Cloudflare TV

Dial Up Motive

Presented by Dan Hollinger, Tony Gomez
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)

Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to episode 18 of Dial Up Motive. I'm your host, Dan Hollinger, and with me today is Tony Gomez, Head of Sales Development out of North America.

If you've never joined the show, thank you for tuning in, whether you're catching the live version or one of the recordings.

Hope you're having a wonderful morning, afternoon, or evening.

On Dial Up Motive, we explore some of the earliest Internet and technology histories of Cloudflare employees, really where they got that interest in technology and what some of those first experiences were like.

So without further ado, I'll hand it off to Tony.

Tony, welcome to the show. Thanks, Dan.

Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. Awesome. And how long have you been at Cloudflare?

What kind of work are you doing today? So I'm actually fairly new at Cloudflare.

I'm only in week two. And so I am the Head of Sales Development for the Americas.

Awesome. Glad to have you. So you're fitting this in during the orientation, like deluge.

That's correct. That's correct. The new hire was last week.

I am in what they call sales bootcamp. And yeah, trying to fit you guys in.

I appreciate it. Awesome. Well, thank you for taking the time and thank you for volunteering and glad to have you on the team.

Thanks. All right. So with that, you know, happy to kind of start the trip down nostalgia lane.

You know, as you can see behind me, I have, you know, what was essentially my era of Packard Bell and floppy disks.

Really would like to learn, you know, what your early experiences were and how you got interested in tech.

Yeah, absolutely. Actually, you know, the first PC that I had was a Commodore 64, right?

So it was this tubular brown, you know, keyboard with, you know, a monitor there and then everything, there was a full floppy disk.

So not even the hard disk that you're showing behind you.

It was called a floppy disk that it had, you can insert it into, and it actually had even slots for it.

It looks like a game console almost because it was like a plastic cartridge and it would have the thing you would put in and you'd jam it in and that's how you would load different games or different things.

But then, yeah, we had a floppy disk and then eventually moved to hard disks, like you're showing in the back there.

Yeah, so you had the original, like where floppy got its name.

Yes. And were you using this to play early games or what was your interaction with your Commodore 64?

Yeah, both games and it was simple word processing.

I think from what the disks we had and we had a couple of simple games there as well that we played.

It was, I'm trying to remember the name. It was a race car game, but it was basically, you know, eight bit things and you could just move it up and down with the arrows on the keyboard.

And you would try to just race and try and avoid, you know, all the different blips and dots that were coming across the screen.

And that really kind of, you know, that was kind of my first experience, you know, back in the day on technology and computers and those types of things.

Awesome. And how did those, you know, those amazing graphics, you know, impact you as a kid or impact, you know, your interests?

Like, was that kind of the first taste of like, yep, this is something I want to continue to play with or continue to learn more about, or how did that come about into the next phase?


I mean, if you talk to me, I mean, that back then, it was really revolutionary, right?

To have something like a PC available at your home when you're, you know, this is going from board games, right, to, you know, to electronic.

And that really sparked my interest in technology, right?

And my, I would say, started a passion for, you know, wanting to learn everything about the technology and how things work, you know, the keyboard, all the peripherals, you know, all those things was really inspiring to me and really, I guess, got my first taste into technology.

Awesome. And how did that transition to the Internet? Did you go through kind of those first few upgrades?

Did you actually have the kind of physical, you know, 14, 28K modem that you were plugging in at some stage, or?

Yeah, I did.

And so, I would say I was lucky enough that with my household, you know, upgrading our PC was one of the key priorities for the family, my parents, right?

So, eventually, we worked our way into like a gateway PC in a box. I don't know if you guys remember that.

It would come in a box that was, you know, that looked like a cow.

Yeah, the cow boxes. Yeah, so, and maybe even before that, but yeah, it was dial up.

I had to take it off my phone, a physical home phone, all right?

I took the cord off that and plugged it into my computer. And we had a 14, four modem, and I would hear the, you know, I would hear it dialing up.

