Cloudflare TV

Dial Up Motive

Presented by Dan Hollinger, Kevin Frazier
Originally aired on 

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.


Transcript (Beta)

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Dial Up Motive, the show here at Cloudflare where we explore the early computer and early Internet histories of our employees.

If you don't know me by now, I'm Dan Hollinger.

I'm the host here on the West Coast. As you can see behind me is some of the machinery I grew up with on the Internet.

I've got the old Packard Bell, some floppy disks.

I think I owned that model of joystick. Joining me today is Kevin Frazier.

Kevin, would you mind introducing yourself? Sure thing. Thanks for having me on the program, Dan.

I had a similar joystick for Flight Simulator, which was one of my go-to gaming experiences.

I'm a legal intern with Cloudflare this summer, pursuing a concurrent degree, a JD at the Berkeley School of Law and a Master's of Public Policy at the Kennedy School.

I'm born and raised in Beaverton, Oregon, which is in the shadow of Intel, so grew up around a lot of smart tech people who regrettably didn't pass along all of their knowledge, so I had to go into law.

Awesome, and glad to have you. What kind of intern project are we putting you on this summer?

Covered just about everything. As you know, Cloudflare's in 200-plus cities these days and dozens of countries, so the legal issues I've been able to address have spanned from paternity leave in Germany to election laws in various countries, and then some of the more nitty-gritty things like looking at end-user license agreements and things like that.

So really, all across the spectrum, lots of legal, interesting questions.

And have you worked on or seen a lot of highly technical or Internet-related issues, or what does that look like?

Yeah, so probably the most in-depth I've gotten on some of the technical issues have been around things like the Electronic Communications Protection Act, which pertains to what kind of Internet content can be regarded as content, or I guess what Internet properties and things should be regarded as content as interpreted by law enforcement when they're seeking user data and things like that.

And then I've also had a chance to look into the domain registry process, which isn't hyper -technical in any sense, but in terms of getting to understand the infrastructure and stakeholders behind the Internet.

So groups like ICANN, for example, has been a really fun process.

Awesome. And what would you say is your funnest part about your internship so far this summer?

That's a tough one.

Besides this interview, which is obviously fantastic, I would have to go with all of the great kind of happy hours and games that the LPT team has put on.

So we've done an escape room, there's been some trivia, obviously some happy hours.

Was this a remote escape room?

It was, yeah. So escape the chat channel. Right. Yeah, exactly.

Yeah. Do something other, escape the norm of a happy hour. But that's been awesome.

And then just doing a lot of one-on-ones with folks, getting to better understand how the heck they ended up at Cloudflare, what they're excited about.

That's been super inspiring. Talking with folks like Doug Kramer, obviously our GC, he's provided me and the other legal interns with tons of advice.

And then my manager, Jason Shapiro, has been really fun to chat with.

He's given me a lot of great pointers and I like to think I helped him plan a road trip up to Oregon.

Awesome. I mean, Oregon's a beautiful state. Can't really deny that one.

So to kick things off, I guess, what would you say one of your earliest experiences with, we'll start with a computer, what did that look like for you and your home growing up?

Yeah. So the earliest time I remember really using a computer in a meaningful way, besides just trying to watch my brother and whatever he was doing on our home computer, was in our elementary school.

I did a type to learn class, probably starting in second grade.

And I remember going into this small computer lab, back to back seats.

Everyone was just lined up at an iMac or at a Mac. And I probably was most attracted to the fact that they had all these vibrant colors going on.

There's that orange and blue back to the computers. But then sitting there, going through the type to learn process, reflecting on that now, I think it's a, it makes a lot of sense.

It's kind of like learning the alphabet, learning those really basic skills to get introduced to the computer.

But at the time, I think we all just viewed it as a really fun time to just look at a glowing screen and get out of the classroom.

And for me, at least it felt more like recess than class.

It was just the next version of television. So instead of like having to listen to a boring teacher, you were, you know, engaging with your television at the school.

Exactly. And you know, I don't know if folks still do type to learn, but the process of just repetitively typing g g g g g or whatever, was kind of relaxing, I guess.

And yeah, like you said, better than listening to a teacher at that point. And so what's interesting in talking, you know, with you is you're actually, I think, one of the younger guests we've had so far.

And so in your introduction, we've now reached the stage where computers are accessible in schools, you know, classes are made available, you know, not just as a novelty, because I think I remember some Math Blaster days or Oregon Trail days.

Nice. So they there was the computer in the back of some of the classrooms.

But it's interesting seeing now that some of this has matured, where we are trying to actively teach, you know, the next generation, here's a computer, here's how you type on it, you know, either effectively or just pressing the G key.

Right. And, and that that pivot point. Yeah, and I think for me, it was interesting kind of tracing through my education, when computer access was ubiquitous, and when it wasn't.

