Cloudflare in Portugal: We’re Hiring
Cloudflare is growing, hiring and expanding in Europe and in Portugal in particular, where we are already have a team of 140+ and we have around 100 job openings (remote included). Join us to talk about our growth in Lisbon and in Portugal in general (two and a half year-in) with our CTO, John Graham-Cumming.
And we're live! Hello everyone, this is the Cloudflare in Portugal segment. We're hiring.
With me I have our very own CTO, John Graham-Cumming. Hello John. Hello, good morning.
In Portuguese, I actually have a flag here, which is like... Very, very patriotic.
Yeah, in a sense. We only usually use these flags when there's a World Cup, a football World Cup or something like that, but it's always there.
So let's dig into the topic in question. So Cloudflare is growing, of course.
It's hiring and is expanding in Europe and in Portugal in particular. We already have a team of 140 plus people in Portugal, in Lisbon, but also remote in other parts of the country and around 100 job openings in Portugal.
So let's begin in terms of how Cloudflare came to Portugal and opened a big technology office here.
It started small, right? It started in 2019. Yeah, that's right. We had wanted to add another significant office to Cloudflare in Europe so that we could have a bit of everything.
So as you say, technology office, so that means, you know, engineering and support and IT and security, etc., etc., similar to what we have in London.
And we had been searching around for a location and we looked at, I think it was 45 cities on our long list, basically everywhere from, you know, Estonia to Iceland, right across Europe.
And we were looking for a bunch of different criteria for the location.
And what happened was Lisbon came out on top. And I'm happy to talk about what the criteria were.
And we opened the office officially in the middle of 2019.
And there were a very small group of us, about six or seven people in a little office in Nishadu.
I moved here permanently. I live in Lisbon.
That's where I'm talking to you from. And we've been growing since then. So growing sadly, and of course, the pandemic happened.
So big shifts there. And I think most people aren't aware of this.
A company, when it goes to a city, to a country, it has to build their foundations there.
And you started to build those foundations.
What, in terms of this path in Portugal, you were surprised in a sense, from the country, from the people that we're hiring also?
I don't think I had major surprises.
But I, you know, having lived in quite a few different countries, I should have remembered that it always takes a bit longer to get those foundations in place than you think.
And I think if you look at Cloudflare's growth in Lisbon, so we had six or seven people in the middle of 2019.
When the pandemic hit, and we all went home, we had actually moved into a slightly larger office on Avenue de Liberdade.
And we were about 20 something. So we had, you know, we had doubled, more than doubled, but we were still fairly small.
But we were already anticipating a lot of growth. And so we had rented another office ready to go.
And in fact, we actually sort of moved into that office on April the 1st of 2020.
Now, of course, nobody was there. But the movers came and moved all the stuff.
And we're now 140 people. So perhaps the sort of the surprise was, I think it took a while for the momentum to build up in terms of hiring, in terms of people realizing that Cloudflare was here to stay, the sorts of jobs that were open.
And as you said, at the beginning, we have about 140 people. So if you just step back and think about it, 120 people were hired during the pandemic, and worked from home from the start.
So you know, most of our employees didn't go to the office, and we're now starting to get back into the office.
And I think, as you also said, we have 100 job openings right now.
So we have grown enormously.
And now I think it's really accelerated. And very recently, we had the head of EMEA sales in Lisbon, and the head of our CSM team, that's the folks who actually work with our customers on implementation.
And so the last department that hadn't really hired in Lisbon sales is now about to do that.
So we're going to end up here with a large, I sort of often refer to jokingly, a full stack office, people from every department.
And just to contrast that with the rest of Europe, because we do have other offices, we have an office in Brussels, we have an office in Paris, Munich, we have a couple of people in Warsaw.
And obviously, and we're starting to open up in Amsterdam.
The contrast is that most of those offices are focused around sales, local sales, and local language.
Whereas the office here in Lisbon is much like our London office, which is a bit of everything.
And so this is our, as you said, kind of our second technical office, if you like, in Europe.
In terms of the talent, let's say like that, coming to Portugal, even from other countries, adding to the ecosystem, like say like the tech ecosystem in Portugal, with different knowledge, with different expertise.
Did you saw, because Portugal was trending before the pandemic, and is still trending in a way, with a lot of tech companies coming here, did you saw that drive for people even from outside Portugal to come and do something special here?
Well, you sort of go back to the reasons why we chose Portugal, right?
