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0:09 Miko Pawlikowski

Hello and welcome to Conf42Cast. My name is Miko Pawlikowski. And today my guest is Blake Brown as solution engineer at Teleport. Thank you so much for coming in Blake, how are you doing?

0:20 Blake Brown

Hey, Miko. Thanks for having me. I'm doing great, yourself?

0:23 Miko Pawlikowski

Doing great too, absolute pleasure. So thanks for coming on. And in case you haven't checked the previous episodes, we start everybody with a confusing question and yours for today is, what's your most favorite thing about space travel?

0:38 Blake Brown

I'd say at this point, rather than the old space race between Russia, China and the United States, it's a lot more fun to see the exotic billionaires have at it, between Richard Branson and Elon Musk, and obviously Bezos. Watching these guys one up each other. And at this point, it's just more about fun than science. And I think that's eventually as we get more and more consumer-oriented towards space travel, that's what it's going to be about. So, awesome to see that shift.

1:06 Miko Pawlikowski

Do you have a favorite whom you want to win that race?

1:09 Blake Brown

Well, I mean, I was pretty impressed with with Elon Musk, having actually orbiting people for an extended period of time. Looks like Richard Branson and Bezos are being a little more conservative. So right now my money is on Tesla, or on Elon.

1:23 Miko Pawlikowski

That's, that's probably a good bet. And for everybody else, we'll be getting to the US Air Force aspect of Blake in just a second. But before that, the first thing that one actually notices when to go and trace you on the internet as "My crime is that of curiosity", and I thought it was a really good motto. Do you think you could tell us a little bit where that came from? And what that means to you?

1:47 Blake Brown

Sure, yeah, it's kind of what's driven me throughout my entire career. So that obviously, we'll dive into a little more of that. But my end goal was always to be a journalist. I wanted to have my hands on everything. And I always kind of tried to step out of my bounds. For example, one job, I was just supposed to be desktop support. And I ended up actually taking over the security department after the Director of Security left and as interim security manager throughout a ransomware outbreak, which was pretty interesting. And these aren't things that you get assigned. It's just all about curiosity. And a lot of times expressing that kind of gets you a lot of places and gets you into a lot of cool opportunities. So, that's my driving factor behind my career, I think.

2:28 Miko Pawlikowski

Definitely. But you're calling it a crime. Is there a backstory of why the crime?

2:34 Blake Brown

I mean, one time I was learning Citrix, we were deploying Citrix as the hedge fund, and we're deploying new Citrix rolled out to a set of our users. And obviously at a hedge fund, the traders are paramount to the business. And so any interruption in their day you hear about it. And I was trying to be as discreet as possible, roll out a small update, and I ended up rolling out an update to the entire company restarting everybody's VMs in the middle of market hours. And yeah, that was definitely a crime, I'd say, and that was just me getting my hands dirty with technology I wasn't familiar with but you know, I learned the lesson and I moved on. So it pays dividends, I guess.

3:17 Miko Pawlikowski

Like that, very nice story. So, if one scrolls to the bottom of your LinkedIn page, you actually were a part of US Air Force, right? And that's not necessarily something that every tech person has on the resume. How was it?

3:34 Blake Brown

It was great. Honestly, before I went in, I had never imagined the career in tech. I actually was trying to avoid it at all costs. But I'm seven foot tall, which you can't tell through the camera here and colorblind and I happened to break my arm like right before basic training the first time. So they just instead of getting the cool, action-oriented job, they decided to stick me out behind the desk and learn computers. So I got in and I got stationed with the 52nd combat communications unit out of Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. And it was very interesting. We did that tactical air traffic control SIPRNet and just any kind of tactical communications. So that's where I really got my feet wet with tech.

4:18 Miko Pawlikowski

Is that really how you ended up doing tech and computers? Or did you have interest before then?

4:23 Blake Brown

Oh, yeah. So when I was very young, when I was in middle school, I started building out like my friends bands website and learning how to code with my computer teacher and things like that. I tried to get into computer young and then I decided to focus on sports in high school and kind of lost track of that passion and definitely wanted to avoid it at first, when I went to the Air Force. But being forced into that position that I was in with my broken arm and being tall, I learned to love tech and that's what started my career.

4:53 Miko Pawlikowski

Awesome. You know, I'm six foot seven so I can kind of understand where you're coming from.

5:00 Blake Brown

Yeah, definitely.

5:01 Miko Pawlikowski

So then I started seeing a lot of financy stuff. I saw JPMorgan and things like seven day on call rotation and working up to 20 hours in support of major incidents and stuff like that. So how did you make the jump, I'm curious? How did you go from Air Force to JPMorgan, and, you know, financial tech in general?

