Mystery, Business, and Rock ’n’ Roll: Meet Douglas Harr


 Doug Harr, Santa Cruz Works’ newest member, spent a year shopping for a home before settling on the famous Court of Mysteries, also known as the Yogi Temple, which has stood empty on Fair Avenue for decades.

Anyone who has spent time on the West Side has seen the brick structures that make up the Court, with their Eastern-influenced architecture and decaying abalone inlay. If you’ve seen the place lately, you will have noticed that it has been completely restored. You might have also seen the house Harr and his wife, Artina Morton, have built for themselves.

One attraction of the property for Harr and Morton was its huge lot, which will allow them to build a couple of condos for some friends—“so we could have an Ohana-like experience,” Harr says, referring to the Hawaiian tradition of families and friends living together on small compounds. As for the temple itself, the couple will be make it available to the public with open houses four times a year, as well as renting it out for weddings and other gatherings.

Harr and Morton, who lived in San Francisco for 20 years, have been renting a place on West Cliff while house-hunting. Harr says they were driving by the temple one day and a realtor happened to be standing outside. They stopped in, liked what they saw, and pulled the trigger.

After buying the home, Harr received a manuscript from a local author who had been researching the place for years, and he learned that the temple was modeled after church in Los Angeles built by followers of the Indian yogi Paramahansa Yogananda. As it happens, Harr’s older brother was a devotee of Yogananda, and spent the last half of his life living at the temple.

“Twice a year, my family would travel to Yogananda’s temple, and that was the only time I got to visit with my brother,“ Harr recalls. “I hadn’t thought about it until I read the manuscript, but I’m sure that’s one reason I was attracted to it. Believe me, tears were shed about this.”


 A Pivot and  Dance

Harr entered the tech world while attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, a university he chose because he heard they had a “very nice” business school. He changed direction pretty quickly. “I noticed that I was acing my programming classes without really trying,” he recalls, “so I realized my concentration should be computer science. And I kind of loved it.”

Immediately after graduating, he went to work at Hewlett-Packard. “I did there what I continued to do for my entire career,” he says. “I’ve always worked in internal IT shops. At HP. I wrote payroll and human-resources applications; I worked on sales applications; nothing customer-facing—all internal. And I’ve always loved it. So I moved into higher and higher positions of responsibility—whether it was as a director, or VP of Information Technology, before we called anyone CIO. And then in the new millennium I’ve had a series of CIO jobs.”

While the entire resume is impressive, Harr has no problem naming a favorite gig—the four years that he spent at big-data pioneer Splunk, where he served as CIO, VP of global facilities, and chief evangelist for product.

“It’s definitely the best company I’ve ever worked for,“ he says. “It’s a really amazing product. I think a lot of people now understand that 80 percent or more of the data in our world is unstructured, but nine years ago practically no one knew that.”

Harr says Splunk was the first company to run its entire business in the cloud, and credits it with creating the “world’s first Internet of things.

“What they didn’t realize at first was that they also built the world’s best security tool, because everything is on the cloud. And, 10 years after I joined, it’s still the number-one product with which to do real-time machine data analytics and real-time telemetry-type data analysis.”

During, his tenure, Splunk grew from 180 employees to 1,600. And during that time, Harr, who is not ashamed to call himself “a huge rock geek,” attended at least two concerts a month. While he has not retired from tech—he still does some consulting with the Santa Cruz-based StrataFusion—Harr has lately devoted most of his efforts to music.

Harr estimates that over the course of his life, he has seen 400 rock concerts, beginning in the mid 1970s in Los Angeles. The first 10 years of his life as a music lover are chronicled in his book Rockin’ the City of Angels.”

The book, written over the course of three years after he left Splunk, documents what he says are 30 of “the best rock concerts that ever were or ever will be.”

“I would argue that the ’70s produced something never seen before,“ he says. “Their secret sauce was they found a new way to present shows to massive crowds—they created this incredible innovation. They had amazing stagecraft—light shows, video projections, props, costumes— and they created awesome spectacles. By the 1980s, it kind of went back to four guys on the stage. The only spectacles now are pop acts like Lady Gaga.”

Where much of the book comes from his lived experiences, Harr also interviewed the rock stars, visiting many of them to cull through photos and hear stories. Rockin’ the City of Angels is the size of an album cover and contains 396 pages, with more than 500 photos by the most popular photographers from back in the day, including some never before published.

Harr is now at work at a follow up which will document his favorite bands from the 1980s. Meanwhile, with his move into his new Santa Cruz home, he looks forward to joining a tech community that he knew little about prior to his arrival.

 “I got a tip last week from a friend—a recruiter in Scotts Valley—who told me about Santa Cruz Works and introduced me to Doug Erickson.” explained Harr. “I was a member of the CIO Consortium in the valley for many years, but I was not very aware of the tech community in Santa Cruz. Frankly, I’m still not, but I look forward to going to the events and meeting my colleagues.”