And, you know, if you're familiar with that sound, it's very distinct and you can't forget it.

You know, we got that and it got us onto the Internet. And I think we were using Netscape, I believe was the browser at the time.

And that also came in a disc as well that you had to put everything in.

And that started kind of the exploration into the Internet and access to it.

Yeah, it's one of those kind of interesting uphill both ways stories that, you know, our grandparents used to have with other technologies or other things that they were working through in their life.

And now, like, oh yeah, wifi is everywhere.

It's ubiquitous. You know, you're always connected.

You have 4G, 5G, 6G, what have you. You know, before we literally had to plug a cord into another cord and then wait five minutes for it to essentially boot and then wait for the packets to flow at the speed that you were working with.

Yeah, exactly.

And when it went from 14.4 and doubled, right? So you went to 28, that was revolutionary, right?

I mean, just, oh man, this is blazing speed now. My browser is refreshing.

You know, I'm not waiting 10 minutes anymore. I'm waiting like five minutes, you know, that kind of stuff.

And then eventually went to 56K, right?

And so, you know, I went through a couple of iterations of the speed of the modem.

And as it got faster and faster, obviously, you know, my interaction with things on the Internet got better and better.

And so what were some of the early applications you were using?

Was this, you know, the bulletin board phase?

Was this early email and chat? What did it look like for you? Yeah, as, you know, as obviously I was a consumer at the time, and so it was really the same time as AOL started coming onto the scene and they would send you these CDs and, you know, you would load up a CD, you could create an email address, you know, your AOL email address, and you can log into, you know, AOL's website and really start chatting, getting into chat rooms was kind of a big thing back then.

And then there was instant messenger chat as well.

But that's when, you know, AOL .com had basically a community set up where there were all kinds of different chat rooms you could join.

So much like if you had hobbies or you had interests or just general chats, you could join in.

And it was one of those things where you can just hop in and watch people interact through chat to a chat stream, or you can find someone and they can chat with them kind of on a one-on-one basis.

And then that also had, you know, the bulletin boards as well, where, you know, people would be able to post and you could reply and you can track the conversations there as well.

Now was your, when you were in school during this time, did you, your school and social group essentially go online right after school ended?

You know, was that a natural or organic extension of your social life at that time?

Not only interacting with strangers across the globe around specific topics, but also expanding your local social interactions and local friend group?

Yeah, I think, you know, everyone at the time was getting, you know, an AOL account and then there was AOL Messenger as well.

And so, yeah, we started to communicate via chat almost instantly right after school ended.

And we spent a lot of our time, I guess, online and talking versus we moved from picking up the phone and talking into a lot more chat.

Mm-hmm, and being able to, yeah, have those group conversations. Do you think that influenced at all any of your, you know, your current skillset and on the customer development side, you know, being able to have those asynchronous conversations or to maintain those different threads, you know, that was essentially taught via the Internet and via early day chatting?

Yeah, I think, you know, just the process of having an asynchronous chat really translates, you know, and having multiple of those, right?

So, you know, you start, you know, the era where now you're starting to multitask, right?

And online and in an electronic presence, you know, you were accessing the Internet, you know, on one PC, I guess, or in one medium, multitasking.

I think it really was a big precursor to what we are doing today, right?

As far as doing multiple things and obviously as technology has gotten better, we're doing more and more multiple things, right?

And some people say, hey, you know, multitasking probably isn't the best thing, but it is kind of the norm now.

And so I think it did start from, you know, having a chat, then multiple chats, and then, you know, you had bulletin board and you had chats, then you were also doing other things.

You were also browsing the Internet as well.

And then you had multiple tabs there. And so it was all those things you were, you know, you were keeping up with and you were talking to and communicating with your friend group or other folks as well.

You know, that really kind of, you know, started again that multitasking that we're doing today.

And so ultimately, do you think this was a net benefit to the world or from your personal opinion, and you're like, well, people need to read more novels.

