That’s the question I found myself asking when I got a message from a recruiter on LinkedIn just over a year ago. Up until that point, I had very little exposure to “application performance management”, having spent my ten-plus years in IT working on layers 1 through 4 of the OSI stack. First, I had been a software engineer in the aerospace/defense industry, writing embedded code and drivers in C for real-time systems. From there I moved into financial services, where I sold, supported, and implemented low latency messaging architecture for high frequency stock trading systems. That was a fantastic job — I worked with incredibly smart people on the most challenging products I have ever known. I spent nearly seven years in that role, but as much as I enjoyed it, I felt like I needed a new challenge. So when I got that LinkedIn message in the spring of 2017, asking if I was interested in a new SE role, I wanted the answers to two very important questions: “What is APM?”, and, most importantly, “What is AppDynamics?”
Taking AppDynamics for a Test Drive
Having spent most of my career working with the C programming language at the hardware level, it’s no wonder I never came across an APM tool. Don’t get me wrong, I had foundational working knowledge of Java and .NET from my messaging role, but only just enough to be dangerous, and far from being an expert. I had actually spent a bit of time with PHP and MySQL for some pet projects on the side, so I wasn’t totally clueless to the technology in the space. When the time came to download the AppDynamics trial and take it out for a spin, I was honestly blown away. At that moment, I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of the company.
Not being a Java expert, I really wouldn’t have known where to look to debug a Java application outside of an application log. But with AppDynamics, I could see the Java application on the flow map, and all the calls being made to the Java application via Business Transactions. I could even dive into the code and see how long each line of code was taking, as well as the SQL statements being queried from the application. Finally, my personal favorite — when a Java application talks to another Java application via a web service call, AppDynamics will follow the transaction all the way through, allowing you to jump from the call stack of one app to the other in a single click.
Serving as an SE for AppDynamics has been an incredible experience. It’s the kind of role where you get back everything you put in. I spent a lot my time early on self-learning .NET, Java, and some containerization services like Docker and Kubernetes. I also took some time to get to know Azure and all its services. All this learning paid off immensely. Now, I can walk confidently into a room and talk to the senior leadership teams of Fortune 500 companies about their technology choices, the cloud, and about containerization/microservices. Best of all, I got to this point in less than 12 months. As an engineer, I love to solve problems — tough ones. And there’s no better platform for tackling tough problems than AppDynamics.
Cultivating an Entrepreneurial Spirit While Demonstrating Value
In addition to the technology behind the platform, AppDynamics has inspired my entrepreneurial spirit. That’s because AppDynamics isn’t just about showcasing what the product can do, but also, demonstrating the value it provides. While we’re looking for good technology fits, we’re also looking for good value fits. To do this, we work with our teammates and customers on building out business cases explicitly showing our customers and potential senior and executive management teams the ROI with AppDynamics. This part of my work has challenged me to learn more about a wide variety of business cases and uncover the answers to questions that technology executives regularly have during the consideration process. In many cases, doing this has led me to some of my favorite moments in my AppDynamics career thus far.
One of the best parts of the job is giving product demonstrations. Sometimes we demo to people who are familiar with APM and maybe even familiar with AppDynamics. However, the best demos are for people who aren’t familiar with AppD — kind of like myself a little over a year ago. This past spring, while I was doing a demo for a good-sized audience — maybe about 12 people or so — there was a VP of operations in the room, two directors, and some senior technical staff. I had started the demo and prodded the room for questions as the minutes passed by, and it was quiet. No comments, no questions — just silence.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a similar scenario during a demo, you know this is just about the worst thing that can happen. When it’s just you talking to a room full of people, time passes more slowly, and inside, you’re just dying for someone else to say something.
After getting about halfway through the demo of our Map iQ functionality, a director in the crowd finally interrupted and asked, “Is this real?” I hesitated for a moment to respond — not for very long, but long enough to think to myself, “Is this a real question?”
“Yes, this is very real,” I responded.
Then, the gentleman turned to his VP and said, “We need this, like, right now,” with a lot of enthusiasm. This opened a floodgate of questions from those in the room, and the use case potential became abundantly clear to the crowd. The rest of that demo was amazing. And the truth is, while he was the only person in my entire career to ask, “Is this real?”, he hasn’t been the only person I’ve spoken with that has been blown away by AppDynamics and its capabilities.