A promising eight-year career with tons of perks and growth potential as an engineer at the world’s largest tech company did not keep Naga Kataru from pursuing what he loved most.
“I felt I was stagnating,” he told CNNMoney in an interview. “I had worked one side of my brain for so long. I wanted to explore the other side.”
Kataru joined Google during its early years as its 40th engineer. The company had only 110 employees and was still growing into the empire it is today.
His biggest contribution to the company is a product that is used by billions today. However, when he initially went to his manager with the idea, it was immediately rejected. He was even told that his idea would keep users away from Google rather than attract them.
Kataru then decided to take his idea directly to founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, presenting them with a simple UI of what is known today as Google Alerts. Brin and Page were impressed, and the product was approved, developed and eventually received three patents.
When Kataru left Google, he initially dabbled in documentary short films and improv theater for a short time before finally settling into the career that reminded him of his home in India: farming.
In 2008, he bought a 320-acre farm in Modesto, California, as a diversified investment.
“I thought I would sell it after five years,” he told CNNMoney.
However, he said it reminded him of his native country. “I missed the way the fruits and flowers smelled differently in India,” he said.
To generate income from it, he converted the farm into an almond plantation.
“I didn’t know anything about farming. But I love education and I taught myself,” he told CNNMoney.
His hard work has now bore fruit and the huge money-making farm now has eight employees and earns around $2.5 million annually.
Today, Kataru is pursuing an MBA and an MS in environment & resources at Stanford University to further improve farming techniques.
“It’s ironic that even though there are farms just 90 miles outside of Silicon Valley, technology hasn’t been used much to improve processes and crop yields,” he said. “As a technologist, I think I can do something about it.”