So there'd be scheduled times, right, like the type to learn session where everyone would go through the same training.

But then in middle school, actually, a happy accident of me being, I won't swear on the program, but a blank head.

My teacher said, you know, we need to divert some of this excess energy.

And let's just assign Kevin a random project.

And so they sent me off to go use the one computer that was actually in our classroom.

And I had to type up a report on tsunamis. While the rest of the class was learning about some other stuff, they just said, go find out everything you can on tsunamis and report back in a week.

And so I had the full access to our one computer right there and really got to perform this deep dive on something that continues to fascinate me.

But it really gave me the freedom to explore so much of the web.

And it's interesting, you know, you mentioned that was more of a punishment, like a stop bothering you, the other kids go cope, just play on the computer for a while.

Right? Yeah, it was it was a great punishment.

And in retrospect, I'm really glad for it. But then seeing so there was that kind of one off computer usage in middle school, but one of the more meaningful class wide efforts was going to technology class.

And so this was, again, kind of like my elementary school days where the whole class would go to this computer lab.

And we actually had a technology teacher, Miss Miller, who guided us through a lot of projects and apps to use.

So I remember we all got to create a song on GarageBand.

And probably the coolest thing for me, again, and maybe you're picking this up, I wasn't the best student.

So the coolest thing for me was knowing that there was absolute freedom in what kind of song I would release, right?

There was nothing that they could tell me.

You know, that song sucked or something like that it probably did.

But we were able to just really use our creativity. And I think the great thing for me was, I can't play an instrument, I have no rhythm or anything like that.

But seeing the capacity for these different applications to actually empower you to tap into something that you couldn't previously was a really fun experience.

Yeah, the computer being used as essentially an accessibility tool to recreate, you know, instruments, recreate beats and loops.

And I think I had a similar experience on the graphic design side, where in no way would I consider myself an artist with pen, pencil, or paint.

But getting access to Photoshop or getting access to other image editing tools, you know, allowed me to dive into that artistic world and experiment with, oh, I like this picture.

Can I try to recreate it?

Or can I take bits of it and mix and match and combine? And it sounds like your GarageBand experience was very similar.

Yeah, and I think it's cool to see how cumulative all of these experiences are, where starting off with type to learn obviously doesn't sound like a big deal.

But having that comfort on a computer starting at an early age, makes you so much more willing to even try to learn how to use something like GarageBand.

And I was an econ grad at the University of Oregon.

And so one of the programs we had to use was Stata for economic regression.

I hate Stata, but that's a whole nother story. But that said, you know, I do like to think that because I had all of these opportunities growing up to kind of test and fail on a variety of different computer applications, made me much more comfortable in college being somewhat okay on Stata and going into those big assignments and running huge regressions.


So yeah, having that accessibility and then having that sense of being able to experiment safely, you know, whatever the output might be, you know, you know, you're able to adjust it or edit it, and you grow comfortable with that kind of approach.

So I know you mentioned the technology class was very formative.

Could you go into more detail about what was, you know, particularly interesting or what you took out of that class?

Yeah, so another project that really has lingered with me was using iMovie.

And so what was fun about that project was, again, it was another example of technology providing folks or kind of leveling the playing field so that folks who may not be as technical on other aspects can kind of catch up.

And also as a platform for getting to work with other people.

So it was a fun assignment where we could really tap into everyone's different skill set to create.

I don't even remember what our movie ended up being about.

But having the ability to, and it's funny, all of this kind of shared work was occurring in one classroom.

But I think it prepared us all to do this sort of remote work now.

But I really enjoyed getting to work with classmates on something that was just really a shared product instead of something like creating a diorama or something where someone has to do, you know, that side panel and the other person does this side panel.

This felt much more collaborative. And I think what also stands out to me is the fact that we had an actual technology teacher.

So very few school districts, I'd assume even today, have that sort of technologist on staff focused on preparing, or I guess some schools call it like media or that kind of role.

But our teacher was just a fantastic guide for how to use computers and she made it fun.

Yeah, so I have a contrasting story to that. So back in my day, I'm pretty sure our computer class teacher was a coach, like a football coach that was mostly there just to keep the piece in the room and, you know, handed the assignments or exercises and said, you know, you guys go ahead.

And there were many times when he would ask me for computer assistance to help a previous student with one of their, you know, exercises.

So that was a, you know, I had fun because I kept chugging along through the exercises on my own, but that gives you some context of, you know, ideally hiring a dedicated person versus just, okay, we have this computer lab, how do we make use of it?

You know, what resources do we have?

Not to say that I didn't learn. And if anything, helping others is its own kind of learning process to make sure you fully understand what you've taken in.