So if you go back and you say, why did we decide to open an office in Lisbon, or in Portugal more generally, right?
As opposed to somewhere else? And I think the answer, what it came down to was a combination of factors.
We had this incredible spreadsheet with all these different factors laid out in it.
And one of the things was that you have already, you know, here, a highly educated workforce across different departments.
Obviously, you have people with very good education in technology from universities in Portugal.
But you also have people with a very strong finance background. And in fact, one of the largest departments in the Lisbon office here is actually finance.
And so you had that good educational base. You also had two groups of people who want to come to Portugal.
So to be clear, most of our office is locally hired Portuguese folks, the majority.
And then you will see people who came from outside of Portugal, and they split into two groups.
One is Portuguese people who want to return to Portugal for a job.
And there are a lot of people in the office who are in that situation.
They had left Portugal, and were doing something else. Those folks have got an interesting background, too, because they've had an experience in another country, in another environment, which is very useful to us, because we are very much an international firm.
And then, of course, you have people who would like to move to Portugal, because it's a nice place to live.
And that was a very important part of our decision making.
Because if you combine, you know, the local talent, the Portuguese who want to come back, and that it's an attractive location, then, you know, you can really build the kind of office that we have, and we're growing, which is a real mixture of people.
So, you know, I think it was a big combination of factors.
And obviously, the cost of living was a very important factor.
We want a location where people can have a good life. The weather was a big thing as well, as funny as it might seem.
But, you know, I lived in Silicon Valley, and the weather in Silicon Valley is beautiful.
And it's similar to the weather in Portugal.
And actually, that makes a big difference on a day-to-day basis.
And lastly, one other thing that's really subtle, but might not be appreciated is that there are not many locations in Europe, which share the same time zone as the UK.
And the reason that tends to be important is first of all, because you have an office in the UK.
But also, we work very much internationally. And if you go one country over to Spain, you add an hour.
And actually, that moves you an hour further away from the US.
And that does create problems. We are eight hours away from San Francisco here.
And if you go to nine hours, there's even less overlap between the offices.
So if you need to speak to somebody in one of those offices, and equally, the other way around, which is by staying, you know, we're roughly eight hours from Singapore, we can work with Singapore.
So these factors all came together to make, you know, Lisbon a very attractive place.
And since the pandemic, and hybrid working has become more common, we're now broader than just Lisbon, all the offices here, we actually have some folks in Porto, and we're happy to hire anywhere in Portugal.
Exactly. There's actually a number of openings that are remote in Portugal, and full remote.
And from what I gather, people can propose themselves for a job opening, if they want to be remote, they can ask to be remote.
So there's flexibility there also, right? That's right.
So our thinking on this is that there is value in being in office, right? There's value in seeing people face to face, and having that experience with them.
And so we want to we want people to be within a reasonable distance of our office in Lisbon.
And luckily, in Portugal, that's easy, right? Because Portugal is relatively small.
And you know, you can get to Lisbon easily, you know, not taking eight hours of flying or something to get there.
So that makes it easy.
And we also, you know, have all got used to some hybrid situation, right? Me too, I'm doing this from home today, I could have done it from the office.
And so yes, people can apply, there are jobs that are specifically listed as being, you know, remotely, you know, available anywhere in Portugal.
And then some which we're where our preference is that people are much closer to the office.
And it depends a little bit on the team, which how the team likes to operate.
For example, I think the sales team is a little bit more towards the idea that people get together more in the office than work independently.
On the engineering side, I think we're a little bit more, it's okay to be remote.
So it depends on the on the specific role.
But yes, there's a the whole of Cloudflare is very hybrid now.
Of course, I was at the office yesterday. And for example, there were people there that go to the office right now as it is from two and two weeks.
So because they live 100 kilometers from Lisbon, they don't live in Lisbon.
Yeah. So some people go there because they want to go there, of course, but they choose when they go there.
So there's that. Well, I think this is you bring up something which is an important point, which is, you know, I used to go to the office before the pandemic, because I had to.
That was what was expected, right? If I had stayed at home, it would have been odd, right?
meetings were in person, all this kind of stuff.
I think what the pandemic has done is made going to the office an intentional act.
So it's, I'm going to go to the office to work with my other colleagues, because I'm doing something where I need to be with them.
Or I'm going to go to the office because working from home is not ideal for me, because there's noise or not enough space or my Internet is bad.
