Allen School alumni Armon Dadgar (B.S. ‘11) and Mitchell Hashimoto (B.S. ‘11) and long-time Allen School friend and University of Washington alumnus Allen Israel (B.S. ‘68 Mechanical Engineering, MBA ‘71, J.D. ‘78) have been honored with 2020 Diamond Awards from the College of Engineering. Dadgar and Hashimoto were recognized with the Early Career Achievement Award, given to outstanding graduates who have made exceptional professional contributions to engineering through research, teaching or service within the first 10 years of their careers. Israel earned the Dean’s Award for extraordinary contributions to the advancement of engineering.
Dadgar and Hashimoto are the co-founders of HashiCorp, which helps companies to address fundamental challenges related to infrastructure, applications, networking and security in the cloud. The company’s software offerings, including Consul, Terraform and Vault, have become hugely popular tools for automating processes that are used by organizations worldwide. The early vision for HashiCorp — now a $5.2 billion company — was originally hatched when the two were Allen School undergraduates.
Dadgar and Hashimoto initially met while collaborating on a research project. Afterward, Dadgar reached out to Hashimoto to see if he wanted to work on something fun outside of the classroom.
“We were passionate about creating something people needed,” Hashimoto said. “What makes our company unique is that it’s open-source and free. But we never expected to make a career out of it, let alone start a successful company. We are still surprised at how far we’ve come.”
Hashimoto said they loved the idea of automating repetitive tasks. Their plan was to build a program based around cloud infrastructure that would enable developers to eliminate some of the more tedious manual processes needed in cloud computing through a self-service automation tool.
“When Mitchell and I started HashiCorp, our mission was really focused on building great products that we ourselves would enjoy using,” Dadgar said. “It was about solving an immediate problem that we had personally experienced, and we didn’t have a clear business plan going into it. It has been an incredible journey at HashiCorp, especially figuring out how to transition from making tools people like into being a company that organizations depend on.”
Their creation grew from two students working in a basement on campus in their spare time, to young college graduates working from IKEA desks in Dadgar’s living room, to a business with more than 1,300 employees that serves some of the biggest companies in the world. The duo had agreed to give the business a year to take off before selling the desks and taking traditional jobs as software engineers. There was no need to sell the desks.
“I think it’s safe to say it has exceeded our wildest imaginations. From an adjustment phase, I like to joke that every quarter I need to figure out what my job is again,” Dadgar said. “Given our growth, our roles continue to evolve dramatically. In the beginning, Mitchell and I would write code full time – we personally authored many of our initial products. I don’t think I’ve written any software for at least three years now, but instead spend much more time on hiring, customers, partners, and running the business.”
The developers-turned-business-leaders took a lot of risks in the beginning to see their vision for HashiCorp come to fruition.
“It wasn’t a smooth transition, we had a lot of ups and downs,” Hashimoto acknowledged. “We had stages where the company was doing well and not doing well. Personally, we’ve had to adapt and learn to recognize where we’re operating smoothly and providing value, and where we don’t enjoy and don’t provide any value.”
Hashimoto said he still enjoys the work and he’s driven by a desire to identify other areas where automated tools will make people’s lives easier and to continue building new products. Dadgar is also still 100% committed to HashiCorp; with the company’s continued success, he and his husband, Josh Kalla, are interested in pursuing more philanthropic endeavors. They’ve already given more than $3.5 million to the UW’s Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity for student support.
“With any big success like HashiCorp, there is always a mix of hard work, opportunity, and luck that is necessary. We’ve been so fortunate in our lives, that now it is our turn to help create opportunities for others,” Dadgar said. “The OMA&D really was a great fit for our interests, because they focus on first-generation, underrepresented, and financially challenged students. Those are the groups we feel need to have more luck and opportunities, and so working with OMA&D to create a scholarship was a great fit.”
Dan Grossman, professor and vice director of the Allen School, said the combination of business and technical skills from such young alumni is especially notable. “Mitchell and Armon have demonstrated a unique combination of applying deep computer science, customer focus, and business skills to create a series of technologies, spanning a wide range of distributed systems solutions, that are pragmatic and loved by customers,” Grossman said. “And they’ve managed in a very short time to create a successful business based on these developments.”
While Dadgar and Hashimoto are in the early stages of their professional and philanthropic journeys, their fellow Diamond Award honoree, Allen Israel, has had a lifetime of impact on the lives of others.
After completing his UW undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering, Israel worked as an engineer at Boeing Commercial Airplanes before returning to his alma mater to earn his MBA followed by his J.D. After law school, Israel joined Foster Garvey PC, where he has spent more than 40 years practicing law, primarily in business and mergers and acquisitions. In 2013, he was named “Lawyer of the Year” in Seattle by Best Lawyers M&A.
In the course of his work, Israel represented nonprofit and individual clients in corporate, business, real estate and contract law. One of those individuals was Paul G. Allen, who Israel served as personal attorney from the early 1980s until Mr. Allen’s death in 2018. Among many other activities, Israel represented Mr. Allen in making many transformative gifts to the University of Washington — including the naming gift for the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering, and the gift that enabled the creation of the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.
“Allen has been instrumental in helping us to expand our leadership in the field and our impact around the world,” said Magda Balazinska, Professor and Director of the Allen School. “He played a central role in the construction of the Allen Center, our first permanent home, and in the creation of the Allen School on the occasion of our 50th anniversary. He also represents the Allen School on the University of Washington Foundation Board.”
Throughout his career, Israel has made time to champion and provide leadership in many areas of his alma mater. For nearly 25 years he served as a member of the College of Engineering Dean’s Visiting Committee, providing strategic counsel to four successive leaders. He also has served on the UW Law School Dean’s Advisory Committee and the Law School Foundation Board.
“Allen Israel has been a tremendous friend of the Allen School, the College of Engineering, and the University of Washington for many decades,” said Ed Lazowska, Professor and Bill & Melinda Gates Chair Emeritus in the Allen School. “He is an engineer, an MBA, a lawyer, and a role model.”
The College formally honored the 2020 Diamond Award recipients in a virtual celebration last week after having postponed the event due to the pandemic.
Congratulations to Allen, Mitchell and Armon, and thank you for your continued friendship to the Allen School and our students!