Originally aired on June 2, 2022 @ 8:30 AM - 9:00 AM EDT
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 31 of Dial Up Motive. I'm your host, Dan Hollinger, and with me today is Jessica Tarasoff. Jessica, thank you for joining us. I'm happy to be here. Hello. Awesome. So thank you for everyone jumping in, whether you're catching us live or one of our many recordings. If you've never seen Dial Up Motive before, this is a show where we chat with various Cloudflare employees and learn about their early experiences with computers, technology, and the Internet as a whole. So as you can see from my background, that's the era I grew up in with floppy disks, CDs, and gaming and the Internet just kind of coming into its own. And what I'll be fascinated to learn about today is what some of Jessica's early experiences. Oh, I think very similar to yours. So when I see this photo, I can very much relate to it. It looks a lot like my first computer. And so to give a little bit of context, I'm from Brazil and I spent most of my life in Sao Paulo, which is a very big city. But I grew up until I was 17 years old or so in a very small town. And yeah, there I always felt kind of like a little bit of an alien. So the Internet was very much the connection I had to a brother or than people that shared my interests and things like that. I think that's what really shaped my view of the Internet as a tool for connections and for bringing people together and for really making up these relationships. And yeah, so I remember that my dad wasn't the first person in our family to get a computer, but he was one of the first. And back then, we were, I wouldn't say we were poor, but we were not rich either, but Internet was expensive. So the thing is that we would always have to wait until the time that it was cheaper to connect. And I really have no idea how this worked in different countries, but for us, it was always after midnight. So I remember being 12 and I was kind of like this weird kid that stayed up until midnight every day to be able to connect to the Internet. And then I stayed up until like 3 a.m., 4 a.m. to be able to talk to my friends. So yeah, most kids when they're begging their parents to stay up late are not planning on jumping on the Internet just because that's the only time that the dial-up is cheap. And that's fascinating to kind of hear that perspective. And before we double-click on those early Internet histories for you, what work are you doing today at Cloudflare? So I just joined the product design team and I'm working mostly in the security area with DDoS right now, but I just started. So it's very early days for me. And are you still very much a night owl and prefer that 12 o'clock to 8 o 'clock shift? No, not at all. And that's what's really interesting because I think that like these teenage years, most of them I spent being this person that goes to sleep very late. And now that I kind of like get to choose and design my routine a little bit more, I really like to wake up early and go to sleep early. So it was literally like a life designed around being able to connect to the Internet and talk to my friends. And during the weekends, we were also able to connect kind of for free. We would pay like one pulse for the whole connection and after midnight as well. So every time you disconnected and you connected again, you would pay one pulse. But during the day, it would be charged by, I don't know, like every minute or something like that. So it was very different pricing. And yeah, so there's if you go to Brazil, I think there's a huge community of millennials that grew up in this night owl mode. So did all of your friends in the area stay up as well? Or did they also have access to both computers and the Internet and for you guys to be able to chat and build out social life? I think that was the main thing for me because I really didn't connect a lot with the people around me, like at school and stuff. I was very much an outsider. And I think it was the Internet was so important to me because I found out this whole world of very specific interests and I had this very huge fan fiction moment in my life. And then I found out a lot of people who were into fan fiction as well. And that's something that seems really crazy to me because one of my best friends that I met on the Internet when I was 13 and she was from Sao Paulo and I was living in this small town and we ended up becoming friends for life and she got a job here in Lisbon as well. So it's kind of like, yeah, we met when we were 13 and now we're living in the same city again. And that's one of the things that's fascinating about the Internet as a whole and how small it can make the world, you know, to be able to have friends, you know, across the globe and then maintain those relationships, you know, now with social networks as prominent as they are, to be able to maintain relationships with folks you rarely see, to be able to still see, you know, how they're living their lives or how their children are growing is now embedded into kind of how we live today. Now, you kind of skipped the meat of the fan fiction. I'm really kind of curious what was the either genre or what was the story that you decided to build upon? Oh my god. Okay. So yeah, I have to talk about this, right? I was very much into the gay Harry Potter fan fiction. So I was a very strong shipper of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy and yeah, it was, I was hardcore into it, but I even wrote fan fiction and it was, it was a very cool experience