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 everyone and welcome to Dial Up Motive on Cloudflare TV. Hello everyone, welcome to episode 30 of Dial Up Motive.
I'm your host Dan Hollinger, dialing in from the Bavarian coast.
And with me today I have João Vieira, dialing in from Lisbon.
Welcome João. Hello, hello everyone. I will not say good morning, good afternoon, good evening.
I just said, okay. Yeah, it's always tough because of all the time zones and so on.
Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us. If you're new to the show, whether you're catching the live session or one of our many recordings, you know, across morning, afternoon or evening.
Here we sit down with Cloudflare employees and talk through some of their earliest experiences with technology and with the Internet that helped inform, you know, their career today and ultimately how they landed at Cloudflare.
So, you know, thank you for joining us and we're going to take a nice trip down nostalgia lane, you know, into early Internet days here with João.
And to kick things off, João, could you give us a brief intro and what work are you doing here at Cloudflare today?
Okay. Yeah. So I just joined four weeks ago, still on the ramping up phase and so on, but I joined the partner services team.
So I will be the service delivery manager for our focus partners, the ones that are normally playing on professional services and managed services.
And I will try to just help them on their specific projects with our customers.
And not only that, but as well, trying to ensure that the enablement is going fine.
They have the tools and all the knowledge that they need to proceed with those projects and handle those correctly.
And as well, align the managed services a little bit on their side as well.
But if they need like a delivery manager, project manager, solution engineer, two or three, depending on the size of the deal that they are working with and depending on the needs of the customer as well.
So trying to push our partner ecosystem a little bit more above than it is at this stage.
And let's see if it grows as we expect it. Welcome to Cloudflare.
And that sounds fun. In some ways, you're just setting up franchises at partner organizations for them to develop the expertise they need to deliver value to customers.
Exactly. That's actually the case here. Awesome. And so to kind of kick things off, I'm happy to start down that path of memory lane and really hand the mic over to you.
And where did you see some of your earliest experiences with technology, computers or the Internet as a whole?
Well, as a kid, I was a lucky kid because my father was already on the tech business or, well, on the IT area of the business.
And he already had a computer even before I was born. So when I was born, the computer was already there waiting for me.
But the thing is, on the late 90s, I felt the craving for the computer.
So not only playing and so on, I was playing a lot of games.
Everyone was on Sega or any kind of console, on gaming consoles.
And I was playing through the PC. So I was doing that. But then the Internet started to kick in and I didn't notice until Dragon Ball was a thing in Portugal.
So probably in timeline, it was different from country to country. Here was on the late 90s.
I was on my third grade or something, fourth grade. And I was probably the only one at the school back then that had Internet.
So nobody else.
I was doing the dialogue thing, messing around with my mother, wanting to call someone on the phone.
So obviously, this made you the most popular kid in school, right?
Yeah, back then I was popular. Because I had a thing that nobody was using and I could share information.
And now that I think it was all about information and the privilege of getting something that the others didn't have.
So when that show started, something started as well.
So everybody was drawing Dragon Ball characters and so on.
And I was, okay, so I'm not a good drawer. I'm awful drawing.
But okay, I will give it a try. At the initial stage was just putting the draw and then a clean sheet above the draw and you will just follow the line.
But then people were starting to do it from distance and so on.
And I said, okay, but everybody is drawing almost all the time the same image.
Why? So I get back to school and I was using Netscape and a search engine called Terra Vista.
I think it doesn't exist anymore.
And I said, okay, Dragon Ball. And I started to even found back then GT images when we were on the Z side of the show.
But okay, I just started to get all the images that I could.
I did just like a book like this size.
And I went to school. And then started the business area. So hey, I can sell it to you really cheap.
And you can just have draws that nobody has. And I said, okay, that's cool.
And I started to sell the images on school. And my grandfather had a stationary truck nearby.
And I say, you want your business to grow, you need to sell this.
And my grandfather said, a lot of kids come around and ask about it.
You just give me the book. And I said, okay, but I want a percentage. And I was like, nine, 10 years.
Yeah, you're already negotiating as an entrepreneur. Yeah, exactly.
And I said, Okay, but I want a percentage of those. And he said, Oh, okay, I don't I don't think that it's going to be massive.
But it was. So the old block was lining up to get the draws.
So the stationary shop was full. He couldn't stop selling those.
And he just started to ask, Hey, I need more images. Because I already sold all of those to the kids.
They want more. And I know, okay, that's tough now, because the connection was not so good.
So and the search engines didn't have the power of the ones that we have today.
So but yeah, everything started there.
But I didn't thought back then, a Internet will be a thing. Being honest, I was a kid.
So I saw this opportunity. And I was always getting complaints from my mother, hey, I need to call your aunt, I need to call your grandmother.
