Cloudflare Careers Day: Welcome to Cloudflare
Cloudflare landed in EMEA 9 years ago and what a distance we have come since then. In this session our CTO, John Graham-Cumming, Head of EMA People Team, Popie Bastaki, and Head of the London Office, Alonso Bustamante will share how we've grown over the last 9 years, what we have been working on this year and what we have planned for the near future in the EMEA region!
Find all of our currently open roles on our careers page.
Hello and welcome everyone. My name is Popie Bastaki and I'm the head of EMEA PP team at Cloudflare based in London.
This is the first session of our Cloudflare careers day and we have a lot in store for you.
We hope that at the end of today you will know a lot more about Cloudflare, you will get to meet many of our teams in EMEA and you will find out how we continue to help build a better and safer Internet.
Now in this first session we will tell you a little bit more about where we started, how we have grown over the past nine years and what the future may hold for us.
With me here today of course I have Alonso Bustamente and John Graham-Cumming.
John is our Chief Technology Officer and he's actually our very first EMEA hire in London.
He has now moved to Lisbon to lead our new office over there but he has left the London team to the very capable hands of Alonso who is our Head of London Office and he joined the team five years ago.
Alonso and John welcome. Thanks very much Popie.
John let me start with you if you don't mind.
You joined Cloudflare around nine years ago.
Yeah. How did the London office look back then? Well so the story is that I, so Matthew the CEO asked me if I'd like to join Cloudflare a year before I joined when it was a tiny company over a nailed salon in Palo Alto and I didn't want to go back to the US.
I'd been in the US for a long time and I'd come back to the UK and I was like no I've got a job I'm going to stay here.
He's very persistent and about a year later I was like well actually the job I have it's not going so well this Cloudflare thing seems like it might go somewhere.
If you'll have me in London then you know I'm happy to be that person and so what happened was I met Michelle the other co-founder in St Pancras station in London with an offer letter which I signed in a coffee shop and I joined at the end of 2011 and that was me.
There was no office.
The office was a spare bedroom in my house which I printed out a Cloudflare logo and taped it to the door and I had a really rubbish desk that I bought in Costco years ago.
It was actually a card table and a garden chair and actually funnily enough I'm still sitting on the garden chair so now the lockdown has happened I've got the garden chair out again.
So I was the first person and I was the first person for well over a year until we hired someone else in London.
Excellent and this is how you started building the team from there. So what surprised you the most or what was the biggest challenge that you faced in the first few years?
Well I mean right at the beginning the big challenge was that Cloudflare was 24 people all of them in San Francisco in an office except for me and at the time we used Skype for communications and it was how we used we used it for chat as a group chat and so a lot of my problems were staying in contact with the team in San Francisco because I was alone.
Now a lot of what I was doing was programming so I could do it on my own but honestly my sort of Cloudflare life was saved by a guy called Dane Connect who joined not long after me and he's a very late night person early person he seems to be awake half the time so he would be on Skype with me keeping me up to date so that was that was like the initial challenge was just staying in contact with the team and I flew back and forth to San Francisco quite a lot to do things and then in February of 2013 I hired someone that I had worked with before Andrew Galoni who's still with the team with the team in London and he and I lived at opposite ends of London and so if we needed to have a meeting we used to meet and actually basically the Royal Festival Hall which has some nice little quiet areas upstairs was halfway between us on the district line so we used to sort of go like that and meet in the middle and that was really the beginning of it that was 2013 and for a long time we were the two of us and then we gradually grew as the company was growing it made sense to have not just engineers in London but all the other functions and so we grew out into a small office near the Museum of London and we began with sort of seven people and took it from there.
Excellent thank you so much John. Alonso over to you you joined Cloudflare a bit later in 2015 and the team was quite small relatively small back then and if I'm not mistaken we had around 30 employees in EMEA when you joined so how has the team evolved since you joined?
You know it's been quite a change in five years and it's been quite the roller coaster.
I think John you mentioned that you had around 25-30 people at Cloudflare when you joined that was roughly the size of the London office which was our entire EMEA presence when I walked in and I very vividly remember my first day walking into the office and there were these huge desk banks I think there was space for maybe 200 people in the office and you're like well just choose an entire desk bank or sit anywhere you want and that was that was my first day.
The team at the time and the London office at the time was very much an R&D and engineering organization.
I believe there might have been less than a handful of people who were focused on commercial operations and go to market functions.