5:23 Blake Brown

What I always try to do when I'm looking for a job move is, I try to find the most advanced characteristic of my current job and build that, even if it's a small piece, and build that into a completely new roles that I find at a different company, and leave all the stuff I don't care about behind. So what I really focused on with that job move was, one, I was coming from finance to finance and, two, I was starting to get into Linux a little bit and didn't have much experience. So luckily, JPMorgan had like a military hiring program. So I got hired through that. And yeah, like you mentioned, they worked me like a dog. So seven day on call rotations. At one point, it was every three weeks. So that was like 60 to 80 hours every three weeks. And it was, yeah, I was very tired.

6:14 Miko Pawlikowski

Well, but hopefully you learned a lot too during that.

6:17 Blake Brown

Yeah, that 20 hour day that I mentioned in there, commonly for like major incidents, I was at the commercial bank. So we dealt with a lot with debt markets, commercial loans, and things like that. So that's what all of our applications were centered around. And there'd be a centralized interface for customers to be able to go on and check their various JPMorgan products. So we would create a middleware to send that data over there. And eventually, there's some time out in the proxy area, there was an Apache proxy done by Google. And it was presenting users with day-old investment data, which obviously very bad, you don't want to have that happen. So it was a 20 hour phone call to remedy that issue. And we actually had an end up doing that we couldn't actually find the root cause of it the first call, so it was a 20 hour phone call, like once a week, for several months. So that was a very tiring thing, but we eventually figured it out.

7:18 Miko Pawlikowski

Right. And then eventually, that brings us to Teleport and the job that you made fairly recently, this year, right? Curious how you selected Teleport as your next, I guess adventure.

7:33 Blake Brown

So a couple of things went into it. So obviously, one, I didn't want to work seven day on call rotations or 20 hour phone calls anymore. And I knew that I wanted to get into some kind of a solutions architect or sales engineer role. I didn't really know how to get that done. So just to make that move first, I actually got the job through Reddit. I made a post on Reddit and describe what I wanted, describe my background. And one of my co-workers actually reached out to me set me up with an interview. And it worked out great. And along that interview, I got to learn a lot about what really got me confident. Because I was scared of startups in general, obviously, coming from a massive bank, no company I'd worked at was smaller than a couple thousand people. So, shifting to being the 80-something employee at a small startup was a little scary for me. And so the transparency really jumped out to me. The cool partners like NASDAQ, Academy for FinTech, that's a big name, obviously. So I really liked, I felt very comfortable moving into Teleport with all the notoriety they've had. So, and the product was really nice. I even just going through interviews, I immediately just downloaded the open source started playing around with it, figured it out within like a day or two. And I was worried that they were gonna ask me questions about it during the interview, but I had it memorized front and back ready to go. And I didn't even get a question on it, so.

9:01 Miko Pawlikowski

Oh, so you're one of those people who actually got a job through this post on Reddit or Hacker News. I always wondered if it actually works for anybody. But hey, I just met one person who did it. That's really cool. Okay, so interesting, a small place, interesting product. But you also made a shift from well, basically tech support for the major incidents to sales, right? Is that what the sales, sorry, solutions architect or solutions engineer really means in this kind of context?

9:35 Blake Brown

Yeah, I mean, so in my definition, again, being newer to the industry, but my definition is, yeah, you partner with customers, I help them build out POCs and evaluate their environment and figure out where Teleport can fit in best, maybe places that they never even thought of. And then obviously outside of that, I'm there as a technical resource for any questions they have during the sales process. So, it's a really good partnership between me and the account executive, but I'm not the salesperson myself. And outside of that, we get to do a lot of cool things like talking to you or going to sit in on panels and, and get the word out. So it's fun.

10:13 Miko Pawlikowski

Gotcha. So not directly selling it, just kind of setting it up so that they can buy it themselves kind of thing. So they can volunteer to go and buy it. Awesome. That makes sense. And what's kind of also interesting is that you did that in the middle of the pandemic, the shift, and I'm guessing fully remote from the previous conversations we had with Teleport, right? So, do you think, how did it affect your onboarding and starting with a new company? Did you get a chance to actually see all of the team face to face yet?

10:50 Blake Brown

No, actually, we were planning on there was going to be a quarterly meeting in Oakland in August, where I would have met everybody. But due to delta, we had to postpone that. But yeah, no, it's very strange, because I came from JPMorgan, where it's all in person outside of the pandemic. So they're just now, they started returning to the office in July. But I've never onboarded remotely before. And it's different in the way that like, I I've always had been very hands on, I always shadowed people and things like that. And you don't necessarily get that hand on attention when you onboard remotely, so you have to be a little more of a self-starter, which is fun, it's a challenge. But outside of that, it's an awesome experience. And even just my first week, I could feel the stress starting to get lifted off my shoulders, moving from JPMorgan, a big FinTech company, to Teleport.

