently high.

    I further point out that I cannot remember one person in my class who accused me of cheating when I got the better scores. I do remember hearing some grousing from classes behind mine. Perhaps a few faculty members whom I had not taken classes from thought them "funny"; but I was under the impression that all of my longer term teachers thought them perfectly reasonable. My three closest senior hallmates were all at least National Merit Semi-finalists. They were all tremendously supportive. If the people who know you best acknowledge your abilities, that should say something.

    Some people are now suggesting that my St. Paul's friends may no longer know me. However, I did see some of them at a couple of reunions I went to in the not too distant past. Plus a top prep boarding school (where everyone is a boarding student) is a unique place. One student at the time I was there, who is now an acknowledged author, likened it to "four years of boot camp". As you might imagine, most students leave St. Paul's with well formed personalities. Further most people there do not form friendships quickly; but they form stronger friendships when they do form them. Your close friends are not fair weather friends; and most Paulies tend to support each other as a general case. My class was often told by the long term teachers at St. Paul's that it was the most talented class in modern history. Consequently it has an elitist attitude; and it is even more tight knit than the typical class. Finally you go to class with, play sports with (everyone plays sports there), socialize with, eat with, and house with people for four years. Usually you know the people in your class, especially your closest friends, better than your family. Often you also know the people in the class on either side of yours well too. It is an experience that is unreplicated anywhere in my experience. You will never in your life get as close to people as you can get at St. Paul's.

    Rumors spread last year that I was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Economics. I didn't win; or I would know it. However, the surrounding rumors make it seem a relatively sure thing that I was. In fact I heard I made the final group. They do not notify you. They do not release the nomination data for 50 years. I was flattered to be considered.

    I should also mention to avoid confusion that I worked for a short time in Dr. Stanley Prusiner's lab at UCSF on the Scrapie project (a neurological disease in sheep). Many years later Dr. Prusiner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on this project (seemingly mostly for the Prion theory). Prior to that, at U.C. Berkeley I had worked in the lab of Ed Penhoet (one of the founders and the CEO of Chiron -- a major biotech startup in the 1980's), which later sold out to a major pharmaceutical company.

    I have a lengthy resume of professional engineering work in many fields. Many of the projects I worked on were leading edge projects in their time. I also have marketing experience in technology. I understand well what can contribute to success in the technology industry.

    Some have decried me recently for not having a Ph.D. I don't, but I have taken a much larger amount of course work than most people with Ph.D.'s. I have a large amount of technology industry experience as a professional. Plus I have written nearly 1000 articles for SeekingAlpha.com. Does anyone really think I did not learn as much researching and writing those articles as a person would learn researching and writing one thesis? I think I have likely learned a good deal more. Plus after my long resume of class work, I feel reasonably qualified to teach myself. If that were not enough, there are many knowledgeable people who comment on SeekingAlpha.com, who have pushed me to learn even more.

    Do I know everything? Absolutely not. Am I smart and knowledgeable? Absolutely Yes. Did the schools I went to make people think highly of me? I am sure they did to some extent. However, my largely acknowledged high aptitude contributes to that. The large volume of work I have done as a professional both for SeekingAlpha.com and in other fields contributes again. If other people fall short in one or more categories, I don't find that my fault. I don't find that a reason to question my qualifications. I hope this clears things up a little.

    Many have asked for my SeekingAlpha.com rankings since I published this. The highest/higher rankings I have achieved are as follows:

    #2 ranked author overall at one point, when there was only a single ranking system.

    #1 ranked author in Basic Materials, which includes energy, for a significant amount of time.

    #1 - #5 rankings in the following:

    Long Ideas, Short Ideas, Dividend Ideas, REITs, Financial, Industrial Goods, and Utilities. I may have left one or more category rankings out.

    I currently have more than 56,000 followers on SeekingAlpha.com. Of those more than 3200 are analysts, more than 3300 are corporate executives and IR and PR people, more than 1100 are fund managers or partners, more than 3200 are investment advisers, and more than 9000 are traders. I am flattered that so many professionals follow me.

    Recently some talk has arisen that people must not want to work with me. In other words if I have the above qualifications, why am I not working with others. First I would like to say that a lot of people do seem to like me. A lot of people have liked working with me in the past. I am generally friendly, honest, and I get things done. That last makes some people happy. Usually the people on the same team with me are happy with me because I tend to make the team successful. Hence they benefit. Some (usually not on the same team) may resent me because I make them look bad by comparison (without trying to).

    I do tend to inspire jealously. I am generally considered good looking. I am generally considered a good athlete. Some believe I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I did go to all of the right schools. I have an elite IQ. I am usually knowledgeable in the areas I work in. I work at that. I am generally considered affable. This package of traits makes some people seemingly hate me. In one case I remember, one guy seemed to hate me because people would listen to me, even though he had more experience in the area of the project. I tend to think people's faith in me is a combination of my high IQ and my generally good knowledge level. If someone hates me for that, I do not regard it as a character flaw on my part.

    According to my relatives who follow such things, I am also related to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Zachary Taylor (among others). Those two had charisma. Perhaps I got some of their charisma passed down to me. Some people may resent this.

