Intermix with Integris #122

“Our Job Is To Make It Not Be Your Problem”

With Ryan Goldberg
Director of Network Services at Integris
January 31, 2022

We’re continuing our ongoing Integris team series, where we delve into the life and career of the people who make Integris what it is. This week Anthony is talking to Ryan Goldberg, the Director of Network Services out of Integris’ Duluth office. We’re talking about Ryan’s initial interest in IT, the pivoting internship that introduced him to the world of network services, and the future of Integris.

Check out the transcript below and listen along with the embed, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your favorite podcast app.


Anthony DeGraw: Welcome to another episode of Integris’ podcast. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming on Ryan Goldberg. He is the Director of Network Services out of our Duluth, Minnesota office.

Ryan, thanks for joining us today, man.

Ryan Goldberg: Absolutely happy to be here.

Anthony DeGraw: Ryan, before we get into the discussion, I always throw a little zinger out there to break the ice. Is it Apple or Android?

Ryan Goldberg: Apple or Android. So I have a, I have an Apple phone but that’s the, like the only Apple thing I have. It’s funny because like, I’m a technologist, but there was a point when people were doing Android or Apple and I was coming off of Nokia, and I was like, ” I just need my phone to be a phone and email,” right. And Android at the time seemed like it was a giant hobby. And I was like, “I got enough going on. I just need a phone to just do these two things kay, please, thanks.” And so for the last, however, many years, 12 years or whatever, it’s just been an iPhone.

Anthony DeGraw: Doc with the iPhone. I love it.

Interest in technology as a career

Anthony DeGraw: Hey, so can you walk us through what led you to choosing a career in network services? And maybe you can even define network services as it pertains to yourself.

Ryan Goldberg: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll try and do like a, kind of a condensed version here. So I didn’t choose network services like intentionally.

Going way back here and I’m old, I’m 44 or whatever. So going way back… I was, at the age of 12 and 13, I was dabbling with the proto internet. Had a Commodore 64 with a modem in it, which is kind of key. So it was able to dial in to the the BBS’s is that we’re here in town and you could also dial into the university, maintained a modem pool. So you could jump on that and you could bounce around the national university network using Gofer, right?

So like total proto internet type stuff. And I was like one of these stereotypical kids taking things apart and we all know one of those types of kids then. So the computer thing was a natural attraction to me. Graduated to the Packard Bell 386, 46, whatever learn how to program in basic and whatever.

And then interestingly, from 15 to 19, I did anything but mess with computers. There was a whole lot of other way, more interesting things going on for a period of time there. And then I decided I should probably go to college, and I did that. And in college I chose computer science to kind of going back to what I was used to.

And then forward to my junior year, there was a posting on the wall to go be a Java developer for a summer internship type thing. This is in 2000-ish. And I went down and I talked to these guys and they’re like, “Yeah, you’d be a unit tester. We’re doing this, like, we’re going to store files on the internet, right over the web, you know?” So, basically like Dropbox, where it was called And I was like, yeah alright, that sounds like a good idea to do this internship and whatever. I had friends heading off and after they graduated, worked for NASA and whatever.

Superior Broadband

Ryan Goldberg: And so I get down and start working with these guys, and these guys had a bunch of startups under the same roof and across the hall was another company called Superior Broadband.

And and they were doing internet. They were like building, like they’re like building an internet provider from scratch. And this fascinated me, I’m a doctor, you know, and this fascinated me because it was like this intersection of the theoretical, which a lot of the technology was, with like the real world.

I went to the guys that had started these businesses, J.P. LaMere and Bill Fisher and said ” Hey, can I go work for the ISP instead of being the Java guy?” And they were like, ” Yes, that’s fine.” And and I went over there and really enjoyed it. You had the technology side of things, which is like the kind of geeking out behind a keyboard and all this, whatever.

