Originally aired on March 9 @ 4:30 AM - 5:00 AM EDT
Michelle Zatlyn (Co-founder, COO, President, Cloudflare) and Janet Van Huysse (Head of People, Cloudflare) will kick-off Careers Day by talking about Cloudflare’s hiring philosophy, how the team has grown over the years, and where Cloudflare is headed.
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All right. Hi, everyone. Welcome to Cloudflare Careers Day. And I am just so honored to be here kicking it off with Janet Van Huysse. Hi, Janet. How are you? I love your t-shirt. Thank you. It's representing. It's great. It's a good one. That's one of my favorites. We have many great Cloudflare t-shirts, including the one that Janet is sporting today. And so we're going to spend the next 30 minutes talking about what it's like to work at Cloudflare, what you can expect, if this is something that sounds interesting to you, how you could go about applying to work at Cloudflare. And there's no better person to do this with than Janet because her job at Cloudflare is to oversee the whole people function. And so let's kick off the conversation, Janet, by telling the audience, can you in your own words tell the audience what Cloudflare does? And then in your own words, describe your role at the company to the audience. Yeah, sure. Thanks, Michelle. I'm excited to be here, too. No pressure being interviewed by your boss, but we're going to have fun. So yes, Cloudflare is a global cloud platform that helps anything connected to the Internet be safer, faster, and more reliable. I think last I checked, we had 25 million Internet properties using Cloudflare. And behind that is almost 2 ,000 employees around the world making that magic happen. So like Michelle said, I run the people function. So that includes compensation, benefits, learning and development, business partners, people systems and operations, and what we'll talk a lot about today, the recruiting function. That's great. That's great. Well, I really want to dive into, first of all, what all those words mean. Because I think there's a lot of people who are like, I don't really know exactly what Janet just said, and really what it's like to work at Cloudflare day to day. Because I hope everyone tuning in is thinking about what they want to do next in their career. And I hope you're purposeful about choosing a company that resonates with you. And so part of that is what does the company do, and then what is it like? And so before we drill into Cloudflare, I actually want to take one step up. And before Cloudflare, Janet, you worked at a lot of high growth companies. In fact, I would say that you spent your whole career working at high growth companies. And so as someone who has that perspective, maybe you can share with the audience, are all high growth companies the same? Does it feel the same to work at them day to day as someone who spent most of your career at all of these? I'd love to hear your perspective on that. Yeah. So no, it is definitely different. But there is a constant thread, or a common thread between them. And that is change is constant. Like 100%, it is going to be there. Because of the growth of the company, things just move really fast. And so one of the things that, being at a high growth company, like you said, I spent my career here because it's my happy place. Because when you're in a high growth company, yes, you shouldn't get comfortable. Change is going to come at you fast. But it also means opportunity is available for everyone that works there. And so I get called a cheesy HR person a lot, because I'll say things like, there's no development, like on the job development. But because I mean it. Because that has been my experience. And I love watching people come in on the sales team, but say, well, I'm really interested in product management. Great. At a high growth company, you can move into product management. Or I'm an IC today. My dream is to be a manager. I'm on the finance team. I want to move into marketing. That stuff happens all the time. And I think Cloudflare does this better than anywhere else I've worked. But I think that's the magic and the beauty of being at a high growth company, and where there might be similarities. But every company is different. The people are different. The culture is different. What the company is working on, and the mission, and how that resonates with you, those tend to be big differences. I think that's really a good overview. And I have definitely heard you say there's no better training than on the job training. And as somebody who's been at Cloudflare for 10 years, I think I couldn't agree more. When you're in a really high growth company, it's just when high growth means revenue growth, or customer growth, or number of product growth. And it means that the company you are today changes a lot from two years ago. And what that means is the people there have more opportunity. There are new things to build, new things to go do, new opportunity. And the people there can navigate that, because they know the people. They know the person in marketing to go talk to, to say, hey, I'd love to come join your team. And they have a track record working in finance. And so that happens very organically. And so I think that's something that I didn't really appreciate early in my career, how high growth really does afford a lot of opportunities if you're at the right company that you're really excited to work at. Because there's just new jobs opening up all the time that maybe didn't exist a year ago, just because of the nature of what the