I need you to stop using the Internet right now. And it was a thing because probably these new generations didn't know that we used to use our phone line to go to Internet because they don't know that.
I still remember the, you know, panic of you'd be in the middle of a game.
And suddenly you would you would lag or freeze.
And I would just wait the two seconds until someone else in the house screamed like, Oh, are you on the Internet?
It's like, well, yeah, not anymore.
Like, yeah. That's true. I lost, you know, we lost the game probably. So yeah, when you're reliant on a dial up modem, and you only have a single dial up connection and telephone connection to your house, you know, sharing that across a family then becomes its own thing.
Because yeah, there's no cell phones. There's no other way to contact anyone.
But it's fascinating to see, you know, you're going through these early search engines, you know, this was, I think, what, Lycos, Salta Vista, Ask Jeeves era, and pulling up these unique images.
I'm curious what your parents thought of your printer budget, if you were slowly going through printing all this.
Yeah, so I got lucky on that, because my father being on tech, well, the printer and so on was for free.
So I could print it. But he was saying, Hey, you cannot print with the highest quality.
Why? That made me sell a lot more.
Oh, no, you can't, you need to just downsize the quality of the images, you're gonna just exhaust everything in terms of the toners and so on at the app.
So you just need to stop it.
Okay. So I decreased the quality and I kept going. But yeah, that was the lucky thing.
So he being on IT and getting so many things back then for free or through his job, me as a kid, I could take advantage, right?
And that was the thing.
And then he understood a little bit the necessity of Internet, because he was probably the first dispatcher in Portugal, using Internet for business as well.
So in Portugal, the dispatcher, among legalizing and so on, everything that comes from abroad and so on, they still own a really important business, which is the car legalization.
So everything in terms of cars needs to go through a dispatcher and then to customs to have everything okay, get the license plate and so on.
And back then it was everything manual. So everyone was, in terms of the dispatchers, they were buying buildings or renting buildings, really in front of customs, because with that, you just walk and go to the customs and then come back.
And my father thought, okay, that's a limitation. I don't think that this is a cool idea.
We need to speed up things. We have Internet now.
Back then, nobody was thinking on it. And on the early 2000s, he made the first version of the website that allowed customs and the dealerships of the cars and so on to just ask for the licensing plates, order the cars correctly, and customs would have access to the files directly and so on.
So it was really cool to see that he was already playing a lot with the Internet back then, and it was a really early thing.
And the system still goes on, well, with a lot of improvements. But back then, it was really a strange thing to have, specifically in Portugal, because not many places were having Internet.
Normally only working places were having Internet, not really houses.
And then it started to change and so on. And it was cool to see that my father was on the edge in terms of being a newer investor on the Internet as a business, because probably back then there was not a lot of business through Internet as well.
And yeah, that's one of the things we talked about, you know, in the green room that I've always found fascinating is just, you know, when in a person's journey that they discovered the Internet and whether it was via their work, whether it was in a school or university setting when, you know, computer labs were becoming more common, whether it was actually in their home, and that, you know, was really dependent on kind of the parents' career and their access.
And so just fascinating to see at what point, you know, the computer landed in the house, or they experienced that, or they finally found one with the Internet, and what the Internet was in addition to the computer and the power that provided.
So kind of given your, you know, burgeoning business in Dragon Ball Z images, did that ignite your interest in computers and help you decide on your major going into undergrad?
How did that come about? Yeah, it started even before Dragon Ball.
So I started to play around with my father, of course, from one year and a half, I was, hey, let's go to the computer.
I was just on a cell app, and I was starting to typeset and so on.
Nothing really, really strong, right?
And the thing is, it started to kick in. Okay, playing is a thing. Playing is a thing.
And then when Dragon Ball kicked in, I thought, okay, this might be a business in the future.
And I love the innovation part of it, because we could always find something new to do with Internet, right?
So I said, okay, it's a done deal.
I'm going to IT. Since the early stages, I always said to all the folks on my company, on my father's company, and on the school, and my mother's company as well.
So I always said, hey, I'm going to be in IT. I'm going to be Bill Gates.
Well, I didn't reach Bill Gates, but I wanted to have that kind of power, because back then, I felt powerful with computer and with the knowledge that computer was giving me, right?
And yeah, that started things. At the beginning, it was tough, because my father was always saying, hey, computer business is not gaming, you know?
So just be careful. You need to start doing things differently.
It's not playing. Well, gaming is one of the huge businesses that we have probably today, but one of the marketers that I...
Yeah, he didn't foresee Twitch, and online, and eSports.
Exactly. And I said, okay. And back then, we had something cool called, I don't know if it was a worldwide franchise, but I guess so, called Future Kids.
And I started to play with HTML. So, okay, just to make my father happy, let's do something that actually does.
