John Campbell (00:00):
Hello, welcome everyone to another episode of Cloud N Clear. I am John Campbell, I’m the Vice President of Customer Experience here at SADA, and I am really excited to introduce you today to Paul Staelin. He’s the Vice President of Customer Success and Services at Trifacta by Alteryx. And we’re going to talk a little bit about Trifacta, we’re going to talk a little bit about Google Cloud, we’ll probably throw in a little bit of customer success stuff up there since it’s both near and dear to both of our hearts as we go around. So, thank you Paul for joining us, I really appreciate your time and your input and feedback as we go through this episode of Cloud N Clear.
Paul Staelin (00:56):
Well, great. Well thank you for having me, I’m looking forward to our conversation.
John Campbell (01:00):
Absolutely. So, tell me a little bit about your journey. What got you to where you are now?
Paul Staelin (01:05):
Started in the software space in product management and doing far more on the technical side. As I started engaging more with customers, I realized the part that made me happy in my job was helping people actually get value from that software and so I migrated closer and closer to the customer and then ultimately a little bit of that product bent of trying to build and design a customer experience like a product was the happy endpoint for me. So, designing customer journeys, making sure that we’re delivering the right experiences, customers are getting value, those are the things that pulled me into the role that I have today.
John Campbell (01:46):
That’s great. Actually very similar journey to myself as well. My previous roles have been in product management and now in an operations role doing customer success, making sure customers are happy and doing what you’re doing as well is how do we productize the experience the customer has? It’s not… I think it’s sometimes in software companies and companies like SADA when you think of product, you think of a thing like Gmail or a BigQuery or something like that, but what the customer experiences from a support side and how they experience your company or the people that they interact with is just as important from a product perspective as well. So, that’s awesome, love to hear it. So, tell me a little bit about Trifacta and what you do for customers? What gaps are you filling? Where’s the value that you provide?
Paul Staelin (02:36):
Well, broadly speaking the space that we really help people fill is what would be called the data preparation space. Obviously, there is more data than anyone can analyze right now in the cloud successfully, but taking that data in its raw form and turning into something that’s ready for analysis is something that we’ve really helped people do and as we’ve moved into the space that we particularly claim as our own is the data engineering cloud, which is we help people really do that data engineering in the cloud to get it ready for analysis.
John Campbell (03:16):
That’s awesome and to your point, there is no shortage of data out there and there’s of course, a lot of companies working with customers to help them along with it. How does Trifacta, how does it differentiate from others in the industry? What’s your claim to fame if you will that you’re doing for folks?
Paul Staelin (03:36):
I think there are two primary any things that we really think separate us from the crowd. One, we view ourselves as an open platform. We actually can work across multiple clouds, we can work in multiple data infrastructures and allow that open engagement as well as to some of your internal infrastructure and APIs and other things, and really making that a seamless platform. And we are highly interactive. So, not necessarily a set of coding tools, we actually have a point and click interface where people can build complex data transformations, build them in a repeatable, scalable, shareable and collaborative way so that you can really… Data prep is a team sport and not everyone’s an expert in every piece of data, having those people work together in an interactive way and with each other is where we really separate from most of the other tools that can help you do pieces and parts of this value chain. We think we uniquely do all of it.
John Campbell (04:50):
That’s cool. From my product days, what I would always ask myself and now even in customer success and stuff was where in the system that the customers are using, where’s the complexity that’s hard for people to solve? And I think there is so many spots in the data chain that are complex for customers to get in there and understand what they’re doing, so getting good companies like yours to come in there and solve those things is key for a lot of people to be successful. When it comes to Google Cloud, how does Trifacta work with Google Cloud? How does the technology integrate and what are you using Google Cloud for?
Paul Staelin (05:36):
So, we’ve got two primary paradigms that people are using Trifacta for within the Google data prep to get their data ready for analysis. Fundamentally, we have a lot of people who are taking files and piping them in and transforming them into BigQuery is probably the most common use case. We have other folks who are using other data movement tools to bring the data into BigQuery and they’re using us to really provide the platform for the broader company to then turn the raw files that have been shipped into BigQuery and turning it into data that’s ready for analysis, so BigQuery to BigQuery. So, those are the two primary paradigms. In general, when we’re pulled in, there are multiple people doing this, there is a fair amount of interdependency and collaboration required and there’s varying skill sets, not only data engineers do a data engineering now. So, doing this in a manual or where you can handle people with data analyst skill sets all the way to data engineering skill sets and have them actually work together meaningfully, collaboratively and productively is what we do uniquely well.
John Campbell (06:50):
That’s awesome. Just going on the customer success side of it and support side of it from a human standpoint, how do you help bring those areas together? What is the role that your team plays in those conversations?
