Dial Up Motive
Interviews with Cloudflare employees about their first Internet experiences, and how they informed their decision to later join Cloudflare.
Dial-up modems, bulletin boards, punch-cards, Twitch, Twitter and more!
This week's guest: Eric Allen
Good morning, everyone. Thank you for attending. This is episode two with Eric Allen.
And I'm your host, Dan Hollinger. To tell you a little bit about this show, the hope is that we are exploring the stories of how Cloudflare employees interacted with the early Internet and how it shaped their career here at Cloudflare.
So if you're joining on the live stream, welcome.
If you're joining us from a previous session, thank you.
And let me transition to the gallery view here. So it's just me and Eric.
Eric, welcome. Thank you for taking the time. And you want to introduce yourself to the audience?
Yeah, sure. So I am one of the new hire amongst Cloudflare.
I joined in April, and I'm a part of the revenue team within the finance team specifically.
So mainly my role is to go through our contracts and several other aspects in our whatever kind of affects our revenue, and make sure that whatever we actually say we're doing shows up on our books properly.
So Awesome. And it looks like you're out of the Austin office. Yes, I am.
Yep. So I am a military brat. I kind of moved around everywhere, but went to college at UT for undergrad and grad and decided Austin is the place to be.
So here I am.
Awesome. So to kick things off, can you tell us a little bit more about the work you're doing?
What interested you in Cloudflare to begin with? You know, why was was this company a good fit for where you were in your career?
Okay, yeah. So basically, in my role, as an accountant, I kind of have been when I graduated, I was exposed to like, various aspects of like, of different companies and as an auditor with Deloitte.
So I kind of did get like experiences with real estate, with manufacturing, broker dealers, X, Y, and Z.
So then as my career like progressed from auditor, then I went into the into the industry where I was in private equity in Dallas.
It really wasn't my kind of like fit. Definitely the kind of work environment is something that I was wanting something else.
So then I went to construction right before this opportunity and after a year there and construction definitely wanted to kind of see if I can finally break into the tech industry.
Which is kind of like, I say it's kind of like hard if you're not already in tech, then it's like you kind of have to wiggle and find a way through into that.
So then through a recruiter.
It's like that first job, you know, you can't get it unless you have experience and you can't get experience unless you have a job.
So, I mean, it was just me. I mean, throwing out my resume everywhere. And just so happened I landed on like I saw a position just it's kind of like blanketed as like a revenue accountant.
And it was through like a recruiter and I guess she had already placed a bunch of people at Cloudflare.
And so I submitted my resume with her and then she picked it up and then From there, that was like in February time before a lot of the chaos started happening and then kind of throughout like once I actually started interviewing, it was like all completely online.
Yeah, so I guess it was just kind of more or less by happenstance for me that I landed on Cloudflare.
But once I finally got that initial Talk with the recruiter who then finally divulged who she's recruiting for.
I did my research and I was like, know what this is.
I was like, wow, I'm actually kind of Getting closer with a tech company.
Let me like look into this. I was very new to the Internet.
I mean, as an accountant, it's more or less just about the numbers in the books and all that kind of stuff.
But at the same time, it was at least the Internet, something I can understand too.
So it's like I've already had such like, you know, we use it for everything.
And especially for me, just like being like a Japanese double major in college.
I also used it just to do a lot of research and With accounting to look up all the different tax policies and X, Y, and Z.
So then when I was looking, I was like, okay, well, this definitely is a product or something I can very surface level kind of understand And then just kind of doing the looking through reviews and seeing everyone's opinions about Cloudflare and then actually the ultimate thing was my best friend who he runs like a gaming server and Some something like that or whatever.
I was like, okay, so I think I'm gonna like apply to Cloudflare.
He was like, do it. I was like, oh, okay. He was like, yeah, I mean I use the services for his stuff and he was able to kind of like I had like random questions.
All right. So what is this supposed to mean But you got the thumbs up from Yeah, exactly.
This was a credible company. Right. You're like, I guess you just go on do it, Eric.
I was like, Yes. And that was a very interesting fact.
You're double major in Japanese like what what what got you into that or how did how did that get started.