But it's still that fascinating to see that maturity in, great, there's a classroom now, there's a lab, there's a teacher, teachers who's been trained on computers or has worked with them before and knows how to build it into their curriculum.

And I think the other fun thing was our school district as a whole did a really nice job of making students feel like technology and doing cool things on the computer was another aspect to kind of achieve notoriety, I guess, or to notch a credential.

So we actually had a district-wide competition called Signal to Noise, where that movie project I was talking about, everyone at the end of that project submitted it to the district to see who would be deemed kind of the winner for creating best video.

I think they did it, they broke it down by grade level. Of course, my twin sister's team won and my team didn't, but that's okay, I'm not still mad about that.

Yeah, it sounds like you're not carrying that grudge anymore. Right, right.

But it was just, it was really cool to see how the district had thought through this layered approach of how to introduce students to tech and then how to kind of incentivize them to pay more attention to it.

I think that too few students have those same opportunities today to access technology and then to be able to use it pretty freely.

I know that some of the schools in my district, you know, they would have their cart of laptops that would get brought around.

And, you know, a lot of internal politics within teachers I heard about who got to schedule the laptops for how, when, and did you return them on time and all those things.

And I will say that frequently it was a problem because you'd have this cart of laptops, but by the time it got to your class, let's say at the end of the day, like 10 of them were malfunctioning or somehow got drained of battery.

And so there were always these technical issues.

So I guess even within my, you know, somewhat advanced district, there were still issues about making sure everyone got enough time on the computer.

Interesting. And yeah, having it be available, but still a sparse enough resource to essentially fight over it.

And how did you think some of these experiences, you know, led you to pursue a career in legal or at least start your career in legal?

Yeah. So I think I got a better sense of the fact that I wasn't completely the most technical person.

I grew up having a brother who was the master of fixing the computer, getting us online.

And in terms of digital literacy, the dude was reading at a college level in elementary school, I guess, if we were going to, if we were going to go that route.

And so I always felt a little inadequate on the tech front and actually understanding and knowing how to engage with it.

But I was nevertheless fascinated by it because I had this experience working in technology and getting to feel more comfortable with it.

So when I had the chance to go to Google to work as a legal assistant, as my kind of first job out of college, I jumped on it as a chance to, again, be surrounded by technology.

But knowing that I didn't have maybe the brain for being in the nitty gritty parts of the computer or the Internet, to be on a periphery sounded like as good of an option as possible.

Well, I mean, what I found fascinating is the more I've interacted with our legal team and legal contracts, it always just gives me flashbacks to my days writing code because you're still ultimately writing very logically.

You're setting definitions at the top of the document.

You have to spell this out so clearly and not quite using math or not quite using large data sets, but still providing that very logical based clarity.

And so it's fascinating kind of wondering where the overlap is as people learn or what their strengths are to go from code to law or vice versa because they're cousins is the sense I get in terms of how you're approaching the world or how you break down the world.

And I think seeing how they've progressed kind of in similar ways as well in terms of there's a huge effort now to create what's called public interest technology, right?

How do we make tech more accessible and how do we make tech, I guess, work for good, more or less.

And so that's been part of the research I've done at the Harvard Kennedy School, thinking about how can we get software engineers, computer engineers thinking about how to use code in a way that helps vulnerable populations and in a way that's more accessible to lay people, and that has a huge grounding in the law as well when you think about public interest law and all of these efforts to make legalese a thing of the past so that you can actually understand what the heck you're diving into.

And I think on both ends, that's really important work to kind of make these complex systems a little bit more accessible.

Yeah, that's interesting to see since it definitely mirrors what we've seen on the programming side where initial languages, computer programming languages are very similar to machine code.

And as they've matured, they're much closer to real English.

They're very readable. Python is a great starter language just because it's very readable and you kind of break out what you're doing within each construct.

You could argue on the legal side, the movement to tools such as LegalZoom or other ways to make it easy and accessible for people to enter legal contracts without necessarily knowing all the boilerplate or they can assume it's safer, easier to click and drag as opposed to getting into the machine level of the legal languages.

Yeah, no, and I think the future is really exciting as we continue to see things like LegalZoom.

I know this is a bit morbid, but there have been a lot of new trust and estate versions of that, helping people create their own will and make sure that their trust is sound if and when they pass away, or I guess when.

But also, like you said, on that contract side, you think about the startup and some of my friends who want to, you know, pursue something, have some great idea, but then the second they think about having to write a memorandum of understanding, all of that tech knowledge isn't exactly applicable.

And so I think I really enjoy my kind of goal as, in terms of my professional goal, trying to be a sort of translator between tech and the legal world to help make sure that we're getting the best parts of tech and the law isn't getting too much in the way of bringing about all that good stuff.

