Larry Underhill


I am a technical generalist who is interested in the intersection of the engineering and operations of Internet-scale, distributed computing platforms. I lead teams of talented individuals who are in pursuit of ambitious, meaningful goals.

I work on the platform team for Akamai Technologies.

American expat. Living in Munich, Germany.

Love things too much. Take things too far.

Attention Surplus Disorder.

Cloud Native.

Experience

Vice President, Platform Delivery - EMEA

Akamai Technologies

My team is responsible for deciding how to build Akamai's platform infrastructure in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Russia. We partner with our Media, Web, and Security business units to understand and forecast their needs for day-to-day capacity and headroom. We then figure out how to make this happen while optimizing for cost and performance. In addition to the physical platform build-outs, we also generate, store, and analyze huge amounts of platform telemetry to help us understand the quality of our decision making processes and then improve those decisions over time. Akamai's global platform is pushing over 100 Tbps of traffic that is comprised of a diverse mix of performance and security workloads; this is truly computing at scale, and our EMEA footprint is a sizeable chunk of that.

My family and I relocated to Munich, Germany for this role. In addition to my functional responsibilities, the goal for this move was to provide technical leadership as a member of the EMEA executive team.

Accolades - In 2018, I was a recipient of the Danny Lewin Award. This is our company's highest honor.

October 2015 - Present

Director, Custom Government Engineering & Operations

Akamai Technologies

My team built and operated 3 Managed Content Delivery Networks (MCDN) on the Department of Defense's private, global networks. Internal to the DoD, they branded it as their Global Content Delivery Service (GCDS). These CDNs supported sensitive, but not classified networks (NIPRNET), classified networks (SIPRNET), as well as joint forces networks in support of NATO (CX-I).

The CDNs fundamentally accelerated and secured the DoD's most important web applications, but also provided streaming media and distributed storage solutions. It was renumerative work.

In addition to providing the core, managed CDN offerings, our team also innovated on the delivery and security of any web traffic traversing the DoD's enterprise. We prototyped a new service offering that incorporated Secure Web Gateway (SWG) functionality into our CDN fabric. We dubbed this the Universal Content Delivery Service (UCDS). It has since evolved into a service of Identity-Aware Proxies - a fundamental capability in what people these days describe as "Zero Trust" architectures.

My family and I moved to Reston, Virginia for this role. The precipitaing event was an organizational change that pulled the Operations group under me. Previously the engineering and operations teams were siloed and in conflict. I'm proud of the work we did to fix this and change the culture into one of collaboration, high trust, and high performance.

Clearance - During my tenure working with the DoD, I carried a Top Secret/SCI clearance.

Service - In 2013, I served on President Obama's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC). Our working group was a blend of industry and government leadership. The deliverable was a set of policy recommendations for improving secure government communications.

Accolades - Not a "formal" one, but when I moved from my group to the new EMEA role, my team built the website haslarrybeenreplaced.com. It is a beautiful mix of griefing and affection - definitely one of my proudest professional accomplishments.

April 2013 - October 2015

Senior Manager, Custom Government Engineering

Akamai Technologies

In this role, I learned to be a good engineering leader. I focused on the fundamentals: developer environments & happiness, testing & SQA, lab infrastructure, build environments, release management, install automation, service orchestration, telemetry, logging, observability, graphing/plotting/trending, alerting, playbooks, and incident management (obviously not an exhaustive list).

I also learned how to partner effectively with sales and services leaders. I turned around a perception that engineering was always "Doctor No." They could see I was genuinely focused on the needs of our customers, was positively oriented and offering alternative solutions that could get us to "Yes" during times of conflict or disagreement.

April 2010 - April 2013

Manager, Custom Government Engineering

Akamai Technologies

In this role I learned (the hard way) that you can effectively manage a team of 10+ people, or you can be an effective individual contributor - but not both.

During this timeframe, I provided team leadership to expand our services into a new secure environment (SIPRNET). I also provided individual technical leadership to build our streaming and storage capabilities into our managed CDN platform.

Eventually, we had the right structure of architects and team leads in place so I could actually focus on good line management practices.

October 2006 - April 2010

Senior Systems Engineer - Team Lead, Custom Government Engineering

Akamai Technologies

Lead a team of 5 engineers. We had an intense focus on rapidly hiring and training both engineering and operations staff as our program went from pilot to production.

April 2005 - October 2006

Senior Systems Engineer, Custom Government Engineering

Akamai Technologies

Leveraged my prior military telecommunications experience and knowledge of Akamai's systems and products to take on a new role. Part of a 3-person pilot program trying to answer the question, "Could we build a wholly separate, disconnected instance of Akamai's platform on a private global network and deliver the same benefits to enterprise applications?" The answer was yes.

