business

Patent Making: Suddenly It Clicks

The eighth of eight ways entrepreneurs, investors and savers have made a million. Find out how they did it and read all eight.

Millionaire Lesson No. 8

Forgo the safe route and find an employer who will help you live up to your potential.

By the numbers, Gurtej Sandhu is one of the most prolific inventors in the U.S. What’s more, he has parlayed his education and ingenuity into millionaire status.

Sandhu holds more than 700 patents, which puts him among the top ten patent holders in the nation. He works for Micron Technology, which makes memory microchips that are used in most digital devices, from cell phones to MP3 players. The semiconductor business faces cutthroat competition, and all of Sandhu’s patents focus on making microchips more efficient.

The son of two chemists, Sandhu, 47, was always attracted to math and science. "I liked engineering better than medicine because I didn’t have to deal with blood," he says. He earned a degree in electrical engineering from the elite Indian Institute of Technology, in New Delhi, and received a PhD in physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1990.

Turning down a job offer from a bigger rival, Sandhu joined Micron, which at the time ranked 16th among makers of memory chips. His physics professor and mentor, W.K. Chu, persuaded Sandhu to take the Micron job because it would give him an opportunity to learn many aspects of the chip-making business rather than being locked in to a specialized job at a larger company.

Inspiration comes quickly, says Sandhu -- "Suddenly it clicks and there’s a flash" -- but it takes dedication to develop an idea from creation to a patent. And sometimes you don’t even comprehend the magnitude of what you’ve discovered. For example, Sandhu developed a method of coating microchips with titanium without exposing the metal to oxygen, which would ruin the chips. Initially, he didn’t think his idea was a big deal, but now most memory-chip makers use the process.

Micron is based in Idaho, and Sandhu enjoys bike riding and spending time with his wife and two teenage sons in and around Boise. "The isolation works for me," he says. "I’m more open to new ideas here."

EIGHT MILLIONAIRE PROFILES

1. The Video That Took on a Life of Its Own

2. Know When to Make the Call

3. Pounce When the Time Is Right

4. It Started Over Cocktails

5. A Thirty-Year Plan to Make a Mil

6. Breaking With Family Tradition

7. Accumulating A Fortune on $11 a Hour

8. Suddenly It Clicks

Most Popular

5 Beaten-Down Stocks to Buy on the Dip
stocks to buy

5 Beaten-Down Stocks to Buy on the Dip

The market has delivered some nauseating volatility of late. The good news? That has teed up a few great stocks to buy at a discount.
September 27, 2021
10 Best Stocks for Rising Interest Rates
stocks

10 Best Stocks for Rising Interest Rates

The 10-year Treasury yield is hovering near its highest level in months. Here are 10 of the best stocks to buy in a rising interest-rate environment.
September 30, 2021
13 States That Tax Social Security Benefits
social security

13 States That Tax Social Security Benefits

You may have dreamed of a tax-free retirement, but if you live in these 13 states, your Social Security benefits are subject to a state tax. That's on…
October 4, 2021

Recommended

Business Cost Outlooks for 2022: Eight Key Sectors
Economic Forecasts

Business Cost Outlooks for 2022: Eight Key Sectors

What’s in store for all sorts of business costs in 2022?
October 12, 2021
Ditch Your Dying Career for a Dirty Job Instead
careers

Ditch Your Dying Career for a Dirty Job Instead

How secure is your job in a world of artificial intelligence? Technology is putting many careers on the endangered list, but some jobs just can’t be d…
October 12, 2021
You May Get a Raise in 2022
Employee Benefits

You May Get a Raise in 2022

In a strengthening labor market, businesses are paying more to attract and retain employees.
October 4, 2021
Acting Entitled on the Job – and in Life – Is a Ticket to Nowhere
careers

Acting Entitled on the Job – and in Life – Is a Ticket to Nowhere

Spoiled kids grow into entitled adults, and that can be a big problem for them in their careers and personal lives.
October 4, 2021