That's an interesting juxtaposition against finance. Right.
So I feel like this is like the story amongst a few of my generation, specifically, but it all started.
It all started with anime, you know, that's So when I was a kid.
I don't know if people remember but don't swim kind of like after the after hours for Cartoon Network that's whenever they would have like A mixture of kind of crude cartoons, but then also anime different anime.
And so I was like a really good kid.
My parents didn't care what kind of TV. I watched. So then they're like, okay, stay up, do whatever you wanted to do.
So I'd stay up You know, into the wee hours watching these like various different kind of animes that would pop up obviously a lot of them would be in Japanese A lot of them about Japanese kind of culture and all that kind of stuff that I didn't understand, but I thought was funny.
But then there'd be kind of like any windows or something like that, or even like kind of like the most famous thing whenever they people like I guess to tease people, they'll be like, I'm like, why Why is that.
But, or, you know, is that like an American thing what's going on.
So then that kind of led me to You know, running to the Internet, especially my dad was all about having like Internet connection from like the get go.
He's a really like tech savvy kind of guy.
So just running to the Internet, figuring out like, what does this mean, what does that mean, why are they laughing or to get a recap, because sometimes the stories are very convoluted like, hold on.
Now I need to like go back and see what happened again.
So you You were using the Internet essentially to learn the inside jokes.
Exactly. Anime. You didn't understand. Yeah, exactly. And so I would say, yes, that's like kind of like where the where it's butted and then in high school I was in the international baccalaureate program.
It's like this AP high school thing, but at an international level.
So they promote Learning things from abroad and like it was like a curriculum that was like a standard around the world.
So then In our senior year, we had to kind of pick a subject and pick a topic that interests us to write this huge thesis paper that gets sent off.
And so I did mine on more to And specifically on the on the Pacific theater aspect.
So then it was I was seeing what how the kamikaze pilots that were, you know, the suicide pilots would I guess how that whole mentality kind of sprang about and seeing the transformation of the samurai into The kamikaze pilot.
So then for that obviously my research.
I mean, it's not like Colleen, where I went to high school had like a whole lot of libraries and access to like a lot of information for me to really Deep dive into those kind of subjects.
So it was once again going in the Internet going to YouTube doing deep research and kind of figuring out where.
First, what Did the history of the samurai.
What were their coats and like how did you see this reflected Into the kamikaze pilots and so that further enriched my knowledge on Japan and its history and just overall like you know this country is like so amazing.
And then even like kind of like afterwards. Like after the war being torn down to like a low level again but then building back up to a world power.
I think I just loved. I love that transformation. Of a country. And so in college.
Once I entered to UT. I was like, they were like, okay, we'll take a language.
Any language I had Spanish already down, but I was like, you know what, let me expand my horizons.
You know, I'm always a very curious mind. And so I decided to take Japanese as my other language and that kind of steam rolled into.
Well, if you're a major because I declared as like a business major at the beginning.
And then they're like, well, if you're a major in Japanese, you can get into the Japanese classes easier and I like things to be efficient being a calc and I was like, you know what If I don't want the major anymore.
I can always just drop it easy as that, but I declared as a major and then never looked back ever since.
So yeah. Well, so it sounds like there's a history of, you know, leveraging the Internet to access knowledge.
You didn't have Access kind of cultural information that you know as a military brought bouncing around.
You didn't really have the ability to access before kind of dialing into that that early love of anime.
What was their, you know, your, were your large enough school that there were enough friends around that are also watching anime or were you connecting on bulletin boards and connecting with other friends online with around this shared passion.
So I think for, especially when I was like younger. So this was like, yeah, for sure.
Watch me fourth grade I By far, it was like the only one and like deep in the other anime, like, of course, a lot of people had Dragon Ball Z.
You know, the ones that kind of show during the day.
The anime light, the like the gateway anime. Exactly.
So then, but for, you know, when I was in, I was in I got as far as Pokemon.
That's, that's the, if that counts. If I don't know if it does or not, I'll just I've never young anyone's young But you know, yeah, I wasn't.
