Cloudflare TV

Cloudflare Careers Day: Takes a village: Design & Engineering for great UX

Presented by Isabel Rodrigues, Mari Reis, David Gridley
Originally aired on 

Join David from our London User Interface (LOUI) Team and Mari from the Product Design Team to hear about how their teams work together. This discussion will focus on the teams' daily challenges, how they partner with stakeholders and some of their recent projects.

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Transcript (Beta)

Hello everyone and welcome to our Careers Day. My name is Isabel, I belong to the recruiting team here at Cloudflare and I'm going to be your host for this session.

And in this session we will actually going to talk about design and engineering for great UX and for that I have here with me David from our London User Interface or LUI team and Mari from the product design team to hear about how their teams work together.

I will ask you, I will just ask a few questions so people who are watching can have a better sense of what you're doing and your teams.

But also let me just highlight for those of you who are watching that if you have any other questions that you would like to ask David or Mari, don't hesitate to send us our questions by the email that you have livestudio at and we will take a look at that and try to answer in these sessions.

Now starting with the presentations, maybe Mari starting with you, can you tell us a bit more about yourself, your role, your team?

Yeah of course, so I work primarily in the EMEA team which means it's an European time zone, I work from London.

I joined Cloudflare in August last year so I'm a fully remote hire, never seen the office or met anyone but that hasn't stopped us from doing absolutely great work and in general I work in the security features of Cloudflare, so things that are related to firewall or automated traffic detection, that's all in my wheelhouse.

That's actually very interesting, right now we have lots of people who never even saw the Cloudflare office, I think that it was your case Mari as you were telling, but it didn't stop you to create some good connections with the team, if I understood you keep in contact with everyone?

Well, there are things that being remote make difficult and there are things that being remote makes easier.

One thing that we've decided to prioritize as a team was making sure that we met people on one-on-ones on a regular basis and this means building time to actually build these social connections along with work connections and for once we are not limited by the offices that we work in to make these connections to the same level, so my colleagues in San Francisco, I have the same screen time and the same amount of time with them socially as my colleagues locally, so it's a really interesting position to be in.

Definitely and I share your view, I'm a year now in Cloudflare, I also started completely remote during the pandemic and it's interesting and I don't know if you two agree about that or not, we now have several people here, but I feel that even though we are all remote right now, we still are able to have some good connections with everyone.

Well, but going to you now David, I would love to hear more from you, so if you could share a bit more about when you joined Cloudflare, about what you are currently doing, your role, your team, please tell us more.

Yeah, so I've been at Cloudflare since 2019, about March 2019, so just over two years now and yeah, as you said, I work on the London product UI team, affectionately known as Louie, the Louie team, and yeah, we help build out features on the dashboard for users, yeah, as Mary said, particularly with like security products, analytics, rule builders, configuration UI, all that good stuff.

Yeah, our primary mission is just to help make the Cloudflare dashboard as usable and useful as possible.

And David, would you let us know in a bit more detail, especially for those who doesn't know Cloudflare or have no idea what your team does, what a typical day in your job looks like?

Sure thing, yeah, so we begin with our morning stand-up, we, the Louie team, share our stand-up with the EMEA design folks as well, so Mary is also in that stand-up, it's a good opportunity to explain, you know, what we're working on that day and ask for any, you know, momentary like on-the-spot feedback about that, perhaps arrange like spontaneous meetings for the rest of the day.

After that, we usually pick up tasks that, you know, the ongoing projects will have for that day, be it, you know, something, a product for network analytics or for one of the security teams or anything like that.

Yeah, we typically then kind of arrange, you know, meetings, hopefully in the morning, but depending on time zones, to meet up with product managers, designers, facilitate discussions around, you know, the direction of each product and where it's going to go.

Other than that, I spend a lot of time just, you know, writing code and building out the dashboard.

Great, and Mary, you are on a different team, so I would also love to have your perspective, and once again, just remember that we have some viewers who probably doesn't know as much as Cloudflare or the team, so if you could just give us some detail on your typical day in your job.

No problem. So, as David mentioned, we do have some daily rituals, including the stand-up that my team, EMEA design team, shares with the Louis team.

It gives us a very unique way to start the day where we align all of our objectives.

So, when it comes to shipping great products, there's always the conversation around who gives the work to whom, and that person just has to execute.

We don't have that between the London UI team and the EMEA design team.

We're very lucky that we can align our positions on even what we're striving to build from, well, from a daily, we are united front, and yeah, that gives us the opportunity to push for better experiences, for the mission that David has mentioned, making things that are truly useful and usable.