That's a very common gateway programming language.
You know, you learn HTML first, and then that gets deeper and deeper.
Exactly. So, okay. He arranged me all the books from Future Kids, and I was going to some of the classes as well.
And I just started to play with it on an early age.
So, it was nice to see, but it was nice to see that I would not be a developer.
That was the fight on me. I said, okay, I like to brainstorm the ideas, but I want someone else to do it in terms of developing.
I was more, and I think it was because of me building computers at home already.
I was building my own computer and mounting everything.
I was more on the hardware and infrastructure side.
So, I started to help him on the network side of the dispatcher, on the systems, building the servers, and helping on exchange, and so on.
So, it started there as a teenager, and then, yeah, then it just grew up.
I completely defined my career.
So, I entered university, a university in Portugal specifically for the IT, or computer science.
It's mainly developing. So, I was completely out of my water through university, but I managed to deal with it.
It was not difficult.
But on the side that I wanted to work, like computer in terms of distribution and infrastructure, operating systems, validating things, and clustering, and so on, and grid computing as well back then, I only had, I don't know, four, five classes, or just that, right?
But I was lucky enough to start working as well on the university side.
So, I got a job there. And then, from that on, I never stopped.
So, I'm playing since my second year on university as a worker on the area, and I never stopped.
So, it was cool. But it was that experience before that pushed me to start having the interest on computers without the game.
Because before Dragon Ball, probably I was only looking for it to play my games, and not really to, as a business or as a future job, I was not thinking about it.
Yeah. So, to go from transitioning it from a, this is a toy that I use as a kid that has plenty of other toys available, to something like, oh, I can create with this, or I can bring other value based off of the information I have or can get.
And it's fascinating to hear you go on the direction of hardware. And one other thing I've seen commonly is, given where the Internet was, and essentially the size of computer labs for a university, it was so common for me and my friends to get jobs at the computer lab, at the engineering lab, because, hey, you have an aptitude in this.
You know, we have hundreds, if not a thousand computers, depending on the size of your school, that need support.
You know, this is a match made in heaven to start to get you that expertise.
And, you know, how did your career develop kind of from those early university days to that, your next few steps into kind of Microsoft and then Cloudflare?
Yeah. So, I started as a service desk, a normal service desk.
So, helping on building the labs, as you said, it was a fairly big group.
I started to work specifically only on the Lisbon facilities that they had.
We are talking about almost a thousand computers in terms of labs.
It was already huge for the country. And then he asked me, hey, do you want to be a sysadmin?
Because the people who, the person who wired me just left. And I said, okay, so there's a spot open there.
Who knows? And that person liked me and said, hey, if you want some guy to just do my job, not with the same experience, you can bet on that guy.
And he asked me, hey, what do you feel? And I said, okay, I just need to talk with my mom to see if I can borrow a car because going back to my house at like 1am or midnight, because I was still going to classes, right?
So, it was late and we would not have transportation and so on. And that was agreed.
And I jumped there. And when I jumped to that business, I was mostly used to Microsoft technology, but I started to play with a lot of network as well.
Wi-Fi structures of Cisco and FortiGate, as well as our main backbone connection to Internet and all the validations and VPNs were passing through there.
And I started to play as well with Linux systems because my boss back then was an open source enthusiast and he loved everything about Linux and distributing systems through Linux as well.
So, mostly of the web fronts and so on were Linux and so on.
And I started to play with it. And I said, okay, this is what I'm like. I really like this.
And I was going from Lisbon to Porto to Algarve to all the facilities that the group owned to help standardize the structure because they had a really confused and messy structure on the tiny site compared to the bigger one, right?
So, the bigger one, we had two data centers locally and the Porto one was actually acting as a secondary one.
So, those two were more or less standardized. But apart from that, everything was a little bit a mess.
So, we needed to put things together and correctly and documentation and so on.
So, that pushed me, okay, this is what I like.
My father back then was a little bit sad because he wanted me to be a developer.
But I said, okay, but this is what I love. So, I like this.
That's like a fascinating irony of like, you should have been a doctor, but instead you're still in the field.
You're still very aware of technology, the Internet, networking.
But because you didn't become a developer, like, oh, well, that's a fascinating comparison.
And I think that back then, being a sysadmin was not so well seen in the market.
That's my sense. But the thing is, there were really few.
So, I was on the niche here in Portugal. Nobody had, with my age, the expertise that I already had at that time.
So, I was getting a lot of jobs and developers, they were just selling like, I don't know, like hot bread on a pastry shop or something like that.
Because they were 90% of the new joiners of my university degree would be developers.
And that 10%, 5% would be sysadmins. So, I was on the niche market and that played a cool sense.
And then, yeah, I was comfortable. So, I was already managing a team of 10 people and so on and controlling the educational side because we had two different things.