I think we had a couple of account executives who were focused on selling Cloudflare but for the most part it was a large engineering office.
So the evolution of Cloudflare over the last five years in EMEA has been I think a significant growth of the team.
Papi you might correct me if I'm wrong but I think we're north of 300 people in the entire region not only based in London but also based in Munich, based in Paris, small presence in Warsaw, small presence in Brussels and of course our newest our new Lisbon office a couple years back.
So it's been a dramatic change from a geography perspective but also from a functional perspective.
Like I mentioned now I think the entire continent and the type of people that we have you know we still have significant engineering presence but beyond that we've been able to build a large commercial presence and a large general and administrative presence to support our commercial and R&D teams like yourself and like myself.
So it's been quite quite quite the change. I think one of the things that that has surprised me that has remained fairly constant over these five years is that I think we have not lowered the hiring standards and the quality of people who have come into Cloudflare if anything.
I think they've gone up and quite significantly.
I joke with people who joined at the same time that I did it was like I don't think they'd let us into Cloudflare if we were knocking on the door today and I see John nodding.
Yeah I agree. He agrees that I might not be let into Cloudflare.
No no I was agreeing that I might not get let into Cloudflare.
I think that's a very good point Alonzo which is you know Papi you asked about surprise.
I think perhaps the the surprise people should see from the outside is that you know a lot of U.S.
firms they open an office in the U.K. often in sort of Reading there's a sort of a zone around there near Heathrow kind of area and then more recently in the city to have some U.K.
presence but it tends to be not as oriented towards engineering as we were.
At one point 50 percent of all of Cloudflare's engineering was in London and to this day it's still a very high percentage and many of our core products are made in London.
I mean the core platform that everyone uses when they use a Cloudflare website is actually run from London.
I think that's a surprise to people outside because you tend to think of these offices as very satellite and actually London has been very key to Cloudflare's growth and it has become key to its growth in terms of sales as well with the sales operation, marketing, with technical support.
I mean it's been an absolutely key part of the company's success.
Excellent. Thank you so much both for this overview of our journey.
Now the two of you led the project of figuring out where we are going to build our next big EMEA hub a few years ago and you came up with Lisbon.
Can I ask you what were the key factors for this decision and this is the warning you can't say the weather.
Okay so I can tell you a few things but the weather is a joking response to a more serious piece of criteria which is is it a city where people want to move to.
I mean I think one of the motivators for having an office in continental Europe somewhere was Brexit of course and we saw a slowdown in people applying to come to London.
In London we have a very big mix of nationalities, we have a lot of British people, we have a lot of continental Europeans and then other people from outside of continental Europe and we didn't want to lose.
You know we're growing very very rapidly, it's absolutely critical we can find people and so you want to have an attractive location where people want to move to.
Now London is attractive in some ways right, big international city, a lot going on, some people want that.
Lisbon turned out to be attractive for lots of other reasons.
So you know Alonso did a lot of work with his team.
We looked at I think it was 45 places wasn't it Alonso? That's right. Took a map, picked the 50 largest cities and then went and started doing the analysis.
And you know what I think what happened with Lisbon was there are a number of things that make Lisbon very attractive.
One is it's an attractive location to go live at a relatively low cost so that the standard of living is very high without it being expensive.
That was important because you can attract people to come here and if you couple that with the government's orientation towards attracting people, both Portuguese who want to come home and foreigners, that made it an attractive location and to be frank you know there are other locations in Europe where the government is hostile to foreigners.
So you got you start to sort of eliminate places.
Then you want somewhere that's politically stable, you know Barcelona looks lovely right but when we were looking there was you know it really looked like Catalonia might succeed and so you know that made it politically unstable.
So you sort of start to knock these things down and then we looked at the pool of talent.
Obviously there was a talented you know good universities, good pool of talent here, large diaspora of people who would like to come back to Portugal who got trained somewhere else and they went to Paris or Berlin or London and got a fantastic you know real world training after university and you know the one thing that kind of people might dismiss as weird is the time zone.
So you know Lisbon, Portugal is on the same time zone as the UK, Ireland and Iceland and so what that means is we're an international firm and the overlap with other offices is pretty critical and so you know if you go, if I drive from Lisbon over the border into Spain I lose an hour and that hour is critical.
So it was really a combination of factors and you know Alonso you can probably talk about some of the other things we looked at but I think Lisbon just won out with it you know many different aspects.
