October 2, 2000
Former Microsoftie on the Cutting Edge
Microsoft executives are famous for their extra-curricular activities: professional bowling, dinosaur hunting, driving Humvees. But they have nothing on recent Microsoft alumnus David Bolnick. He cuts foreskins.
Bolnick, who recently left Microsoft after 10 years to chase startup dreams, moonlights as a mohel, someone who conducts circumcisions on 8-day-old Jewish boys. About once a week the 44-year-old father of three dons a prayer shawl, gathers his cutting instruments and performs the 4,000-year-old ritual, called a bris, as the newborn's parents, relatives and friends gather around and try not to watch.
Bolnick, who lives in Seattle and has a Ph.D. in physiology, started at Microsoft in 1990 after performing a bris on a Microsoft employee's son. His first job was in technical customer support, but he eventually helped design the Windows 95 interface and created systems for the disabled. He says his co-workers always knew when he had a bris because he came to work in a suit. "Most reacted with surprise, but Microsoft has people with a whole array of talents," Bolnick says.
He was a mohel before he joined the Redmond, Wash., software giant, but building interfaces forced him to put himself in others' shoes, and that has helped his other practice. For example, he says he now talks all the way through a circumcision to keep people's minds off the discomfort. And before he cuts, he asks the audience to sing loudly.
Groups such as NOCIRC (the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers) have in recent years raised opposition over the practice, but Bolnick refuses to enter the debate. He's busy seeking funding for Katav, a yet-to-launch online service that lets companies access their customers' calendar systems (for example, a video store drops a note into a customer's Web-based calendar to remind him that his rental is due). Bolnick is tight-lipped about strategic details, saying only that Katav won't rely on banner ads and that he and his partner, Moti Krauthamer, have filed patents on the business model. "Anything I'm involved with, it's always on the cutting edge," Bolnick jokes.
A quick glance
around his home office reveals the usual techie paraphernalia: two
computers, a printer, plaques of the Windows patents he owns. But a closer
look reveals the truth behind his joke: In the corner sits a sterilizer,
gauze, hemostats, diapers and two double-edged silver-plated knives. -
Cynthia Flash, Seattle