Dial Up Motive
Human-interest segment asking Cloudflare employees what their first Internet experience was and how it informed them joining Cloudflare. Dial-up modems, bulletin boards, punch-cards, Twitch, Twitter and more.
Hello, hello. Welcome, everyone, to Episode 9 of Dial Up Motive. I'm your host, Dan Hollinger, and on this show, we explore the early computer and early Internet histories with Cloudflare employees.
With me today, I have Beth Sautter on the Customer Development team here at Cloudflare.
Beth, would you mind taking a moment and introducing yourself?
Good morning, Dan. I'm coming from Austin, Texas.
I'm actually in my mom's home office because I'm out of AC, which everyone in Texas knows is horrible when it's 100 degree weather.
Impossible, yeah. Yeah, it's literally impossible.
And so all the quilting things, not my hobby, it's my mom's.
And I am on the Customer Development team, as you mentioned. I've been with Cloudflare since beginning of April, actually moved to a new job during COVID.
So took that leap of faith. Definitely glad I did. I am an Enterprise AE, so that means I'm a field sales rep covering the TOLA region.
So Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
Awesome. And what got you into tech sales? What was that initial entry point for you?
So my very first job outside of telemarketing at MCI at 18 was with Dell.
And I got a job at temp agency there, put me on the small business queue, meaning we took inbound calls.
And I think that's when I realized, yeah, I really like technology.
I really get it. I understand all the stuff we're selling.
And I found myself being not one of those just sales reps that like just sell stuff and not really know what I'm selling, but really dug into how do things work?
How do things work together? What business advantage do they give?
And I've been in love ever since then. Then are you born and raised in the Austin area?
Yes. Yes, I am. And I know, yeah, you're essentially able to benefit from always being a tech hub between Dell, Intel, AMD, IBM all having spaces there, which allowed that probably to develop a bit further, make tech very important for growing up in the school system and what have you.
Yeah. And the nickname that we have here is Silicon Hills versus Silicon Valley, which is interesting, right?
And it makes sense because not only is Dell in the backyard, but all the other big conglomerates that you mentioned.
And for me, it always found it really easy to stay in tech.
And I mean, maybe things would have changed if I was in a different city, that it wasn't so prominent, but I mean, it's been big here since I can remember.
Mm-hmm. Yeah. And from what I hear, I know it's only getting bigger as more Californians are moving to Austin, more job placements are being placed there.
And I actually spent about eight months in Austin, which was a blast. I interned at AMD.
And I know that was over a decade ago, a different lifetime ago, but it's fascinating hearing the true locals complain about how many Californians are moving to Austin or how techie it's becoming relative to its original culture.
Yeah. The music, hippie culture, it's now replaced almost entirely by tech.
My joke when I first went there is it seemed like there was a healthy amount of hippies that made it to Texas.
They were on their way to California and they're like, no, this is good.
You know, Barton Springs is fun. We're just going to settle here.
This is fine. Yes. Well, you would be accepted as an honorary Texan. I wouldn't complain about you moving here.
Oh, thank you. I'd have to buy a truck. That would be the main difference.
With that in mind, I'd be curious, especially growing up in Austin and having the Silicon Hills around you, what was some of your first interactions with a computer?
It's funny. I was trying to walk down memory lane with my mom to prepare for this because when you're a kid, you just can't remember all the little things until someone's like, what about this?
The very first machine we bought was a CompuAdd 286. Apparently, there's this place here in North Austin that built them custom and apparently was top of the line back in the day, which is hilarious, a 286 being top of the line, which was MS-DOS still.
We played some games on that. I went and put a list together with my mom of all the games we could remember.
There was Duke Nukem, Leisure Suit Larry, Lemmings, SimCity, Tetris, Scrack, Marble Madness, Where in the World is Carmen, San Diego, which I loved that game.
I remember that game a lot. I also love that game or whichever version I was playing.
Yes. My mom had this stupid typing game, but it worked.
I still type over 70 words a minute, so it really worked to make typing fun.
It's funny because my mom was the resident expert on computers. She was always really good with them, which is hilarious because in her adult years, after I even moved out of the house, she built her own computer.
She got into web development.
I think I have it in my blood. Well, yes, you have now a bar to set.
I'm sure you'll be building your next computer here soon. No, that's not for me. I really like more of the enterprise level technology, the in the weeds computer stuff, not my jam, but my mom is still so good at that stuff.
I've had to come over and help them do some of their automation stuff, but for her being in her 70s, she's still on it.
Wow. It's amazing. Along the lines of gaming, what do you think of comparing your time with the floppy disks and loading up DOS or loading up these really simple games to how kids have it today, where they download an app, they open the app, and then they're off to the races?