Yeah absolutely. One thing that I think is also important I think our bias was for a market that was probably earlier in its evolution in terms of the technology ecosystem.
There are other cities that might be more obvious choices in Europe where there's a lot more of a technology ecosystem that's well developed but if you think of us as an employer and trying to attack talent do we really want to go head to head and compete for talent with some of the largest names in technology?
In Lisbon I think we found a situation where we were one of the early adopters of the city and one of the large technology companies that's coming there as opposed to other cities in Europe where you might be facing the Facebooks and Googles and Amazons of the world.
So I think that was an important thing. The other thing is I think Plafleur already had a historical context of a successful a successful second location or second headquarters.
In the U.S. we had began the company in San Francisco which is where our company is still headquartered but after I believe five years after we started the San Francisco office we opened an Austin office for many of the same reasons that I think we were looking for a location in Europe.
Again giving a different quality of life and a different type of situation for our potential employees.
A city that was offered a different and different talent pool.
So these are some of the things that we considered as we look to Lisbon and I think you know we've John I don't know what the latest numbers are but I think you're north of 40 people in hires over the last 18 months which is fantastic.
We're north of 60 people here now so it's great.
I lose track for a month and you'll go and hire 20 additional people. That's right because you know one of the other things that's happened if we came here very much with a sort of technical outlook right we were going to hire engineers and technical support security specialists you know all these kind of folks and then quick quite quickly the company realized that there's a broader talent pool right there's a lot of people in finance in Lisbon for example there's a lot of international banks were here a lot of people with that background so we hired there and sales is about start hiring so it's becoming a bit like the London office where it was kind of a mirror and we had you know you will mirror the London office with having a bit of everybody so yeah it's growing very very rapidly here.
And it's very exciting and the team is growing very fast and we actually have very very ambitious plans to continue to grow very rapidly.
John would you like to tell us a little bit more about these plans?
Well I mean as I was saying you know that I think the big thing that's happened here is that we have we've grown beyond the initial plan which was around very very technical groups of people and so what you're seeing is finance is hired heavily HR is hired you know your team is hired we're going to see sales high here technical support has done very well and we've had certain groups now start to build product in Lisbon I think that's really the key from an engineering perspective is you know becomes a little bit like what happened in London which is that's where the products are being built and so we've got some of the first things Cloudflare radar was partly built here and there'll be more products coming out and so we're starting to get that you know critical mass of people where you can do stuff we have a local engineering director here somebody who's Portuguese who we hired in and so and he's part of the my team and the larger engineering team and so we're going to keep going I think we we had hoped by the end of this year to be about 80 people I think we'll get close now to bear in mind last year when we came which was in the summer we were 12 so we will have gone you know maybe six to seven times larger than we what we arrived with and of course we arrived with transplants from outside of Portugal now what we are doing is hiring a lot of people locally and also about 10 of the people we've hired are Portuguese people who have come back to Portugal for this job so they've moved back home because they wanted they wanted to be in Portugal they wanted this job so we're going to continue hiring in all those fronts you know what will happen next year well I think we will you know we'll go well over 100 and keep keep going I think that you know Matthew said in an interview with Dinero Vivo not very long ago that maybe we'll do a thousand people in Lisbon in five years so you know Cloudflare is growing very rapidly we should expect a serious investment in Lisbon across all departments and and you know I don't know if we'll ever be larger than the London office because of that we'll keep growing but we'll rival it I think excellent thank you so much John let me now move in a slightly different direction 2020 has been a very challenging year for everyone within a few weeks back in late February early early March we had to change the way that we work together as a team how did we navigate the challenges that that COVID created and what do you think that we have learned through this process Alonzo do you want to take a stab at that and then I'll give my perspective yeah and and let me start at the very beginning of a journey of people at Cloudflare I think one of the most important asset that Cloudflare has and for that matter any company has is its people and I think as COVID hit our first instinct and our first reaction was really to try to take care of our people and make sure that we are able to give them the best possible experience within the the boundaries that mother nature is placing on us so let me talk specifically about how we revamped our onboarding process which I think you know your team played a an important role and I think it's pretty pretty impressive I think when within you know a couple maybe a week or two of having shut down the offices when we first went into lockdown the entire orientation process which is a week-long process that every single employee that Cloudflare goes through when they join the company anywhere in the world was revamped to be done online originally back and back before before the pandemic we would fly everybody to San Francisco for a week-long orientation those entire modules including you know the opportunity to talk to our co -founders and CEO the opportunity to talk to John and other senior management was revamped to be done online and I'm in the lucky position where I have a chance to talk to every single new hire who comes into the London office and the constant feedback that I've been getting from people is you know joining Cloudflare in the time of a pandemic has surpassed my expectations because you make it so easy and such a soft landing for people joining even these in these uncertain circumstances a lot some people that we've talked to had offers rescinded from from other places where they wanted to join and then they joined Cloudflare and I think the experience that they've had and and even the fact that our that our people in operations teams are sending these little care packages within the IT team or sending a laptop or sending I think a little bit of Cloudflare swag a welcome letter etc I think we've been able to replicate that warmth of the physical environment within the constraints so I think that's one thing that that's important to highlight.