business is doing and how fast it's growing. That's right. So when you think about, OK, I'm in sales, but I want to go to product, or I want to be a manager, you don't have to leave the company that you love, because those opportunities are going to be there. So I think it's pretty special. That's great. OK. So we've talked a little bit about high growth. Maybe let's just one more minute on what are some of the differences? Because again, you have spent your career in a lot of high growth companies. And sometimes, I think, even I read about these companies, I'm like, is it exactly the same as Cloudflare day to day? Or what would be different? Like, if I work somewhere else, what would be some of the differences? I think the growth might be similar to between companies. But what are some of the differences you've seen at where you've spent your career of maybe some things that aren't so obvious to the audience? Yeah, here, I'll tell an example that's specific to hiring, since this is about career day. Because I get asked a lot, like, how is Cloudflare different than fill in the blanks, some other company that I worked at? And around hiring, I share this very true story. And Michelle, I don't know if I've shared this with you, so you're going to be horrified. But so I would describe the hiring philosophy at this company that I worked at as faster, faster, more, more, right? And here is really what happened. So in the days where people would come on site for an interview, we would have, you know, kind of scheduled back to back, you'd have a day worth of interviews, maybe you'd meet five or six new people. So if the initial phone screen with the recruiter went, well, we prepared an offer before the person even came on site. And we and then the recruiter would literally sit outside the interview room. And as one interviewer, you know, left and the next one walked in, they would say, Okay, well, what do you think? How did the interview with Michelle go? Did you like her? Should we hire her thumbs up? And they would do that after every time an interviewer would leave the room. And, and so and with the idea being, if everyone comes up with the thumbs up, comes out with a thumbs up, we could give that person an offer on the spot. And we thought we were awesome, because we were moving fast and just showing the candidate how enthusiastic we were for them to, to be here. But it turns out that, that delivers some bad outcomes, right? And the reason being is obvious to me now, because no one stopped and had time to think, right? The interviewers were, you know, like, as soon as they stepped out of the interview room, the recruiter was in their face saying, like, What do you think? What do you think? And, and we did the same to the candidate, you've now met six new people, and heard a lot about the team and the work and the company, and we didn't give anyone time to process, right? And so turns out, we hire people we shouldn't have and people took jobs at a company that they shouldn't have, right? We weren't a good fit. So one of the things I love about Cloudflare is that we have a very deliberate hiring process that looks a lot like many other companies, right? There's the initial phone screen, there's like the onsite, there's reference tracks, the offer, all those things. But we are deliberate, we don't skip steps. And then there's two things, I think, with Cloudflare's hiring process, I think are special. One is we do a debrief after, you know, the interview team has met with a candidate or multiple candidates, everyone gets in a room, and they talk through what they like about all the candidates, and you know, maybe rank them and other things. And I have found on more than one occasion, that I've walked into that debrief thinking, I know who we're going to hire. And I've walked out being convinced that we're going to that we should hire someone else. And it's never been wrong. So I trust our process. So that is something that I think is to be aware of. And then I love the step that I've never seen anywhere else use, which is the final call. And Michelle, you're a part of this. So before anyone gets an offer at Cloudflare, they get a final call, which is a phone call with either Matthew or Michelle, our co-founder, CEO and COO, president, John Graham-Cumming, our CTO, or me. And it is my favorite thing to do every week is to talk to candidates as they're thinking about joining the company. And I feel as a candidate, it feels pretty high stakes. These are really senior people that you're meeting, but it's not to see how well you do under pressure. It's an opportunity for us to hear, like, what are you excited about Cloudflare? Are there any questions I can answer for you? And have an opportunity to talk to a senior level person before you start. So I love that really unique step in Cloudflare's process. And it feels very different than the hiring process, certainly, that I had at that faster, faster, more, more company, but actually really different than anywhere that I've worked. That's great. Those are great examples. And thanks for sharing that because the faster, faster, more, more, I can see how that'd be a strategy and one that we just don't use. So there's a great example of something both high growth companies, it's very different. They don't do that anymore either because we realized we had bad outcomes. But we use it for a stretch. Yeah, good. There we go. Okay, good. Okay. So, that's good. So we kind of talked about why high growth, what that is like, kind of the differences between some of the