Do you think, and I have floppy disks behind me on my virtual background, what do you think that experience, how did it benefit you or how did it kind of allow you to tinker more or learn more?
I mean, I would say that it taught me patience, but I'm so impatient, so it should have taught me patience, but didn't.
I think that kids these days would have an actual stroke if they had to deal with dial-up or putting in a floppy and waiting for the stuff to go on the screen and how slow everything moved and how pixelated everything is.
I know that they have no idea and cannot even fathom how it was, right?
I mean, I think it led to a deeper appreciation for my age group and the older age groups even of like, oh man, look at how far stuff has come.
Meanwhile, some of the younger age groups, if they click on something and it doesn't immediately pop up, they're like, oh, this sucks, and they'll delete the app.
I mean, it's interesting to me how web performance has gotten so important over the years, because when it really first started, it wasn't the web importance or web speed importance as much as the computer speed, and now it's all focused on web, which is part of the reason I came to Cloudflare.
Yeah, and definitely that kind of need for instant gratification versus giving it the benefit of the doubt of like, oh yeah, it'll load eventually.
You know, I'm on a 56k modem or I have to dial in first. I'll wait, it'll be fine versus, oh, what's wrong with it?
I probably need to reboot it.
Yeah, let me complain about it on social media. You know, I don't think, let me tweet at the company about their game being slow.
It's just, it's unreal how much of a different world it is now than it was when I was a kid or teenager, you know, early adult.
So given that you kind of began your work or use of computers kind of in that Carmen San Diego, Lemmings days, what was your first experience on the Internet like?
What were you jumping into? It was really just chat rooms. AIM was my jam.
It was one of those, okay, you could talk to people at school, but like, you can also talk to strangers on the Internet and look at it like, oh, that was really scary, right?
We were talking to strangers on the Internet. Luckily, you know, I mean, I knew better to never go meet someone in person or share any personal information, but it was just chatting about random stuff.
I think that that's really the time that those acronyms were born too, right?
Like AFK, I remember that one.
And I think that's definitely carried on into the kids these days. You know, I mean, I have a niece and her growing up, it was always teaching me new stuff.
But I really focused on chat room. Initially, I would say, as I continued growing up, you know, games were more online, and you would have a little bit more interaction like email.
But I mean, I graduated high school in 2001. So there wasn't a ton to do on the Internet yet, besides just socialize.
Mm hmm. And kind of given that, which is almost unique experience, that most kids once they left school, or maybe occasionally from other than a phone call they might have, you know, with a crush or their friends, like this allowed you to continue those conversations, continue to have kind of interactions with your social group that you weren't able to, you know, a year or two ago.
How do you think that shaped, you know, how you communicated or your social life at that time?
Well, one of the things that I thought was amazing, and this is so bad, but I would be grounded from the phone, right, because I did something bad, or whatever, didn't get a good grade, whatever it was.
And, but I could use the computer for school, right. And so I would chat with my friends, while saying, I'm just doing schoolwork.
So I could still be social, even when I was grounded, which I thought was amazing.
I know that's bad. But that was like the first time like, oh, chat, you can use this for all this different multitasking while I'm doing schoolwork.
And also chat with my friends while I'm grounded.
So I thought that was amazing. And I would say too, like learning to multitask by leveraging the online tools you have over the years, I think has grown me into being a lot more of a productive individual in the workplace as well.
So I thought it was really cool. I think too, like you're able to interface with a lot of people that maybe not be at your exact school.
Like I played club soccer, for example.
So even though I was at Leander High School, I had buddies that were at all the neighboring high schools as well.
So it was nice to be able to chat with them and have more of a social life with them knowing, you know, I just didn't see them that often outside of soccer.
So if anything, it was a nice way to expand your social group or going to be additive and especially from, you know, learning how to alt tab or hide the chat window while you're doing, you know, quote unquote homework.
Of course, there's a life skill will always pay dividends as you go into the workforce.
But I'm really kind of curious, like, do you think that allowed you to, you know, both have a richer social life in high school compared to maybe someone five years prior?
And now if you look at kids, you know, there's never an AFK.
They always have either the phone or access to the Internet. They're always in kind of asynchronous communication with multiple groups or multiple friends.
How do you think it impacted your your social life growing up? Well, I was really studious.
So I played club soccer. I was in soccer at school. I played a bunch of sports.
And my mom was very strict about my grades, right? I had to get all A's or I would get grounded.
So for me, it gave me a social life while still being able to achieve the scholastic goals that my mom had for me and that I also had as well as still have my, you know, sports life.
