Cloudflare TV

Cloudflare Careers: How I Got Here: Women in Sales

Presented by Vasso Giovitsits, Carrie Thompson, Sam Braich, Jessica Iyer
Originally aired on 

As part of Women's Empowerment month, listen to our EMEA sellers tell their story of their journey in sales #InternationalWomensDay #EmbraceEquity

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Women in Sales

Transcript (Beta)

Hello everybody, thank you for joining us and we are here to talk about women in sales and tech sales, especially at Cloudflare.

And we have three female professionals here.

So we have Sam, we have Jessica and we have Carrie with us, who will talk to you all about how, will talk to us, let's say all about how their journey in sales is or has been so far.

So I'll start randomly with Jessica. And yeah, Jessica, can you tell a bit about yourself and how you came into sales and yeah.

Yeah, definitely. Thanks Vasso. So like, like, you know, I've been at Cloudflare now for about three and a half years.

I started my journey in sales through being a BDR initially when I joined.

So I worked in the inbound sales team and then I worked with our self -service customers, finding opportunities to upgrading them to our enterprise platform.

And from there, I've worked a little bit with the post-sales side of the organization and the customer success team, understood a lot about what our current customers need and use and enjoy about our platform and service.

And now working in the new business sales team for the Nordic market, focusing on Sweden.

That's where I'm from. So it all makes sense and ties up in the end.

So I worked in the different parts of the sales unit in my journey here.

Over to Sam. Awesome. Thank you. So I've been in sales for 15 years, so quite some time.

So I first started off when I finished university. I actually studied criminology with sociology and a recruiter called me up and his kind of sales line was, hey, how big is your student loan?

I'm like, huge. So then we started to talk about sales.

So I was like, OK, you know, this is great earning potential.

I can work in IT industry. And I thought, OK, let's let's carry on.

So I worked for some really good large vendors, all American-based companies and being at Cloudflare, it's been about two and a half years.

And it feels like if this feels like home to me.

So, yeah. And I work in the UK mid-market team for the south of England.

Nice. Kerry, do you also have a degree that is unrelated to sales?

I know, I know. So I'm a previous musician, so performer, but also academic.

And I've been in sales five years now and have never looked back. So during my time as an academic and during these performance met a load of new people, including a lot of people worked in tech.

And I kind of said, I'm not sure I want to continue with performance and ended up making a very, very big pivot into tech.

Like Jessica went into the SDR role at a competitor to Cloudflare around four and a half years ago now.

And then since then have worked for a number of Cloudflare competitors and then finally said, well, I've been aware of Cloudflare since I joined the industry.

Let's come and join this absolute fantastic company and see what I can do.

Oh, cool. And since you have very, you don't have a background, let's say, in tech, right?

What were the challenges that you faced when you first starting, let's say, dipping your toes into the tech industry?

Yeah, no, I mean, obviously having no tech experience, but understanding my, what I can bring to the table in terms of obviously coming from a performance background and also an academic background.

You know, I understood that I had very, very good attention to detail.

I could present really well having had to sing in front of tens of thousands of people.

I knew I could sort of hold my own in front of a crowd.

And then also as well, kind of that organization, that dedication and preparation to my craft actually became really good in terms of establishing a sales career and having that maniacal focus on making sure that everything is prepared and everything is organized for me to be as successful as possible.

So actually, I think what I learned from USEC has been really transferable into tech and then also just the academic background, having kind of the educational background to be able to go and handle all these kind of difficult tech concepts.

So I would say to anyone who is looking at a career in tech, no matter what background you're from, I think sales is a great way of entering tech without having to retrain in a technical discipline.

Cool. Sam, how about you?

What was your experience, especially also as a woman, let's say, how did that shape your experience or your journey in tech and that Cloudflare?

Yeah, interesting.

So I mean, going back, you know, 10, 15 years ago, you know, there wasn't as many women working in tech sales as in now.

But even so, you know, like you said, it has been a journey.

And, you know, there has been some ups and downs. But, you know, it's a learning curve, really, because, you know, again, 15 years ago, I was a lot younger, not as knowledgeable as I am now.

And as like the industry evolves, as there's more like inclusion in the workplace, and there's more diversity, it becomes more comfortable.

So, you know, you could work in an organisation where maybe people maybe kind of treat a little bit different.

But as you know, as long as you've got that kind of passion, that empathy, you'll eventually find that right company and your right management team as well.

And here at Cloudflare, I mean, I think you can all kind of agree with me is, you know, we lead by empathy.