companies, they are different. And so I think, again, if you're thinking about what you want to do next, you should be deliberate and think about this. What's it going to be like day to day? So let's now zoom in at Cloudflare and go drill down. What is it like to work at Cloudflare day to day? So if someone's saying, okay, Janet has convinced me that I really am excited about a high growth company. I love this idea of growing. But how do I know Cloudflare is the company for me? I think one of the ways to answer that is what's the experience like day to day. And so maybe you can start by just giving an overview of when you think about people and their day to day experience at Cloudflare, how would you describe that to the candidates? Well, again, that common thread of like change definitely is a big part of it. And I think that in a high growth company and at Cloudflare, it kind of is how you're going to make the most of it. You've got the opportunity for this to have the career of your dreams at Cloudflare. And so one of the things that if I was going to give advice, I would say, one, be curious and be open to new experiences or new opportunities. So whether it's at Cloudflare or anywhere else, sometimes I get bummed out when people get bogged down. I'm like, oh, that isn't the title that I wanted or this. I had my career mapped out for the next 10 years and this wasn't my next step. And they miss out on the opportunities around them. So I think at Cloudflare what I see, because we really value curiosity. And so you see these deeply curious people that really pursue that next challenge and really stretch themselves. And I think that's super compelling. And then the other thing, and you and I have talked about this, there's people who solve problems at Cloudflare, right? It's really easy to point out problems. And when you're at a high growth company, there's always things that we haven't done yet or something that's good, but we need to make it better. It's easy to point it out. But the real magic is in the folks who go after it. Like, here's a problem that needs to be solved. I'm going to solve it. Or no one's working on this. I'm going to get this done. And so really seeing people who will take the initiative and just get the work done and solve the problems. I think they have the best careers at Cloudflare. And they're definitely the most fun people to work with. Yeah, no, that's the first part of what you were saying about I had a plan. This is different than my plan. One of the analogies I've used that's always, I think, resonated or that I've heard other people, executives use is like, think about it as checkers, where it's not linear, where it's checkers, where you can move in bi-directional. And sometimes going to get that experience in a different team or a different role, even if it wasn't originally in your master plan, opens up a whole new perspective that you didn't have. And there's someone on our team that was in a very salesforce role and ran a big team and went back to an individual contributor role. And what he said is, I just have a totally different perspective on our business now in this new role that I did not see, even though I ran a huge team before. And I do think that gets lost and is not always obvious. For both people, if you're thinking about what's next in your career, then even when you're in a role, I think sometimes it's like, I need to be in a certain progression. So that's a story that I wish got told more often. Okay. I want to actually press on this one for a minute because I do think really smart hiring managers know this. And I think it's important for candidates to think about this too. When you are growing a team in a high growth company, you cannot hire for the need you have right now. Because if you hire for what you need right now, the person's going to be underwater really fast because there's so much growth and change around you. So a smart hiring manager is going to hire for what is this job going to look like a year from now, maybe even two years out. And so if you're a candidate, what you need to do is look at that job description or that job post and really understand what is the context of the company that this job is in, right? Because things that might look like the same role on paper are going to be a very different experience for you, right? If it's a high growth company, there's going to be change and growth and opportunity all around you. If it's a company that's more in a stable maintenance mode, that job's probably going to be what it is on paper. And so I have found when I'm hiring or we're seeing teams hire around us, the best candidates might say, oh, this looks like a lateral move, or it doesn't feel like a step up to me. And they might hold back from applying. And I think they're doing themselves a disservice. Because at a high growth company, that job that feels lateral right now is going to be a stretch. Next time you blink, it's going to happen really fast. And so I think there is a bit of understanding that context and maybe having the humility or checking the ego at the door to say, I understand that what this looks like today is going to be very different from the opportunity it presents to me sooner than later. It's not like you need a ton of patience, I don't think. But I've had people that I've hired on my people leadership team that are like, oh, wow, I haven't done this in years. It's been years since I did this or whatever. But they know that they're part of shaping the future of the team and the company. And so my advice to folks