Why I Joined Observe, Inc.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

A little less than a year ago I had a comfortable career as a DevOps Engineer working for a large multinational corporation, work I cared about, and a team of people whom I’d do anything for — the pay wasn’t so bad either. I enjoyed writing code, designing immutable architecture, and attempting to automate myself out of a job. But something was missing.

So, why would I leave a job like that?

The truth was, that for the past few years of my career I daydreamed of being paid to write, speak, and interface with people in a more meaningful way than I had as an engineer. But how? I wasn’t sure, at least until Observe approached me about becoming their Lead Tech Evangelist.

I was vaguely familiar with the role of Tech Evangelist, but what did they really do? Upon googling, it seems the term was invented in just the past two years!

Search volume for tech evangelist
Search Volume for “Tech Evangelist”

Each new blog post and article I read only seemed to mystify it further. I wasn’t sure anyone knew what a Tech Evangelist did.

As far as I could tell, Tech Evangelist was a euphemism for “Silicon Valley Cheerleader.”

Despite knowing little about the responsibilities and duties of the role, I wasn’t sure I had the skills to do such a job, but it didn’t matter. This was my opportunity to write, speak, and build community in a way that I’d yearned to for most of my career.

I assumed becoming an advocate was something I’d have to learn on the job, but I hadn’t prepared myself for the possibility that I might actually love the product.

The People

Almost as soon as the interview began, I knew I’d found a people and an ethos I could get behind. Each new face I met with was gleaning with more excitement than the last, extolling the countless virtues of the product, the capabilities of the team, and the enthusiasm for their work. Each, seemingly more brilliant and passionate than the previous — no offense to who interviewed me last.

Perhaps my favorite quality about the team was their candor. None of them sold me the typical — and grandiose — startup spiel about wanting to “disrupt XYZ industry”, or “build the next TikTok” but rather that they were here to work on a truly unique product; one that has a massive potential to transform the way people do observability.

“Finally, I’d met some “adults” in the startup space,” I thought.

Team members aside, Observe is backed by a heavy-hitting board and team of investors like; Sutter Hill Ventures, Michael Dell, Frank Slootman, and Scott Dietzen that only further strengthened my faith in their mission — which was, to “turn the world’s business data into information.”

The Product

Observe seemed to be exactly the kind of startup I’d been looking for since my formative years at Spiceworks — an Austin, Tx startup, and in my opinion a vanguard of startup culture.

The people, however, are only part of the equation that makes a great company. There is also the product, the reason for a company’s existence. As I mentioned earlier, the product was something I assumed I’d have to learn to love — or at least pretend to love. After all, how excited can one get about an enterprise SaaS offering?

Dataset Graph shows users’ datasets and their relationships visually.
Dataset Graph shows users' datasets and their relationships visually.

As the day of interviews wound down, Jacob Leverich — one of Observe’s co-founders — proceeded to give me a demo of Observe.

“Phew, I can breathe for a moment,” I thought to myself, welcoming this time to “turn off” from the series of fast-paced interviews I’d been on.

Early in the demo, Jacob stressed the main tenets of the product and the principles that set it apart from competitors.

  1. The ability to ingest anything (logs, metrics, traces…all just “events”)
  2. Data modeling (shape data into “things”: customers, sessions, pods)
  3. Bring context (build graphs to show how everything is related)
  4. Track events over time (Go back to any state hours, days, months ago)

I had to hand it to him, Observe sounded like the ideal observability product, but I wanted to see how SREs, DevOps Engineers, and the like, would use it in their daily life. Only then, could I get a real sense of the value Observe claimed to offer.

Jacob quickly began to model what Observe calls “Datasets”, from raw event data, and link them to Resources, a special type of Dataset— on the fly just as the product had promised.

Observe models user data into “things” with loads of context to ease troubleshooting.
Observe models user data into “things” with loads of context to ease troubleshooting.

He then showed me these same correlations in a historical context — including history even before these correlations were defined! I found myself using words like magic, joy, and even delight to describe the functionality and ease at which Jacob navigated the product.

“Have I just fallen in love, with a Saas product?”, I thought to myself.

Not only could I follow the demo easily — as the product felt intuitive and familiar — but it seemed to solve so many issues I’d had with previous technologies. Issues like; having to make choices about which data to collect, whether or not I could afford to keep my data for twelve or more months, or even shaping my observability data, were gone!

I spent so much of my career frustrated by the limitations of other observability products that I’d accepted them as reality.

Observe had all the features I loved in other products I’ve used, with virtually none of their pain points. While I may sound like an infomercial host in training, these were genuine reactions I had to the product, and confirmation that this was a product I could evangelize.

The Future

I seem to have found my home here at Observe, and I couldn’t be happier. The people, the product, and the role are in perfect alignment with my career goals.

new job
Photo by Saulo Mohana on Unsplash

Having just emerged from stealth in October 2020, there’s still a lot to do here at Observe. There are whole departments to be built, a never-ending backlog of content to be created, and things we have yet to dream of. I anticipate a very busy next few years for the team and I look forward to all of it, even the hard parts.

You can expect to hear from me more on our blog, social media accounts, and in the observability space in general. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, or Twitter.

Perhaps in the future, we can even meet.

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Knox Lively

Knox Lively

Lead Tech Evangelist at Observe, Inc. — @KnoxLively