But then it blended into, like I say, into the real world. You’re doing actual things in the real world and that was appealing to me. And then at the same time you had to deal with human beings. Right? So it was like so I went whole headlong into the ISP side, the Superior Broadband. And it was a lot of fun. It was like, a super lot of fun, to be honest with you.

So we were selling the internet in Duluth, Minnesota, and some of these smaller cities that are north of Duluth here or whatever. We had, I think, 40 customers, 45 customers, but we were competing with T1.

So we were like, these are, you know, five megabit connections and big deal. I’m doing it all wirelessly we’re putting antennas on roofs. It’s pretty fun. It’s pretty fun. And then how this evolved was, a one day I was at a law firm installing internet.

And there’s a dude there and he’s setting up a printer. And he’s from an IT company and I’m like, “Hey, how’s it going?” He’s ” Yeah, how’s it going?” And he says, “You’re the internet guy.” “Yeah.” And he says, “You’re doing it different than other people here. You’re not from Charter, right.”

I go, “No, no, I put an antenna on the roof and there’s another one over there. And he said, “Oh, that’s pretty cool. Could you hook up two buildings that are on the other side of the railroad tracks?” ” Yeah, sure. That’s no problem. So we swapped numbers and he gets a hold of me a couple months later.

And that was John Marinac, who’s now our CTO. So he calls me up and he says, “Hey, this is John from Compudyne. We met up at the attorney’s office and let’s do this.” So I started moonlighting for Compudyne at the time, and our offices were a couple blocks away from each other. And that was good.

It was enjoyable to kinda do more stuff. And Superior Broadband went through a lot of transitions. It was bought and sold a number of times. And by the time I was really like working a lot with Compudyne, Superior Broadband had been sold, I think, three or four times and was part of a multinational investment group that had 200 TV stations and one ISP in Northern Minnesota.

And I was like, well, this is probably pretty risky. And I was getting old and I was coming up on 30 and I was like, “I gotta get normal here. I gotta get like a normal job.” And I set up some interviews out of Minnesota and on a whim kinda went over and talked to John, and Mark Barron and a couple other folks that aren’t around anymore, Brad and Todd.

I was like, so you guys should just like low ball the Superior Broadband thing. Cause I think they just want to get rid of it. So you put any number out there and they’ll just buy it. And then I’ll just come work for you. Right. I’m already basically working for you. I’m making as much money working for you as I am for them.

And that happened. So that was kinda like, that was how I became in network services. And it’s been an interesting run since then.

Experience at Compudyne

Anthony DeGraw: Awesome. That leads great into my next question, which is, what is your experience been working with the legacy team at Compudyne now, obviously our Integris Midwest office? And you’ve built that team. So maybe you can talk about a little bit about the team you’ve built over the years, once you made that transition fully over.

Ryan Goldberg: Yeah, that was interesting. I obviously don’t have a background in any type of like management. What I did was I figured out how to like, build or to continue to build an ISP.

And just did it. And it turns out that these a handful of people followed along for the ride. John was into the idea. We were building up cloud services, which dovetailed nicely with the network services. Before cloud, we rejected the name for a while. So this is like pre cloud.

We were moving our client’s servers into our co-location and then we were the ISP as well. So like from a client perspective if there are managed services customers, it’s very seamless a transition that happened in the background. What would happen is there’s servers in their broom closet or whatever would die.

And then rather than being replaced in their room closet, we’ve replaced them in the cloud over over our network. So it kinda dovetailed neatly into the growth of managed services. Cause our managed services customers their general expectation was Compudyne, Integris, midwest was just handling it, it being if it’s technology. That was an interesting growth, or trajectory, that we followed. We went through the whole process of being a big nebulous group of people and everybody did a lot of everything and we kind of like, set things up in the different business units.

And that happened over the course of several years, the cloud and network were split into their own P&L and et cetera. So to watch, I think when I came into Compudyne, they were 23 or 24 people or something like that. And then when this last year, when we became Integris. We were at about 90 people.

