I decided to put together my ideas on why I built ElevenGuard during the pandemic. Storytime!
Starting my career as a sysadmin
Rewind to the 2000s (I’m feeling old already). I started my career as a sysadmin at UOL, a Brazilian mammoth with now around 60 million unique visitors every month. Me and a bunch of cool kids used to manage all the servers at the data center in downtown São Paulo. We’re talking about Solaris, Linux, FreeBSD running multiple services for web, email, and storage among others. It was on our plate to keep the whole Latin America operation, with 200+ servers.
My love story with the Linux/Unix world started years prior to that. I really dig what Linux and the whole open-source movement represent. It allows people to make the most of their (old) hardware and not be trapped with an OS they don’t really know what’s going on, that works badly.
Making good use of time during a pandemic.
Fast forward 20 years and I’m living and working in sunny Barcelona. Skateboarding, playing beach volley and leading the content marketing team for a local startup. In March COVID hits Europe, initially in Italy, and doesn’t take long to put Spain in an emergency state. Life would change in ways we never imagined. Limited in all things I loved to do and stripped of distractions, I decide it’s time to use my time wisely.
After the sysadmin times, my career developed essentially into design first and then marketing. I’ve always been working in tech both mostly on positions related to designing cool UX and brands or generating demand and leads in marketing. One thing I regret from the sysadmin times was not learning to code. I’ve tried before with C++ courses (?) but nothing replaces having an actual project to do. I picked up PHP and MySQL in the past at the uni by trying to launch web/design projects. One of the things that engage me the most is shaping an idea and bringing it to life.
Sharpening new skills in coding, analytics, web servers.
So without time for beach volley, I decided to sit down a few nights per week after work to bring ElevenGuard to life. From my sysadmin times where monitoring services availability was crucial I noticed constantly SSL certificates either aren’t renewed properly or, when they are, the webserver might not pick it up and, boom! Red light on production servers and people complaining something is not well. Certified expires from time to time and nowadays there are plenty of ways to automate the renewals however the problem happens again and again.
So, working on ElevenGuard turned into a huge playground for self-actualization and pushing my limits. I had this Linux server on DigitalOcean laying around for a few websites and a VPN for friends but I felt like a farmer having a small plot of land but not making the most of it, nor putting the work into planting the vegetables that will feed me in the future. Also, I framed this as an opportunity to implement technologies that on my day job requires just too much bureaucracy, meetings, “buy-ins” and discussion. Not here. Some of those were:
Back in my first PHP days, it was “okay” to send email using a built-in function mail(). Not anymore, the internet evolved and deliverability rates went down to protect your mailbox from spammers. So, using your own SMTP server isn’t good enough anymore to guarantee an email sent is being received. Enter email delivery services such as SendGrid. Bonus: My first time trying with APIs via cURL! Woohoo.
I used to be an old-school designer. Bauhaus, Emil Ruder and László Moholy-Nagy. Photoshop and Illustrator for me, please. Never really took the time to take Sketch seriously. Tried Balsamiq and then InVision to build prototypes, but that was it. Until I met Figma [mind blowing]. Boom! The full-blowing design tools grouped with prototyping and collaboration possibilities put Figma on another level for me. That paired with the closeness of design and CSS/HTML made it a no-brainer.
One of my main setbacks as a marketer has always been getting the right data. From working in multiple startups from Sydney to Zurich, I rarely had the data ready so I could put the time into a decision part, not juggling around multiple spreadsheets and platforms. Understanding, for example, key behaviors before prospects turn into paying customers is golden for a marketer to double down on those efforts. With ElevenGuard I fully tagged key actions, so I can understand what users are doing, where they’re stuck, which features suck, and so on. It took me ages to implement on ElevenGuard due to the frontend/backend actions they have, but now it’s all good.
Back in the day, there was “only” Apache as a web server. The most popular open-source software. Respect! However, I heard a lot in recent times about Nginx and how lightweight it was. Boom. Time to learn setting up subdomains, making sure ElevenGuard gave a good example rating a solid A on SSL Labs, and so on.
That’s all, ladies and lads. Launching a side-project during a pandemic was a great way to catch up in areas I was only curious about. I’m looking to improve ElevenGuard and help to keep the +85M SSL certificates on the interwebs fresh and updated.