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IT Origins With Tomer Shiran

Tomer Shiran sits down to talk about Dremio and how he got his start working in IT.

Listen to the entire podcast over at Gestalt IT.

Transcript

Host:

Welcome to IT Origins, an interview series from Gestalt IT. Each Thursday, we bring to you another innovator, engineer, and entrepreneurs in the field of IT and ask them how they got started. Today we have the privilege to talk to Tomer Shiran, the co-founder and CEO of Dremio. Tomer, nice to talk to you.

Tomer Shiran:

Likewise, thanks for having me on the show.

Host:

Tomer, can you give our listeners a sense of what Dremio is as a company and what kind of market you're in, maybe a little elevator pitch.

Tomer Shiran:

Yeah. We create something we call a data-as-a-service platform, really realizing that today, every time somebody in a company wants to leverage data, it's an IT project, right? It's an engineering project. That can be, "Go get me the data. Run this courier for me. Build a report for me. Do this for me. I need these two data sources together." That really is something that holds companies back. It's also something that IT and data engineering teams hate. They hate being in that kind of reactive mode.

We created this technology and this product that's open source, and allows you basically to offer your internal data as a service to the BI users, to business analysts, data scientists, so that they can do whatever they want with the data. They can explore it. They can analyze it. They can bring data from different sources and do analysis on that.

The system kind of provides this interface that looks like Google docs for data, or Office 365 for data. While at the same time, this data acceleration layer makes it so that you can query terabytes and petabytes of data and get sub second response times. It's a really new type of, an approach to, kind of making data more self service for enterprises.

Host:

Let's just dive right in. Tomer, can you give me your IT origin story? How long have you been in the field?

Tomer Shiran:

It's been a while. That would disclose my age. I started off really as a teenager, but got my undergrad at the Technion in Israel, in computer science, and spent a few years during my studies, working at IBM research, and then at Microsoft as a software developer. Eventually moved into product management and various leadership roles. Yeah, it's been fun, recently, more as an entrepreneur and CEO of Dremio.

Host:

In comparison to getting your started in Israel, what is the difference in the IT and tech scene? I think a lot of people know that Israel is this really vibrant technology and innovation hub. The same thing with Silicon Valley. Is there any kind of major differences you spotted? I mean, I know it's been a period of, time, but can you give people a sense of maybe some of. the differences?

Tomer Shiran:

Sure. I've been in the Bay area now for about 10 years. It's been a while since I've actually lived in Israel. It's actually quite similar. I think you have lots of startups in both locations, a lot of people, a lot of entrepreneurial people. With that, comes kind of, an ecosystem that makes it easier to start companies. That includes VC's and law firms and all those kinds of things, and just the connection with other entrepreneurs in the area. I think both the Bay area and Israel in a way are geographically small regions, right, with high concentrations of entrepreneurship and technology.

I think traditionally, the strength in Israel has been, kind of the more technology heavy types of companies, a lot of cyber security, things like that. Although, more recently I think you see also, a lot of more SAS companies and consumer startups as well there, being successful, coming out of Israel. In recent years, maybe more than recent, but in the last, let's say 10 years is ... You see a lot of open source. That's both influenced the systems that we use in IT. A lot of data infrastructure for example is open source. In fact, that's why Dremio itself is an open source product. You also see that influencing how we do software development.

Now, when you're building software, chances are, you're probably using hundreds of different open source libraries and projects that you're integrating into your application or using as libraries. It's really made software development orders of magnitude, faster and more productive than, in that previous year where I had a very ... It was kind of a very proprietary stack and the only libraries, maybe that I could use were things that had visual studio or something like that from Microsoft.

Host:

To that point, even looking at Microsoft today ... While maybe, they're not putting out a ton of open source, there's certainly much more amenable to it. If nothing else, they're not trying to litigate a lot of open source projects out of existence. You can even see within a company with such a proprietary history, maybe not adopting open source wholeheartedly, but definitely kind of buying into the open eco system ideology for sure.

Tomer Shiran:

I think Microsoft today is very much onboard with that, with this new environment. In fact, their recent acquisition of GitHub is maybe the biggest proof point [crosstalk 00:05:34] right? Yeah. I think the company's totally onboard with open source. When you're using Azure, and we use that a lot. Many of our customers use Azure. It's all LINUX, and based on open source technologies as well. Of course, they have Microsoft products too. No, they're very open to that.

The trends ... The things that have change ... I see the other one is cloud computing, right? If you look at what's happening today, and this massive shift towards the cloud and things that, that changes across what software we're using, right? We see more and more people using new types of databases, and a lot of data being stored on places like S3 and Azure data link store. All of these are systems that are, just provided as a service. People don't have to manage them anymore. I think those two changes, kind of the open source and the migration to the cloud have influenced so much and changed the entire landscape.

Host:

Kind of on the other side of that though, what is the current worst trend in IT?

Tomer Shiran:

I think there are a lot of challenges. I'm not sure I would describe them as the worst trends. I mean, clearly some of, the challenges that we have now is, we are so, kind of online and so, kind of depend on cloud services. With that, come all sorts of security and privacy challenges. I think you're seeing that with all these cyber attacks.

It's increasingly easier to do damage online through the internet, right? You don't have to blow up a bus. You can cause a lot of damage and harm through networks now. I think that's one of the challenges. It's something that every company has to think about. We think a lot about that. Even here in our business, when we think about running cloud services and hosting data in the cloud. Security's a key part of that.

Host:

Kind of the companion question to this is, what is the best trend in IT? Would that be, kind of the embrace of open source, open systems? Would it be something different?