listening is, if the job is at a high growth company like Cloudflare, be sure to understand that context. Because what looks like the same jobs on paper are very different once you get into the company. Right. Or like a year later, they evolve at different rates. Maybe on day one, they start. Just to put some data around it, high growth, growing 40%, 50%, 60%. Some companies grow even faster than that annually versus others who are growing 10%. And it's just, if a company is growing 10%, the job's kind of the same a year, 14 months, 15 months later versus a company that's growing 50%, which is Cloudflare, the job looks very different even 14 months later because your company is now 50% bigger. And I think that's an example of very tangible. Again, not so obvious early on, which is I think why, Janet, you're so passionate about why you're your happy place in high growth companies. Because it's just like new opportunity to build, new problems to go solve, new people to go do it with. And it feels like all tides are rising. And it's really exciting because it's like, if you love to do things and solve problems and ship things, there's just a lot of things to go build. And that's different than when it's in maintenance mode and maybe you're tweaking. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Yes. That's good. I love that build mode. So one of the things that I know you're really proud about at Cloudflare are kind of our capabilities. And it's this idea of people at Cloudflare, how behaviors we want to reinforce within the business, no matter if it's your first job out of college or maybe you're a senior executive. And we have these set of capabilities that we really hold ourselves accountable to. Can you share with the audience? Because I think that gives you a really good sense of behaviors and things that we get rewarded at Cloudflare. Maybe you can share with the audience a little bit more about the Cloudflare capabilities. OK, I'm going to share. And I want you to fact check actually a part of this for me. So it was one of the first kind of projects that I took on when I started four plus years ago because the capabilities we define is the behaviors that get rewarded at Cloudflare. So the behaviors that are going to make you successful. And they're really the underpinnings of our culture. And so I thought it was really important for us to define them to use as a compass as we grow. So everyone who interviews at Cloudflare gets screened according to these capabilities. And then every time we talk about performance or promotions, we talk about results plus behavior. So again, these capabilities are part of that equation. And that helps us preserve our culture as we grow. And so when we first kind of embarked on this, I need you to fact check me. I remember hearing you or Matthew telling me that when you first started building the team, the three things that you looked for were high empathy, deeply curious, and the ability to get stuff done. And so those are three of them, empathy, curiosity, and the ability to get stuff done. And when I thought about, this was early in my tenure at Cloudflare. So when I thought about the people that I interviewed with and everyone that I met as part of my process, and I met a lot of people, which was awesome. I thought, okay, high empathy, deeply curious, getting stuff done. Like that's exactly how I would describe everyone that I met. And now I'm four and a half years in, I still feel like those are tangible. Okay. So did I just make that up or? No, no, you did not make that up. No, you are reliving history correctly, Janet. And it's a really happy ending when you say, when I looked back and thought about people I met, and that's exactly what I got through those conversations. That's a great exact outcome. And again, I hope as candidates spend time with our team, where you don't want any surprises, where you kind of want, what I saw during the interview process, what you heard ends up being your expectations. So yes, empathy, curiosity, get things done. To this day, really, really important to be part of Cloudflare, because we get a lot of things done in a short period of time, and it feels really good to ship things and be part of things that are getting out to kind of help solve customers' problems. It's incredibly rewarding. So keep going. So what are the other things? One quick aside, our shipping velocity at Cloudflare, I'm four and a half years in, I'm still like not, I still don't understand how fast we can move, right? Like every time Jen Taylor, our head of product presents at our quarterly kickoffs, and she goes through everything that's getting shipped that quarter, my jaw still hits the floor. I'm still like, how do you do that? But it's not just product and engineering that are shipping, all teams at Cloudflare ship. Okay, so the other three capabilities, by the way, I've never shared all six at once. I always tell people they need to join the company, and we'll share the rest of them at New Hire Orientation. So if folks are listening, you're getting a real treat here. So the other three are clear communication, and we believe in being direct and transparent in order to build trust. Do the right thing, being principled, so thinking in the long term, do the right thing, not the easy thing. Very Cloudflare and very unique compared to other high growth companies that I've been in. It's another point of comparison I tend to use. And then last one, embrace diversity to make Cloudflare better. So those are the six. I love it. And when you say