because I also saw a lot of people who turned out to be accomplished authors that have like Netflix series now and I used to know them as like people who were fan fiction authors and it's, it's very strange to see, like, I don't know if maybe if I have invested in this, my life could have turned out completely different, you know? Well, what I find fascinating is as while, as much of the Wild Wild West, kind of the early Internet was, you know, it seems a common thread that, you know, it was very easy to experiment, to find an audience, to interact with others that shared your passions. So be that around writing, you know, around your, your favorite ship, designing graphics and designing experiences and saying, great, let's, let's, let's do this around a show, a comic book, a movie, or, you know, some of the engineers I've spoken with and they started developing their own site because really no one was stopping them from copying and pasting code from another site or getting into Flash and really understanding what was happening, Dreamweaver, that was kind of the Dreamweaver era. So it's interesting to see how the Internet shrinks the world and then provides access to allow you to practice your skills. You know, I'd assume a lot of mature writers who've turned it into a career and designers started with what would be very embarrassing if we were to pull up their early fan fiction and what they were writing at that time, but allowed them to express that creativity. Yeah, but what you said, I think it's one of the main reasons that really got me into design. And I think it, it relates a lot to how I see design and how I see design playing a role into shaping the future of the Internet as well, because I think that the, the way that the interactions happened in these early days of the Internet is fundamentally different from the way that they happen today, because I think there was a lot of openness to, to everything. And the way that you said, like, there was this concept of the forums and the forums were very like, a mono themed and you would go to like the Harry Potter forum and you would talk about everything about your life there, but you would have like this group of people that were kind of united around a single theme and you would feel like they are your in-group in a way. And so you are all part of the, you see yourselves as a community and inside of this community, the type of like, I don't know, disagreements that would happen is very different from the type of conflicts that you see when the universe is everyone, you're in group, you're out group, everyone. And I think to me, that's a very interesting example of how the way that the social networks and everything, the way that they are designed, influences the type of conversations that happen in the, in these platforms. And I think that it's very, like, we are not in the stage anymore that we can just let things happen and be unintentional about the design of these platforms because we have seen that these things have consequences and sometimes very serious and not very cool consequences. And I think this is like, because Internet shaped so much the way that I established connections and relationships in my life, I think that that's really the thing that drives me trying to find out how we can impact it to make it better. I think in a way, I don't know if it made sense. No, no, I think that makes perfect sense. And especially just given how free form both the web was and conversations and communities were built up and how they're a little bit more established and consolidated now. So kids jumping on the Internet, one can find what they want or what they think they want easier, but that removes some of the discovery that existed, you know, in the era of web rings and before the search engines and social networks were a bit more prominent. So how did you, I guess, take some of those early experiences writing fan fiction, staying up too late on the Internet and decide, yes, I want to learn how to be a designer. I want to learn how to do UX. What was that initial point, either starting school or starting your first few jobs? It was kind of a funny way to me because I was very much into this creative side of things and I really wanted to be an illustrator. So the main reason I was into graphic design in the beginning of my career was because I wanted to work with illustration. And at a certain point, I just needed a job. I needed an internship really badly. And then I applied for this job to be an intern at this e-commerce startup. And when I was having my interview, it was a very small startup. And I had the interview with the CEO. That's how small it was. And I was supposed to be their first designer. And then he asked me, how did I see myself in a couple of years? And what did I see as the main motivation of my career? And then I told him that I really saw myself as building stories. And that was really what motivated me, the whole narrative side of things and developing characters and things like that. And he said something really interesting that, I mean, today I am a bit more like I've been doing this for a few years now, so I can see it with a bit more criticism. But back then, it was really a romantic view that really seduced me in a way that he said that this could very much be applied to the work that I would do at a startup. Because I would see the development of something that was very small. And I would be able to have impact in it. And I would be able to see it growing and really be part of this story. And the whole