So I think this becomes, you know, it's very intentional.
And so, you know, I'm going to the office right now one day a week. And I think I'm going to expand it a little bit.
Because I value that the mixture, right, which is the ability to see, you know, you in person, I saw you last week in person.
But also, you know, the ability to work at home quietly on things.
Yeah. And yesterday, just to give my example, let's say I was at the office, and I got some meetings with people that usually don't talk with.
Occasionally, we met, we, oh, you're there.
And we discussed even work things, new ideas, just for being there, the, sorry, for the word.
But there's that element there, right?
Well, there's an element of, you know, in there's something in in person meetings, where, you know, ideas get sparked, or something comes up that is a little bit harder to do through video, because it's slightly less spontaneous.
And it's a little bit harder to read people's body language.
And it's also a little bit harder to do asynchronously through documents and things like that.
And that's why I think that we like this hybrid mixture of possibilities.
And so I think it's useful from time to time to be in the office.
And in fact, in the teleworking law, the Portuguese government introduced, there's actually a requirement for employers to get their remote employees into the office, which I thought was a very interesting move.
True. It's for the connection, really. Yeah, even to one time a month, two times a week, but connection there.
That's right. Because otherwise, people can get isolated, right?
And we saw that in the pandemic, people were, some people were having a very hard time, you know, mentally with the isolation.
And I think it's also important to see other people. And I'm glad now that we have the option to go into the office.
True, makes sense. Let me just share my screen to show a little bit of what we're talking about the office as it is the office that we have already grew in the past few months, because we have more people.
So and in this case, we also added a few things in terms of being more flexible as a workplace.
So this is our view from Marques de Pombal, the square, one of the biggest square in Lisbon, with a nearby garden, we have this view.
But view aside, we also have some areas that are, I would say, nice for, for this flexibility time.
There's booths there for conversations.
There's, there's some things there. And the expansion in Portugal will pick up on this, right?
Yeah, I mean, this will just go back to the view, the view, you know, when you talk about weather, and you talk about things like that, it may seem like those things are insignificant, but they're not.
And things like the view actually is very, very important.
And we do, you know, intellectual work, right?
No matter what department you're in at Cloudflare. And, you know, the ability to stop and stare at the horizon or stare at the Tej is, you know, is important, because it allows people's minds to wander and think and be creative.
And so actually, one of the reasons why, you know, throughout the pandemic, we kept that office on Marques de Pombal, apart from the fact that it has great transport links, and is in a good location, is that ability for our team to, you know, do that thinking, spend time outside, all those kinds of things.
So that's actually very, very important.
And we are, you know, growing, we grew into another floor in that building, we're going to continue growing, and I expect we'll have to take more space in that building over time, as more and more people want to come back into the office.
Exactly. So it's always something that people value, in a sense, being in a pleasant place to work, really.
Yeah, especially if you think that, you know, what's happening is people are now hybrid, and have a choice about going into the office, right?
The office needs to be to be attractive and be a place where people can do their best work.
So exactly. In terms of offerings, we have a lot of number, like we're saying, a number of job openings in our website, careers at Belflare.
And in Lisbon, we can see from accounting, from engineering, from design.
But one of the things I found interesting, is it's a company where you can work in the Lisbon office, but you're contributing to the global company, to Australia, to Singapore, to the United States.
So people, in a sense, are working from a Lisbon office to the world, really.
Yes, that's absolutely true.
And that's always been the case at Cloudflare, right? So Cloudflare, from the very beginning, has had an international customer base.
It's always been in countries all over the world.
You know, Cloudflare's revenue more from outside the US than inside the US, although we are obviously an American firm.
You know, we're always very, very international. And so, yeah, I mean, people working in the Lisbon office will be working with teams, certainly in Europe, certainly in London, but very likely with Asia, with Australia, with the US, because that is the nature of the company and the sorts of teams we have.
And I think that's just, you know, one of the important aspects is, you know, we're here in Portugal, and we're very much happy to be here.
We're going to grow this team, and we're going to grow it as part of a very large company, which is still growing very rapidly.
Exactly. And for those who don't know exactly what Cloudflare does, the motto, helping make the Internet better, in a sense, has a lot of technology, is related to the way that the Internet is a network of networks.
We say this a lot.
But in a sense, and you're here, you've been here 10 years in, what would you say the things that you think people don't know a lot about Cloudflare that can push them forward in terms of a career, in terms of their path, their mission?
