Everyone at the Table
Everyone at the Table is a series that explores everyday topics from the perspective of people... with different perspectives!
Music Music Music Music Music Music Music Music Good evening from New York City and welcome to Everyone at the Table.
I'm Hady Mendez, your host and the global lead for Cloudflare's Latinx Employee Resource Group.
Everyone at the Table is a series that brings together people from around the company to explore everyday topics from the perspective of people with different perspectives.
To make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to speak and have their voice heard, I will serve as the moderator.
As a reminder to all of our viewers, we will be taking your questions at livestudio at Cloudflare.tv.
Well, hello everyone.
Today on our show, we've invited employees from around the company to talk about getting back to better and what suggestions they have for how Cloudflare and companies like yours can make it safe for everyone to get back to the office.
This is a topic that very much hits close to home for a lot of people.
With so many people working remotely, getting employees back to the office is a real challenge for a lot of companies.
I personally have been working out of my studio apartment in Brooklyn since late February.
I leave the house for daily walks and that is pretty much it.
So I like not having to get on a crowded subway or keep a mask on all day.
I also really like cooking my own food and sourcing my own snacks.
I don't enjoy Zoom calls much more than I did before working from home, but I can't deny that it's been a great way to stay in touch with colleagues and friends.
So panel, let's get you in. Let's start to hear what you have to say.
Let's start with you sharing your name, what office you're part of, and then tell us a little bit about what working from home has been like for you.
So Kayla, why don't we start with you?
Sure. Thanks, Hadi. Thanks for having me. So I'm Kayla Predator.
I run our global physical security program here at Cloudflare.
I normally work out of our San Francisco office. I'm currently in New York with Hadi as well.
It's been different.
It's been very, very different experience. I think some of the downsides are, of course, not being able to interact with all of my colleagues and all of my friends at the office in person.
But thankful, like you said, for Zoom and being able to stay in touch with everyone digitally.
But yeah, it's been a different experience for sure.
Yeah, really different. Rashmi, how about you? For you? Yeah.
Thanks also for having me, Hadi. My name is Rashmi Hundle, and I'm on the recruiting team, currently also based out of the New York office.
Working from home has been going well.
It's definitely been an adjustment. I definitely miss seeing my colleagues.
And as part of my role in New York is to be site lead. And so those responsibilities have been limited a bit.
And I'm not able to bring the team together as much as I used to be able to.
So I definitely miss that. Zoom calls, like you guys said, they feel so close and distant at the same time.
In the beginning, it was all, you know, a very new way to connect.
But over time, you realize that you can't really replace that in-person human interaction.
So I definitely miss seeing people in person.
That's for sure. What about our friends from Singapore?
Mustafa, tell us, how's working from home been for you? I feel like quite bad, but I actually like really, really enjoy it.
I feel like the introvert in me is like really embracing this moment in time.
And I know a lot of people are struggling.
So I never want to say that I'm really enjoying it. But yeah, I'm based here in Singapore.
I'm on the sales team, and I've not been able to meet clients and customers in the same way as before.
But honestly, I'm quite enjoying this kind of space and time to myself to work on my own projects on the side.
And yeah, I go to the gym when I want to have free time on my calendar and have lunch when it suits me.
So it's okay so far for me. Sounds good. Erfi, tell us how it's going for you.
It's going pretty great, actually. I think I can echo what Mustafa was saying that the introvert itself is enjoying this very much.
So I'm Erfi, by the way, from the Solutions and Engineers team in Cloudflare and also based in Singapore.
I'm also a local here. So one of the things that I really enjoy is not having to travel one hour to office and one hour back.
I get two hours back every single day.
So I can just put that into picking up new skills. I'm actually learning new languages at the same time right now.
So that's pretty awesome. And I have my cats to annoy me more, which is pretty nice.
I mean, I don't see them often.
What languages are you learning? Like English, Spanish, French, Italian? Is that what you mean?
Right. So like kind of both. So that's the programming languages that I'm picking up, like the ones that I haven't.
And also like I did German and Swedish before.
So I'm kind of like going back and relearning those because I haven't had much practice.
And now it's like the perfect time to actually do that. So that's what I've been doing, actually.
Nice. So you're learning programming languages and speaking languages.
Speaking languages, yeah. That's pretty nice. Good for you, Erfi.
You're making us look bad. Sorry. That's OK. So actually, we use the words back to better in the title of today's show, today's segment.
And I wondered, Kayla, if you wouldn't mind sharing the backstory of how like where back to better came from.
Sure. Yeah. I've been fortunate enough to be part of our business continuity team and helping provide Cloudflare's response to COVID-19.