Yeah I agree with you Alonso I mean I think that onboarding thing if you look at the you know net promoter score stuff from the onboarding people actually prefer the onboarding this way and what's you know why is that well you know if you fly to San Francisco for a week you're away from family you're away from your normal environment you're probably jet lagged it's you know it feels much more stressful in some ways than being at home on Zoom and I know that for example from my perspective as the only executive who is not in the US the pandemic's been absolutely wonderful for me in one aspect which is that the meetings with other executives are all video meetings and I never have to like bang on the screen to get a word in edgeways and I think there is a sort of flattening effect of the fact that we're all using video for these things that we can do this stuff and we're all on a level playing field now it's been extremely stressful so at the moment I head up a thing called the business continuity team which is the team that looks at how we're responding to the pandemic on a day-to-day basis and you know what what you have to do what we realized very very quickly is there is no one-size-fits-all solution here for the people on the team people are in different situations in different countries and they have to be dealt with on an individual basis so although we can put in place some things like well we're all going to use Zoom and we're going to use these IT systems and we were super lucky because we have a product called Cloudflare for Teams which allows us all to work from anywhere so that was great and off we go but individuals are having you know different different difficult circumstances so you know a lot of people got sent home with children who were now schooling from home so suddenly they're trying to figure out all their home IT's everyone can be doing video calls at the same time they're dealing with the fact that their children are there that's one group another group of people were individuals who live alone and suddenly a lot a big part of their social life just disappeared and in fact they were isolated and then you have other people who share a let's say a flat and suddenly they're on top of each other and I spoke to an employee who told me that her and her husband were they had so little space that one of them had to work off of the ironing board as a table and so you know you have to think about these things as like individual responses and so what we did was a couple of things firstly we made sure people got the support they needed from a mental health perspective and a technical perspective that they have the equipment they needed a desk chair all that kind of stuff and then you know we started looking at the countries as things changed and as soon as we could reopen offices to allow people to spend some time in the office we did and so you know pretty much all of our offices are now open in a limited capacity if you really need to get out of your home go work in the office and I've done it I've been to the office in Lisbon I think three or four times where I was like I really need a break I really need to be in the office and work quietly by myself that's been really important but what's the you know the overriding message and I think this comes through is that I think there's a very strong sense of empathy in Cloudflare for people and so it's understanding those individual situations working through it with them helping them and I think that has got us through the pandemic and the other the Internet you know the Internet was here as our you know is the Robin to the Batman right it was like helped us get through this and we had the technical stuff for it but really it comes down to people and how you treat them excellent the one thing I'd also add just just add one more thing is I think taking care of our team was important but also the pandemic has forced us to experiment and find new ways of communicating with our users with our customers and the people that follow Cloudflare obviously for some of the people that might be listening in you might be familiar with the Cloudflare blog which is a common way that we communicate with our customers and we try to have a constant conversation with our users to Cloudflare TV which we're you know on live right now is another form of a pandemic-led experiment if you think about one of the things the pandemic forced us or limited us was the ability to go talk to our users to go talk to the developers who are building on Cloudflare we're not going to conferences anymore we're not going to hackathons we're not going to customer conversations and I think this this Cloudflare TV is actually an example of experimenting of a different way of having conversations with with the people and with our stakeholders so this has been a really interesting experiment that has allowed us to open those conversations and maybe surprisingly has opened a lot of internal conversations too I think one of the things that the team has been surprised internally it has been how many people and how many of our current employees want to be a part of the conversation of Cloudflare TV and it gives us an opportunity to meet people in other offices it gives us an opportunity to meet users in different parts of the world so in addition to taking care of our team I think this experimentation that the pandemic has led us to has led to interesting things.