Well, first of all, you very likely have used Cloudflare today without realizing it, right?
So everybody, literally everybody on the Internet uses Cloudflare every day without realizing it.
Why? Because we have a very large number of customers, websites, apps, Internet of things, devices, all sorts of things that are connected to the Internet businesses.
And what we're doing for them is we are making those experiences faster, and we are making them more secure.
Fundamentally, that's what we do, is performance and security.
And so that means you have gone to a website, maybe a Portuguese website that uses Cloudflare to protect itself from hackers, or you have used an app whose backend uses Cloudflare, or maybe your employer uses Cloudflare for internal applications.
So fundamentally, when you say our mission is to help build a better Internet, the idea is that the good performance and good security should not be restricted to a small number of very, very big firms like Amazon or others who can afford to pay for the best of everything.
They should be available as a service. Cloudflare sells performance and security as a service to our customers.
And that's what you're doing. If you come work at Cloudflare, you will be working on one or both of those areas, which is, can I make people's experience of the Internet faster and can I make it more secure?
And our customer is a business.
It's not the end user. It is a business that wishes to have a faster website or a more secure website or a faster email server or a more secure connection for their internal applications.
But the ones that can benefit with that, if we're benefiting our customers that are companies, the end user is also getting some of that.
So if their Internet is quicker, if right. So in the term, in a way, by helping companies, we are helping the ecosystem of the Internet, all the users in a sense, right?
Well, yes. I mean, but one of the ways we do that right is we are not, we're not ourselves trying to create a new Internet, right?
We're not like, well, there's a Cloudflare Internet. What we do is we try and push forward the standards and the new technologies that make the Internet faster.
So, you know, like, you know, things like HTTP 2 and HTTP 3, which are protocols that make, you know, your use of the Internet faster or things like TLS 1 .3, which makes your Internet use more secure.
Fundamentally, Cloudflare is, the Internet is a cooperative system.
It is a network of networks, as you said at the beginning, you know, different people stand up different networks around the world and we cooperate by having these standards and those standards need to progress.
And because we are large, we can help progress them quickly. Exactly. For those who are looking to the career path and thinking of Cloudflare as a way forward, throughout the years, the company has made progress, not only for the company and their customers, but for the Internet ecosystem at large, because improving what we are doing improves the ecosystem, right?
In that sense. Exactly, exactly.
I mean, the thing is we have a, an opportunity because of the size of our network to try out, you know, we can do tests and new protocols, we can do tests and new things.
Right now, if you visit the Cloudflare blog, there is a series of blog posts this week about a very complicated topic, which is post-quantum cryptography.
You know, what is that if you're, if you don't know what it is, there is a threat to the cryptography that we use to keep ourselves secure online from a new type of computer called a quantum computer, which we believe is, you know, on the horizon.
And mathematicians have figured out how to fix this problem by improving the cryptography.
And then, you know, what we can do is we have mathematicians on staff and we also have practitioners who are going to implement that and test it.
And we previously did tests with Google in the past to make sure we can move to this post-quantum world.
And we're doing it right now. So this is all about how you over time build them, but this is not a Cloudflare unique thing.
We're doing it cooperatively with other companies and hopefully the Internet itself moves forward with our, you know, with our assistance.
Exactly. In a way, also the blog, and you're so connected to the blog for several years now, is a way of, for us to explain what we're doing, explain the, even when there's a problem, explain what the problem was, how to solve it.
We can help others even to, to solve their problems with the being honest, transparent and also put the information out there.
Right. Yeah. I mean, the blog is interesting because very early on in Cloudflare, we decided to be very open in what we put on the blog in terms of our experiences with technology and what we were doing and separate it from the usual kind of marketing efforts that the marketing department does around our products.
So the marketing department is there doing what a classic marketing department would do.
And that's writing content on the main, on the main website, which explains our products and helps people figure out which ones they want to buy and helps target them and all that kind of stuff.
And then the blog is entirely internally written by engineers, product managers, you've written a number of blogs about different things yesterday about the Tonga, Tonga getting reconnected to the Internet.
And we, we, we put out stuff that I think is not, it's not the usual kind of content companies put out.
We tend to push out very, what we hope is useful information.
And actually what we do is we hope it makes Cloudflare more attractive to potential employees because they can understand more about who we are and what we do.
