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.
Welcome everybody to this segment of Cloudflare TV. My name is Stephen Perciballi.
I'll be your host today and I'm a solutions engineer out of Toronto, Canada.
And with us today we have Kerstin Wadenka out of Munich. Say hello, Kerstin. Hello, Stephen.
Thanks for having me. Welcome, welcome. It's my pleasure. And yeah, why don't you tell everybody kind of where you're from and what you do at Cloudflare.
Okay, sure. So I started at Cloudflare in January this year as a customer success manager for the new region out of the Munich office.
So I'm belonging to one of those classes that were completely virtually onboarded and never met most of my colleagues until today.
Oh, wow. So you've actually been going back into the office?
Once or twice. So at least I've met five or six of my colleagues here in Munich, but usually you go to San Francisco for the bootcamp and meet all the people in person.
So this is still on my list and hopefully we'll be able someday to do so.
Soon. Absolutely. So this segment of Cloudflare TV is about origin stories.
So it's about what brought us online. How did we get to where we are today?
So do you remember what brought you to the Internet? Like how did you go about getting on?
Was it kind of forced upon you through school or like how did that happen?
Yes, somehow. So like growing up in the 90s and 80s and going to school, it was different as it is today.
So we had to dial in via modem and telephone and sideloading took, I think, minutes, especially for in the small town where I grew up.
Oh, yeah. So, yeah, we started in feeling completely fancy being in chats where you had to type in like those controls to talk to random people, not seeing them or anything.
So you can't compare it with today. And yeah, besides that, as you said, I was forced to take English vocabulary lessons on the computer.
So I think with those two reasons, it wasn't my best friend and it wasn't love at first sight, I'd say.
Oh, right. Do you remember where you were? Was it actually in a school or?
No, it was at home. So, yeah, I enjoyed spending my free time around in the woods and everywhere.
And my parents decided, no, if you want to finish school, then you have to do something for it.
And here is the computer.
So I had this huge, massive thing in my tiny children's room. And yeah, they weren't also that good looking and nice from the design like they are today.
And in school, it took ages. I think it was in high school when we had our first computer classes and rooms and started doing some researches on projects.
But also Wikipedia that then some when came up was very rudimentary in comparison to today.
But I never liked libraries. And this is why I started using it, because the books and you weren't allowed to talk and you had to sit straight forward.
And so no one was watching me.
And I started doing some some researches and yet it worked out to gather information.
But it was just the practical stuff I did with the Internet in the beginning.
Right. Right. How did it impact you once you kind of got on there and started figuring it out?
Were you were you kind of sold right away or took a bit?
Not really sold right away as I am today. It really started with with processes, organizing and automizing my own life, scheduling, writing emails.
And especially I love traveling.
And I had a scholarship in Australia. So you couldn't use the telephone.
It was massively expensive and you had the different time zones.
Same way around when I was in Australia, staying in touch with my family.
So this is when I started to be on the computer every single day and got used to it.
And it was cool and fancy and it was new. And then you could start sending pictures and data.
And I think the the breaking point for me was when I got my first iPod.
In fact, like I have a media team and I have to organize everything and me, I was so proud.
And in university, so I started studying interior design and architecture.
So we had lots of this design and graphic programs, CAD and movie maker and dope suits and whatever.
And they were the structure on Windows didn't work for me somehow, but I didn't know at that time.
So it was more like fighting and trying to stay on top and manage to do everything.
I preferred to take the pen.
And when I finally changed university, they had everything from Apple.
And that that changed. That was the step for me going into a completely different world because it was intuitive.
It's working for me. It's creativity. And somehow everything finally made a sense and I enjoyed it.
I had fun. Wow. Really the joy of use.
And this is somehow also the link of my profession now because I didn't know that that there is a profession like customer success in the beginning and trying to improve and finding ways and processes how it works, how it fits to you and your needs and finding solutions as well.
So this really was the breaking point.
And yeah, now when I travel, everyone's saying, why don't you leave your computer at home away?
I couldn't imagine to be without the Internet, especially like when COVID happened and we all had to go home, staying connected, getting information, not feeling somehow lost.
