Employee Spotlight: Director of Sales Engineering John Sheaffer


Back in 2009, John Sheaffer made a decision. He left his job at database industry giant Oracle and embarked on a journey into the big data startup arena.

As Sheaffer explained when we sat down to interview him, there were no bad feelings toward Oracle; Sheaffer learned a great deal of foundational knowledge there, and certainly put in his fair share of time, having been with the company since cutting his teeth in the industry in 2000. After nine years, though, he was ready to enter into the next phase of his career.

“I just knew that there was something better for me out there,” he explained.

What Sheaffer wanted was a different approach to solving customers’ database problems than the one that Oracle, due to its large size and rigid policies, was simply unable to offer.

“There are so many deep database problems that customers need to solve in order for their Web services to perform at a high level, and they want alternative options that really only startups can solve,” he said. “This was exciting to me.”

Over the next several years, Sheaffer honed his skills as a sales engineer, working for various startup organizations.

“As a sales engineer in the startup space, I was able to build interesting technical—and also business—solutions,” he said. “And for the first time, I had the flexibility to make significant contributions.”

This is not a luxury you typically find at large database companies, where workflows tend to trickle from the top down, and senior engineers are tasked with the complex and fulfilling customer-facing problems.

The experience he gained in the startup industry ultimately prepared Sheaffer well for his job at Clustrix, where he works closely with a small team to solve big problems on a daily basis.

Sheaffer learned about Clustrix as he began looking into transactional databases—a critical, but often overlooked component of online stores and reservation systems.

“I worked with a few other companies that built solutions in the Big Data space, but as time went on I began to notice that many customers were having trouble scaling their traditional online transaction processing systems. It was a very underserved market,” he said, adding that it had been largely ignored by other startups and investors.

“In Clustrix, I saw an opportunity to provide a solution to an age-old problem. ClustrixDB continues to be a desperately needed solution in the industry.”

After recognizing this opportunity, Sheaffer joined the team and hasn’t looked back since.

Sheaffer loves the fact that Clustrix solves a real, tangible problem for the database industry. The work, he explained, is very meaningful. What’s more, Clustrix has a remarkable culture where teamwork, camaraderie and solving customers’ problems are prioritized above all else.

“We all treat each other as valuable professionals, so we are empowered to contribute to the business in the ways we believe are the most effective. Our management team values our employees as the company’s greatest assets, too, which is remarkable.”

For Sheaffer, a typical day at Clustrix (if you can call any day at Clustrix typical, due to the nature of the problems that the team must solve) involves communicating directly with current and prospective customers, sales team members, engineers, support and management.

A major part of his job requires helping customers and prospects understand how to leverage ClustrixDB to solve their individual problems. As an added bonus, he spends a great deal of time learning about different parts of ClustrixDB, and about related technologies in the industry.

Sheaffer’s message to those who are considering working for Clustrix is to expect a different environment than what you’ll find at most other startups. Of course, Clustrix has the look and feel of a cutting-edge technology startup, and you’ll find a hard-working but fun-loving atmosphere with occasional Super Smash Bros. tournaments and happy hours for team members. What you won’t find, though, is the manic pace found at most startups. There is a strong work/life balance, as well as a feeling of stability and team-wide confidence. Management and employees are comfortable moving forward at a steady pace as they work to solve some of the most challenging problems in computer science.


Want to learn more about life at Clustrix? Check out the following employee spotlights:

Employee Spotlight: Clustrix Performance Architect Peter Friendenbach

Employee Spotlight: VP of Engineering Robert Mihalyi

Employee Spotlight: Customer Operations Engineer Henry Hwang