So we need to be able to like go deep on a topic a little bit more.

What are your thoughts on that?

That's a touchy one, depending on who you ask. My personal opinion, I'm the type that likes to juggle a lot of things and also get them all done.

So, you know, I'm for the multitasking, but I do believe there is, you know, there's a place and there should be a time separated to where you do have to unplug and read a novel or, you know, take time and, you know, and just, and just, you know, focus on one or two things at a time.

And how did you take some of your early Internet experiences into kind of college or when you were choosing, you know, what degree to explore, how did that look like or how did technology change as you were growing into your early career?

Well, I mean, you know, I think when I was starting to go to college, that's when even the college systems, right, and technologies were getting upgraded as well.

Obviously they're not, you're not to what they are today.

I was a long time ago, but just interacting there and also the courses started becoming online and in there.

And then also a lot of, you know, the gradings and, you know, your grades were all coming online, you know, before.

So it really had an influence on that.

And, I mean, did you think kind of that process of registering for classes, of working through homework, which, you know, was now either via email or online, you know, you used to have to wait in line at the bursar's office or, you know, go get your schedule from someone that had at best the master database or at worst, it was a piece of paper that said who was registered for which class.

Do you feel some of this technology just helped the college experience scale in a way that it couldn't before and especially your personal experience?

Yeah, I think it made everything, one, it made everything more closer to real time, right?

So you could register, you could find out if you got the class or if you were waiting on hold, right, you weren't, you could do it from home or anywhere that there was a PC you didn't have to go to, you know, at our school it was the registrar's office, right, so you had to sit in line, you had to list out all the classes you wanted to take on a piece of paper and then you would go and physically like sign up for those classes with different tables, right, in the registrar's area and lobby.

So yeah, it made it way more convenient, it made it pretty much real time, right, as far as knowing what classes you were doing and you could also less time as well, it was, you can complete it in such a short time.

So, you know, I think with that, it just helped everybody, every student and also administrators too with, you know, taking it away from paper to electronic, you could easily, you know, pull a report and say, okay, these are all the classes, here's how many people are, you know, are there and then also, unfortunately also you had a period where you could drop a class early enough within, you know, within the start of school and so you could actually pick up a course or two from people dropping out of classes and that was also done online as well, which made it really convenient instead of, again, you had to wait days if you even knew a spot was available.

And what was kind of the top application at that time when you were, you know, either surfing the net or playing games with friends or again, chatting, what was kind of the go-to application?

Well, I would say the web browser, right?

I think the web browser at that time, whether it was, you know, I think it was Netscape was the big one, Internet Explorer had just hit the scene or came on as well.

I think those two were obviously both the biggest browsers in competing.

I think those were the two biggest applications that we were interacting with.

And did you ever kind of explore that kind of, you get that engineer's curiosity of, oh, I wanna learn how to write a webpage or I wanna learn how to, you know, get more involved on the coding side?

What did that look like? You know, at that time, that stuff was, I was curious about the technology and how everything's interacted.

And, you know, I love the gaming part as well, right? So, you know, but as far as the coding, it was always kind of that mystery to me on how that got done, even though, you know, I did take computer science courses, you know, through my college.

It was one of those things where, you know, it's continued to be one of those topics that was, man, it's, how does that happen, right?

How do people really do that? And I never got the chance to dig in. Interesting, yeah, and it's, what I've always appreciated about technology is just the increase in accessibility.

So programmers ultimately making it easier for these types of capabilities to come about, to be used, you know, in the same way that not everyone's a mechanic, you know, but a car is easy to use.

You can still get from point A to point B.

And that just has spread the capability of everyone else to, you know, travel faster, learn faster and connect more.

So after college, what did your first kind of job search look like?

Was that mostly online or what did that first job look like?

Yeah, so right after I graduated, actually I got, I would say fairly lucky.