All those things and benefits, if I would imagine those things would have happened 20 years ago, it would have been quite silent and maybe boring.
So it's massive what's changing and evolving in the Internet and all the technology at the moment.
And I appreciate being part of it. Yeah, for sure. I mean, you bring up a lot of interesting points there, like when you were in design at school and one operating system wasn't really working for you and then the next does.
And even all of the dial up connectivity, it's almost like technology gets better as it falls away and becomes part of the background and it's just there and it's ubiquitous right now.
You can walk around in a city and get on Wi-Fi almost anywhere. And your phone has probably faster Internet than your home does at this point.
It's definitely changed.
Exactly. Especially when I visit my parents, I always go with my phone and not put anything because this is really better and it's amazing what possibilities you have.
So you also have to watch out that you aren't always on. I think this is the challenge today.
So when I applied for my mobile phone, I thought, oh, it's way too big.
I have small hands. But on the other hand, I thought it's good because then when I'm not working, I don't have it with me.
So I'm like tricking myself to not be always online.
But it's great that you can if you want and if you need also when you're traveling.
So there are only tiny regions. And I think then you go there because you want to have some Internet detox and some silence in nature around you.
Absolutely. It's absolutely critical. And so you made a switch from design to technology.
Was there something about the technology specifically that captivated you that drew you in that direction?
Yeah. Not right away. Not straight away.
I was the one in the company and in the design office opening tickets.
Feature requests are asking how the process is meant to be, if we could improve it.
So being completely on the other side, we also had some software as a service technologies using.
And yeah, it was like I felt like digging for bugs all the time, testing and trying to improve.
And something was missing in my business. This is where I was.
I started seeking and I had many friends in tech and SaaS companies.
And then by an incident, one friend told me like, actually, we're doing some ERP software for architects and designers.
I know you want to change something in your life.
How about having a look at us and joining the team? And I thought, why not give it a go?
It's not the just straightforward line, how it was 20 years ago.
And I'm so happy that I took this step because yeah, since then, I don't want to do anything else anymore.
So until I retire someone, I'm going to stay there, especially with customer success.
I'm not the sales girl. I'm not talking about numbers and pushing.
It's really more about building up relations at the moment, completely virtually and remotely.
And you can do it like in private life, you can also do business like that.
And you really build up long term relations, find solutions, make sure you bring value to your customer.
And on the other hand, find needs and new ways and solutions.
And it's always better when it's not just theoretically, but really practical issue or need that someone has.
And then you gather your information and get back and go to discussions and try to find out, do we have a solution?
Do we have a workaround? Do we have a feature? Do we create a feature request?
What possibilities do we have? So it's somehow for me, my new creative work somehow.
And it's great because there are no real borders.
It's up to your mind and with whom you connect the network, check possibilities.
And this is the status quo of today. So we don't know where we are in 20 years and what we're going to find out then.
And it's great. Every day is different.
So you don't have a routine. So it's the coffee and the opening my computer in the morning and in the inbox and it's a surprise every day.
Yeah. What are we going to do today? Yeah. That's what's it is great. It's a critically important role because if technology is not used, it doesn't matter how good it is.
It's technically a failed technology. If nobody uses it, it's irrelevant.
So yeah, it's critically important to get people to actually adopt what they get.
And do you see many parallels between design from what you've seen, from what you learned back then and tech?
Yes, somehow, because it's growing and it always, as I mentioned, like it really depends on what you aim for, how much work you put in.
If you believe in yourself, if you just give it a go, because it's somehow also trial and error.
Like Picasso didn't know that he was a genius when he was alive, but he was trying.
And now we go to museums and see it and it brings so much pleasure and joy in our life.
And this is also relieving. And this is the same what we do when we develop new features, roll them out and find solutions.
So this process, organization, relationship, development, it's like, I think customer success especially is the link in all directions connecting.
So I did a coding and web design course once in university.
I actually found out, okay, I can do it, but there are people that are professional in that and that's definitely not my strength.
This is why I left it, but like having basic knowledge and knowing whom to ask.
And this is, you have to be open -minded, cross-functional thinking and stick with what you're good at.
And so there's a great team spirit and also, missing the word in English, sorry, like a dynamic evolution.