So it's been fun having chances at Cloudflare to talk with super technical people and get a better sense of, you know, what are some of the factors they're thinking about in their day-to-day job.

And then also, like you said, working with a legal team who has the fun challenge of distilling all of that into sound legal documents that, you know, cover Cloudflare.

Yeah, I mean, it's interesting hearing two lawyers talk over a document because all it is is essentially the same as two programmers talking about a loop or a piece of code.

And it's like, well, I don't think it would work like this way.

We're going to pay these kind of trade-offs. Like, well, it'll be fine.

We will just run the code. Right, right. There's always some degree of risk you have to take on.

And I think the interesting thing is seeing the difference in how much risk people are willing to tolerate.

And that's where you get some fascinating conversations about those trade-offs, especially when, like right now, there's so much legal uncertainty around COVID and so many other things.

And what's interesting that you mentioned, I think, is, you know, that interest in acting as a translator, in living in that middle ground between two spaces, you know, legal and technology.

Arguably, I've seen the most success for people's careers in those kind of middle spheres of, you know, where they have a foot in two spots.

They develop not quite expertise, but enough knowledge around each to be an effective translator where, you know, the rubber hits the road or the contract hits the code.

I'll keep working on this. I like contract hits the code. Yeah, well, trademarked here, you know.

We'll get some t-shirts. Okay, perfect. So with that in mind, what would your advice be to, you know, future interns in your space or future generations that, you know, have even more accessibility to technology, technology experts of the Internet, videos like this?

What would your advice be?

Yeah, I would really encourage people to ask questions and not to sound too Silicon Valley-y, but be curious.

Like, the best thing that's happened in my career has been acting on my curiosities and probing people to explain things to me.

Because like you said, it's getting that ability to actually confidently talk about both worlds that gives you credibility and that ultimately gives you more work and more interesting work to do.

And so one thing I found super valuable while I was working at Google, you know, my team was tasked with responding to requests for user data.

And so I had to understand what our retention process was like, what were some of the operational burdens to producing certain content, and what was the technical limitations behind getting that information.

And so with each tricky request, I got to dive deeper and deeper into that understanding.

And I'm so thankful for that experience of getting to ask lots of people questions and meet new people.

So to future interns, I would say, especially at Cloudflare, people will respond to your one-on-one invite.

If you want to just chat with someone, if you want to hopefully one day have a coffee or beer with that person, I have not been turned down.

Even by folks like Doug, who surely have more on their plate than chatting with a legal intern.

You know, folks here have gone out of their way to sit down with me, talk with me, and I really appreciate it.

Yeah, I've given similar advice to interns, because from my perspective, it's almost like having a superpower.

Because you have nothing to lose.

Most people are extremely helpful, and especially like, oh, yeah, it's an intern, you know, I'm happy to chat with an intern.

So sending that invite out to the CEO, or the executives, or leadership, or just random people working on random technology.

During my internship at Google, I essentially tried a lot of these steps.

And for the most part, I always got a yes, or, you know, maybe a reschedule to a later week, but I still had that meeting or had that conversation.

And as an intern is one of the few times when, you know, you have, if you get a no, you can very easily move on.

Most of the times, you know, people are going to give you the benefit of the doubt, because they enjoy having that chat.

Or now on the other side of it, I think they enjoy reliving the time when they were an intern, or when they were young.

Like, no, tell me more about college. What's that like? I miss it.

Well, and I'd also say that what's unique about Cloudflare is that interns get to go through the same orientation as new hires.

And so that introduction to the weeds of how Cloudflare functions, what it's trying to do, where it wants to go, is an invaluable experience to actually feel like you're a part of a company, even if it's for 12 weeks, is impressive.

And I think that level of investment speaks really highly of Cloudflare saying, you know, if you're part of this team, we want you to know what the heck we're doing and where you're going so you can contribute as fully as possible.

And I think that ethos, I found it to be pretty pervasive across employees.

Yep, I would definitely agree. And it's always nice to see. So with that, I know we're nearing the end of time.

Anything else you would like to add, either that you're excited about for the future of tech or the future of legal?

I think for the future of tech, just all of the increased attention to the digital divide is really encouraging right now, seeing people become more aware of the fact that for folks left in the digital dark, it's impossible to apply to jobs, to do school well, to connect with loved ones to the extent you want to.

So the fact that more people are paying attention to that divide and working on it is really encouraging.

And hopefully we'll make our digital lives even richer as the digital ecosystem becomes more diverse.

Definitely agree with that. Awesome. Well, Kevin, thank you for your time.

Thank you for walking through your early Internet and computer history with myself and the audience, the Cloudflare employees that are catching us this morning and everyone catching us either via the live stream or recording.

Thank you. Hopefully that was a good session for you and I look forward to seeing you guys all next week.

Thank you. Thanks, Dan.

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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.
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