Evan Wetstone on Startups, Sesquinet, and Sales Engineering

"Learn something new and help solve someone’s problems: if I can do either, I consider it a great day.”

Evan Wetstone, Rice CS Alumnus

“There were no limits, no restrictions. If something had to get done, we did it. It was never ‘someone else’s job.’ We had a goal in mind, knew what had to be accomplished, and made sure we got there. One of the beauties of a small startup environment is that you get to do everything,” said Evan Wetstone, recalling his experience as NetOps’ seventh employee.

The Rice University Computer Science alumnus (BA ’88) said he enjoys the variety of tasks associated with launching a new company. He discovered a knack for taking daily surprises in stride, and he thrives in a role that requires him to continue learning new things. Wetstone’s capacity to surf through rapid change is dependent on trust, so he values colleagues whose habits mesh well with his own ideas about accountability and ownership.

“At Rice, I’d worked with John Deuel (BA ’90) on the campus network and he became one of my closest friends. John followed me to IBM, then I worked for him at NetOps. We were acquired by Micromuse in 2000, and both of us followed a colleague to Motorola’s Symbol Technologies two years later.

“But it was Guy Almes who first influenced my career trajectory. He taught team programming at Rice and COMP 321 was a brutal, five-hour course where I learned a lot in terms of how software development teams work. More importantly, working with Guy led to an independent study my senior year where I was developing network monitoring software for Sesquinet.”

Almes, an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department, also served as the founder and director of a new National Science Foundation regional network based at Rice. Sesquinet linked Texas universities and corporations with each other and with the backbone of the NSFNET.

“Those were the early days of the internet,” said Wetstone. “The work I did as a senior for Guy and Farrell Gerbode involved linking network computing and engineering components built by IBM with the NSFNET backbone. And that project led to my first job after graduation: helping Farrell engineer the campus networks at Rice.

“Networking was fascinating to me – it’s the plumbing that underlies everything else. After leveraging my Rice experience into a job with the IBM group supporting the NSFNET, I discovered my true niche in the startup world at NetOps. Several acquisitions later, I was back in a big company. I had wanted to return to a smaller company and had taken a role at ProactiveNet. On my first day – my first day! – at ProactiveNet, they told us, ‘We’re being acquired by BMC.’”

The project Wetstone had signed on for at ProactiveNet was no longer an option, but BMC offered a range of other opportunities. He chose sales engineering and technical sales enablement and so loved his new roles that he remained at BMC for more than nine years.

He said, “I had a blast! Sales Engineering is a great combination: I get to be technical and still go out and talk to people in the field. I find out what’s going on in our customer’s world, and help bridge the divides between business and the tech aspects of their systems.”

Wetstone relished learning new roles and skills and supported his sales team through their shift from systems monitoring into server automation. When he felt he was no longer learning new things, he realized it was time to make a change.

“Never stop learning. That leads to stagnation,” said Wetstone.

“At AppDynamics, I get to talk to customers again and find out how their businesses work. Our focus is application performance management. That means we dig into their custom apps, often built in-house, and make sure they are performing as planned. Every company is now digital in some form or fashion, and I get to learn about the applications being used in a wide variety of industries –like truck stops.

“One of our clients runs commercial truck stops across America. They have an app that truck drivers use to reserve fueling lanes, even showers. All these drivers are on fleet or corporate accounts, and 600 gallons of diesel takes some time to load. Drivers punch in their data ahead of time, pull into their lane at their reserved time, and pull out again on schedule. Our customer gets more trucks per hour through the fueling lanes, and more trucks per hour means more revenue.”

Another AppDynamics customer is into auto salvage in a big way. The Fortune 500 Company figured out how to link a fragmented assortment of independent auto parts recyclers into a national network that is in turn tapped by a network of vehicle repair shops. Insurance best practices do not cover new manufactured parts for old cars, so the body shops have to find recycled parts.

Wetstone said, “Let’s say you need a fuel pump for a 2010 Ford F150 pickup truck. The repair shop sends their request out through a national computerized exchange and the salvage companies have less than a second to respond, ‘Yes, we have that part.’ If the parts recycler doesn’t respond within 750 milliseconds, they lose the right to bid on that work order. Even junkyards have to keep their software up and running in order to stay in business. This is happening over and over, every day, and I had no idea it was even a thing.

“Every company has applications they are dependent on, and consumer expectations are high. Take an insurance company with a mobile app that lets members search for doctors or a medical plan. The members are used to the kind of results they get on Facebook or Google or Uber. They expect that kind of response from all apps. If you aren’t providing that level of experience, you are going to lose customers.

“Luckily for me, I love learning how companies are doing the things they do. It’s so fascinating, so satisfying. And it’s just as much fun to help a customer find and fix an issue. Learn something new and help solve someone’s problems: if I can do either, I consider it a great day.”