I had a friend who was working for a startup technology company and said, hey, you know, this is a great company, you know, come join.

And I ended up interviewing with that company and started my first job in sales with that organization.

And that tech company was actually developing and selling what they called community software.

So it was chat, you know, instant messaging and bulletin board, but for the enterprise or for internal use.

So it wasn't like a chat room out on the Internet.

They were selling to like a Transamerica or like a Nintendo and they would have, you know, they could do a chat, a scheduled chat, a moderated chat where their CEO would come on and, you know, people could ask them questions and people would moderate the questions and chats that were going to the CEO and then CEO could respond, you know, those types of things.

And then obviously enterprise instant messaging. So you were building the earliest Slack, you know, for enterprises or the earliest, you know, Microsoft Teams and what have you.

Yeah, yeah. And it was, you know, looking back on it, it was, you know, unfortunately the company's no longer around but the technology was definitely solid.

And yeah, it was definitely, it was geared towards the beginnings of internal communication and collaboration.

Now, did you think some of the success of that product was generational?

So you did have all of these people entering the workforce that grew up with chat, grew up being able to have these asynchronous conversations and that expectation now entered the workforce where, you know, beyond email, I wanted to be able to chat with my colleagues or have a thread around a similar topic.

Do you think that was some of the driver as well as the tech was just there now?

So, you know, at the time, I would say we were a bit early to that phase where it was really the youngest workers entering the workforce at the time were kind of new about it, right?

So they didn't grow up, the people entering the workforce at the time, they didn't, they probably weren't born, you know, and had Internet, you know, as they grew up.

It was still, you know, they had, you know, they still experienced the Internet for the first time, you know, probably as an adult or a high school person, and then they joined the workforce, that type of, that group of people.

And so I believe that technology was ahead of the generation that was in the current workforce, right?

So the current workforce is still pretty, I would say old school, right?

When it came to communication technologies.

And so, you know, given it a few more years, I think, you know, more and more of the workforce DNA would have changed.

And I think that would have led to a better success of the organization.

And do you think for being in tech sales, that there's always a certain element of kind of selling a net new paradigm, like selling a new way of addressing a problem that many of the prospects you're talking to may have not thought of before, not thought of in that way.

Do you think that's, you know, a particularly fascinating part about tech sales or what are your thoughts?

I would say it's the best part. It's the best part.

So, you know, if you have a technology or a solution that is innovative and kind of is not only brand new, but also kind of disrupts in a good way, a positive way, what's currently going on and improves upon it, then that is the most exciting part about, you know, the technology industry, the software industry is, you know, doing something better, you know, faster, you know, better experiences than what legacy or previous companies have done before.

And that's really a recipe for success, right, for technology companies.

Awesome. And how did your time at that startup kind of evolve to get to where you are now here at Cloudflare?

Yeah, it was actually a great experience. I mean, again, it was a startup and my years there and my, obviously my performance kind of moved me up to ultimately become a sales leader there for the organization.

It also, you know, so I had to relocate to Atlanta with my family at the time and that got me into really sales leadership.

And so, and I've been in sales leadership kind of ever since.

And so it was a great experience, not only with a technology company, with an innovative company, it was a growing, you know, company at the time.

And then just kind of built my foundational knowledge of being a sales leader.


And I guess what's been the most surprising thing about joining Cloudflare so far?

You know, there's been many, but I would say that the most surprising would be, you know, how many, you know, really, I would say, you know, really smart and, you know, collaborative and knowledgeable people that are here.

You know, it's very exciting to be around, you know, other folks like that.

You can tell, you know, that the DNA of the company is about, you know, it's about innovation, it's about collaboration, you know, it's about, you know, transparency.

You know, a lot of companies, you know, say those things, but not that many people really execute on it.

And so it's been a great surprise and experience to do that and learn that not only, you know, through the process I got to Cloudflare and then also kind of the few weeks I've been here.

It's very, super exciting for me. Awesome. Yeah, Cloudflare has great people.