Paul Staelin (07:09):
Generally, when we bring a new customer into the fold, we do have an engagement model where folks from our organization and our partner organizations will come together, help the organization tackle and solve a use case somewhere in the firm. We’re generally engaging with folks in the data team and then potentially distributed throughout the business and teaching them how to fish. Our primary Mo is to come in, have people enroll in our training it’s all online, pretty much you can do what you want, but working with us having attended an online driver’s ed course, I wouldn’t necessarily want to sit in the car with my son the first time. I’d like to have a joint steering wheel and have some of the best practices in that go through of the use case, see what it’s really like to go from start to finish on a use case, using the best practices, scalable, repeatable methods and approaches, and then roll to the next use case and team and next use case and team, and next use case and team.
Paul Staelin (08:14):
And we try to facilitate that conversation and deployment predominantly through our customer success managers who engage they don’t do hands on keyboards, but we do try to bring technical resources to bear when necessary or those of our partners to make sure that customer as they’re going through this really is a learning by doing type experience.
John Campbell (08:39):
Wow, that’s great and I think you to back me up on this as well, but being able to find those human interaction points becomes so critical especially in the first three to six months of a customer’s life cycle and to do it successfully really sets them up for long term use of your product. And we see that for customers on Google Cloud as well. Let’s jump in a little bit more about Google Cloud. When you look at the technology, you look at how Google is working with you and the technology of the Google Cloud platform, how has it helped Trifacta innovate and has it changed the way that you do business in some ways?
Paul Staelin (09:23):
Well, there’s a lot of things as we’ve gone from… We started life most of the work that we were doing was predominantly tied to data lakes which eight years ago were on-prem in Hadoop as people have moved to cloud data lakes, cloud data warehouses and cloud Lakehouses as they’re now affectionately known, being able to do this in a broader platform. We do have now the ability for people to spin up infrastructure very quickly, very easily. We’re seeing much smaller companies be able to actually engage with us with much smaller teams very successfully, for much less investment and it’s really dramatically changing the landscape, the texture, the shape of the customers with whom we engage and who are able to actually achieve real value with our solutions.
Paul Staelin (10:24):
Everyone who’s got data has a data problem, whether they know it or not and helping them solve those problems so they can actually get the reporting, the insights, the ML, all the types of things that you want to be able to do that actually help you drive your business forward and we help fill a critical step there. So, we’ve seen a lot of digital natives appear and again, it really has accelerated our overall ability to address, tackle and engage with a much broader swath of marketplace.
John Campbell (10:57):
That’s great. And to your point, everyone has a data problem it’s working with customers for a very long time, even the customers that you would think understand, have it all together, rarely do I ever hear, our data’s clean and good, very easy to work with, so that is absolutely the case.
Paul Staelin (11:18):
I’ve never heard that in my career, frankly. I think it’s a little bit like my kids where when they’re in sixth grade they think those ninth graders have it all figured out and by the time you get to ninth grade, you realize they don’t have it figured out. Those seniors must have it all figured out, but when you get there, you realize they don’t have it figured out either. I’m terrified at some point my kids will realize that I’m basically playing jazz as an adult trying to figure it all out as I go, but I think that’s the ultimate maturity point for most organizations with data.
John Campbell (11:49):
That’s great. I turn 40 in a few weeks and I’m hoping at some point I do figure it out, but after 40 years I’m not entirely hopeful so. Why did you choose SADA? What makes SADA different? You’re part of our SADA SaaS Alliance Program I would love to just understand how that evolved and our partnership what you’re seeing there?
Paul Staelin (12:15):
And we’re actually super excited to be partners with SADA there are a number of things that make you stand out broadly in the marketplace, but also from a philosophical cultural approach. At least in our exposure with you, you’ve been very customer focused, very success minded and that mindset on helping drive success for customers, not just selling them something is something that we really resonate with. We’re in business to help people be better at their jobs, accomplish more, be more successful, get more value from the data they have and really invest in that journey with the customers, so that philosophical alignment particularly given my role is very important. Obviously, you guys have a sterling reputation and a very strong market presence and reputation as well, which obviously makes a good partnership, but we think more importantly from my perspective is the cultural match.
John Campbell (13:18):
That’s absolutely true. I’ve worked in a few different organizations and what drives the organization is so intrinsic to how we operate with partners and customers. And I think to your point especially on my side, coming from a customer experience and I know this goes all the way up to Tony, our CEO, the customer really drives what we do and man, when we find another organization where it’s similar, it’s so easy to meld together and work and do amazing things together which is fantastic. I want to talk a little bit about the last two years have been interesting with the pandemic and changes, you’re really close to your customers in the customer success side, so I would love to know in your space and what you’re doing what the last two years have brought about from a change perspective for your customers that you work with, how you work as a company and those types of things as well?