So for me, I think if I didn't have that, I feel like I wouldn't have had much to the social life at all.
You know what I mean?
Outside of school or outside of soccer, which yes, that's a social life.
But this actually gave me a chance to really get to know people a lot more because you have like those one on one interactions over chat and you learn a bunch of stuff about them because they're sitting at home bored on the Internet as well.
No, I can understand that completely. So our our farmhouse was, you know, about a mile, mile and a half from from our downtown, you know, our little little city.
And so being able to continue kind of conversations or have a social life while being stuck on the farm, especially prior to, you know, cars or being 16 and being able to drive, you know, allowed you to maintain those connections or build them out in ways that you couldn't before.
So I walked through that similar experience in my own life.
And of course, I remember the kind of chat wars.
I think we were an MSN community in high school. And then once I went to college, everyone was using AOL and AIM.
So then I either had to switch or use both.
And that was its own little like battle of collecting chat applications. You probably had both.
You seem like a both type of guy. Eventually, like I started getting into the aggregators.
So the Oh, yeah, like the the trillions. And that's what I was gonna say.
I couldn't remember the name of it. So so then it's like, well, which aggregator is the best aggregator to keep all my chats together in one place?
Yep, I live that life as well. Trillion was what I use. And actually, even when I was at Dell, like they didn't lock that down.
So I was able to use Trillion to access my internal work.
But I could also chat with my friends.
And I mean, a few years and they locked that down. But at first, it was wide open, you know, you could, you could merge those two things together.
Because, you know, cybersecurity wasn't really a thing yet.
One second, just adjusting the live stream.
All right. Yeah. And that's definitely something I think, you know, learning how to communicate with others, learning how to use multiple applications or protocols, like at the end of the day, it almost becomes background, you don't care what application you're using, as long as you're having a good conversation with the person on the other side.
And would you almost feel that that growing up in that environment has prepared you for, you know, a life of slack, a life of zoom, you know, being able to work with people without ever necessarily meeting them in person, and being able to accomplish shared goals, kind of in that both multitasking and distanced way?
Yeah, I think so. I mean, I've always leveraged technology to make my life more efficient, right?
The way I look at is like, how can I get from point A to point B, the quickest, most efficient way while still having good quality, whatever it is, right.
So, for me, I think, you know, leveraging those multitasking skills has been really good for my career, because I might be able to be on a call, I might be able to be on the chat, or I can be in a meeting on a call, on chat, maybe getting a text message about a potential opportunity, right, having all those different mediums and being able to leverage them.
And to be successful, I think is great.
I've never been one of those anti technology people. So I'm like, Oh, there's something cool that's new.
And I also think too, like, it has prepared me for the serverless cloud, you know, future that we're going towards, because I don't feel the need of being attached to one specific thing, or one specific application.
And I will say too, though, mentioning the whole being able to do business without ever seeing someone that is killing me right now during COVID.
I've done sales forever.
And because I'm outside sales, I'm still used to Yes, I have zoom calls, but I'm used to shaking the hand and going to lunch.
And so for me, it's been still a transition during this time of getting used to 100% virtual again, because I haven't done that in so long in my career that it it's hard again for me.
It's like, I'm maybe I'm too old. And I'm like, Oh, it's, you know, change. You're one of those poor extroverts that, you know, peak quarantine is just like starving for any kind of human interaction.
Yes. Well, it's just me and my dogs at home most of the time, you know, and now I see my parents and friends a lot.
But at first, you know, everybody was really locked down. So it was just me and my dogs.
I mean, I would have full conversations with my dogs. Like, am I going crazy?
Probably not. This is feels like normal COVID behavior. Yeah. So I'm glad to have you on the show allow you to, you know, talk and chat with with more than just your parents and your pets.
Thank you so much. I know, I've seen quite a few comics already of like how an introvert is handling quarantine, and they're doing fine.
Like, after four months, they might get started to bother it.
And then of course, how extroverts are being treated by quarantine. And it's a very different, different, different world.
Yeah, we were like sitting in the corner like Rocky.
Introverts are like, I don't have to leave my house. And finally watch all the movies.
Yes, exactly. I think I'm kind of a good mix between the two, though.
I'm really introverted at work. But in my social life, like I'm pretty small circle these days, I think it might just be you know, I've, as I've gotten older, my circle shrinks.
I'm like, Oh, going out at 10pm. Oh, sorry, guys, my pants already off not leaving the house.
You know, so um, but yeah, I mean, if I was in my 20s during this time, I think I would be losing my mind.
I don't think I would be able to handle it.
