From Defense Research Lab to Startup


It’s been a long journey getting to Stackdriver and coming here is the biggest change I have ever made in my career.  For the past ten years I worked in defense research, most recently at MIT Lincoln Laboratory.  Lincoln Labs is an amazing place to do algorithms research, which was my passion coming out of school, but over time my interests moved more and more toward building production SaaS systems.

 I realized that to do this kind of work I needed to move to an environment that was more customer focused than research and more dynamic and unconstrained than defense.  A small startup was the right way to go, but there are tons of them all over the Boston area so why Stackdriver?

Really I came here for two reasons: the work and the culture.

 The work

One of the first things that attracted me to Stackdriver was that they are building technology to solve a problem rather than having a technology in search of a problem to solve.  Applied defense research is about pushing new ideas that your customers might not have thought possible, but that can all too easily fall into pushing approaches that don’t help: the old “all I have is a hammer” problem.  Stackdriver was born of a real need to help companies manage their Amazon Web Services deployments more effectively; everything we do here is customer focused.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s still cutting edge stuff from wicked smart people.  Take your pick from the cool tech smorgasbord: ElasticSearch, Cassandra, Hadoop.  It’s all here, but we don’t have a cutting edge stack so we can blog about it; we have it to solve real problems for real customers.

The culture

Many people come to the startup world right out of school, but I’m coming ten years into my career.  And married with kids.  I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in if everyone was just out of college with a totally different lifestyle.  At Stackdriver I found a great mix of people with different amounts of experience, from newly minted grads to old fogies like myself.  But company culture is more than just an age mix.  Company culture is an old cliche, especially in a large organization, but when the company is small and the founders interview every candidate, you can create a true culture.

 But what should that culture be?  Innovative?  Customer focused?  Sure, that kind of goes without saying.  But one word that was thrown around when I was interviewing stood out: humility.  It seemed kind of strange that a startup looking to shake up the whole cloud computing industry would emphasize humility, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense.

 Building a company around values of humility and honesty and integrity isn’t easy, but if you can do it then you have a company that customers can trust and with a team that stands by one another.  And that’s what I’ve found here at Stackdriver.

So far I love it here.  Stackdriver is a company full of cool people looking to change the world of cloud computing and solve real problems by reinventing how customers manage their cloud deployments… all while still getting the kids from daycare!  What more could I ask for!

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