Paul Staelin (14:24):
And I’d like to say the two years has made sure that we have ironed out every electronic meeting bug possible, but as the start of our conversation today proved that is not yet true, maybe another two years to do it. In terms of the way that we work with people and one of the things that I think has surprised me and many others really is how effective working remote can be. I grew up in a culture of you’re in the office five days a week, you’re in there at least from nine to five, probably eight to six every day and there’s a lot of value in those informal meetings that happen literally while you’re having lunch at the kitchen or going to get a cup of coffee and you can solve a lot of little problems on the edges far more effectively than you can remotely, where I have to actually book time with you to discuss a topic, it’s not going to accidentally happen during the course of the day, but our customers have also gotten pretty accustomed to working remotely.
Paul Staelin (15:33):
So, we have far more obviously remote sessions. I haven’t been on a customer site in my job which is almost unfathomable to me in over a year and a half and yet I’m still meeting with them, I still feel like we’ve got personal connection and we’re still able to talk about real business problems and solve them. It’s been a dramatic paradigm shift. So, that has changed and the fact that we’re still driving and engineering specific touch points along the customer journey to make sure we’re holding their hand and guiding them to a successful outcome, that hasn’t. So, it’s just been a frame set change particularly me, one of the old guys now that the new working model really does work and having poo pooed it for a long time, I was wrong which I’m happy to admit that this has actually worked out way better than I feared.
John Campbell (16:33):
It’s in a way almost amazing how easy in a way it was just to drop into remote work and video conferencing for everything and just making it work and business ticking on. But to your point, someday we’ll figure out all of the AV stuff. It took us about 20 minutes to get everyone’s cameras to work earlier, but we got there and we are here-
Paul Staelin (16:58):
Mine specifically, yes.
John Campbell (17:01):
And we’re working so. When it comes to on the data side and working with data engineers one of the things that I wonder about and this shift to work from home and now conversations about return to office, is there anything from a segment or from a down to a data team that impacts that? Are data engineers, data architects, are they more likely to want to stay at home? Is there more of a hindrance there when they’re not all together to whiteboard? What are you seeing on your customer side when it comes to that?
Paul Staelin (17:40):
Most of the teams with whom we work are geographically widely dispersed across continents not just the city, so the breadth and scope of the teams with whom we’re engaging really are broad, far and having the mechanisms to collaborate and we do invest pretty heavily in collaboration in our platform. We do make it much like the Google platform’s pretty easy to you can send stuff to someone, they can look at it, you can see what they’ve written. It just makes it easy to have some of that asynchronous as well as a synchronous collaboration and I think that aspect of our capability set has become significantly more important in the last two years than it would’ve been before.
Paul Staelin (18:31):
And part of that is we’ve gone more into the cloud and we have more cloud natives I think that’s more true. And eight years ago we’re dealing with on-prem Hadoop data lakes. Most of these are big companies, everyone’s in the same office, it’s not the same diffused team on a broad cloud platform, it’s a different beast, but that collaboration piece has been I think a super powerful capability for us.
John Campbell (19:01):
That’s amazing. And I think for a lot of software companies and business software companies the need for the last two years for that to be a primary function that they solve has become so important and I think moving forward when people are evaluating whereas that may not have been a high, a top evaluation process, I think more so now than ever it has to be in order for you to be successful, for the companies to be successful software companies, but also the end customers as well. Not that you could have predicted anything in the last two years, but do you have predictions for the next two years or even five or 10 years when it comes to what we’ll see in the technology side or data side or anything along those lines?
Paul Staelin (19:51):
I think the broader trend of more and more organizations wanting to deploy more and more data productively, I think that is a long live trend. I don’t think we’re getting out of that. It’s been true for the last 40 years, it’ll be true for the next 40 and I’m pretty excited that we as a society are going to see a lot more people able to really participate in the information age, a lot more organizations benefit from it, and a lot more investment in the entire area. So, I’m super excited. I am not going to predict specifically what will happen, but I feel pretty safe in predicting that this data is the new oil theme and will be true for the next 40 years easy, certainly longer than I plan to work.
John Campbell (20:41):
I think absolutely the importance of data it’s not going to change and the proliferation of it is only going to make things like Trifacta even more important. Well, great. Paul, that wraps up our conversation. Is there anything else that you want to make sure that we mentioned that you’d like to get off your chest around data or work from home, return to office or Trifacta itself?
Paul Staelin (21:09):
No, I want to thank you for having me on today and we are very excited about our partnership with SADA and certainly look forward to helping our joint customers become really successful and get a lot of value out of their data as they look to progress their own businesses in the coming weeks, months and years.
John Campbell (21:28):
Excellent. Well, thank you Paul so much, thank everyone for watching her listening again, this is Cloud N Clear SADA and John Campbell, we’ll join you next time.
Speaker 1 (21:40):
Thank you for listening to Cloud N Clear. Check the show notes for links to this week’s topics and don’t forget to connect with us on Twitter at Cloud N Clear and our website SADA.com. Be sure to rate and review the show on your favorite podcast app.