And one of the things that we really struggled with when we were talking about what does that return to office look like was what do we call it?
You know, it's not return to normal.
It's not it's not back to the way things used to be. And so through our discussions, Janet, our head of people, came up with, well, why don't we call it back to better?
You know, we're going to take all the good things that we love about the office and what it used to be like.
But we've also learned some some things through this pandemic, right?
There's been some good lessons learned. It's not all bad.
Like you said, there's some things that we want to take with us and move forward into how we get back to better and how we get back to this new way of working and new way of life for people.
I really like it. I think it's catchy. Yeah, it is.
Did she trademark that? Do you know? She should. We've been using it in a lot of a lot of things.
We started a an outward facing cross-functional group with a bunch of other business continuity teams in both the tech industry and outside the tech industry.
And we've been using that as our hashtag. That's great. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for sharing that origin story, like the backstory.
But also thank you for sharing that we are collaborating with other companies as well, because that's like I think, you know, it shows how difficult this really is and how unprecedented this is.
And, you know, people, we need to share ideas.
We need to come together and, you know, collaborate and get the get the best from everyone's, you know, brainstorming and thought process.
Yeah, we're all learning at the same time. Cool. So, panel, so I want to come back to asking you a little bit about what comes up for you when you think about going back to the office.
Like, are you excited? Are you anxious? Like, how do you feel when when when that conversation comes up?
So, Mustafa, why don't we start with you this time?
How does it feel when people say, OK, we're coming back to the office January 2021?
I feel like the party would be over, but I may feel differently when that time comes.
And, you know, in an ideal world, I'd want like a mix of both. I'm fortunate enough that my commute to the office isn't particularly stressful.
I used to work in the London office and it would be an hour on the tube door to door.
And it wasn't a great commute.
Whereas here in Singapore, I'm very fortunate to be walking distance from the office.
So door to door, it's just under 30 minutes. It's quite a pleasant walk.
Sometimes I take the bus if it's really, really hot. But right right now, I'm happy for things to be like as they are.
But I think that may change, you know, when the time comes and the office reopens again.
I hear that. Erfi, how about you?
Excited? Anxious? Other? About going back? Right now, I'm a bit neutral.
I like the idea of a flexible arrangement because for me going to work, I can just pretty much work anywhere.
I just need my computer. But the big thing about working in the office is that I can hang out with my team.
And we just talk about nonsense sometimes, just banter about stuff and argue a lot.
So that's what I miss a lot.
So that's what I'm excited about if we go back. But beyond that, like the arrangements from my day to day, I'm pretty much enjoying what I do right now because I have my desk set up and everything.
And my cats, of course, that's the most important.
What are your cat's names? OK, because my parents named them.
So their names are pretty funky. So there's Rocky, Rocky Balboa, the oldest one.
There's Angelina Jolie. The third one is called White Fang. I named him because I read classics when I was younger.
So Jack London's White Fang called the Wild. Nice.
And the last one is like they kind of got lazy and just called her like baby cat because she's the youngest one.
So it's like cool and then like classical. OK, we don't care anymore.
Just name her whatever you want to name her. So, yeah, I have four.
OK, thanks, Serafie. All right. So Roshani, what's coming up for you? Excited, anxious, other?
A bit of both. I think I'm excited. I would love I would love to go back if, you know, the environment and the covid situation allows for it.
I think if things aren't better health wise around the country, then I would be more nervous and anxious, especially living in New York City.
And all the people that are here and the population and just thinking back to when I was taking the subway right before all this happened.
But, you know, having that flexibility to choose like when to come in, I think that's what we're going to do as well.
Probably be a phased approach. So not everyone will go in every single day. And I do miss having those random conversations and connecting with people from other teams.
There's a lot more cross -functional interaction when you're in the office.
And I don't get enough of that today. So, you know, I feel like the best ideas come from those random conversations in the hallways.
And we've talked about it a lot in our meetings internally.
But, yeah, I definitely miss that. And as a site lead, are you what are you hearing from other employees?
I think people are pretty comfortable right now and not in a rush to go back, especially as things are constantly changing.
Like I said, with the environment and with COVID around the country, I think people want to be safe and be mindful of their families and the people that they're interacting with.
And so no one's in a rush to go back. There are people that would like to have that time that's only dedicated to work and that break in the day and the change in the day of the commute.
So that's definitely there.
And we have heard that from some employees. But at the end of the day, I think people are taking health as the most important factor.
And so no one's really in a rush.
And then, yeah, I mean, I think most people have figured out their setups at home and working from home setup.
So long as they're comfortable with that, then they're good.
