CTO Sessions: Tzury Yochay, Reblaze

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? “… I can hardly remember coming across a ‘real-world’ platform that switched to or was built on blockchain.”


Name: Tzury Bar Yochay

Company: Reblaze

Job title: Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer

Date started current role: May 2011

Location: Tel Aviv, Israel

Tzury Bar Yochay is the CTO and co-founder of Reblaze. Having served in technical leadership in several software companies, Yochay founded Reblaze to pioneer an innovative new approach to cyber security. Yochay has more than 20 years of experience in the software industry, holding R&D and senior technical roles in various companies. Prior to founding Reblaze, he also founded Regulus Labs, a network software company. As a thought leader in security technologies, Yochay is frequently invited to present at industry conferences around the globe.

What was your first job? I worked at a construction site, I think I was 13 or 14 years old at the time. It was during summer vacation and it was a new local school building right across the street.

Did you always want to work in IT? No, this became a goal when I was around 17 or 18 years old, when I came across a book by the name of "The Additional Dimension" which was written as a result of a workgroup by mathematicians and a computer science team from Bar Ilan University. I got so fascinated that I wanted to learn more about computers, software and everything in between.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? My official education consists primarily of religious studies throughout my years in the ultra-orthodox education system. I hold no certificate, let alone a degree, except an MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) from around the years 1998-2000.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I started as a PC technician, working in a computer shop's backend. For the first few weeks, I was simply building the PCs per configuration, installing Windows/Office etc. I then took a Windows NT course which gave me the ability to get involved in organisational networks, servers, etc. During that year, I met a guy in the lab who told me he was involved in developing a huge ERP system, and I got excited and started learning programming and databases (SQL and ODBC drivers). I learned C, C++, Java, Visual Basic in a three month period, and got a job which was mainly developing VB applications on top of Microsoft Jet engine (AKA MSACCESS) and MS SQL. I found myself working on quite large scale projects using Microsoft stack, and was quite happy and satisfied with my progress at the time. Sometime around 2002-2003 I started learning the .NET framework and immediately switched to C#, migrating all VB apps I was maintaining to that language.

At that time, Linux was starting to gain popularity, and as a man who makes his living writing software, I was still struggling to grasp that open source and free software idea.

In the Spring of 2004, Gmail was introduced and it looked and felt like no other web platform we were seeing at that time. Looking back, it is almost funny how little things can make such tremendous effects on people's lives, but indeed, AJAX was my "window" to the non-Microsoft world. Replacing the vast majority of my ASP.NET code with hand crafted Javascript led me to an understanding that this entire heavy framework can perhaps be replaced with something lighter, which led me to web.py (a popular python web framework written by Aaron Swartz, who was a good friend and a mentor to some extent, may he R.I.P.). From that point, Linux and its ecosystem became my choice and sole environment.

What type of CTO are you? Probably far from the typical CTO you'd imagine. Given the history and structure of our company (nearly a decade as a bootstrapped startup with hundreds of clients), I am still involved in many technical aspects, from supporting clients to solving problems, and also assisting with sales and marketing efforts. That is all in addition to my involvement in the R&D operations within the company. For me, CTO is just a title; we are lucky that we have plenty of people who are smarter, more experienced in many fields, more educated, and in some cases, even younger than me.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? Definitely Kubernetes.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? I would say blockchain is most likely to be the overhyped tech of our era. After all the years and resources invested in this technology, from academic to venture capitalists, and despite the fact we are living in a connected world of APIs communicating with other APIs all over the place, I can hardly remember coming across a "real-world" platform that switched to or was built on blockchain. In other words, it seems like the supply-chain automation has found better ways to validate and authenticate data.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? Curiefense.io - a free and open source comprehensive solution to secure applications and web services (APIs, etc.) on the cloud.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Yes indeed. In our realm, people tend to assume that we are already digital, a cloud native company, and yet, one would be surprised how much room there is left for automation, and when that is applied, how automation can increase efficiency, prevent errors, and save resources for the organisation. At the heart of automation we are building an AI platform that analyses all events in a customer’s system; as a result, security policies might get optimised automatically, or customers can accept the recommendations made by the platform. All of this enhances the experience of our customers.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? Bot (automated application traffic) attacks of all sorts. This is by far the most challenging and effective issue in layer-7 security nowadays.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? It is all about choices we made I guess; to pick the right platforms and tech stacks, the more robust ones, the simpler to use ones, probably are the safer to pick in most cases.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Not at all.

What makes an effective tech strategy? Beyond the obvious of KEEP IT SIMPLE, I guess "If you are not using a framework, you are writing one," and yet, pick the anti-framework framework if such is available.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? CTOs will be far more hands-on than they are today (for the most part), and that is simply because a) technology phases are changing more rapidly than ever and they have to stay up-to-date. b) applications and platforms are becoming more "connected systems" rather than standalone monoliths, and hence, there is a level of complexity that one must make oneself aware of and familiar with in order not to lose the north.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Learning about the importance of teamwork and collaboration, which is at essence the importance of others (opinions, ideas, achievements, etc.)

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would definitely have raised more funds, and much earlier on.

What are you reading now? The Guide for the Perplexed by the Maimonides.

Most people don't know that I… Was certified as a rabbi before turning 16, taught myself reading English from traffic signs, and am still dreaming to "go to the university" one day.

In my spare time, I like to…Hike, read books, and listen to my old records.

Ask me to do anything but… Fax you a document or read a five day long email thread of 117 participants and tell my opinion.