11:44 Miko Pawlikowski

Awesome. Well, that's a nice testimony. I'm hoping Ev is gonna like that. So, let's talk more about the Teleport product itself and kind of its unique selling point. Because your perspective is also quite unique, you are setting up the solutions, and you also joined fairly recently, so you might be less biased than someone who kind of has been there since the inception of the company. So, what is Teleport like in your own words? And what problems does it really solve for people?

12:17 Blake Brown

Sure. So a just all around, I really just enjoyed the trust-free philosophy, which is another thing that attracted me to Teleport. And that's also a reason I'm a BIGG blockchain merit too, but with Teleport, I really liked it. When I talk to my friends, I have fellow developer friends. And I try to explain to them what it is. And when I talk about an access plan, a lot of that goes over people's heads. But when you start talking about, Oh, you don't have to manage keys, there's no more stored secrets, credentials logins. And how we're really kind of changing the dynamic and the way people think about authentication. It's really great. And even just recently, I was meeting with a customer that was asking about SaaS framework, or a Saasy framework and how Teleport might fit into that. I know SaaSy framework is a very industry leading framework. But it still relies on stored credentials, stored secrets, a lot of trust is still given to the user and to the administrators. And I think Teleport really removes a lot of that. And other nice thing that a lot of people don't consider is how it can decentralize administration. So, especially when you're talking about a massive organization like JPMorgan, and how difficult it is to get elevated access, and things like that, if it can be handled on a more modular level, which Teleport allows through their clusters? It's a really interesting use case.

13:47 Miko Pawlikowski

All right. So, is the problem that you're solving kind of more accessibility of this tools? Is it the ease of use, so that people actually use that kind of solution? Is it coaching people that things can be done better than the old ways? Which one do you think is like the main selling point of what you guys are selling?

14:11 Blake Brown

I think ease of use and reduction of soft costs. You look at other competitors, no names, but a lot of these other competitors require administrative staff to be able to manage this stuff and Teleport reduces a lot of the soft costs, but without decentralization I was mentioning. And then yeah, ease of access, not having to manage keys not having to log into a password vault before you can go log into your environment. But it really makes that end user experience a whole lot better for you, developer.

14:45 Miko Pawlikowski

Right. So basically, the answer to my question is, 'all of the above'. Okay, all right. That's fine. And I think that one of the aspects that is also quite unique is the open source part of Teleport, and you know, I'm personally very biased towards that kind of thing. How do you think that affects the business from your point of view? Is that like a big selling point where you talk to prospective buyers?

15:12 Blake Brown

Well, so a big, massive selling point along with open source is, yes, people are already familiar with it, a lot of them have their hands dirty and love the product, and they're using it for personal use sometimes. And so it makes it, that sales process, a lot easier with that familiarity are already built. But on top of that, just, we're not just like open source in our code. We're also open source, just everything. We're just an open source company. So we publish our audits, which really makes a lot of people, when you're talking about cybersecurity, that makes a lot of people comfortable. Everything about us is open source. And I think as people ask questions, as people ask, like really hard questions about what we've done with pen testing, and things like that, and we're able to provide reports to them, that really makes people feel comfortable before they close the deal.

16:03 Miko Pawlikowski

Right. And kind of to play the devil's advocate, doesn't that make it easier for the competition to kind of like, you know, see what you've done and potentially do a similar thing? Or you're not worried about that?

16:16 Blake Brown

Well, I mean, I think just like letting your engineers leave the company without having a non-compete and expecting everybody in the industry to do the same, it kind of helps everybody get better, right? So, go ahead and steal our stuff. We'll get better off of your work too and it just really drives industry progress.

16:39 Miko Pawlikowski

Wow, we've got that on tape. So, there's probably a lot of things that you know about Teleport that other people don't, and they should, so if you were to pick one interesting nugget, what would it be?

16:55 Blake Brown

One thing I really like about Teleport is, with our elevated access requests, is our pager duty integration. And a lot of people haven't really considered how to apply or how they could apply this in their own enterprise. But imagine that you're an on-call DevOps engineer. And you need elevated access, because your Tomcat went down. And you need to get in and you have a one hour SLA, nobody's answering their phones. PagerDuty and our integration with them allows for automatic approval for elevated access requests on the weekends based on schedules. So you can schedule out, when your on-call representative is going to be working, have that done a lot more seamless and a lot less headache for management, and you don't need to make annoying calls to people on the weekends. That's one of my favorite things about Teleport that I think a lot of people don't know right off the face.

17:49 Miko Pawlikowski

Awesome. It's good to know. All right. And this is completely random. But I just remembered when I was scrolling through some of the internet's, I saw that you mentioned as a amature chef, and I think also saw that you learn some from the MasterClass. Would you recommend the MasterClass cooking?