So everyone's an equal here, you're treated well, your voice is heard, your efforts, your actions are all credited.

So I think that's the best thing that's, you know, that we can have, you know, as a unit.


Jessica, you started out as a BDI, you had, let's say the whole, you worked in several, let's say, organisations in the sales department.

And how did that shape your journey?

And also, what were your experiences being a young lady, a young woman?

How did that, let's say, affect your experiences? And how was it for you?

So like Sam said, I think when you initially start in the sales role in the career, you're quite naive, you don't know the ropes of things, and you're learning.

And that's, that's the attitude I came to Cloudflare with.

I was like a sponge, like I absorbed everything that I was getting in.

So there was great enablement training, there was great on the job training, practical experiences, I was thrown into customer calls in my second week at Cloudflare.

And that was the best way to learn, to be honest, you learn when you talk to the customers the most, right.

So moving from there, I realised that this is something I really enjoy doing.

And I want to do that more building relationships with customers so that I can then use that and, you know, transform that into into business and, you know, see a benefit for us together as partners.

And that's when I really looked at what my ways forward are.

Because, you know, typically, if you don't know where to start, BDI is usually a great front to start right out of uni and you can, you can get into a role specialising in the market that you're from.

And there's always so much to learn so much opportunity.

And it's a great way to get into tech, like, like Kerry said, with a role like this, where, you know, you don't need that much previous technical experience.

But you will learn so much about technology while you're in the role.

So that's what I did. I learned about technology, learned about customers, and eventually, with the development programme that we have moved into a different role within post sales.

And that's where that's where you develop your your skills, your communication, your customer development skills.

And that's what's helping me today, bringing in new customers and business to Cloudflare in the territory that I work in.

And in terms of being a young woman, I think there's definitely things that you notice that you only you notice that how you're, how you're being treated and who you're being around.

But I think in Cloudflare, something that's really helped me through this process is being a part of different ERG groups.

ERGs are employee resource groups. So Womenflare is one of them, that's a community of women, and it's the largest one that we have, where you can talk about these things and share ideas.

It's a safe space.

And we do build community together. And one of the ones that I lead as well is TheySeeFlare, which is more geared towards South Asian origins.

And that's, you know, the real communities and what you can find when you're in a completely new world.

And when you're completely overwhelmed with everything that's going around, you can build that little community that you can feel feel safe with.

And that's really what helps you go in the long run, because a lot of people get burnt out with sales, a lot of people get burnt out in tech.

But really, it's the small things like this that you have to find what gives you joy and keep up with it.

Great, I agree. And you mentioned something towards the end, like getting burnt out and everything.

And let's say having had negative experiences in the past.

So Sam, drawing on your experience, on your, let's say, a bit longer experience, what would be something that you would change or you would have done differently?

Or you wish you would have known when you first started?

So that's quite easy. It's the whole thing about imposter syndrome.

So walking in a room, knowing that I'm not tech savvy, knowing that I don't have a degree or any courses in network security, knowing that, you know, we can say I'm, I would be different, I'll be the different person in the room and then holding my own.

So, you know, these challenges, you know, not just myself, you know, there's many other groups out there that find that as well.

So, so really learning from that, really, and just, just understanding, okay, so what, what is good?

What can I bring to the table? Like Carrie had initially said, like, what are my values?

What am I good at? And having those really candid conversations with your direct reports, whether that be your manager, your director, your one-on-ones, and discovering, okay, what's your niche?

What are you really good at?

And then like, you know, communicating that back to the team. And sometimes that feedback can be more, you know, what, what can I say?

It's appreciated and not really appreciated, but, you know, once you, it's sales, right?

It's the numbers again. So once you do hit your numbers, once you do speak about business objectives, that you know what's happening in the industry, know what's happening in the market, you can help others.

You do build up a lot of respect from that and also how you hold yourself as well.

So, you know, sometimes you do need to go in the room and you do need to be more active and, you know, if someone's not speaking to you, you go to that person.

So, you know, if there's any, any kind of intimidation, you kind of eliminate that.

If you'd still have imposter syndrome, you know, speak to your manager directly, like, how can I get rid of this?

This is how I feel. And Cloudflare, you can do that. Like, you know, in any other groups we have, you can go to different teams.

You've got, you know, women flair and stuff.

And just having that open conversation, because you don't know the colleague next to you probably doesn't even have an idea, doesn't have a clue.

So they turn around and that's actually happening. Like, well, Sam, how can we best support you?

True. Kerry, what's your take on this? Yeah, no, completely agree, Sam, with what you said there.