Other than the connection with Louis, as designers, we also have to interact with a lot of the product managers, which are the people who are really bringing in what is the business need and what are the North Star metrics for the whole quarter, and with the engineering teams who are going to build the integrations of the experience.

Cloudflare is very unique in the sense that we have two sets of different customers, people who use the API to be able to do everything in our dashboard and people who use the UI, and we really try to get parity in both of those.

So, there should be no difference or more difficulty in executing an action from an API or from our dashboard, and I think that's what makes Cloudflare such a unique place to work.

And I know that you, of course, have some very interesting things about your job, and I'm sure that as any team at Cloudflare, also some challenge associated to that, and I would love to hear some more about that.

So, when you look at your job, I don't know if you have any daily challenge or any example of a challenge situation that you would like to share with us, Mari?

Well, aligning people across time zones can be challenging.

I think remote culture has enabled us to try to go two routes. One of them was you spend your whole day meetings trying to get everyone synced up, or you adapt and you grow.

And I hope that we've actually done a really good job of creating different ways of doing async communication, which means relying on a chat or relying on commenting on a file or even what was it?

Oh, jeez. I completely forgot what was the main point that I was going to make.

But the fact is that async communication documentation, that's what it was.

Appropriately documenting decisions, documenting who was in meetings so you can have a paper trail to when you took decisions has become something even more important than it was before.

That's actually a very interesting point, Mari.

I think that we still have a lot to learn regarding remote work.

And when I say we, I say everyone. We, in this call, we in Cloudflare, we in the world.

I think that remote work really changed how we work. And one thing that's definitely happens now is that we rely more on calls because everyone wants to stay connected.

We want to make sure that communication doesn't fail.

And I think that, at least on my side, it comes to a point where you can basically, well, basically you tend to exceed the number of calls that you should have.

And I have days that I come to the end of the day and just thought, okay, I was all days in calls.

So I'm just starting to try to be a bit more selective in terms of the calls that I have.

And I ask people to join just to make sure. And that's right.

I think that we keep adjusting. So we have to make sure what is relevant to have on a call, what calls are relevant, what can be discussed instead by a chat or an email.

And of course, being mindful of the time zones. We work with several time zones.

I usually tend to have always some slots reserved at the beginning and at the end of the day for when I spoke with folks in Singapore or in the US.

So we don't have to basically work ended up on a time where we even work outside of our working hours because we don't have any slots available, basically.

So it's actually a very good point.

And David, what about your challenges? Yeah, I think the primary challenge is always going to be, yeah, as Mari said, is aligning everyone's interests and everyone's goals, getting everyone on the same page when you're having to coordinate the release of a product between the product team, the engineering team and the design team, making sure everyone is perfectly aligned in what our expectations are and what our goals are.

I think this is even one of the challenges of job before remote work.

But as we discussed, remote work has made it more challenging.

And I do spend more of my time these days, as Mari said, writing documentation, making that decision like, could this be an email?

Could this be written down somewhere else for someone to kind of pick up asynchronously?

But I think, yeah, in the last year, I've seen it work pretty well for a lot of us as well.

You know, a lot of the meetings that we would have maybe said, oh, let's just, you know, take 15 minutes to do this in like a booth in the office somewhere.

You know, we can just leave it on a document somewhere and then handle it when it's best for everyone.

And yeah, it fills in the gaps in the meeting schedule, basically, which is nice.

Yes, we keep learning. And it's interesting that you both talk about the documentation.

And I was just remembering that one thing that I think that keeps getting better and better is our wiki page, which I think that also saves a lot of time, a lot of pings on our coworkers, because we have a lot of information, just click away on wiki.

But since we are talking about challenges and your jobs, and I would also would like to understand a bit more of how you work together, because you are in, you are both in different teams, but your work sometimes ends up overlapping.

So, David, could you tell us, I would love to hear both of your perspective, but starting with you, David, can you tell us a bit more if you actually work together often?

I have the idea that you do, but I might be mistaken.

And how actually your teams overlap in what you do? Sure thing. Yeah. Yeah, we work together on a daily basis, really.

Like it's incredibly integrated, our two teams.

We have a, we maintain a very tight feedback loop for designs. And when a new project arises, we kind of make it a imperative to, for all of us to be on the conversation at the beginning to get all of our perspectives on it as it's, you know, progressing from like, you know, just the product idea through to the systems engineering phase, then into, you know, our front end and design.

