Reed Magazine February
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2003

e-tailing it out of here

GutierrezThe son of a single mom and grandson of a construction worker, Gutierrez was the first in his family to go beyond high school, enrolling in Reed College in 1989, where he majored in linguistics. He also hung around the computer lab and soon became the guy who could unfreeze your computer or salvage your corrupted term paper. He also used his computer skills for his thesis, a comparative analysis of English, Spanish, and Tzotzil, a Mayan language spoken in the Mexican region of Chiapas. Still, after graduation in 1994 he found himself stocking toys at a Target back home in San Diego, unaware that his skillset was a first-class ticket to the new gold rush.

He found out soon enough. At CERFnet, an early ISP based in San Diego, Gutierrez moved quickly from tech-support drone to network installer, setting up internet access for large companies. To Gutierrez, the work seemed second nature and relatively easy; he had been well served both by his 300-baud modem and his linguistics training. “Setting up these routers is like learning another language,” says Gutierrez. “The rules make sense to me.”

But four years at Reed had turned Gutierrez into a Stumptown convert, and when he was offered a chance to return to Portland, working as a network administrator for the Army Corps of Engineers, he jumped. It was while working for the Corps that Gutierrez discovered his real talent: the cat-and-mouse game of internet security. Charged with protecting the Corps computer system from outside interference, Gutierrez “started playing around with firewall architecture technology.” He stayed for three years, leaving only after relations soured between the Corps and the contractor for whom he worked.

This was early 1999, and the New Economy was hyping itself into overdrive. Within days of putting himself back on the job market, Gutierrez was fielding job offers. Compaq offered him a $10,000 signing bonus, but Webvan, a startup Web-based delivery service, was offering stock options. So Gutierrez moved down to San Francisco to be with his then girlfriend, now wife, and to take a job as a network security administrator for the company that was going to make the supermarket obsolete. He began work in August 1999 as employee No. 176; a year later, Webvan had 2,000 employees and Gutierrez had become the director of information security, in charge of everything from safeguarding customers’ information to seeing that Webvan employees used passwords that couldn’t be easily cracked.

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Reed Magazine February
Go to Page 1 Page two, you are here go to page three go to page 4 Link to Reed Mag  Home

2003