Tomer Shiran:

Yeah. I think embrace of open source, and then embrace of cloud. I think all of those have made it, so that we can move way faster than we could in the past, right? It's all about agility now. Most companies really are having to reinvent themselves actually, when you think of some of the technology players invading other industries, right? The way you compete with that is, by becoming more innovative and more agile, and faster moving yourself. A lot of that comes down to, how fast can you develop new technology? How fast can you take advantage of the data that you have.

Often that's the most significant asset that companies have, is actually the data. The data about their users, the data about their customers, and suppliers, et cetera. Being able to capitalize on that data, is a massive opportunity, and also a big challenge. Actually that is a big part of why we started this company, is really realizing that we gotta get more agile, and self sufficient with our data.

Host:

Tomer, where do you see IT going in the next three to five years, kind of near term future?

Tomer Shiran:

I think ... We'll see the same trends continuing. I don't think we're ... A lot of people talk about these new things like, block chain and VR and things like that, AR. I'm not sure those are gonna have a big impact on IT in the near future, or maybe even at all. To me it's the continuation of these trends, and companies really focusing on, kind of their data infrastructure.

How do they take advantage of their data? How do they get insights from that? How, do they leverage AI to do smarter things with their data assets. I think that what so much of the focus is going to be in the next three to five years, while still having to invest a lot in newer and stronger security technologies, as we talked about, that continues to be a big problem.

Host:

Tomer. Do you have any book recommendations for IT practitioners out there? What are you reading right now?

Tomer Shiran:

I'm actually not reading anything right now. I've been a little, bit busy recently. A recent book that I've read, that I would recommend is, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. That's by Ben Horowitz, who is now one of the founders of Andreessen Horowitz, one of the well known VC firms here in the valley. It's a great book, because he talks a lot about, what it was like being a CEO and a entrepreneur, talks about the challenges along the way.

Often times when you build a successful company, people on the outside think that it's kind of, a linear process, right? Every day you grow by one percent. Things are great. Everything's fine. The team's happy, and everything's going well. I think he talks a lot about some of, the kind of, near death moments, the sleepless nights. It just puts those things in a great perspective, right? If it was easy, everybody would do it. It's obviously not very easy. I think that book kind of gives that inside scoop for many, many people, especially those that haven't been in those shoes, and haven't done it before. I think it's just eye opening.

Host:

Excellent. We'll have a link to that in our show notes at gestaltit.com. Thank you for that. First computer you ever owned.

Tomer Shiran:

First computer I owned was the Macintosh, the one that had the black and white screen and the two and a half inch floppy disk, kind of in one thing. That was actually the first computer I had. It was great. I was actually a child back then. My dad actually had one of those at work. He'd actually bring it home, carry it home on the weekend and I got to play different games on it. I had that paint application where you could create drawings. That was really fun. I had one of those terminals before, a green and black terminal, kind of textual. The Macintosh was the first computer I really used.

Host:

All right. What do you do when you're not working in IT?

Tomer Shiran:

When I'm not working. I actually enjoy sports quite a bit. I play basketball, few times a week. Come winter time, I'm off in Tahoe, which is kind of our ski area in the winter. I really enjoy skiing. I have four kids, ages 10, seven, four, and basically zero. I've been teaching them how to ski. We ski all sorts of things, go down double black diamonds with the kids. It's a blast. I really enjoy that.

Host:

The fact that you didn't lead with being a father of four as what you do when you're not working speaks to your time management skills, so I applaud you for that. How do you caffeine?

Tomer Shiran:

How do I caffeine? I drink a lot of coffee. I think that's probably something you'll find common with a lot of entrepreneurs. I really enjoy high quality coffee, things like Blue Bottle. Actually here in the office, in our officer here in the Bay area, we have subscriptions for Blue Bottle Coffee. We have a column coffee that's from Philadelphia. I just like those third wave, really nice coffee. Mostly it's an espresso or a cappuccino.

Host:

Okay. I was gonna ask if there's pour over french press.

Tomer Shiran:

Cappuccino in the morning. Espresso in the evening.

Host:

That's a good way to approach it. I like that. All right. Who would you like to see sit down for the IT Origins interview?

Tomer Shiran:

I think there's so many people out there, that would be interesting to hear their perspective. I've been working recently with Wes McKinney, who's very well known in the data science community. He's the creator of some of, the key kind of projects in Python, which data scientists use all over the world. Millions of downloads. I think he'd be a great guy to have this conversation with. I know he's working on a number of really revolutionary projects in this space. That might be a great one.

Host:

Thanks for the recommendation. We'll definitely have to reach out. Finally, we'll get you out on this. Any career advice you'd like to pass on to our listener.

Tomer Shiran:

I think there are a number of things that I like to give people, in terms of their careers. One of them is really about, just over delivering in anything that you do. Take ownership, right? I think regardless of your role in a company, or what you're trying to do, whether you're the CEO or you're an engineer, or you're in marketing, I think there's somebody who's really hoping that you will take ownership of your area of responsibility, really own it end-to-end, whether it's identifying what are the problems that exists, or providing, kind of, suggesting solutions to them, or implementing solutions.

Actually, over delivering. I think that's the key to growing the career is really demonstrating that you can, not only do what you're told to do, but do more than that. Just care about things, as if they're your own. Those are kind of the things that I generally recommend to people, who want to kind of progress their career and take on more responsibility and things like that.

Host:

Tomer, where can people more information about Dremio, if they're interested in learning more?

Tomer Shiran:

They can go to, just dremio.com, so D-R-E-M-I-O dot com. There's a lot of information there. There's also kind of, a contact link that they're welcome to reach out, and to ask any other questions they may have.

Host:

Tomer Shiran, it's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for participating in IT Origins.