thing about he made this whole pitch about the startup being a pirate ship when everybody were a bunch of weirdos trying to find this treasure that might or might not exist and yada yada. And he sold it very well. And... He sounds like a good CEO of a startup. Yeah. Very good narrative, especially to sell to someone that was going to be their first designer and build more narratives for their customers. Exactly. We are friends to this day. But I was also extremely lucky because even if it was a small startup, they were very seasoned people, so they knew what they were doing. And it exists to this day. It's very successful now. It grew a lot. When I joined, it was a team of four people in a small room. And now they have pop-up stores all over Sao Paulo. And it's really cool to see. And so I learned a lot. And I really got to start thinking how I wanted to... Because my main motivation about this whole storytelling thing was that I wanted to have impact in people's lives. And then I realized that design and UX is also a very huge way to impact people's lives. And to this day, I believe that being able to have access to a university and developing these skills and all of this, it comes with a huge responsibility to also apply this and help shape the Internet and the world that we live in. Because I think that it's really important to understand that we are the people who are making the choices into how the products that everyone or most of the people in the world interact with every day are going to impact their lives. And we can't we can't take that lightly, I think. So I think that was the rationale. Yeah. That's one thing that's always fascinating working here at Cloudflare is anytime we do push a change to how we use CAPTCHAs, to how we use TLS or certificates, all of a sudden that can erase hours of wasted time or human effort or just adjust so many people's experience across the globe on the Internet as a whole. And I'm guessing as you were working with that startup, that had a very similar impact to say, this is how their experience is going to be like, this is what their journey is going to be like. And with the reach the Internet has, those changes in that experience could then be shared globally or to all of the customers of that platform. Yeah. I mean, at this first job, it was an e-commerce, right? So I realized that I had a passion for this, for the whole UX side of things. But then after a couple of years working there, I realized that as much as it was growing and as cool as it was to work there, the biggest impact I was going to have there was going to be like selling more t -shirts. And then that's when I moved to this other startup that was really focused on promoting participation over the Internet and digital democracy and things like that. And that's when I saw that really we had a lot of potential to be doing amazing things. Like I worked in this project with the government from Brazil that was basically a platform for any group of people that consider themselves a point of culture to be able to declare themselves as a point of culture so they could get some benefits from the government. But the tricky thing was that this platform had to be understood by people who are from a big urban center like Sao Paulo, but it also had to be understood by an indigenous tribe that just had to travel to a nearby town to have access to a computer and be able to use the form. So it was like how do you create something that can really be accessible to all of these different types of people, audiences, and stuff. And that's when I really started to see that all of these elements go through a decision and a group of people that have a say into how the world that we interact with is shaped. And I made this conscious decision that I wanted to be part of this and I wanted to help make it better I guess. Yeah that's fascinating just you know understanding or trying to understand the broad depth of people leveraging your service, the very different audience, especially as you get into public sector that has to have such a wide range from people on dial-up to people on broadband, those that are speaking the most common language or multiple languages. And of course the wider the bucket of support you try to design for the more difficult that becomes or to make everyone happy you're always going to run into rough edges. Or I love there's a common meme and picture on the what you design for and then how the customer actually uses the product. Something as simple as drinking from a cup you make plenty of assumptions and of course the user is not going to do it that way for whatever reason. And those are the things you can't design for or can't code for but it's part of the user experience. Yeah I think that's the the coolest part of it I guess that because and during this this work at this going on tangent a little bit but when I was working at this startup it was one of my my bosses the CTO there he was one of the most talented engineers I've worked with and I remember in the beginning I was very young and I used to make these jokes that I would kind of like understand how things had to be used and he would just build it and he kind of like helped me understand why this was such a misconception and how much creative work there is also into developing things and how collaborative the work of the designer and the engineer can be and I think that that also helped me understand a lot how the most important thing that a designer can do is not really like drawing the screens but acting as this person