Interesting that I mean, that might explain Florida. Nothing explains.
Good point. Good point. Apologies for anyone from Florida that's watching.
A lot of Florida, they agree. So on kind of taking it back to chat and multitasking, I know on the kind of negative end, you have people pointing to kind of millennials in our generation as being unable to focus having a bit more either ADHD or needing kind of that constant stream of information.
What are your thoughts on that?
Or did you feel kind of impacted by that kind of experience?
So I'm a millennial, but only by like a year. So I don't identify with that age group, only because I've seen two things, right?
Like, yes, it can be hard to focus or it's hard to stay with one task, right?
As part of this generation. But I feel like generationally, it's also changed the way that people view work as more of a Oh, I just do this for money.
Whereas I feel like maybe some of the older generations, a lot of them had like, this is my passion, right?
Like, I love working.
I know that sounds really sad, because I maybe I don't have a life, but I really enjoy what I do.
I really enjoy technology. I really enjoy talking to people about it.
So I know some of the younger generations that I've worked with, they're just like, I mean, I'm only here for a paycheck, which is so weird to me.
You know, you're like, well, why don't you find something you like?
Why don't you find something you're passionate about?
And I think they're like, Oh, my social life's what I'm passionate about.
I'm like, man, maybe they have it right. You know, maybe they know what they're doing.
Whereas some of these other groups, like, Oh, I want to find something to do all day that I really like.
But I will say that from like, ADHD standpoint, I mean, I have to take active measures.
Like when I'm working on something, and I'm not on the phone, I have, you know, meditation music on the background, I have to keep myself organized, because I do find myself like, Oh, squirrel.
Oh, I got a text. Wait, I got a Facebook notification, or I got all these things, right?
Because it's really hard to put that down. Especially when it's like a meme or something funny.
And you're like, Oh, wait, I'm in the middle of something.
That's always a potential kind of caveat to, you know, people are learning to be more productive or kind of have multi thread conversations or asynchronous conversations earlier.
But then the flip side of that is do they ever have just a single chat or a single thread going and really enjoy that for what it is?
Yeah, it's like needing open, I need 100 more threads, I need to read that notification.
And that, you know, we don't haven't taught too much of the the dark side of technology here on the show.
It's a lot more kind of nostalgia and fun and San Diego.
But that's always something that comes to mind when especially you see kids today that have don't have that need to be patient, or just have immediate access to a lot of these same things.
I guess, to your point of kind of being an older millennial, the ones that had a childhood that didn't really have tech or didn't have social media, and that coming about really only in college or later, was a very different, I think, way to grow up versus the ones that had it much earlier.
And that was, oh, much more connected to their social life, or the core of their social life than it was for us.
I'm honestly thankful that there was no social media when I was growing up.
I don't. I mean, you think about like parties, and you just think about like, I'm really, I'm really glad there was not social media.
I don't know how kids do it, especially with all the bullying and all the stuff.
It's like, it's overwhelming to think about at my age, like, man, we had none of that.
And I'm really glad we didn't.
Only because I feel like my childhood was a little bit easier that way, right?
Because all of my business wasn't all over the Internet at all times.
And I will say, though, it's also cool, right? They have a lot of cool stuff we didn't, but my focus was school, you know, soccer and friends.
And you know, we would go out to play when the when it was, you know, as soon as it became light outside, and then we had to be home before the streetlight was on, right?
I mean, that was kind of what we did as a kid. And now it's all, you know, my six year old nephews all over the all over YouTube, and he just watches videos 24 seven.
I'm like, where do you even find these people? He's like, I don't know, one video leads to another.
And he just watches everything. You just follow the algorithm.
Yes. And I'm like, man, I can't imagine doing that at that age. You know, I was focused on so much more rudimentary things like, you know, playing with my Barbies or whatever.
Yeah, it's definitely my wife and I already having conversations of like, how late do we give our daughters, you know, a cell phone, a smartphone, like I got away with abusing, you know, the 1-800 collect numbers to send messages to my parents, like before I had cell phone or be big, basically, you know, at this stage, we could tell the kids to borrow anyone else's.
So that's, that's definitely a concern now as a parent of what kind of connected and socially connected world will I be aiming my kids towards?
And how much is just out of my control at this point, when everything you know, Wi Fi is ubiquitous connectivity is ubiquitous.
Well, and as a parent, I mean, I'm not I'm a dog parent. But as a parent, I would think you're like, man, and how do I do a good job of monitoring all that to make sure all the threats that are out there, that I'm protecting my child from that, right?
