CTOs you should know: Mike Couvillion, Drillinginfo

by Colin Morris
November 16, 2015
This article is part of a series of 5 CTOs you should know in Austin. Click here to see more.
 
 
Drillinginfo is one of the tech companies bringing the oil industry into the 21st century. They're streamlining the exploration process by collecting data and repackaging it to be easily accessible for reporting and analysis.
 
That's valuable for the industry because determining where to drill for oil is an inherently risky business. Even as testing technology improves, prospectors are still making educated guesses about where to put holes in the ground.
 
Since its founding in 1999, Drillinginfo has raised nearly $200 million and undergone two acquisitions.
 
We asked CTO Mike Couvillion about the technology behind the service, what he’s been working on and how to approach some common challenges as a tech exec.
 
What technologies power your business?
 
We use a variety and a combination of technologies. Our SaaS-based products use Java, JavaScript and Scala with our backend databases being SQL Server, Oracle and MySQL. Our desktop products use Java. We are large users of cloud services with an extensive footprint in AWS. We leverage Jenkins, Chef, Hipchat, Rally and several other tools to aid in productivity.
 
What technologies are playing the biggest roles at your company this year?
 
Elasticsearch, AWS and Oracle for SSO and entitlements.
 
What are the biggest tech projects your team is working on this year?
 
We've completely revamped our UI infrastructure. Currently, we continue to build out our data warehouse and enhance our desktop product. We recently moved our entire data center without downtime in just under 90 days. It's been a challenging year to say the least. 
 
What are the biggest technology challenges you've faced in the past? How did you overcome them?
 
One of our biggest challenges has been the absorption of hundreds of data sources that were truly unstructured and turning that into analysis that solves problems for our customers. We have utilized technologies like OCR, machine learning, and sometimes good old-fashioned elbow grease.
 
What are lessons you've learned about working in Austin that other local entrepreneurs can learn from?
 
Engage with others. Learn from them. In Austin, no matter how smart you are, you will always run into people that are smarter. Don't pass up the opportunity to learn from them. A mentor can really make a difference. 
 
Austin is known for having a large talent pool of thirsty, young workers. What are the top characteristics you look for in a potential hire?
 
Can they work with a team? Can they execute on the given tasks? The best feature of any product is being done. It's tempting for bright engineers to perfect their work. Better is the enemy of being done. To bring useful value to your customers, you have to actually deliver your product. Otherwise you are just wasting everyone's time.
 
How would your team describe working with you?
 
Most days probably with expletives! But in all seriousness, I challenge them to be better. My teams are an order of magnitude smarter than I am, and I like to ask lots of questions. I find when I do that, they often have to dumb down the answer for me and suddenly they see a new option. I love when that happens. If you have a good idea, we are willing to take the risk and try it. I hope they feel they are heard and valued.
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