I think I've definitely experienced imposter syndrome to differing levels in, in like my short sales career so far.

But the one thing I would say is, you know, I've, I've, I've worked in obviously very male dominated environments, pretty much been the only female on the team most of the time.

And I've obviously had some very, very good male mentors. They've really built me up and tried to bring me to the conversation as well.

But also, I think Cloudflare is brilliantly set up for women to find mentors that are men and women in the organisation.

We have leadership that are women all the way through the organisation, which means then that we can really, our voices can be projected and be heard throughout and ideas can be taken on board.

And we really feel part of something like I'm very, very early into my Cloudflare journey.

I've been, I'm week five now, I think.

So, you know, but what I've seen so far, my ideas are already being taken on board and elevated up the organisation.

And I really feel like I'm building towards being part of something here.

So it's really, really amazing to see Cloudflare really taking diversity, equity and inclusion so seriously, and bringing women to the front of every single conversation.

And also, for me, being able to go and identify key mentors that can help me in my career.

That's good.

I agree. One hundred percent. One hundred percent. So, Kerry just said more or less why she chose Cloudflare and why Cloudflare is a great place.

Jessica, why did you choose Cloudflare?

Yeah, great question. I think tech was always interesting to me to get into.

And we were also talking about what kind of roles you can apply for if you don't have a very technical background or education within that.

I think we spoke in the beginning also about everybody's education. And I'm also one of the people that don't have an education within security or technology.

I actually studied international development, which is vastly different.

And one of the questions that one of the managers asked me during the interview process was, you know, why do you want to get into this?

You studied something so cool and you could be a diplomat one day.

And I was like, yeah, but I think this is a fun ride, you know, to start off with.

And I was always really keen on numbers and statistics and things like that.

So, sales was more natural to me. When it comes to Cloudflare, I think we're looking at a company that has a very big vision, a company that's not going to diminish anytime soon.

The founders have a very, very strong vision to where we want to be in the next, you know, 10, 20 years to come.

And I think being a part of that journey was really, really exciting for me.

And that's why I've stuck around for as long as I have, is to follow that along and to learn.

So, the day I stop learning at Cloudflare is the day I think I will part my ways.

But I think in the three and a half years that I've been here, there's always so much to learn and there's things that are changing all the time and developing and there's always, always so much innovation happening from the technology side.

So, as sales, you have to always keep up with that as well. And, you know, a customer that didn't think there was something for them in Cloudflare yesterday will have something tomorrow.

So, there's always the opportunity with our potential customer base that we can expand.

And I think that's just going to get better and better over time.

So, it's always exciting to be part of the journey of a company that is so ambitious.

And personally, as a person myself, I'm also quite ambitious with how I've taken on and, you know, driven my career and what I choose to do in the future.

So, it kind of matches and aligns with my goals as well. So, I think that was one of the big things for me.

I think, Jessica, I can guarantee that you'll never be bored at Cloudflare and you will never cease to learn because for the six and something years that I've been with Cloudflare, I've never stopped learning.

So, this is the part why I really feel so happy to be with Cloudflare.

Sam, what was your main reason or what were the deciding, the decisive factors for you to choose Cloudflare, let's say?

So, it would be, so my previous role, I was in a huge US company in research and consulting and I'd heard about Cloudflare and I heard about the growth, about the strategy, about where they're going in the next kind of five to ten years.

So, I kept that to myself. I was like, okay, this is a great company to join.

So, two and a half years ago, you know, it wasn't as big as it is now.

So, I knew what they were doing was, you know, is all led by innovation and that's, you know, that's very evident as, you know, unfortunately what happened in the lockdown, everyone was at home, everyone was using the Internet, you know, no one had a strategy for their remote workers, but Cloudflare did.

They had a vision. So, that was the biggest deciding factor and, you know, within that interview process, you know, speaking to different people from Cloudflare, this is a really cool company, like, you know, their personalities are very authentic, it's very natural and just the team that I was going to be in, I heard there's loads of DJs in Cloudflare as well, which is, it's really good fun here, like, this is really cool and we work in County Hall, that's right next to the London Eye.

I thought, this is great. So, it was a mixture of culture, innovation and working for another, you know, a US company that's going to make moves, that's going to make really big moves.

So, you know, I stand by that.

Cool. I agree 100%. Kerry, you're the youngest at Cloudflare, let's say, with, yeah, just five weeks in.

What can you say about the culture so far, like, for people who would like to apply for a job or who are waiting or who are interviewing?

What is, like, what's the culture like? What are we like? Yeah, it's, well, you know, I'm still sat here five weeks, very, very happy with my decision.