And as you say, I'm the, I'm the editor of that and, you know, help, try and help get news out and get stories out, get, you know, certainly very technical information out so that people understand who Cloudflare is and what we're doing.
Exactly. And it can go from a vulnerability like the Log4j in December, and it could go to our famous by now innovation weeks where we explain in detail the products that we have, right?
Absolutely. That's right. We have an innovation week, which is coming up in a few weeks where we'll go through lots of product announcements and detail of products and how to use them and all that kind of stuff.
You know, yesterday you wrote the blog about Tonga, got finally after 38 days, got Internet back because the cable got connected.
When Log4j happened, we put out a lot of information about what we were seeing, how to protect yourself, you know, sort of sequences of blogs.
And then I'd say this week, we have a series about post-quantum cryptography where I think, I mean, the last two blog posts have some pretty hairy mathematics in them.
So it's a very wide variety of things.
And what we encourage people to do internally is talk about, you know, what they're doing and write it up for the blog and we'll help them.
Exactly. And for example, we have a base, more base in Lisbon, because of course everything is open.
A product, very popular product by now, radar, where people can check for trends throughout the Internet and it's growing and it's getting better.
And it's mostly based in Lisbon in terms of the engineering of it, right?
Yeah. I mean, that's a very important point.
So Cloudflare radar, which is, you know, radar.Cloudflare.com is exactly what you're talking about, which is exposing data about trends we see on the Internet, because obviously we have to look at trends ourselves internally to understand, you know, where we should add more servers or what's happening in terms of outages and what kind of stuff.
And we realized that we could expose that information, you know, to the public and they could see the same stuff.
And so you can go in there and you can take a look at, you know, what's happening in different locations around the world.
And that is engineered entirely in Lisbon.
And, you know, it's a good point that, you know, I think one of the things that Cloudflare did very, very early on is it's not uncommon, I think, for US companies to be US-based and then have an office in the UK and maybe one in Paris and things like that, which is really around sales.
That's not what Cloudflare did.
So Cloudflare's London office fairly quickly became 50% of engineering in Cloudflare.
Now it's spread even more over the world. Right now we have more locations where we do engineering, including Lisbon.
And so you will see that, you know, Lisbon is not a satellite office of some, you know, great planet somewhere else that we're orbiting.
It's a significant location and it is the fastest growing office in Cloudflare worldwide.
Exactly. And with 100 openings this year, it will continue to grow faster.
Yeah, we may double this year. I mean, it's possible we'll get double what we had last year.
So yes, it's growing very quickly.
One of the things that since I've been in the company, I found very interesting is the way that people can grow inside the company, even for positions or things they weren't supposed to do at the beginning.
They can add things.
If they have good ideas, if they think out of the box, they can grow in the company very easily, have shout outs.
Even interns can have shout outs from Matthew, our CEO, because they did a great work.
So it's like it's already a big company, but it's like still a startup in the sense that people can grow really in the company.
Well, I mean, we worked very deliberately on that culture from the very beginning, and I think part of it was to recognize that, first of all, whatever we do is built by humans and humans.
We should be treated like humans, right? And it's not team members or some other like it's people.
And it actually helps a lot with the pandemic because we were able to treat each individual with their individual situation in the way it needed treating.
That culture has progressed. Of course, over time, we needed structure, we needed some process, et cetera.
But I think one of the things Capital has done is not try to impose like a strict hierarchy, a strict way of working.
I mean, I know what your experience has been, but you're pretty free to just say, hey, I got an idea.
I'm going to go do this thing.
And then sometimes I'll say to you, I'll do this thing. This really needs to get done today.
So it's like, I think there's a lot of freedom, and I think that pervades throughout the organization.
Yeah. One of the things Celso Martinho, one of our directors of engineering told me right at the get go, what you'll be in this company one year from now, it depends a lot on you, on your ideas, the path you want to choose, which I found it very interesting in a sense of building up, making your own building inside the company.
Yes, definitely. It's definitely the case.
Obviously, we have training and all sorts of stuff to support people, but it's definitely the case that just talking about yourself, if you said in a year's time, hey, I've really identified that I want to go over in this direction, then we talk about it, right?
It wouldn't be like, no, I'm sorry, we hired you to do this one thing for a while, you have to do this one thing.
And it's amusing because we actually, many years ago, hired somebody a little like yourself, actually, Matthew and I hired a someone who we termed a writer.
And we're almost out. Let me just say that, and we're out.