So that was some pretty decent growth over the years. But drifting, I think from the original question, what was that again?

Anthony DeGraw: No, the question was about the experience and building up the team, which you went over.

The next one, maybe you can give our insights into our customers a little bit in terms of, the typical day in the life of an engineer on your team. And the standard problems that you guys are solving for those customers out of your divison.

Ryan Goldberg: Yeah, absolutely. So there’s a couple of different roles. The primary role differences are whether or not you’re engaged in proactive work or reactive work.

If you’re engaged in proactive work your title is Engineering. You’re going to be creating new products and services and putting them out there into the world, which means you’re going to be presented with a client’s preexisting network, their switches, their wifi, their firewall, their internet, et cetera. You’re going to unpack and understand what it is that’s going on with their current situation.

You’re going to translate that in a new configurations that will be implemented on our services. You set all that up on the hardware. You work with the project manager, schedule it up with the client and get it out there into the world. So that’s what engineers do is they’re putting new things out there into the world.

The other side of it, which should be administrators on a support desk, basically. They’re taking care of things that are already out there. And that happens in, there’s a couple of different forms of that. There’s Move, Add, Change. So like the client wants a new firewall rule or they want more bandwidth or they want just a wireless network or whatever. Those requests will come in. Those are reactive requests by nature. And then we’ll make those modifications based on their specification.

The other type of reactive requests that you have is something broken. Access point dies or a circuit’s down or whatever. Then their job is to figure out what’s broken. Fix it. Right? That’s those are the main functions the proactive folks and then the reactive folks.

And then we do have kind of in the background, we’ve got a lot of machinery in the background that needs to be kept running. And that’s a different role. That’s a Senior Architect, kind of keeps the lights on in the back room to make sure that everything works. So depending on what your role is your typical day is going to be a little bit different.

What differentiates our ISP model

Anthony DeGraw: And what what differentiates our model in this space versus, the Comcast, the Verizons, the Light Pass, all these existing providers that are out there.

Ryan Goldberg: So there’s a handful of things. We have been doing end to end. And when I say end to end I’ll kind of re-explain or go back over what network services that have become. I mentioned that we started off, selling internet. And we were like straight up, here’s an internet connection, here’s your wire, good luck. We, over the years, evolved that into taking care of the edge, which is a managed firewall and SD-WAN type connection. So you got the baseline connectivity that we started from and grew out of, and then occupied this middle space, which is a managed firewall and SD-WAN.

And then we made these forays into the LAN, which has taken care of the wifi and the switches. So where we sit now, and where we’ve been for a while, is handling all the way from the raw conductivity right down to the last piece that connects to the end-user systems down have the wifi or the switch. And every end to end approach to conductivity is a little different than what our competitors do. It’s a lot different from a traditional ISP. That said the marketplace has started to fill in this and there’s other, there’s more competition in this space so that people are starting to do the same things, but we’ve been doing it for a while.

The other differentiator is that’s just, this sounds corny, but like we care. When you’re engaging with us we do not treat customers as anonymous randos. Everybody that’s on the team is legitimately interested in the success of our customers.

Because the success of those customers directly translates into our success. So keeping that front and center in people’s minds is different from a lot of our competition and again, that’s a very soft benefit, but it comes through.

Anthony DeGraw: A hundred percent. We explained things. I’m not going to use the name. I just don’t want to get into trouble for it, but enter big name here, effect on, the end users where you’re constantly calling in, you’re explaining the same situation to seven different people. Over and over again. And whether it’s on your side and in the Internet’s down or the firewalls down, or the, the wifi is down or it’s on the managed services side where you know, something on their computer is broken.

You don’t have to explain things 75 times. Okay. Over and over again. So yes, I think it’s, sometimes it’s intangible until it’s really needed, but when it’s there you’d pay any amount of money to have that type of support care, whatever the word.