I mean, I think I've already seen a couple apps that have popped up that kind of like you said, like those consolidators of chat, they have that now for consolidators and social media platforms and email and stuff to where there's like an app I read about yesterday that has an AI that actually will alert parents when there's something that the AI thinks they need to worry about, which I think is so cool.
And I'm like, that is something that I think over the next decade, we'll see a lot of and a lot of like, you know, like our our gateway product, right with web filtering, I think that you're going to see a lot more of those types of applications to protect people from this runaway train that the Internet has become because you do need to harness it, right?
And it can't be the Wild West anymore we've determined.
So I think it's really cool the R&D and the innovation people are doing surrounding things like that.
You want to put the plug in for 1.1.1 for families?
1 .1.1 for families, you guys should install it.
Well, now that we're actually going to have the client, so that'll be really handy.
I'm excited to see where that goes. And I love that we give it away for free. A company that is so philanthropic is fantastic.
Yeah, definitely looking forward to putting those those filters in place.
And if anything, I've been looking at tricks already of, you know, you rotate the Wi Fi password or the they have to do chores to earn the Wi Fi password.
Like there are little things that you either kind of help them disconnect, or they have to opt into connecting.
Yes. I think with that, in our final few minutes, what do you are most excited about kind of for the future of the Internet?
You know, you've touched on on working at Cloudflare and some of the stuff we're building.
What do you think is the next wave that you're looking forward to?
Man, I don't know. I mean, I think the thing that I'm most excited about is what I'm also most scared about, which is cybersecurity, right?
I think, as things continue to evolve, what else is becoming more evolved is how easy it is to be a malicious actor on the web, right?
I mean, that is the most scary to me.
But every year, the things that are coming out in the cybersecurity realm are just amazing to me, right?
The things we're doing the things other people are doing in totally different areas of cybersecurity than we are.
I think a lot of the machine learning and AI driven stuff that you know, we're implementing as well as is what I'm most interested about.
I will say though, I've seen so many movies about you know, AI that you're like, Oh, are the machines rise against us?
That's why I'm always nice to my, you know, Siri and Alexa. Yes. I'm like, wait, I have all of my house automated.
Like what happens one day when Alexa decides to not unlock my doors and not let me out of my house.
But I think that's what I'm most excited about is just to see the innovation that the brilliant people around the world have put together for AI machine learning and with a cybersecurity focus.
I just I can't wait to see what happens over the next few years. And how to automate too, right?
Like a lot of automation stuff, I think is really cool. I dove into the home automation, like I have my lock synced with my Alexa synced with my ring, you know, and I know I haven't touched it where a lot of people have like thermostats are next.
But I love that. I think automation is one of the most fun things that you can do just because it makes your life so much easier, you know?
And I'm definitely curious. I know I'm more the kind of scared front from an automation perspective, because it's very easy for these algorithms to begin to take over a lot of more rudimentary tasks that humans do, because they're able to see or process, you know, a million records, or a human in their lifetime might only see 100,000.
And being able to then produce content, or at least new, new variations of content that we used to hire a human to do, is slowly going to continue kind of making its way into the market.
And either making one human more efficient or giving them the productivity of, you know, 100.
But we're moving a lot of jobs, potentially from the workforce.
Well, and I think people have already started to realize, like a lot of those jobs are going to go away.
And that's why the younger generations are being trained early to do things on the web, do things with technology, because a lot of those are going away.
I mean, if you look at how we do our DDoS, right?
I mean, we leverage a lot of that automation in house.
And I know we're going to continue doing it too, because it makes us more efficient, it makes our products better, not having a human with the human error factor in between everything, right?
I mean, I think it's important that people start to realize, like, hey, what does this potential career I'm getting into look like?
And what's the future in it? Because nobody wants to, at 50 or 55, go, oh, dang, I have to go learn something new now, because my job is obsolete.
So I think you're right, though, it's scary, because you feel bad for people that maybe don't have that forward thought and are doing some of the things that, and not continuing training as they're in those roles that, you know, hey, you might wake up one day and the job just doesn't exist anymore.
Yep. Yeah, so definitely always, always keep prepped and keep learning.
And that's one thing the Internet's always helpful with.
And with that, I know we're nearing the end of time. So Beth, I want to thank you for a lovely interview.
And, you know, hopefully you can stay cool in Austin.
And thank you, Dan, this has been fun. Awesome. And I will try to do the same here in the Bay Area.
I don't know if the heat wave is continuing, but we stay cool.
We'll try to stay cool. And everyone, thank you for joining us, whether it's via the live stream or recording.
Have a great morning, evening or afternoon.
Bye, everybody. Transcribed by https://otter.ai