Conversations on Economic Opportunity with Sean Heiney

Barracuda Networks announced earlier this year that they would be expanding their operations into the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, where the old Borders store was located. Paul Krutko sat down with Barracuda’s director of new products initiatives, Sean Heiney, as part of SPARK’s podcast series.

Q&A

Paul:  You are the director of new product initiatives at Barracuda. You’ve been in charge of the Ann Arbor site and you’ve been here since day one.  For those of our listeners who aren’t familiar with Barracuda, tell us about the company.

Sean:  Barracuda is a really successful Silicon Valley start-up started by a Michigan grad and native back in 2002.  The company was launched with an increasing need to satisfy. At the time there was a major spam problem, everyone getting unsolicited mass e-mails in their inbox and the existing solutions to solve that were very expensive, complex to deploy, difficult to set up.  Barracuda came into a relatively saturated market with hundreds of players.  We came into the market with something that was easy to use and affordable.  With that, we took over the anti-spam industry, which drove us into success.  Today we have about 15 products in our portfolio.  We typically make solutions for IT managers, IT administrators, and directors.  If they have an IT problem, we’ve got a product that can fix it, and if not, it’s on the horizon.

Paul:  Absolutely. What do you think makes the Ann Arbor region such a great place to live and work? The question we ask, and I’m asking you to answer, when you were up in the office and now as you’re recruiting people to work in that office how do you answer the question why Ann Arbor?

Sean:  It’s a different story depending on whom you’re talking to.  When I talk to my buddies in the valley, they think that I’m silly because it snows here.  Yeah, it’s a really weird, crappy rainy day today, and they’re probably getting sunshine and they always wonder, why would you want to go back to Michigan?  It’s really about the type of people that live here and the Midwest culture.  The people that when you walk down the sidewalk, they make eye contact with you, they say hello.  It’s a different type of place. It really is a community, a community that doesn’t care about your race or religion. For the cost of living, for the services, its got great restaurants and its got great arts.  The community is great.  It’s a great place to live for no matter what you’re into.  With the cost of living in such a great place, with great people, it’s hard to compete with Ann Arbor.  You can deal with the snow.

Paul:  You have to get into your car to drive six hours to get to Tahoe to see snow.  I can just find snow right away.  Anyway, a couple more questions and we’ll end our conversation. You’ve talked about how people in Michigan and Ann Arbor are a lot more loyal than those in places like Silicon Valley, they stay here, want to help Michigan turn around.  Is this pride in Michigan an advantage in the workplace, and does it help your company?

Sean:  It’s definitely an attitude in the workplace, because it means you, and again the type of person that’s proud of Michigan is also the type of person that’s proud of the work they’re doing; they’re proud of the company, they want to be a part of something that’s good.  That’s definitely reflective in the products we make with our employees here in Ann Arbor.

You can find the rest of the conversation on SPARK’s website. Also, Barracuda is doubling the amount of jobs at their Ann Arbor office. Think you’ve got what it takes to work there? Check out their job portal.