that can bring together different areas disciplines and have methodologies for them to collaborate in an effective way and because a lot of problems as you said like this example of the the government thing they are way too complex for one single person to solve and I think having the the being humble enough to understand that you're not going to solve it by yourself and knowing how to use the right methodologies to pull in the people that are going to be able to contribute is what makes a project really effective I guess mm-hmm and yeah generally the more diverse of perspectives and opinions ultimately the better product that gets developed and built and with that you know I'd love to pivot as we near the end of time to what you're most excited about you know via your work at Cloudflare, your work in design and user experience across the Internet about the future of the Internet like what are you most excited or looking forward to especially in your new role here at Cloudflare for where the Internet is going? Yeah I think I touched upon it a little bit but I really like this notion of how the Internet now is move moving towards a more decentralized organization and the whole web3 thing and stuff but at the same time the problems that I find really interesting and the problems that really move me are like how do we make this this new this new technologies and this new all of these possibilities reach the people that are not necessarily the most the most wealthy people in the world I think that's what I mean and because that's it coming from Brazil I see a lot of inequality in my country and living in Europe I see how different things can be and I think that that's one of the reasons why I wanted to work with Cloudflare as well because having a product that is so global also gives a lot of opportunity to understand how you can consider the people who can't necessarily have access to all of this super modern innovative technologies but like how can we make this not be a situation in which we are going to have a group of people that is making this special club in which they can have super cool decentralized stuff and whatever and the rest of the people are still consumers of it because they don't have enough knowledge and enough means to be able to even be part of the conversation so I think these are the things that I think are interesting so so yeah for like the world of web 3 which one of its efforts is to centralize you know access and control of of the Internet and some of its content for those that don't know where to begin or maybe are unable to to jump into that ecosystem as opposed to owning a part of it or being both producers and consumers you know they're going to likely end up just as consumers at the whims of who's ever consolidating that technology in some way exactly thank you for summarizing it so well but yeah because I think sometimes we we have this idea that things like and I am a supporter of it I think that we are moving towards the the right direction I'm really excited about it but at the same time I also think that everything is biased and if we don't consider these biases and these people that are not part of the the conversation yeah like we are just making a another club you know well and as we near the end of time like I think that's a good point to end on of you know part of the joy of the Internet is how open it is how accessible it is it's where people can find you know their community of fan fiction writers and have a blast as they they learn more about you know their niche or their passions and trying to make sure that's as inclusive as possible and as broad as possible so with that Jessica I'd like to thank you again for your time and thank you for taking us through the early Internet in Brazil thank you very much it was a lot of fun all right to all of my viewers thank you for for tuning in either live or one of the recordings hopefully you have a wonderful day morning or evening Q2's customers love our ability to innovate quickly and deliver what was traditionally very static old-school banking applications into more modern technologies and integrations in the marketplace our customers are banks credit unions and fintech clients we really focus on providing end-to-end solutions for the account holders throughout the course of their financial lives our availability is super important to our customers here at Q2 even one minute of downtime can have an economic impact so we specifically chose Cloudflare for their magic transit solution because it offered a way for us to displace legacy vendors in the layer 3 and layer 4 space but also extend layer 7 services to some of our cloud native products and more traditional infrastructure I think one of the things that separates magic transit from some of the legacy solutions that we had leveraged in the past is the ability to manage policy from a single place what I love about Cloudflare for Q2 is it allows us to get 10 times the coverage as we previously could with legacy technologies I think one of the many benefits of Cloudflare is just how quickly the solution allows us to scale and deliver solutions across multiple platforms my favorite thing about Cloudflare is that they keep development solutions and products they keep providing solutions they keep investing in technology they keep making the Internet safe security has always been looked at as a friction point but I feel like with Cloudflare it doesn't need to be you can deliver innovation quickly but also have those those innovative solutions be secure you