that, that's really my experience on a day-to-day basis. And you never know what it's like to be at a company or in your role until you're there, but I think that these do a good job of kind of what to expect. I feel like you're doing a very good job painting the picture of constant change, solving problems, getting things done, but with empathy and people and taking responsibility, thinking about the long-term, because we are really long-term focused, and diversity is so important. So I think that's a really good description of what my experience has been at Cloudflare day-to-day. Good. I'm glad. It's supposed to resonate, right? Because one of the things, I talk about this in New Hire Orientation, one of the things I think companies get wrong when they talk about culture or they try to define it is they think aspirationally, like, what is our culture? And so the way that we avoided that misstep was we didn't ask what's the culture to find the culture, we asked what behaviors got rewarded, what made people successful. And so I think that's why, like, those all resonate. Oh, I don't know if I ever shared to you this story, but the being principled and doing the right thing, not the easy thing. So when I first started at Cloudflare, I went on my listening tour and I talked to, I don't know, everyone in the company, probably, or most people, and I asked them, you know, what's working, what do we need to change, whatever, what do you like about working here? And I had an engineer say to me, the thing I like working, why I love working at Cloudflare is because we are not afraid to tackle technical challenges that will take years to solve. And I had never heard an answer like that, right? And then fast forward a few weeks, I'm in our all-hands, our weekly all -hands, which we definitely have to talk about, you know, before we wrap up. And there was an engineer and a product manager sharing something they've worked on for like the last three years and all the progress that they've made in that time and like what the future roadmap is. And I thought, there it is. There is that long-term, we're just focused on this, we're going to continue to tackle it, make progress. And so I think that is a really special part of being at Cloudflare. It's like, we're not taking shortcuts, we're not going to do the easy thing and like deal with the, like, we know this is the wrong thing to do, but I'll fix it now and we'll deal with the problem later. It's just not us. I love it. We are very long -term focused and we're very proud of what we've accomplished. And we have a lot of customers that help. We make faster, safer, more reliable around the world. And we want that to grow a lot over the coming years. And you've touched on this. So there's two questions that I'm going to talk about hiring because we have about seven minutes left and I definitely want there, I hope people are getting a sense of what it's like at Cloudflare. And then the next question is, how do I potentially apply and get involved? But before we go there, I just want to talk about two more things, but what it's like at Cloudflare. So you've touched on this, but I just want to put a finer point. So when someone joins two years later, four years later, like what do you see? Because you have been at Cloudflare for over four years. As you think back and you think, okay, so one joins on day one, two years later, three years later, four years later, like, are they in the same spot or what's that experience of being at Cloudflare for that timeframe? It's been a question. So, I mean, it's going to feel different, right? Like the company is just continuing to grow and evolve, more customers, more, we're in more parts of the world. Our teams are more distributed. There's more complexity without a doubt. And so I think that what you typically will see is there is a handful of folks that want to become like deep masters of their skills. So just get deeper and deeper until in their area of expertise. And that's awesome. And then you see folks who are like, I want to take very like creative meandering paths. So those things I've talked about, like going from sales to product, and that happens all the time. I didn't make up any of those examples. Those happen all the time. The other thing that I love is when people take international assignments, right? So one of the things that we think is really important when we open new locations around the world is that we want a landing team. So folks who have been at Cloudflare and know us and know how to connect the dots can go to that part of the world. And as we bring in new hires, they can help them get immersed into our culture and figure out how to get things done more quickly. And so back in 2019, we opened our Lisbon Portugal office. And we have really ambitious goals in Portugal. We want that to be one of our largest offices around the world. And so we had about 20 team members from around the world move to Portugal. And our CTO moved there permanently. But most folks went out there for like a year or two on assignment as part of the landing team. And so you'll see things like that two to four years. And people take advantage of that opportunity. Like, OK, I'm early in my career. I'm senior in my career. I'm going to go work in another part of the world. And I think that's such great and rich experience for anyone to get, no matter what stage in your career that you are. And those things happen all the time. So I think in a little bit, the adage that, you know, if you get a seat on the rocket or if you get a tick on the