    As for not working with others, I am at this time likely going to start my own investment management business. I have been dragging my feet about that. However, I have been improving my knowledge level by studying the markets and by writing for SeekingAlpha.com. In other words, I have been building "human capital". I have even had people say they would like to work for me or with me, when I get such a business going. I think some people like my attitude toward people and toward the markets. Naturally a no or low talent bureaucrat whose biggest talent lies in slandering people through rumor mills or manipulating a corporate system through politics will not tend to like the type of person I have described above. Again I do not consider that a character flaw on my part. However, such people do make me shy of the corporate environment. There always seem to be some.

    The markets do not work on purely logical theories; and to be truly successful, you have to be aware of the things that can cause logic not to work for you. You have to be aware of the things that can change sentiment quickly. You have to be aware of the increasingly global nature of the markets and their relationship to the complex economic parts. You have to be aware of the nature of High Frequency Trading and of momentum trading, which often seemingly defy logic. I could go on. However, most who have followed me on SeekingAlpha.com probably know that I have continued to improve. I have continued to become more knowledgeable. I eventually plan to be successful in investment management.

    Jul 20 12:59 AM | Link | Comment!
  • Performance Claims

    I have heard some rumors asserting I may make false performance claims. however, the only claims I can remember making on SeekingAlpha were the following:

    1. I entered a CNBC contest (a 10 week contest) a few years ago. For the first several weeks, my main portfolio was up by more than 30%. This put me in the top 0.25% of contest entrants at that time (slightly better than that). The first few weeks results were then cancelled due to a bug in their program that allowed some unscrupulous people to rack up big gains in currency trading. I did very little currency trading. Virtually all of my gains were from stock trading; and I did not take advantage of any bugs in the CNBC program. Most of my gains were from either Basic Materials stocks' gains or from ETFs that short the overall market. These results were all publicly available online; and at that time could have been publicly verified. After CNBC cancelled the first few weeks results due to the error, I did not really participate in the end of the contest. First it was much shorter than I wanted. Second I felt cheated out of my completely legitimate results to that date. Third I was not getting paid for the contest.

    2. I have also claimed some results from a tracking portfolio. In that portfolio I have bought or shorted stocks based on some of the recommendations I have made in SeekingAlpha articles. Sometimes I used options strategies. The results cited were those the tool I was using told me I had. These results were from 2012 and 2013. They were good, even though I was not putting a lot of effort into maintaining my tracking portfolio. This was a paper trading portfolio.

    3. I have sometimes cited good results from a particular article. For instance, I called the gold downturn well to a large degree. I called a possible Patriot Coal downturn/bankruptcy, which occurred within a year of my article if memory serves. You should have heard the strident objections at the time of the article. I called a short of LULU at about $80 per share. I again called for a short in the $60's. I have recommended many stocks that have done well such as CLR. I have also recommended many high dividend paying stocks. I believe these have in general done well, although I don't have specific data to cite.

    4. On the negative side, I have been both right and wrong about a number of momentum stocks. I confess to having been frustrated in some of my calls on some hugely overpriced momentum names by a combination of the momentum/HFT people and the QE policies of the Fed and other central banks. My long calls have generally been good ones. My short calls have improved over time. However, they have been more of a mixed bag. Since a lot of long/short hedge funds significantly underperfomed the overall market in 2013 (and possibly in other big QE years), I believe I had a fair amount of company in being wrong in some of my short calls. I believe shorts, even when hugely fundamentally sound, have generally suffered from the Fed "easy money" policies and the consequent success of the momentum/HFT traders in pushing over valued momentum stocks upward.

    5. I have also on occasion cited the number of people and the quality of the people following me. This information is actually made available by SeekingAlpha to all subscribers. I cannot have "faked" any of these claims. Any claims I have made in this area can still be easily verified in a gross sense. I do not think there have been any gross changes, although the number of my followers has generally been increasing over time. That number is currently at approximately 55,000. I am followed by more than 3000 investment advisers, more than 3000 analysts, more than 9000 traders, more than 1000 fund managers/partners, more than 3000 corporate executives and IR people, etc. I am proud of both the number and the quality of my followers. I think I am deservedly proud. I am also aware that these numbers can vary considerably for a variety of reasons from author to author. I generally feel authors are worthy of respect once they have reached 1000 followers. I don't really decry anyone based on this. For instance, some authors do not write many articles. Hence they would likely not have many followers; but they might still be great authors to follow.

    I hope I have clarified for people any claims I have made. I do not think I have made any false claims. I am aware that the SEC in general does not like people to promise future results; and I don't believe I have done this.

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    Jun 08 6:53 AM | Link | 2 Comments
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  • Unfortunately there are some who extend competitiveness to sex areas. They don't care about feelings, only about being the "Alpha male". Sad
    2 days ago
  • Prep School rape case in the news. I went to St. Paul's. Most students were among the nicest people you will ever meet. Excellent school.
    2 days ago
  • Am I being melodramatic? Perhaps. But those who think other countries are not thinking in terms of economic wars are naive or asleep.
    6 days ago
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