So, the professional side and the educational.
I was owning the educational business already, preparing all the years and so on.
Aligning budgets with software and what we need in terms of hardware to giving a good service to the students and the professors and so on.
But then, I started to think, okay, this is cool, but I need more enterprise experience.
So, then I filed to, I applied to Glory called Tolaris back then, which was the main ATM machine builder in Portugal and even in France called Delarue.
And that started to push me to a multinational structure, right? So, groups or teams that were working sun to sun and analyzing and VMware and everything.
So, I was agnostic to technology back then.
So, VMware, Microsoft, Linux a little bit, networking as well.
So, I was doing Cisco firewalls, configuring them and pushing them to the tinier sites that didn't have people that were completely fine building it on their own.
So, I was doing the preparations for it and so on. And yeah, so, and from that on, management and data center management was my thing.
So, that pushed me to a national bank, to specific consultancy companies, then to a major ISP, which is NOS.
So, I worked at NOS for almost two years, two as well, the data center management team that was owned by Ericsson.
So, and then, well, I was feeling really cool on being already more or less a project manager and handling the management of data centers and so on, that I was pushed and the opportunity came to join Microsoft back then.
So, I, okay, this is a cool thing. I always wanted to be at Microsoft because I'm mostly, like back then, I was already working 80, 90% of my time on Microsoft technology.
So, it made sense to do that move. And I was not thinking on the cloud, being honest.
I joined Microsoft, Azure started and AWS and all of those, and even Kotler was already on the market back then.
But I never thought that I'm going to be cloud.
I thought, okay, cloud is impossible. It's really difficult to understand all of that because you have so many different layers, infrastructure as a service, software as a service and platform as a service and so on.
I don't know how I'm going to handle that. I'm the iron man. So, I was looking at the iron side of it.
But hey, I think everything goes through where it should go.
And the infrastructure started to touch a lot. And I said, okay, I need to shift to a different business.
And that pushed me to the partner ecosystem back then.
And I really loved what I was doing at the partner ecosystem there. And I think that Kotler can be at the same level, if not bigger, in my opinion.
And I developed that passion on the partner ecosystem, but I developed the passion as well with cloud.
When I applied to that role, I didn't know anything about cloud. All right.
So, everyone, you heard it here first. Cloudflare can be as big as Microsoft, if not bigger.
We'll set that goal. And with the last few minutes we have on the session, I'm really fascinated to hear, what are you most excited about for the future of the Internet, the future of cloud, especially with shifting to Cloudflare and some of the work you're doing now?
Yeah. So, what I actually believe and made the decision to do that, I was mostly infrastructure as a service before.
I was doing some tiny things on security and I was doing some tiny things on software as a service as well and so on.
But when I started to touch Cloudflare and how it really speeds up Internet and networking as is and security-wise, nowadays security is the major topic.
Any cloud provider, any ISP, any company that does business on Internet needs to take care of it.
If you think, okay, I'm a tiny company, nobody's going to touch me, that's not true.
You're going to be attacked, you're going to lose data, you're going to lose the trust of your customers.
Because it's almost as easy, in this day and age, it's just as easy to attack the small guys as it is the big guys.
And given some of the scripts out there and some of the exploits and vulnerabilities when they land, when you're doing a scan across the general Internet, it's just as easy to exploit thousands of SMB customers as it is a single whale.
And with ransomware, in many ways, you know they're not going to fight.
They're just going to pay the Bitcoin and move on.
Exactly, exactly. And when I felt that being a trend, I felt, okay, so Cloudflare is the place to be because the added value of the 250 cities, the network that we have, the Anycast structure, and the other thing is simplicity.
And that's what I felt even more keen.
I know that I'm on the bigger partners world, but we will address tiny partners for sure in the future and so on.
And those tiny partners and even the big ones will tailor tiny customers.
And the worst thing that you have when you come to there and, yeah, you need this, but this is the way to implement.
But in Cloudflare is this. This difference, it's amazing because it's really easy.
A couple of clicks, sometimes tuning up an API or something like that in terms of connection, and that's it.
You are connected, you are protected, and you can just speed up your business.
Because I do believe that security will need to be handled by the players that know about it and not really from the actual customer and so on.
Because they want to deal with their business and security is another business that needs to be dealt with.
And that's what I think Cloudflare plays and comes in on a way that even the big players can't do it so simple at this stage, in my opinion.
Awesome. And so with that, that brings us to the end of the show.
Zhao, thank you for taking the time and guiding us from Dragon Ball Z to the future of security on the Internet.
Thank you very much. My pleasure. All right. Thank you Zhao and everyone that caught the show.
Thank you for tuning in to Cloudflare TV.
Okay. Bye-bye. Bye. Bye.