rocket ship, don't ask what seat. Like, Cloudflare's a rocket ship. And so I think you have a ton of opportunity to, like, blast off. Let's just really hammer home that analogy. I've never heard you use that analogy, Janet. So it was well done. Well done. It was great. It's great. OK, so I have two questions. So we're going to end on how do people think about getting a job at Cloudflare? What's the best next way? But before we go there, when you think about, again, Cloudflare, and obviously, you're so passionate and excited, which is one of your best qualities. I love working with you because of your passion and just your enthusiasm. And it's hard not to be. It's very infectious, which is a huge problem. Yeah, I love that. What are, you know, if you think back to a couple of things that make you really proud at Cloudflare, what are all of those things? OK, there's a lot, but I'm going to be succinct. I realize we have two questions in five minutes. Number one, how I got introduced to Cloudflare was through Path Forward. So Path Forward is this organization in New York that helps people who have a number of years work experience but have left the workforce because of caregiving. They help them get back into the workforce by partnering with companies for returnships. And I had tried to pull off a Path Forward -like thing in one of my other jobs and just never got across the finish line. And so I was reading about Path Forward saying, this is even better, right, because this will operate at scale and bring all of these really experienced workers back into the workforce. And I really, it's an overlooked talent pool. And I thought, these companies are smart. And Cloudflare was on a very short list of tech companies that were partnering with Path Forward. And so it got me interested in Cloudflare. And then, lo and behold, I got my dream job at Cloudflare shortly after that, really shortly after that. It was really crazy. So I'm super proud of our work with Path Forward. Mom's at work in Singapore. We're trying to do something similar in Europe. And just that we really do believe that diverse teams make us stronger and better as a company and build more innovative products. And so you see lots of people with unconventional paths into tech working at Cloudflare. And that makes me really proud. And then I love that we think about our superpower, right, so making things work better on the Internet. And how can we use that to support organizations that need it the most? So whether it's Project Galileo, the Athenian project, Project Fairshot with COVID, taking on patent trolls, our commitment to privacy. I feel like I could go on and on, but there's so much that make me super proud to work here. I love it. All of those things resonate with me, too. I actually have goosebumps. People are highly employable. And I think people choose to be at Cloudflare because of a lot of those things. So thanks for sharing all of that. OK, so we've got two minutes left. So let's say there's, again, today is really an opportunity for people who haven't even started the interview process just to come and get to know Cloudflare. And I hope that some of them leave being like, wow, this is a company I really want to learn more about and roles. And so let's say there's an audience who's like, wow, I'm actually really interested in pursuing a particular role at Cloudflare. What advice do you have for them? What's the best path forward for those candidates? OK, number one, apply. So go to Cloudflare.com slash careers. Find the job that lights you on fire or lights your heart on fire and apply. You need to be in the system for us to really get things moving. And then, I don't know, I love cover letters. People really don't do them anymore, but I love them because your resume is going to go through everything, your accomplishments, where you work. But the cover letter tells me, why Cloudflare? Why are you excited about us and personalize it? So I love cover letters. But even if you don't do a cover letter, be prepared. Be prepared for your interviews. Cloudflare has got an amazing blog. We have Cloudflare TV. You can watch Cloudflare TV and get to know us. And so I think those are just really good things. Be prepared. Come in. Be yourself. You will get an invitation to our weekly all -hands. We've done this since before I even started. Please join our all-hands. What other company does this? And you will really get to understand who we are. And if you were like me, I sat in the front row. Now you just click on a Zoom link and thought, forget my job search. I just need this job at Cloudflare. I just felt like this was the place I needed to be. And so I think a lot of candidates come to our all-hands, and they have that experience. So do not turn down that invitation if you get it. And then lastly, we are a high -growth company. So if at the end of the interview process or your application, we don't find a fit for today, do not give up. Keep in touch, because we are growing. And there might be the perfect fit for you tomorrow, next month, next week, next quarter. So stay with us. I think those are amazing. And we have 20 seconds left. But your point, Janet, about apply, a lot of people we hire actually just apply online. It's not a referral. We don't even know them before. So that cannot, definitely very important. All right. Janet, this was fabulous. Thank you to everyone for tuning in. I hope you get to learn more about Cloudflare throughout this afternoon. And we'd love to work with you if the opportunity arises. Great. Thanks, Michelle.