Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Yahoo! Here We Come
I've been working at Right Media since January of 2004. Yesterday it was announced that Yahoo! will acquire the remaining 80% of Right Media for $680 million. Once the merger is complete (a month or three), I'll be an employee of Yahoo!.
Life certainly has a way of throwing curveballs, and when I look back at how I got involved in Right Media in the first place, my mind boggles more than a little bit. Over Thanksgiving of 2003, my wife Becca's cousin Matt Philips and I were talking about Right Media, who at the time was looking for a sysadmin to come work for them. At the time I was employeed by Yale University, first as a sysadmin at Workstation Support Services and then as a perl programmer for the Statlab. Weighing the pros and cons of leaving the job security of Yale and joining the potentially risky life of a small startup company was no easy task. After talking with Matt, I did a phone interview with Brian O'Kelley (CTO), and then went in to New York City to interview with Brian and Mike Walrath (Founder and CEO) and Ed Kozek (lead UI developer). The pitch they gave showed me that this was not a dot-com company spending their money unwisely on pool tables, fast cars, and lavish company mansions, but a company with a solid business plan that wouldn't go under in a month or even a year. After a lot of conversation with my better half, we decided to take the plunge, and I became the eighth employee of the company.
In March of 2005, my second daughter (Laura) was born. Shortly after that, a few Right Media employees from the Eugene, OR office went on a business trip to NYC and signed a congratulations card, not knowing that it would change our lives significantly. When I took the card home, Becca asked about Eugene, and I told her about the tiny office Right Media had. This led to a discussion about potentially moving from New Haven, CT (where my commute was approximately 1 hour and 4o minutes on Metro-North) to Eugene. Upon further investigation, it turned out that Brian is from Eugene, and biased though he may have been, he thought that I would love Oregon and gave his thumbs up to relocate. The entire family flew out to Eugene in May, we found just the right house for us, and by June we were residents of Oregon.
Fast forward to October, 2006. Yahoo!, along with Redpoint Ventures and other investors, invested a total of $45 million in Right Media, and gained a seat on the board of directors. My job was now focused on three main areas: monitoring, metrics, and ad server operations. Using open source tools such as Nagios and RRDTool, as well as a plethora of perl and PHP code, we're monitoring all of our applications and processes, and trending hundreds of metrics over time. We've written deployment code to move from one version of the ad server to another without disrupting service, and we've written code to manipulate the many ad servers we have in parallel.
On April 13th, 2007, Google announced that they would acquire DoubleClick for $3.1 billion. Soon thereafter (I make no claims of cause and effect), I was called to New York to meet with various Y! executives to dive down into monitoring, metrics, and ad server operations. Yesterday, the deal was announced, and here we are, on the verge of becoming Yahoo! employees.
The prospect of becoming an Yahoo! employee and the changes that will happen as a result are both exciting and daunting at the same time. For the past 3.5 years I've been a part of Right Media going from a handful of employees to more than 200. Now, I'll be a part of a company that has 11,400 employees. The big wins for my team include access to Yahoo!'s vast knowledge base on how to do monitoring on a large scale. The good news there is that in talking with various Yahoo! executives, I saw a lot of nods of agreement as I was walking through how we do monitoring at Right Media, and it became clear that we've walked similar paths. This will certainly help the integration process. Another big win for us will be the centralizing of operations and getting my team off of level 1 support. In other words, my team won't be the first line of defense for dealing with ad server problems. That will probably eventually be handled by a 24/7 dedicated NOC team. Although all indications to date are that the Eugene office will live on, I don't know how long that will continue, nor do I know how long it will be until Yahoo! wants my team to be focused on things other than Right Media ad server operations. Integration is going to take some time, for sure. After that, we'll see. In all of my talking with various Yahoo! executives, it has become clear that Yahoo! and Right Media are culturally an excellent fit. I'm looking forward to watching the acquisition unfold; it's my first time through an experience like this, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.