And especially with having so many different features and persons and everyone is different.
And I think we're profiting and our customers and from the customers from the strength of each other.
And this is how you can create something new and don't know what's up next.
So like painting somehow for me or creating something new and this rate. Yeah, I agree with you.
Every day is kind of a blank slate with tech. Somebody invents something new and they need to get it out to the world somehow.
And you don't always know how to do every part.
And so understanding the questions to ask and then who to ask them of can be very, very critical.
Exactly. And the same as also like the front end and the user experience.
And I love that because yeah, I come from the design page and I like to have it intuitive.
So like when you start a new feature and you have a look at it and you see the first dummies and then you also can brainstorm what might connect, what could fit together and see new possibilities.
And here we are again at the picture of painting. So you can do it in both directions.
And this is a synergy I really appreciate and I love to be part of it.
And yeah, so in Munich we don't have tech teams. So this is something I really hope to have a bit more on a workshop perspective, like when I'm longer at the company, having those synergies and workshops and getting also a bit more into the technical direction and see what we're doing.
But with that amazing and incredible speed we have in bringing out and updating features, it's really hard to stay on top.
And yeah, I don't know if I ever will know everything, but trying to and until then trying to figure out who can tell me what I need to know.
Absolutely. Yeah, that's where, you know, what I've always found the Internet is so good at is, you know, making it so that you don't have to know everything.
But if you want to find out, the answer is almost surely out there already.
Exactly. So what I didn't like, so if I'd had research or anything, I used Google.
But when I had, I prefer talking to people, I always said, so I was asking questions in my former company.
And then they said, yeah, let me Google it for you. And I heard it a hundred times.
Then I started using Mr. Google, as my mom says. And you just need to know how to phrase the question.
In the beginning, I did a really bad job, I think.
Nowadays, I'm improving. I find really by first or second try what I want to know.
And it's amazing how it's also the base is growing, what articles you find, you find stuff for everything.
And like, in the first lockdown, like, it was six weeks here.
And I thought, okay, you studied interior design and architecture, let's see if you only know the theory or if you can do it.
And I started watching YouTube videos, how to make an automated smart home, how to paint walls.
And thanks to the Internet, I could also buy the things and get them delivered, because there was nowhere to go to.
So with some paint and the Internet, I was quite busy those six weeks and didn't get bored at all.
Yeah, it's completely democratized information and education.
If you want to know something, someone is almost surely out there who wants to tell you about that thing.
Exactly. And time zones or distances don't matter.
This is really great. Also, like that we both meet with Toronto and Munich.
That's so nice and easy and on the quick way and uncomplicated.
But when I compare it with the first minutes, like in the 80s, like one or two minutes to have the page loaded up.
Oh, yeah. I wouldn't have been keen on having a chat with you in those days.
Never. The dial-up modems. Do you remember how fast your modem was back then?
As mentioned, I'm not the lady for the numbers and the price.
Yeah, it was dreadfully slow. It was impossible. Like there's no way we could have been doing this back then.
Exactly. No way. Yeah. Are you, is there anything that you're, actually, you know, I keep coming back to this design thing.
I'm always fascinated by people who have had multiple kind of careers because I was one of those people as well who didn't, I wasn't a tech native, right?
We weren't born with technology in our hands necessarily. I mean, everything is technically technology.
Like, you know, cars are technology and they were obviously around.
The radio, television, you know, these things were, we were born with.
But the Internet is different because, again, it was democratized.
You didn't have to have a radio show to get out there and talk. You don't have to be a professional journalist to get out there and blog and people will still listen to you.
So, are there any kind of sites or apps today or even devices that you go, yeah, from a design perspective, you know, you see the future kind of thing?
Not really, to be honest, because at the moment I'm looking in the past because the devices I had, I like them, but obviously that's not the benchmark because they go into completely different directions.
Right. I love my small, tiny, 11-inch MacBook, but they don't produce it anymore because it's too expensive and whatever.
But the good thing is I like surprises. So, I think we are on a good way and I had a chat with a friend today.
She's completely into another company and has the latest phone, mobile device and is so happy and it looks completely different.
I had to ask who designed it and this is something I like because also having some color in it and some differentiators and not like we only drive black cars.