So, yeah, it's a constant conversation to be had between between engineering and design.

We maintain, I think, you know, design maintains more appropriately a kind of a living document for us to kind of work on for a lot of products so that we always have a up-to-date reference point for new product designs.

So, if it's a new dashboard or a new set of analytics, we have something where we can constantly give feedback and make small changes based on that feedback.

Great. Marnie, I don't know if you had anything else that you want to add on what just David just mentioned, but I would also love to hear your own perspective and also not only how you work together, but also how you separate responsibilities.

So, to make sure that you don't overlap on what you are doing.

Yeah, of course. So, I think one of the interesting things to think of is the kickoff point, right?

When someone gives us a task, the first thing that we go off to do as design and Louis, because we try to do this together, is one, is this the right thing to do?

We try to apply some sense of ownership to everything that we do.

So, we'll read whatever is the request or we'll try to understand it together.

If it is something that we decide, like, okay, this is a good call.

We should definitely do this. We then go on to understand if we have already applied any patents inside our current configuration of our dashboard that map back to that.

And that goes back to that mission that David mentioned of promoting usability, and it also means reusability.

We're talking about creating patents in people's minds that are familiar.

So, if every time someone asks us to do something different, we created something entirely new for them, it would mean that people would have no understanding of what to expect when they click a button anymore, which is something that is a primary action within any kind of dashboard experience.

So, it's interesting to note that we are together from problem definition stage to the shipping of the products.

And at Cloudflare, we have the unique possibility of not having the dreaded handover process between design and front-end.

So, we don't have as many problems as other companies when it comes to what we shipped is not what we expected it to look like.

There are no surprises because we sync on a regular basis.

There's always going to be something that needs to be modified from the point where we decide that this decision is going to be taken.

However, the Louis team is very proactive in coming to design and keeping us in the loop of whenever something needs to change or something is not working.

And then we come up with solutions together.

Rather than giving me the problem to go solve on my own and then report back, we just sit together and we think of, have we seen this work elsewhere?

What can we do? What compromises are we willing to make? And that way, we are always aligned from the beginning to the end.

And actually, I was curious about one thing.

So, one thing that I found really interesting, I was talking previously about our wiki pages and one thing that I love are your wikis.

I always found a bunch of information there.

Everything is always very, very structured.

I saw this in some of the hiring process I work with. And I'm just curious, do you also use that or some other documents as a go-to place to have information on who does what or status of your jobs?

Or this is something that you have the sinks for it and you discuss on the sinks and you have that structured like that?

For design, we use the wiki pages heavily. Things change very fast. We've just had the projects that I can't believe we kicked off a month ago from how much it's changed on a daily basis.

If we don't have any kind of record of why we decided to go one way or the other, it means that we are siloing information and we are siloing knowledge.

And it's not something that we want to do. We want to be able to offer this to whoever comes in.

And if there was a need for someone else to take over what I'm doing or what David is doing, for them to be able to go and read and have the same amount of information as I would have had.

So I think the wiki does a great job of that, of taking us away from these products being built in verticals and trying to democratize information so everyone has the same amount.

And one other thing that actually I thought it would be interesting to talk about is to know a bit more about your current projects, what you can share of course.

But David, could you tell us a bit more about some of the projects that you are working on or something that you have worked recently?

Absolutely, yeah. I'd say the kind of biggest, most recent project that I was working on was Superbot Fightmode for Security Week.

Mari and I collaborated along with Louis Engineer's Nick Downey and Beth Knight as well on that project.

That was a really interesting project.

It was expanding our existing bot products through the rest of the plans, the user plans, and making plan conscious decisions about what each user experience was going to be like and the amount of data.

We thought it was appropriate to expose to them in terms of how granular that should be and how much hand-holding that we should be doing in terms of configuration as well.

Because with a customer base as wide as Cloudflare, you have people with all kinds of different technical experience and use cases.

So really fine-tuning that was a really interesting product.

And it was a great example of why we needed that close feedback loop and that constant collaboration with design.

Because it was a big project to implement across several plans.

And just maintaining constant communication to make sure expectations were aligned was crucial, absolutely crucial.

And David, we already know that you work very closely with Mari's team. But I was wondering if there are other teams here at Cloudflare that you collaborate with with projects or that you have any close contacts on some of your projects?

And if so, can you give us some examples of the teams that you work with and how you help each other?

Yeah, absolutely. So the Deloitte team is, I'd refer to as very horizontal, ultra -horizontal.