18:08 Blake Brown

Oh, yeah, MasterClass is excellent. At the beginning of the pandemic. I lost touch with cooking for a long time, because of those ridiculous hours that I was working at JPMorgan. But when I got to, when the pandemic happened, I wanted to find a new hobby. So I got a Traeger smoker and I got my MasterClass subscription. And ever since then, I've been following chef Thomas Keller and Gordon Ramsay and learning quite a bit. Right now, I've actually been smoking a bison brisket out of my Traeger right now, with some duck fat on top to kind of supplement so yeah, I love cooking.

18:47 Miko Pawlikowski

Awesome. And is that your favorite show of this right now? Or do you have another one that you're kind of showing to all guests?

18:54 Blake Brown

Oh, the beef Wellington is my favorite. So no, I like Gordon Ramsay's Beef Wellington recipe with the duck sauce, all mixed up. It's challenging, and you have to like wear meat. But when I had my brother over, when he was getting out of the Navy, that's what I cooked him. He loved it.

19:11 Miko Pawlikowski

Awesome. Yeah. I love picking people's favorite recipes. Although that massive smoker would probably not fit in my little London flat. Hey, UK problems. Alright, so just for everybody who's been listening and who hasn't seen Teleport before. Before we start wrapping up, where do they go? And how do they test it out?

19:38 Blake Brown

Sure. Yeah. Go to We have a lot of documentation to get you started. And we have it within Teleport. We have links to our GitHub, and you're welcome to check out any of our code and deploy via the Helm charts that we've made available. So, it's very user-friendly.

19:59 Miko Pawlikowski

Okay. All right, awesome. And with that out of the way, the next question for you is, for 2022, what technology or language methodology, anything remotely technology-related, would you recommend watch out for and why cryptocurrencies?

20:23 Blake Brown

No, I mean, again, just like Teleport and cryptocurrency and blockchain really embrace that trust-free model. I think trust-free philosophy is gonna make its way and a lot of different industries, including further applications in tech. And I'm really excited to look into how things can be democratized through blockchain, such as like, autonomous cars, for rolling updates, that's a big concern for autonomous vehicles is how do you secure over their updates. And right now, they're just using certificates. But, a potential application that I've been reading about is democratizing over the air updates, by having each vehicle actually reach out to vehicles that it's driving next to to confirm the update before installing. So those kinds of advancements and trust-free philosophy and an applications of blockchain are really what I'm looking out for.

21:22 Miko Pawlikowski

That's awesome. All right. I like the answer, so you get a bonus question then. So, if you were to pick a single highest return on investment item that kind of helped you with your career, and again, that can be anything, what would you pick?

21:41 Blake Brown

Honestly, this probably will be an unpopular answer, but not going to college, I think is my single highest ROI decision I've ever made. And that's only because I didn't learn out of a book. I learned how to learn on my own. And just having that pressure of kind of trial by fire in any job that I'm taking on, really kept me motivated throughout my entire career. And I think it's kind of made me a better well-rounded tech employee, so.

22:15 Miko Pawlikowski

And is that a US-specific answer, with the prices? If uni was free, would you still have the same opinion on that?

22:25 Blake Brown

Probably. Yeah, that is fair. Yeah, no, I mean, one of the colleges I was looking at potentially going to cost would have cost me about $40,000 a year, which is a lot of people's salaries. So it just, as far as weighing the pros and cons and looking up what salaries would be after I would come out, it just didn't make that much sense. So I got that basic education and in the Air Force, which I don't think I even needed that. And then I really supplemented with a lot of certificates. And I've found a lot of managers that were able to take risks on me and see potential and I was able to learn quick enough.

23:10 Miko Pawlikowski

That makes sense.

23:11 Blake Brown

I would be anywhere without the me being able to talk to the managers into taking a risk, because several of them had to, like they especially going to JPMorgan, I didn't have very much background in Linux and even coming here to Teleport, didn't have any background in sales. So convincing them and yeah, it's difficult, but yeah.

23:33 Miko Pawlikowski

All right. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time. Blake Brown, everybody, Solutions Engineer at Teleport. Where do they find you, Twitter, LinkedIn?

23:45 Blake Brown

Oh, yeah. I think it's a Blake C. Brown is my LinkedIn address.

23:51 Miko Pawlikowski

All right. Is that the best way to reach out to you?

23:54 Blake Brown

Yeah, or

23:58 Miko Pawlikowski

Awesome. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time. A lot of interesting nuggets. I'm sure our audience will love some of that. And all the best with your continued adventure at Teleport. It has been fun.

24:14 Blake Brown

Thank you, Miko.

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