Ryan Goldberg: Oh, yeah. I mean like the relationship aspect is undeniable. It’s very real.

Anthony DeGraw: Awesome. I think there was one more thing you’ve always educated me on in this space too, is, just one provider as well. Literally you could have one provider doing everything from your internet, all the way through to your managed services.

And, we have the one neck to choke, or one throat to choke kind of concept of we are it for you. You have one number to call and we’ll get you to the right person. That’s wherever the issue is. And I, maybe you can touch on that a little bit, Ryan, from your experience.

Ryan Goldberg: Yeah. In the space, in the managed services space, it’s a serious differentiator.

The entirety of our organization is hinging upon the success of our customers, our clients, when it comes to technology. It doesn’t matter where it falls. I think if you’re one of our clients you should be able to believe that it is handled. And you shouldn’t have to spend any time distinguishing what it is. Right.

You got things to do. You got lawyering to do, or doctoring to do, or manufacturing to do, whatever. If it is technology, then it is our problem. And when you have the totality of the services under one roof, you don’t find yourself in a situation where your IT service provider is also doing this number. Right. Cause it is our problem and that’s fine. We’re happy to have it be our problem. Our job is to make it not be your problem, Mr. Customer.

So I think that’s different. And frankly, enjoyable to not have to ever do this: “I don’t know. I can’t help you. Sorry.” From my perspective, being able to address the problem, whatever it is, is something that’s very satisfying to me.

Anthony DeGraw: Yeah, absolutely. On the front side of this conversation and the engaging with multiple new clients and people considering our services and do it in an initial discovery, you’ll always hear the, “My Managed Service Provider is saying it’s my internet provider, or they’re saying, it’s the phone company, or they’re saying, it’s the printer, scanner, copier company. And everybody’s pointing at everybody else and I’m left here, not able to run my business and do, you know, what I do to make a living?” and that’s a common frustration that comes out repeatedly.

Moving to Integris and a national platform

Anthony DeGraw: Ryan, last question. I think I’m going in and out a little bit. Speaking of internet, Anthony’s internet isn’t the best. Last question, as we’re wrapping up on time, what are you most excited about with the move to Integris on this national platform? And the current path we’re all on.

Ryan Goldberg: What I’m most excited about is, this is a serious pivot, right? So I have some expectations of myself. I haven’t had a handful of like kind of career transitions and I’m looking at, walk back a couple of years, I was happy with the growth, with the organic growth that we were experiencing.

I was reasonably happy with the upward trajectory that was occurring. At the same time, I have pretty high expectations of my own end game. And then a lot of folks run into, the whole prospect of having to figure out what career 2.0 looks like and figuring out what’s next.

I’m so pleased that my “what’s next” is staring me in the face. Most other people don’t get to transition into their next career under the same roof that they’ve been operating under for their first career. So that’s really exciting.

I love all the people that I work with. If you talk to people that I work with, I really enjoy working with like other people. And I’m super excited to be able to meet and work with all of these other people. That’s really exciting. I like helping people and I like working with people and my interactions so far, I haven’t worked with obviously everyone, but the people I’ve worked with so far, it’s oh, this is awesome, man. You’re great. I want to work with you more. So to have simultaneously the comfort of your home base, but then also have this whole new frontier and all these new horizons available is like, it’s just, I consider myself to be super lucky.

It’s very exciting. The prospect of taking and transforming the services that I built for the Midwest and deploying those across the country. Not in a slow organic 10 year thing, but yeah, let’s do this. That’s pretty exciting. I don’t like sitting around not doing things and I don’t like not being challenged. So I’m super excited by that. And again, to still have my home base associated with me and the people I have worked with all these years and get all these new challenges, like what? That’s crazy.

Anthony DeGraw: Awesome. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Ladies and gentlemen, Ryan Goldberg, Director of Network Services for Integris. Thank you, Ryan. Appreciate it, man.

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