That's one of the things I always am proud to highlight during kind of the interview process when I talk to new candidates.

So with that in mind, what are you most excited about for the future of tech, be it, you know, computer hardware, the Internet as a whole, communication as a whole, especially now that you've seen, you know, your startup idea has come to fruition through a handful of products across the space.

You know, what are you most excited about for what's next?

You know, I think the big thing is for communication is security, right?

I think how does the world, right, move forward with securing, you know, communications?

How do we make it easier and more accessible? How does it become kind of more collaborative from that standpoint?

So yeah, a lot of those things, as we move things more towards, you know, the Internet and services, how does any organization kind of build in security across whatever technology or software that that product is addressing?

So I think we'll move from something where, you know, security is, probably not move away completely, but move away from having security as a kind of more of like a line item within an organization, but more and more solutions and vendors are embedding security within their technologies and then solutions, and having it be more of a minor conversation versus kind of the top conversation.

So increasingly, just, it will be an aspect of the solutions they buy and less of an internal need or an internal solution, something they're solving themselves as an internal problem.

They know ultimately in the same way that their economy is a scale around a lot of elements of computing and networking that there'll probably be similar savings as well as benefits from using the solutions that they are purchasing from.

Correct. So instead of building an application for it to do one thing, right?

And then you sell it to somebody and then that's somebody then, that corporation then puts security around it.

Now you're building something with security built in, right? So, and with all the different aspects as it touches.

Yep, I mean, I definitely see that's what Cloudflare is betting on and where we see kind of the Internet as a whole and this new sassy or Zero Trust network, buzzwords going around of really leveraging the network as a service and the security as a service in a combined fashion.

Absolutely. And given that, do you think that you'd be where you are kind of without those early experiences that dial a motive sound where you're downloading something at 14, four kilobits per second, those experiences shape where you made it today?

I would say they greatly did.

They greatly did. Again, I was lucky that technology was something that was available to me, growing up as a kid and now I was able to interact with it where I look at how it influenced me and why I chose the path that I chose to be in the technology industry.

And I've never worked a job that wasn't with a software company, right?

So I've been in software for software companies for almost two decades now.

And that's definitely came from my experiences early on, right? And if I compare myself to my friend groups who kind of didn't have that same experiences, right?

They're not in, they're all successful to a degree, but they're not all in technology, right?

And then I think that does play a big piece into it.

Awesome. And to wrap us up, what would your advice be to kind of the next generation that would want to get into tech sales or want to get into the Internet business?

What would your thoughts for them be? I would say just go for it, right?

I would say that, if you're interested, there's so many opportunities to go into once you're with a technology company and you're always also surrounded by really good, smart, bright individuals as well.

And that plays a big influence on you when you're around those types of folks, right?

It pushes you a little bit more and improves yourself as well.

But if you're curious about it, go for it. Just get in the door.

If you have no experience and you really want to get into it, I think there are a lot of entry-level positions that you can get into.

And I would say go there because the technology company is doing great and it's growing.

That's a good thing because that means you don't have to stay on the same path that you came into the organization with.

There's many paths that will open up to you once you do that.

And technology is something that's always gonna be needed. So it's a recession-proof industry to get into.

Well, and my joke is, the Internet is only gonna get bigger.

Cybersecurity is only gonna get bigger. There's definitely, and technology as a whole, and other than the technology that goes obsolete pretty quick, there's always that growth and development and that engine of innovation.

I 100% agree.

All right, well, Tony, thank you for taking the time and walking us through your Internet and technology history.

Thanks, Dan. I appreciate you having me.

It's great to be here. All right, now I'll let you get back to bootcamp so we can just inundate you with Cloudflare knowledge and see how much you can retain.

All right, thanks a lot. All right, thank you, Tony. And thank you, everyone, for jumping in and sharing this time with us.

Have a great morning, afternoon, or evening.

All right, thanks a lot for hanging. You

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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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