Wore many hats. Specialized in our edge proxy engine, messaging systems, key management infrastructure, install automation, and our nocc infrastructure.

April 2004 - April 2005

Technical Support Engineer

Akamai Technologies

After the archetypal span of a year-and-a-day away from Akamai, I returned to a TSE position. There, I continued toolsmithing for other TSEs and handling escalations from top accounts.

April 2003 - April 2004

Stay at Home Parent, Student

Underhill Industries

I was a stay-at-home dad to an obstreperous 1-year old. I also loaded up on my university coursework to finish up my degree more quickly. Not much sleep, but good times.

April 2002 - April 2003

Technical Support Engineer - Team Lead

Akamai Technologies

I ran a team of 7 great TSEs. We supported the company's top accounts. My role started evolving away from product support with more of a focus on the software development responsibilities of the job.

Ultimately, I burned out though: The dot-com crash had arrived and the company was in survival mode; my wife and I had a new baby; I was leading a team while doing individual contributor work; and I was attending classes at night trying to wrap up my undergraduate degree. Something had to give.

Accolades - The QuickTime team at Apple sent our family a gift to celebrate the birth of our first child; it was a token of their esteem for our collaboration on delivering all the Steve Jobs Keynotes over the QTSS network.

January 2001 - April 2002

Technical Support Engineer

Akamai Technologies

Building on my support and software development skills at a videoconferencing company, I focused on exhaustively understanding Akamai's products and then writing troubleshooting tools - primarily for our streaming media networks (QuickTime, RealNetworks, and then Windows Media).

So. much. Perl. (and /cgi-bin/...)

Accolades - In 2000, I received the Founder's Award. This was during the period where we were still a freshly IPO'd startup and our co-founder/CTO Danny Lewin was still with us. It was a special time.

December 1999 - January 2001

Technical Skills Development Manager

PictureTel, Inc.

If you teach colleagues enough, you get noticed by management as a "force multiplier." If you then build a one-person distance learning operation where you are sys-admining the servers, writing the application logic, authoring the course content, delivering the course content, filming and editing it yourself, and then shopping the project around your company as a way to more effciently and cost-effectively train your channel partners over this thing called "The Internet" - you get promoted into a previously non-exsitant job and given a goofy job title.

September 1998 - December 1999

Technical Support Engineer

PictureTel, Inc.

I supported most aspects of PictureTel's product line, but wound up the local expert on the Multipoint Conferencing Units. A fun job with a huge range of technology to cover along with an exciting transition from circuit-switching products (H.320 over ISDN/T1/E1) on custom DSP-accelerated hardware to IP-based (H.323) on x86 PCs.

September 1996 - September 1998

Computer Communications System Technician

United States Air Force

I served in various Network Operations groups. I was responsible for the maintenance, upgrade, and deployment of a wide range of telecommunications infrastructure in both fixed and tactical environments. (for civilians reading this, "tactical" typically means places with unpleasant weather and where your leaders will expect you to operate a shovel as well as that emotionally unstable satellite unit)

Accolades - BMT Honor Graduate, Expert Marksmanship, Tech School Distinguished Graduate

September 1991 - September 1996

The Professional Elephant in the Room

Why have you been at Akamai so long?

Because I am complacent, lack imagination, and Akamai has poor performance management practices?

Well Actually... Akamai is loaded with incredibly talented people who are also good humans; I'd had the pleasure of working with a lot of them. I've been constantly intellectually challenged. I've been promoted as my talents have matured and opportunities availed themselves. I've expanded into adjacencies (Operations, Support, Services, Engineering, Networking) that mutually reinforce my existing skillsets. I've had mentors and advocates who are interested in helping me further develop my potential. I've been compensated commensurate with my contributions to the business. Sounds kinda ideal, no?

Education

Lesley University, Cambridge Massachusetts

Bachelor of Science, Management

I'm a good student (3.82 GPA upon finishing that damned degree), but people don't hire me because of my academic credentialing...

Interests

Stringed Instruments - Guitar is my primary instrument, but I also play a bit of mandolin and banjo. My favorite musical impulse purchase is my Irish Bouzouki from a trip to Dublin.

Pizza - Although untested, my pizza making skills could probably win my freedom in a hostage situation.

Get In Touch

For inquiries of a professional nature, I'm happily engaged doing interesting work for my current employer. However, if you want to chat and make a connection, drop me a note: larry.underhill@gmail.com


Social Media


https://twitter.com/lgu

https://instagram.com/lgu

(I'm not terribly active these days; at this point these handles are probably more about maintaining the 'lgu' namespace)


Credits: This stylish HTML/CSS is by the talented folks at Blackrock Digital.