Right. So, you can choose and I'm sure there's going to be so many different things and there should be something for everyone.
Right. Yeah, absolutely.
And are you optimistic about where the Internet is going today? I mean, there's been tremendous change since you and I first got on and it sounds like we probably got on around the same time and it went from, you know, bulletin boards and chats and that's about it.
And now, you know, we've got social media, but all of our infrastructure is also connected to the Internet and all of our communications basically go there.
Are you optimistic about where we're going here? Yes, I am and I feel quite comfortable working in the business and industry because I think otherwise it would be hard to really understand where it's going.
When I think of the years before I joined and thought back to those days with the modem and then started diving deeper into where are we today, it's crazy.
The speed is incredible and I can't even imagine where we're going.
I'm excited and happy to join it and also stay up to date what's happening because if I would have stayed interior designer, I wouldn't have understood it and when I would have had a problem then, it might have become tricky.
So, I think we're in a good position to see where it's leading.
Yeah, do you participate in social media at all? Yes, somehow, sometimes, but at the moment, I try to avoid it and do a bit more detox because I found out I was like carrying my mobile phone with me all the time and posting or liking or chatting and I lost it or it had low battery and I left it somewhere and I don't know where because I had deactivated the find my phone.
So, I was one week without but it was quite nice.
I calmed down because I realized, okay, there's also a normal life and maybe it's good and afterwards you try to get a healthy mixture and since I knew that everything is in the cloud anyways and I only had to change one password, I was quite relaxed.
So, yeah, trying to find a balance there. Yeah, it's amazing.
It's such a dichotomy, it seems, how we, you know, we want Internet everywhere and on everything but then we have to get away from it at the same time and yeah, I agree with you.
It's critically important. How about like smart devices?
Do you wear, do you do any wearables or anything like that? No, I don't.
I have my airpods but only when I need them. I started going for walks regularly on lunchtime in the lockdown and before that, I always was listening to music and I love music but somehow I realized it's way better to leave them at home and just walk through the city or the parks and don't have any distraction.
So, yes, it's the same like I don't have web meetings or social meetings with family and friends sitting on the computer from eight to five and in the evening when they said, oh, let's meet but they all went to the offices because they had to and I said, no, sorry, at least then I dial in by phone because then I can do dishes besides or anything or sit comfortable on the sofa.
So, in my private life, I really prefer meeting people live so I just use it to schedule and to see where we can go or do research but even this is great like you sit on the train, you're meeting friends and you're googling and you see all events and festivals or museums and you can just with three clicks where you would have need to queue for hours before and you have everything in place when the train arrives the city and then you put away the mobile phone and relax and enjoy the life with people in person and your friends and it's a great mixture.
So, it helps but I like it.
Yeah, no, I agree with you. It's exactly that again. It's about getting it to and a lot of tech companies are about this about how they try to get the technology to get out of the way, right, to not be in your way that you're obsessing over it constantly.
It's probably a bit of a generational thing because again, I'm exactly the same way I've been doing.
Your story resonated so much with me like I don't wear technology.
I love my smartphone but I also leave it at home from time to time because I'm like who am I calling when I'm already going to meet someone and I know where they're going to be.
It's not necessary. That being said, in the 90s, I used to drive around lost aimlessly because someone would give me a scratch pad with either a hand-drawn map or turn left here, turn right there and one mistake and it's basically game over.
You're lost and I can't imagine going back to those days. There's so many things like buying airline tickets and just any kind of travel would be impossible without technology today.
Exactly or paying. This is why I have it with me because I have everything in there but it was also good realizing, okay, I can live without and I know which train station I have to leave and I think we all should test it from time to time if we're still working.
Because the benefit is leveraging it and using it for our needs but not the different way around.
You know what? Super well said. I think with that, we should probably wrap it up there.
We're about 30 seconds out unless you had any final thoughts but I think that was a great one.
Okay, then let's stay and keep that one. Excellent.
Well, it was great chatting with you this morning. I appreciate you taking the time to do this and I hope to chat with you again soon.
Thanks for having me again, Stephen and thanks for watching.
Have a nice day. You too. Ciao. Bye.