That makes sense. All right, Kayla, where are you in the continuum?
Excited? Anxious? Definitely a bit of both, you know, similar to everyone else.
I think, you know, just given my position and being on the business continuity team, it's a little anxiety.
Figuring out how do we get everyone back to the office safely is definitely something that we're concerned about and struggling with to figure out how we do that once we get through these next series of phases and returning to the office whenever that's safe to do so.
So a little anxiety right in there, but definitely excited to go back.
Want to be able to have that social interaction with the rest of my team and the rest of the colleagues that I work with across different teams.
So would love to get back for that reason, but want to make sure that we have the ability to do it safely for everyone.
Yeah, for sure.
So Kayla, as being part of the business continuity team and in your role as a lead in the physical security of Cloudflare, tell us about like survey results.
I understand we've been like surveying employees across the globe. So what are some like themes that are that are kind of bubbling to the top from those surveys?
Yeah, I'm really proud of the way that we're handling this part of the response and really kind of figuring out how do we get a tailored approach to everyone's needs.
But you're right, there have been some common themes across the survey responses.
So we're serving each office individually and then gathering those responses and kind of, you know, accumulating them for each office.
And I would say across every office, there's a bunch of different concerns kind of ranging from, you know, if my kids don't go back to school and I have to go back to the office, you know, what do I do?
How do I figure out childcare for them? That's a big one.
Yeah, definitely. I think it would be. Yeah. Yeah, definitely a huge struggle for, you know, our working parents.
And then also we've got people who have, you know, maybe their elderly parents that are living with them, multi -generational homes.
And so they're concerned, you know, I'm fine going back to work.
But what about my elderly parents that are living with me? I don't want to bring the virus home to them.
And so how do I, you know, figure out how to stay safe for them?
So that's definitely a huge concern as well. And then some of the other themes are kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Like, I want to get back to the office as soon as possible.
Is there any way that, you know, I can get back in early or be part of that first group that goes back?
Maybe if we do a limited group that's going back to the office first, you know, can I be part of that phase?
So we're seeing it on both ends. But I definitely say that the big kind of themes or concerns are around, you know, individual's health.
Maybe they're in a vulnerable health category, you know, have a higher risk of contracting COVID or having a bad experience of COVID.
You know, or people just who are concerned for their loved ones or trying to figure out scheduling with kids.
Yeah, that all sounds right.
I could see that. Yeah, makes sense. So let's talk a little bit about like, you know, what are you hoping for in the new work environment?
Like when we talk about Back to Better, like, I know I'm hoping like for flexibility in terms of when I need to come in.
And I like I feel like if employees are getting their work done and they're being productive, then they should have like more choice, you know, or more options in terms of when they need to come in.
And when they need to stay home, that type thing.
So I'm kind of curious where you all stand on this and maybe tell us a little bit about what you think companies need to do differently or what can stay the same, you know, kind of like There's, you know, and Kayla, you kind of alluded to this earlier when you were saying, you know, Back to Better is kind of a hybrid of like Back to Normal and then like some new stuff type thing.
So, so Roshani, why don't we start with you this time.
Tell us what you're hoping for in Back to Better.
Um, I think, you know, I think at Cloudflare, we always make very thoughtful decisions around everything that impacts all of us.
And so I think taking those surveys continuing to get a feel for what employees want and are concerned about and that will definitely, you know, make what is Back to Better a thing.
I know we've always been a come into the office full time company. And I don't think we're going to go back to that anytime soon.
And that's something that our executives have had to grapple with because that's all they've known and that's all they've encouraged.
I know that recently they've been, you know, asked, would you eliminate offices altogether.
And I don't think we're ready to go to that end of the spectrum, either.
I know, Matthew, our CEO was saying in our kickoff earlier last last week.
Yeah, I think it was last week. That, you know, it's in between tolerating remote work and encouraging remote work and we're going to find a balance in between the two of those.
I think remote work from like a recruiting standpoint would definitely help us build more diverse teams would help bring more talent to the company that we wouldn't normally tap into.
We have to take into consideration that it's not just the employees.
There's around 1500 of us. It's also their families as well.
And so all of that is included in the Back to Better right like childcare people relocating and moving maybe finding like a new city that's better fit for them.
Then one of the places that we've had offices in Some things that I've also noticed that we're working really well.
We've, you know, gotten more applicants while things have been All remote employee referrals have gone up interviewing is more efficient.
We're not searching for those conference rooms to have interviews in that's been really helpful.
And we've also noticed that Newhart onboarding is going really well and company meetings like our all hands have more attendance.
