CTO Sessions: Ledion Bitincka, Cribl

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? “One area that I am really excited about is the emerging adoption of ARM processors in public clouds and data centres.”

Headshot of Ledion Bitincka, Co-founder & CTO at Cribl

Name: Ledion Bitincka

Company: Cribl Inc

Job title: Co-founder and CTO

Date started current role: April 2017

Location: San Francisco

Ledion Bitincka has over a decade of engineering experience developing next generation technologies and leading the launch of enterprise products. Prior to being a co-founder of Cribl, he was the Advanced Development Architect at Splunk where he introduced Search-Time Schema and led the design of Hunk and SmartStore.

What was your first job? My first paying job was back in high school, digging ditches for the local telco in Korce, Albania. This was part of a programme to get phone lines across the city, and perhaps was an early sign that I would end up working in tech.

Did you always want to work in IT? While I did eventually come round to working in tech, digging all those ditches must have had an effect, as initially, I wanted to study architecture or civil engineering. However, I ended up taking a computer science class in college almost by accident and have never looked back.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? After having my head turned by my computer science class, I went on to complete a BS in computer science and a minor in mathematics at Montclair State University.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. After graduating from college I spent a few years working in a biotech research lab at the University of California, San Francisco. This was a great experience as I managed to combine my degree with another personal passion; learning a lot about all kinds of yeast and making beer. However, I now leave the brewing to the professionals! After this time, I switched to working for a Web 1.0 search engine company helping classify the early web. After this, I built on what I had learned and enjoyed about developing search engines but applied it to focusing on logs instead of webpages. Now, for the past 15 years, my focus has been building systems that make IT professionals' lives easier which included my time at Splunk and now in my current role as CTO of Cribl.

What type of CTO are you? I lean mainly on the Architect CTO archetype. I spend most of my time with the team deconstructing and understanding the problems that we’re trying to solve for our customers. I love to shepherd new products in their zero to one stage, which is also the purpose of a new programme we’ve recently set-up at Cribl to help identify and solve new customer problems.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? One area that I am really excited about is the emerging adoption of ARM processors in public clouds and data centres. Their low power consumption and much better price-performance ratio will result in faster increases in available computing capacity, which will ultimately support and drive digital transformation.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? I would have to say public blockchain is overhyped. The primary reason I think this is overhyped boils down to the problem that it is trying to address and whether it addresses it effectively and efficiently. The hype around this technology is that it displaces, reshapes, or even eliminates trust. However, trust is at the core of the adoption of any new technology – you need to trust the code, the platform it is running on, the algorithms etc. On top of this, there are the huge energy requirements to operate such systems which are simply mind-boggling!

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? We believe building a generational company requires a multi-product strategy. During the past year, we’ve been creating a team, we call the Cribl zero-to-one team, focused on incepting, designing, and building new products. Creating something from nothing requires a different set of skills than scaling a product or service for growth, so we realised we needed a team dedicated to this specific task. Already, we are seeing results from this new arrangement, as we’ve just introduced the first new product to be developed by the zero-to-one team.

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? No, at the moment we are not undertaking a digital transformation programme at Cribl. Being a young company, we planned from our inception to be a digital-first business.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? As enterprises move to the Cloud and adopt microservice architectures they are faced with increased operational complexity. We help our customers identify, collect, process, and route observability data to the right system. This has both operational benefits for enterprises as they can finally manage observability however they would like to while also helping to dramatically reduce costs too.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? A key part of how we ensure our technology is meeting business goals is by looking at things through the eyes of a customer. I spend a lot of time understanding our customers’ pain points and business goals so that when we make technology choices they provide high leverage for the entire organisation.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? I focus most of my energy on looking for technology solutions that can provide leverage to our products. By putting the product first, it helps avoid any issues matching it with our tech strategy.

What makes an effective tech strategy? For me and the work we do at Cribl, I consider a tech strategy effective if it can provide leverage to the products and services strategy required by the business. It’s important to keep outcomes at the forefront of tech strategy decisions and not get blinded by the systems and solutions themselves.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? In the future, I believe CTOs will need to be more plugged into the product and have a greater understanding of the users' or customers’ pain points. Consequently, I expect the role of the CTO to expand into the direction of Chief Product Officer (CPO), which will no doubt be good news for customers as technology is increasingly developed with them very much at the centre.

What has been your greatest career achievement? To date, I consider building Cribl’s first product, Stream as my greatest career highlight. Taking it from zero to the first customer in about 5 months was a huge undertaking but amazing to be part of.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? When we started Cribl, we spent about 18 months on two different ideas before pivoting to building Cribl Stream. During that period we spent more time focused on building the solution than trying to really understand the problems we were addressing for our prospects - which, in hindsight, were not relevant enough. Looking back, I would now insist on spending more time understanding and reviewing the problems customers face.

What are you reading now? Currently, I’m reading Amp It Up by Frank Slootman. It’s always interesting and useful to hear and learn from other tech executives, and Frank’s book includes some useful insights for leading hypergrowth businesses.

Most people don't know that I… This will no doubt change now, but most people don’t know that originally I wanted to study Architecture, but after taking CS101 I never looked back!

In my spare time, I like to…I have two young kids, so playing and spending time with them is how I like to use my spare time. However, when either they or I am worn out I also like to go for runs and read too.

Ask me to do anything but… There is not too much I am afraid to do but doing something like cliff diving would not be top of my list!