Excellent Alonso, I totally agree with you unfortunately we're not safely on the other side of the pandemic yet hopefully the signs are positive but we through this process there were opportunities for us as a company for others but most importantly this COVID situation did not disrupt did not derail our vision for the future so in this regard can I ask you what you think the next couple of years may look like at Cloudflare EMEA?
Go on Alonso.
I think we'll continue to see tremendous growth if we're able to continue to execute as we have over the past couple of years we'll continue to see tremendous growth both in people and just headcount around the region as we discussed earlier in this conversation over the last couple of years not only has the Lisbon office opened but we've also opened an office in Paris over the summer which will grow our office in Munich has been growing quite nicely we have a small presence in Brussels to deal with the European Union that has also been growing so I think we'll continue to see growth from a headcount perspective second I think we'll continue to see more and more products built on this side of the world I think one of the things that is impressive about Cloudflare compared to other places that I've been able to work at is our ability to work across geography and across regions and in a collaborative way and I think as we for example the Lisbon office matures we'll see more products built on this side of the world to complement some of the things that are built on in other in other parts of the world so those are two things that I think will continue to happen the other thing that might continue to happen is I think Cloudflare has been on a journey while we have a tremendous coverage over the entire Internet and have been have a lot of users who you know are people who are building their blogs who are building their own their own applications we've also been moving upstream to talk to larger and larger companies so I think we'll be able to keep that core user base while adding additional users and additional customers that are larger and larger enterprises yep I think that's right I think the other question is you know there probably will be additional offices you know I think the sales team will look at particular geographies where it's useful to have other offices and you know no doubt you know Paris is the most recent but you can imagine there are other big locations in Europe but you know in the Netherlands for example or maybe Spain or maybe Sweden Norway you know we we'd want to do that and I think the other thing is you know sort of if you think about our response to the pandemic and what Alonzo was saying about being able to work well together and remotely it's very likely that we will allow some of our technical staff to be in offices where they weren't before so you know from an from my group's perspective we're either in London or in Lisbon and we're I imagine we'll start to see us hire some engineering talent in Munich and maybe Paris maybe a bit more in Warsaw over the next couple of years as we you know as we work in this newer more flexible way.
This really sounds really really exciting and leads me to the the final question that I have for both of you so our EMEA region will continue their EMEA team will continue to grow so with that in mind what do you think are the one or two key factors that will be critical to our success?
John would you like to go first? Well you know I think that what we've done well is hire people who end up working well in the company I think if you look at the tenure of employees at Cloudflare it tends to be long right and I think that we have managed to do that and it's critical that we keep doing it you know I do a lot of what we call final calls which are their executive calls and we basically everybody gets hired speaks to one of four executives me Matthew, Michelle or Janet and that is a critical thing that we do because our idea is to try and find folks who are going to be curious share their knowledge work well on teams and we need to continue doing that and we will and I think that you know people go through a lot of interviews it's quite typical for people to have eight or nine interviews because hiring is critical so that for me is the key to success in EMEA is not technology or where offices are all those things are important but it's people it's finding the right people.
Thank you John. I think one of the things over the course of the pandemic we've been having these conversations with the entire company these company-wide fireside chats and one of our executives who leads our infrastructure team said for many of us we're going to do our best work of our lives at Cloudflare so I think part of our responsibility is continuing to hire people who want to do the best work of their lives at Cloudflare over the next couple of years so I agree completely with John the talent's one of those things.
I think the other thing that's really important is being able to keep that trust that we have built up both internally with our team by being very transparent and trying to communicate with our team in a very direct manner but also with our users and with our customers.
I think we try to do what's right for the Internet and we try to collaborate tremendously with other companies I think that's we're in the lucky position to have been able to build a position of trust and that trust is what keeps us going so being able to maintain that trust over the last over the next couple of years I think will feed into our ability to bring on the best people to build a world-class company.
Great this is a really good point to finish on I'm sure we could easily spend at least another couple of hours to of sharing stories of Cloudflare's past and sharing ideas and thoughts of what the future may hold for us but this is unfortunately all we have time for today.
Thank you so much both it was a pleasure to have a chat with you and thank you very much everyone for joining us.
We really hope you enjoyed this first session and remember that there is a lot more to come today so please stay tuned.
Thanks Poppy. Thank you. you