We work with an incredible amount of teams here.

But because we help develop the dashboard products for whatever team would like for us to do that.

Which is just always just a great thing for learning because there are engineers who are much more experienced in different areas of the technical side of some of our other projects.

And getting to work with them on a regular basis is always a great learning experience.

You get to know so much more about our products, about how the Internet works.

And yeah, it's incredible.

I work a lot with the DOS team on network analytics. And I've worked in the past with load balancing.

I've worked with the firewall security team.

And I've worked with the DNS team as well in short projects. Each one is incredibly varied.

And yeah, very different from project to project. That's great to hear.

And David, actually, I always love to hear those stories of how you collaborate, how people collaborate, how teams work each other.

Because it's something that I think it's very natural here at Cloudflare.

I know that overall, different teams will work together.

That, of course, has to happen until a certain point.

Because when you are working on a company, you always have some things that you rely on others.

But I think that the way that we work here at Cloudflare, how different teams interact, it comes so natural.

And you have so different people participating in different projects.

And everyone always willing to help each other.

I always love to hear those stories and understanding those interactions. So thank you for sharing that, David.

And still going back to the projects, David already gave us an overview.

But I would also like to hear from you, Mary, some of the projects that you are currently working in.

I was just trying to think, what can I say?

We have API products called the API Shield. Currently, it has mitigation solutions to solve API problems for our customers.

And we are building this into rather than one single thing.

All it does is something called schema validation.

It's trying to build it into an umbrella project that houses other things underneath it.

So I can't speak as to what we are actually going to ship underneath it.

However, it's been really, really amazing being part of the shift between one thing just doing building something that just does one thing and trying to understand what customers actually need it to do and use that as input to make our products better and make our products truly useful.

So I've been really privileged.

This has been a really massive endeavor. And design has been in a good position where we could actually try to drive ownership and accountability across the board.

So I'm particularly excited about that one. Great. Thank you. Thank you, Marnie.

And on a different note, and this is something that I always love to hear from people.

What would you say that makes your job here at Cloudflare different from the exact same role but in any other company?

I will.

Yeah, I think in my limited experience, I have to say. But I think like what you touched on there is the kind of the culture of collaboration at Cloudflare is like the number one thing that I kind of treasure in my job role is that we get to work so openly with other teams and get to learn from them.

And it's a very painless process.

We get to learn from each other and conversations can be had about any sort of technical challenge or design challenge.

And you feel like your input is appreciated on kind of the same level as everyone else's, which is just great.

Yes, actually, you know, it's funny. Even a few minutes ago, we were having our recruitment session also here on Cloudflare TV.

And we also mentioned the culture, the people.

And it's amazing that whenever I talk with someone here at Cloudflare and I ask about what makes the role different, there are always a bunch of things that people can say.

But culture, people, and the way that people help each other, it's always something that everyone mentions, which I think it's really so part of our culture that it's amazing that everyone always says something regarding to that.

It's always amazing to hear that. And on your side, Marti, what do you think that makes your job here different from same role in other companies?

I get to actually talk at the same level with the people who are supposedly making the decisions about product vision and where we are actually heading.

So there's a lot of talk in design around saying, oh, let's get designer seats at the table.

But no one really talks about what do you do once you have that seat.

And I feel like I've had the opportunity here to experience what it is like to, like David said, have whatever I have to say be valued and have my work treated as it's my expertise.

And I am entitled to also have an understanding and my view of what the product's vision should be.

And in helping form that, it is very unique. If you come from a place where design can be seen very often just as an executor of a business need, it's not what happens at Cloudflare, at least in my experience.

We actually get the chance to build that into a conversation.

Great. And now we are approaching our last minutes of our session.

So now for the final question, the $1 million question that I would like to ask you.

Do you have any open roles in your amazing design and blowy team?

Yeah, absolutely. Wherever you are, we want to hear from you.

There's a link in the careers day event. And if you would like to play, please go through that.

We'd love to hear from you. Yes, we have amazing both our teams.

So please apply. That's always great to hear. Actually, we are growing a lot here at Cloudflare.

We are currently hiring for these two amazing people to work with these two amazing people in front of me.

So if you have interest, if you want to apply, don't forget to follow up.

You have the link to send your application if you are not sure what to apply.

And if you want to see any of our openings, just go to our careers page also and check what we have there.

And thank you all for those who joined today for this session.

Thank you so much, David and Marty.

Always a pleasure to talk with you.