I wasn't the the stuff that got me In love was where I had to go to the forums.
I had to like, you know, and the different wikis to see, you know, who's the You know what was Like if there's like an open ending to episode or something like that, you know, kind of have those like discussion on some just I can't remember What forums they were nowadays, but wherever Google Would take my little innocent soul.
I just kind of discussed like oh blah blah What was this week's, you know, like this week's episode what's gonna happen kind of predicting All that kind of stuff.
So that's kind of where I saw first found my haven and then but like by high school then there's People like I was in like a bigger town and all that kind of stuff.
So then, you know, I was able to actually interact with humans, you know in real time, but Yeah, I guess that's how the communities I was in kind of like changed over time but I definitely I would say though On the Internet and especially through like my other passions that is like a whole sub Subgroup of people I like communicate with and now even More specifically now i'm more into like the game of thrones like community online I mean, that's just i'm a super fan of that.
So I would say that's especially during this time I mean, we've been having to like, I mean, I feel like the activity on the forums there has just like Skyrocketed so it's like one of those other points is like thank god for the Internet.
I can connect to people That have like crazy theories and whatever like me.
So yeah Yeah, and I mean that's one of the things i've always appreciated about the Internet is being able to be drawn into These worlds these groups these shared passions That you know may not be available locally may not be You know celebrated locally, but there is a you can find, you know your group or those that that share that interest and have those big nerdy discussions and Go deep into the lore And the fan theories and you read them and you're like, well, I hope that's true It that's maybe not not what the author intended, but i'm crossing my fingers That's true And I guess to dial in a bit.
Do you have a specific anime or which one was your favorite back then growing up?
I would say and especially It's Inuyasha so it's like kind of it's the one where A girl falls into a well goes back in time and then finds this like And she goes they go back into like feudal age japan and all that where demons and um And humans were up and about together And he's stuck in a tree She pulls off an arrow because he had an ex-lover that shot him there Because he was trying to take this jewel and that she was his reincarnated I almost need to go look up a wiki right now just to like keep up with this Right.
Yeah, I mean it sounds Sounds like a little bit like alice in wonderland I think the beauty with that one too is that it did take a lot of like the villains Or demons that were like presented they would say the name of it But it's actually from japanese like lore and tradition and all that.
So it was like such like a direct link as to Like what is this like demon?
Like where did they come from? Why do they act like that? So that was just such like a I mean Like a direct link to like the culture and that's what I definitely loved about it it was like a love story with the history aspect and then Cultural stuff too because then you had like characters in there like, um, like nobu naga He was like a significant japanese like actual historical figure and so they're you know They saw him back in the day.
So then that also, you know looking him up from the anime Circled back into the history like who's this guy and then x y and z so you had you had the mythological layers You had the historical layers All of it from a culture, you know, you weren't you weren't well versed in or new, you know at all at that time So it's all fascinating.
Yeah interesting So, yeah, it's it's it's great to see kind of um Both that interest grow that is being able to be fostered, you know by the Internet to get new knowledge By the Internet to connect with other people that share that passion And and really, you know hone in on on a world that you didn't know before And as it then influenced, you know your work in high school your work in college and um on that note After you you graduated from college with that that double major in japanese.
Did that unlock any doors or did that?
You know create new opportunities for you Yeah, actually so my very first job, uh out of college was with deloitte and I was on the japanese services team uh, so I would say like 70 percent of my clients were japanese and so And I also studied abroad, uh in japan for a year so Study abroad came back and then went to los angeles to do to uh that with deloitte because The hubs were like japanese businesses that are like deloitte some in san francisco and then new york So I wanted to you know Spread my baby wings and finally live on that on the west side of america.
So gave la a shot Um definitely got exposed to I mean my japanese like level just like stores and beyond like, you know now I was like getting All all this like kind of prep work.
I had like from like a cultural aspect and then uh, you know Speaking wise kind of really did help Develop me to at a professional level because that's like a whole nother kind of world I mean, you definitely just have to experience stuff to be To learn like to be like a japanese businessman but I think my prior experiences, I mean they didn't have any uh, they were fully confident I can like raise, um to that occasion because everyone on my team was like japanese, uh, And I was the only non-japanese guy there but you know, it definitely it was like wow, it's like crazy to see how full circle Um that was and I think it opened my door to like within the japanese services group But then also, you know, it was always like a good topic discussion like even like out and about in town Just like, you know talking to people what I did um Learn about new opportunities.
