Over the past year, VAST Data has taken significant strides in broadening our international presence, opening up operations around the world to be closer to our growing global customer base. While VAST’s business operations have largely remained in the US, the company’s engineering team has remained in Tel Aviv, Israel, until recently.
As a continuation of VAST’s global growth and journey, the company is expanding its engineering team to the U.S. – opening a new office in Research Triangle Park (RTP) in Raleigh, North Carolina. The new office will also serve as the company’s Center of Excellence (COE) for the U.S. East Coast, providing customers with best practices, research, support and training for its VAST Data Platform. This new COE is an extension of VAST’s existing West Coast COE and operations hub in Campbell, CA.
I took a moment to sit down with VAST’s David Schmitt, Vice President of US Engineering and Rick Franke, Vice President of Customer Success, to learn more about the company’s growth in Raleigh, some exciting areas happening in engineering research, what the COE provides to customers, and a look at the positions the company is looking to hire.
First off, David, welcome to VAST! You recently joined the company after nearly 18 years at NetApp. That’s a long stretch. From the outside looking in, what was your impression of VAST? And now that you’re here, what excites you about VAST?
DS: Thanks Kirstin, it’s awesome to be part of the VAST Data team. When I was considering joining VAST, it was not easy for me to leave my leadership position with the strong StorageGRID team at NetApp. But when I learned more about the amazing architecture and the capabilities of this product, my first thought was: VAST has built a better mousetrap. I realize this is a bit of a cliche, but it is very appropriate in this case. I have seen many storage architectures, but the Disaggregated Shared-Everything (DASE) architecture solves the challenges of traditional shared nothing architectures, as it eliminates the east-west traffic and actually becomes more resilient as it grows. Also, the ability for VAST to leverage low-cost QLC technology and solve the price/performance challenges of traditional storage is clearly revolutionizing the data center and enabling ML/AI workloads to operate on very large data sets. I have spent the last few years convincing customers to save money by tiering data to spinning media, but VAST clearly provides a better, simplified alternative to tiering, which is cost optimized and performant.
I am very impressed by the strength of the team across engineering, sales, marketing, support and leadership, and I feel honored to be a part of this quickly growing group. We have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us, but our trajectory and results thus far are second to none. I look forward to building a strong R&D team in RTP that will accelerate the delivery of key enterprise class features to the DASE architecture and satisfy the needs of our large customers. We have a huge opportunity to go up the stack and further differentiate our solutions to enable our customers to do more with their data.
Rick, you’ve been with the company a little more than a year. How have you seen the company evolve over the past year plus?
RF: From my perspective it has been an amazing ride. The core to everything we do starts with serving our customers and exceeding their expectations to help achieve their business goals. We’ve had unbelievable success as evidenced by our recently announced business performance from the last year, tripling our growth year over year.
This customer-first approach creates exciting new career opportunities for our current and prospective employees. Over the past year we’ve nearly doubled the size of our global team. We have invested in resources like automation tools and workflow enablement systems so that our resource growth can be modest in comparison to our revenue growth, allowing us to build a profitable business with a great work-life balance for our employees.
In 2022, we are working hard to accelerate our current positive trajectory, creating not only opportunities for others to join this fast growing company, but expanding the aperture for our current employees — rising tides lift all ships, as they say.
On a personal level, it is fantastic to find a place where the energy level is high, teams challenge one another in a healthy manner, and we have fun along the way.
Why is the company expanding in RTP Raleigh? What does it have to offer compared to other locations?
DS: RTP is an ideal location for a Center of Excellence as strong universities can supplement the already established talented employee base. Companies like NetApp, EMC, IBM, Cisco, HP and others have realized this for years, but also companies like Apple and Google have recently announced large expansion plans in the area. These established companies have created a solid foundation for new tech companies like VAST to build upon.
The cost of living in the Raleigh/Durham area, along with the attractive infrastructure and favorable climate, makes it appealing for employees and their families. We believe that we can draw some amazing talent with the opportunity to make a difference at an emerging startup.
What is the primary goal for the COE?
DS: For the R&D team, I’m looking for top development and QA talent who are interested in making a big impact on the data center transformation that VAST has started. This talent can accelerate our rich roadmap and satisfy the data needs of some of the largest customers in the world.
RF: The COE’s mission is to provide a U.S. East Coast hub for VAST to build a cross-functional team across engineering, support, services, and sales. This team enables us to provide a world-class platform of data center solutions, services, and support for our customers, exceeding their high performance compute and AI business needs.
The company has long had R&D and engineering in Tel Aviv. Why is it important to expand into the U.S.?
DS: We have grown rapidly in Israel over the last few years and we will continue to grow our engineering team there, but in order for the company to scale with our customers, we need to expand the pool of resources that we can recruit from. We know there is a tremendous amount of talent in the RTP area and we’re looking to leverage this talent.
Also, we believe that having engineering talent in the same time zone as many of our customers, while sitting adjacent to our support team, can provide a better overall customer experience that will allow us to quickly respond to their needs.
Finally, we have a large federal customer base, and being one of the largest producers and consumers of data, it’s important that we have U.S.-based employees working with these customers.
RF: I would like to echo and expand on what David said. Ultimately, having an engineering team in the U.S. will help us shape our product and business models so that we can boost profitability and sales. It’s important that we have a cross functional team that can respond quickly and efficiently to our customers' needs in near real time. And understanding our customer demands will help improve satisfaction and retention so that we can maintain profitability in the long term.
Also, because our Israeli teams work Sunday through Thursday and the U.S. teams work Monday through Friday, we’re able to maintain a consistent loop of innovation across our engineering teams.
What are the open positions we’re looking to hire?
DS: We are looking for others like us, those who want to do things differently — and better — than what’s been done today, to create something truly remarkable and innovative for our customers. We have many positions already posted on our website. For the RTP office, the open positions range from Developers to Software Engineers to Automation Engineers, among others. We will continue to add additional openings over time.
RF: In the era of AI, it’s important that we reimagine how data is accessed, managed and stored. We’re looking for fresh new talent. So, if you’re looking to challenge yourself — and be part of a team that is shaking up the industry — come join us. We’re building something amazing, so let’s do it together.