Obviously, my interviews weren't long ago and the thing that became very, very apparent every single stage I did was the absolute openness, transparency and passion that every single person showed on every single panel I had.

And it's a long interview process at Cloudflare for a lot of roles, but the exposure I had to different people, different teams, really solidified for me.

It was the place for me in terms of the collaboration, the drive, the ambition that the company has and also the people within it.

We have really exciting plans. We've just hit one billion ARR.

We're now moving to five. And how are we going to change and grow to develop that?

And I wanted to be part of that journey. In terms of the culture and the people, as Sam said, London office, fantastic office, so anyone who's lucky enough to join Cloudflare has a wonderful office in the UK.

And globally as well, we have fantastic offices, but also the teams within them, right?

Like, the people are, I've not worked with people like it before, just so open, willing to help, willing to collaborate with you, even if it doesn't really fall into their remit.

Usually, I think everyone is an open book here.

So in five weeks, I already feel at home.

I already feel ready to work, ready to grow here. And I'm really, really excited for the future at Cloudflare.

Great. Jess, what would you say to somebody who is kind of trying to determine if they want to apply for a role at Cloudflare, for a sales role or for whatever role, let's say at Cloudflare, what would you tell them?

Yeah, I think we have a lot of diverse roles and opportunities at Cloudflare.

Since I've joined, and I'm sure since you've joined, it's been six years, we've expanded into so many different roles and different responsibilities that everybody's leading.

So I would look at the careers page and try to understand what your interests are, what your passions are, and apply for the one that resonates the most.

I think as soon as you apply, you usually have a recruiter reaching out quite soon after, and you can talk to them about any doubts that you have and any questions that you have about the vision, about the role, about the requirements.

And I think something to mention as well, since we're talking about women empowerment here, typically we're afraid of applying for roles if we're not 100% qualified.

And often we apply for roles that we're overqualified for, whereas it's not the same with everybody else.

So I think if I say anything today is go and apply for that role that you really want to do.

Don't worry about how qualified you are.

You'll go through the process and you'll understand if you're missing something and how you can supplement that.

But really go for the opportunity and you'll see where you land up.

Maybe you'll land up with your next dream job that you never thought was possible.

That's really cool. Thank you.

What about you, Sam? Having come from, let's say, an experience of 10-15 years, what do you think makes Cloudflare special?

It would have to be the people. I know that sounds like a cliche, but it's amazing being a UK, you know, having a UK region, having a UK office, but we are so diverse.

There's different cultures. Everyone's from a different region, a different country.

And, you know, also what Carrie said, like, even if it's not in your remit, someone's always there to help you.

So it is, I mean, this is, I think this is definitely the best thing about Cloudflare.

So, you know, my previous role, I was involved with a lot of international business.

And then when I came here thinking, I'm just in UK, but it doesn't matter because within the office, everyone is different.

And it's so cool just to have a coffee with someone, to have lunch with someone, to understand what's happening in their region, what's happening, like how we can help and what's kind of crossover.

So, yeah, so that's what it would be. Yes. And what about you, Carrie?

What are your thoughts? Yeah, I mean, obviously, I think, I think everyone said it, people, you know, it's the people, it's the, but also as well, when I say people, the commitment from top down, Matthew, Michelle, they, we've already had so many trainings in the five weeks I've been here around making sure we break down unconscious bias, making sure that we really look at how we hire diversely, how we interact with different cultures, different teams, making sure that we can basically have a melting pot full of ideas.

And we have that through diversity and through equity and through inclusion.

And that is a top down message, which I think isn't just a, you know, a vanity project.

It's truly embraced and felt through our values and championed throughout the business.

So I think, to be honest, people and it's top down as well.

I agree. I can only agree with all of you. I remember what makes it, what makes Cloudflare special for me is the fact that everyone wants to help.

Like we want to help each other. We want to empower and enable each other.

I still remember my colleague on the solutions engineering team who was happy to dedicate some time to me, to teach me or to show me what the benefits and how to understand a product that I just couldn't wrap my head around.

So the empathy and the feeling that we're all, we all are working and we want, we have the same goal and we have the same mission that makes, I think, Cloudflare special.

The people, I only can agree. Well, thank you so much, ladies, for your time today.

It was lovely getting to know you more because we might be working in the same office, but we don't meet each other so often.

Right. So it was really a pleasure and hopefully you enjoyed it as well.

And yeah, have a good one. Happy Women's Day.

Happy Women's Day, everyone. Happy Women's Day. Happy Women's Day.

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