I think that Like that part on my resume, I think it's always been like at least, you know uh an entryway into like various conversations I feel like in a way when you know when we're like recruiting or kind of like after I got hired on to Cloudflare and they're like Okay, what?
What do we look for in like are the Cloudflare ends?
And I think one point was like that curiosity aspect and I was like, okay, I guess like it's so crazy to see how my career Has been like kind of reflected or just like my own journey uh of me being curious and then what has that like exposed me to like actually aligned with What Cloudflare was looking for and you know in their culture and all that kind of aspect so I think it's like insane that You know all that's happened and then like I landed here and yeah, it's been really fun Yeah, I would echo that one of the you know funnest hobbies is actually talking to any Cloudflare employee and asking them about their hobbies their interests like there's such a wide range and there's so many surprises in The things that they enjoy the things that they pursue and you know, it's not just about curiosity I think it's also that element of the willingness to pursue it.
So i'm i'm gonna go look this up on on the Internet on the wikipedia on You know any forum a lot of people might might just get introduced to something look at it and be like, oh no This is i'm not going to do it.
This is beyond me. I'm not going to pursue that that interest or that curiosity um, but yeah, that's always a fascinating you know, you can um Kind of throw a rock in a Cloudflare office and find some obscure hobby that you wouldn't have thought That someone would have in in that area or in that region and you know, it just helps add to the diversity of the teams So so it sounds like you know, we've almost come full circle It sounds like that was a great learning experience for you essentially being dropped in the deep end Kind of you surrounded by a bunch of professionals a bunch of people that grown up in in the culture um, and I felt I guess I felt like because I kind of I kind of did grow up in a culture, you know, like I mean fourth grade you're like how old like 10 or something And it's so just like having that kind of auxiliary I don't know.
It was funny because there they would uh say things like oh eric, you're very japanese and this was like kind of stuff that was like Said to me even before I went to japan So I don't know if it was like me like kind of that like osmosis Cultural kind of you know thing just seen from like the tv.
I don't know You grew up on all the popular media Of that culture and and had that influence you Yeah, I was gonna say so so were you able to share your your passions with some of your deloitte co-workers?
Or were you just an otaku kind of for that that group? I would say and could you define that for for some of our viewers?
so yeah, so otaku is just like I would say what they would like everyone is like otaku in like certain like kind of things like maybe you have a train otaku or you have like an anime otaku or you have just like You know something that you because otaku is like uh nerd Yeah yeah, so Yeah, I would say in my group, uh at deloitte more or less actually I was the only like anime otaku uh, but in history wise actually that was like a lot of uh, Yeah, that's what you know a big passion of mine I think that's definitely what we would like always discuss and what kind of like historical kind of like world war ii or like the formation of japan and how You know various like aspects just like that.
They had to learn in history and how it's kind of reflected today I think that's what we would you know if we were Drinking and having fun or whatever.
That's what like discussions would go into. Um But yeah, I was a lone wolf on the anime project, you know, I tried to like oh They're like uh So Yeah Cool.
Uh, well, let's see and and what are you what are you watching today? I guess what's on the uh, if you're subscribed to crunchyroll or any other anime Okay, so I was like if anything it's it's interesting.
I almost feel like now It's no longer a Kind of subgroup so the the interest in anime the interest in animation from other areas It's it's almost pop culture now Or any anyone's diving into these things and if anything that's always funny to see is you know What started out small and this you know, there's only five websites available is now mainstream right, and I guess it's crazy like the How I would go about looking for my shows like that was definitely kind of illegal back in the day, you know But it's like as long as the statute of limitations has passed, right, yeah, okay I was just four years old.
