Ryan Gehl, LiveAction’s VP of Engineering: His Vision from the Top
When our interview begins Ryan Gehl shows me a book that’s just arrived in the mail, “Designing Data-Intensive Applications: The Big Ideas Behind Reliable, Scalable, and Maintainable Systems,” by Martin Kleppmann. Ryan may be LiveAction’s VP of Engineering, managing managers and building out our engineering team, but his roots as a software developer keep him grounded in today’s data challenges.
Ryan has spent a total of 14 years working on the problem space of APM and NPM and three years looking at the world through a cybersecurity lens. Before LiveAction, he was the Director of Engineering at Riverbed, Senior Director at ThreatQuotient, and VP of Engineering at ShareStream. I wanted to hear why he came to LiveAction and what he’s been working on.
“My motivation around work has always been working with smart people on interesting problems, and that’s something that really resonates with me in the APM/NPM space. There are a lot of smart people here and a lot of interesting problems to work on. LiveAction is a smaller company which means there’s room for individuals to have an impact.”
When the offer came to join LiveAction Ryan jumped at the chance. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is perfect.’ It’s the space that I know and love, APM/NPM, and NDR, combined with the role I love leading a broader engineering team and working with newer technologies. I have an opportunity to try new ways of doing things with new technologies and apply that back to this problem space that I have been working in for years.”
One of the logistical challenges Ryan is working on is removing obstacles that block engineer collaboration. “When you have a company with a core set of technology and the rest of the company is made up through acquisitions, you end up with one engineering team focused on one project and another engineering team focused on another.”
When you isolate teams to a specific product or physical location, you miss out on great ideas.
As Ryan grows the engineering team, he wants to make sure he’s not doing it in silos. “COVID and remote working have presented collaboration challenges, but it has also presented opportunities as well. With Zoom and Slack, you can still gain mind share and cross-pollinate ideas for problem-solving, but engineers really need the ability to get together and work through a problem and think deeply about a challenge, whatever it may be.
I’m not sure how this new post-pandemic world will look. I don’t think it’s going to be a fully remote world and I don’t think it’s going to be a fully everyone-in-the-office world. So, when you start to get into this hybrid rhythm what does that look like? How can you try to capture the best of everything? I’m looking for a balance that will incorporate the flexibility of remote work with the advantages of being able to physically walk over to a whiteboard, uncap a marker, and map out a solution.”
LiveAction is at a sweet spot of an innovative time. Devs can really come here and take their knowledge of the space and build out some interesting things.
“We’re looking at challenges like, how NetOps and SecOps, and AIOps can combine into something meaningful that resonates with end-users. The combination of NetOps and SecOps specifically is a fascinating area. There’s similar telemetry between the two. It’s the same data, you’re just using it for a different purpose.
From an engineering problem-space perspective, it’s fruitful and exciting to consider all the ways you can build out a unified solution. Then, if you layer in this concept of AIOps in terms of AI machine learning, and compare it with some of the problems that we’re solving on the threat side, there are similarities in solution capabilities there as well.”
Ryan is tasked with creating the engineering team of his dreams and he’s taking that directive to heart, bringing in the best and brightest he can find. “I think of myself as a builder. We’re still in the early days of ramping this up, but we’ve already got a high-caliber skill pool going. And we’ve recently brought on some key hires – top-notch people who’ve spent their professional career looking at these types of problems. It’s exciting to get this level of talent in.
If the overall mantra is: ‘working with smart people on challenging problems,’ we’ve got great problems and some of the smartest people in the space, so it’s perfect.”
“For me, LiveAction has the whole package. When I look at the technologies we have, and problem areas we are in, and the team we are assembling, I just know exciting things are going to happen soon. This is a growth story and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
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