I mean I was just in fourth grade help me but um, so I would say um Like right now There's like my my here academia, it's a lot of like actually uh hulu like they have a pretty good selection Uh, but my top ones I would say are like hulu Oh, not hulu on my here academia, which is about this kid that had no powers And everyone has like a different quirk or whatever, but he was born without A specialness to him, but then and he has this guy he idolized and then on the end of the first episode He ends up getting like powers Even though he told he wasn't going it's like this inspirational story.
It's I was crying at the first episode So i'm hooked on to that one Uh, and then my like my number one that's on my radar is uh attack on titan which I think a lot of people probably heard but it's about these like Monster beings that eat people and they think that that they're in a isolated um, like island that Like are surrounded by man-eating monsters all around them.
Oh, that's the least. All right Yeah, and and it's interesting so I haven't watched the show but i've watched things that are commenting on that show and Highlighting essentially the plot was created as a way to explore a story where you'd be rooting for fascism Like that there is a fascist government in place And the reason it exists is you know to to oppose this outside evil or this outside kind of these monsters And so as a to your earliest point of you know How you have these layers in these shows where sure there's the mythology And if you're just watching at the surface level, it's the show about monsters and humans But then as you go deeper like no there's these political structures there's these hierarchies and this is almost just you know imperialism and fascism Yeah, the motifs and some of the animations i'm like wow these are like I mean it makes me like very more introspective about our own history and kind of like analytical about like what's happening today and being Like well, you know all these dystopian kind of like anyway, I've watched it's like I mean, yeah it's like fiction but at the same time you can kind of see like if things go south or people act this way or the power of history or the power of like You know certain like government bodies and x y and z and how that can like affect the population has like definitely made me very hyper aware of I mean especially during now like it's insane.
Sometimes i'm like am I in like an anime? I was saying what the saying is, you know history doesn't repeat but it rhymes Yeah, if you look if you do look back into the you know, the spanish flu um, some of the previous pandemics we've gone through some of the Some of these other issues are around kind of racial and societal tension You know recessions and depressions we we've have gone through them and in some ways they are codified in in our cartoons You know in our media as as we're processing, you know them as a society or them as artists Though the ones ultimately putting this to paper Mm-hmm, but it's it's fascinating to see, you know a military brat hopping around, you know gets plugged into You know a more global mindset by exploring pop culture from from a different different part of the globe Oh, yeah.
Yeah, and then just like I mean, I never looked back ever since so I mean I guess that It was during my interviewing process and kind of like at the very like last end of it I think I was supposed I was gonna talk to michelle as like my Last like, you know final final one and it's like I think you know sitting there just like thinking like, okay What like should I like talk about or you know?
Why isn't I was like, you know what like why do I really want to work here?
And I realized wow the Internet has been so important to me um, and I think that's exactly why This is something I really need to like no matter what like something I need to be in on uh that first I can like Uh, you know, I mean it's like an industry that's going to be growing nonetheless, but then at the same time It's like we have a mission that is very aligned with how I want to I guess influence the world or help support the world I feel like uh, and in a way that makes sense to me and that's actually relevant to my life and you know, obviously through You know what?
We've talked about the Internet You know, I came to that realization like wow like all of this like kind of sparked because of the Internet like, you know, just being able to explore and Be curious and learn different things all the time.
So Uh, yeah, and I expressed that to michelle and that was just like I was like, you know Yeah, i'm glad to make that kind of full circle connection.
That was probably that was probably a great answer during that interview So so I I know we're we're nearing the end of time I I want to thank you eric for for for taking the time, you know Walking us through your your passion for anime and japanese culture and how with you know the Internet available to you you were able to plug into it and Have it develop your career the way it has and you know, we're glad to have you here at Cloudflare Oh, thank you so much.
Um It's been uh amazing talk.
I'm glad i'm like here Uh, and yeah, i'm glad i've got to share my story out to everybody All right, so with that i'll Transition or just a quick reminder that uh, we will cover episode three next week, you know and continue this journey through Uh our Cloudflare employees so talking about anime and eventually we'll get to punch cards and floppy modems Or floppy disks and modems and all that fun stuff.
So thank you for for joining us this morning All right.
Thank you. Everybody black lives matter and happy pride month Happy pride month You