You know, we tapped out last last week for the quarterly kickoff and we had over 1000 people joining our quarterly kickoff, which I don't know if that's happened before.
And then, yeah, and we're more inclusive of the smaller offices and other time zones and meetings are happening, kind of You know, taking into consideration that these other offices exist, which was harder earlier and we were always focused around SF and people used to call that out.
So there's a lot that goes in the Back to Better Yeah, that's true.
Thanks. Those are all really good points. And I'm really excited about one aspect that you talked about that you mentioned, which is like just being able to draw from a larger group of diverse applicants because of this like You know, the remote work.
So that's awesome. That's really good to hear. Thanks, Roshani. Um, so Kayla, how about, um, you, what are you thinking about Back to Better?
What are you hoping for?
Definitely, you know, I think Roshani hit on all the all the points.
But certainly, you know, as you both spoke about being able to source more diverse teams.
It's something that I'm also definitely passionate about right now as well.
I'm recruiting for my team. So if you're out there and you're looking for a physical security position, definitely go, go to our website and look at our job board.
So that's definitely a top of mind for me. I think also, you know, like we said earlier, we want to be able to take the good from previous and the good from what's working now and mesh that together.
So it's going to be hard to find that balance and how to strike it.
But I think we've got a lot of great people on the team that are Looking at how we do that.
And it's gonna be exciting to see how it works.
You know, I think one of the things that we've talked about with some other companies that we've been benchmarking or, you know, conversing with is the fact that, you know, maybe we can take this from all we have a really cool opportunity right now where we almost have like a blank slate.
And we can figure out, you know, we can do some trial and error stuff, especially if we're doing a phased approach back to the office.
We can try things out, see if it works. And I'm really excited about that.
See how that goes. I agree. That is a wonderful opportunity that we have.
Mustafa, what's coming up for you in terms of your hopes and dreams for Back to Better?
I think that what you mentioned about flexibility, I think, is the thing.
I mean, in an ideal world for me, I'd be able to maybe go into the office Monday, Wednesday.
Just, yeah, just like Monday, Wednesday. That's good enough.
Yeah. And then like Thursday, Friday, like work from home.
I think individual team members maybe would like the flexibility.
But for some reason, like I feel like managers wouldn't feel so comfortable, not because they're like they want to micromanage, but just because they've always been used to being more hands on, perhaps.
So there's an element of control they feel like maybe they miss out on.
But then that's where trust comes in.
And, you know, Cloudflare is a very tech savvy company. And from the very beginning, we've been kind of prepared.
You know, should this kind of thing happen, we all are able to work from home if we need to.
Some better than others.
So I think we've adapted really well, to be honest. I remember seeing a survey on LinkedIn that said, who led the digital transformation of your company?
A, CEO, B, CTO, or C, COVID-19.
So I feel like, thankfully, Cloudflare was ready in advance.
But yeah, I'd still like to have some element of autonomy. And thankfully, I've got a really good manager who already gives it to me.
So, yeah, hopefully more flexibility.
Cool. Erfi, what's your hopes and dreams for Back to Better? I think we are in a kind of unique situation right now.
We are, if not now, when, right? Going to think about how we think about the concept of work.
Like, young people work in different ways because of their personalities, or if they are more functional in the day or at night, or just general different priorities, wherever they are at home or elsewhere.
Now that we are in this situation, I think Kayla also mentioned having that blank slate to just experiment.
I guess necessity beats invention, right?
So right now we kind of have like, okay, let's start thinking about all these different parameters and then work on what can we put into going back to better by using those different or things that you never really think about.
And now we're thinking about them.
And in my own personal, like, what I think I want or hope for is the same as I think everyone else on this call, I suppose, like the flexible work arrangement, because I just like having control.
I want to have control over everything.
I'm super, like, I guess, OCD over things that I want to do and have arranged and organized.
So having the control over my time is definitely something I'm looking forward to.
Plus Rocky and Angelina would appreciate it and the rest of us, right?
Yeah, definitely. All right, we're going to do two lightning rounds because we're almost out of time.
So the first lightning round, like answer quickly is what is the number one thing you're concerned about in terms of returning back to work?
For me, it is definitely the crowded subways. Mustafa, what about for you?
Not being able to read as much. Okay. Erfi? Just more time with my cats, that's for sure.
I think like, yeah, the crowded subways, having to wear a mask all day long.
It still won't be that same social interaction that we would have with our co -workers.
Normally, we would have to stay apart from each other, which I don't know how you do when you get together.
Yep. Kayla, how about for you? Yeah, I think public transportation and, you know, like I said before, figuring out how to get everyone in there and working safely.
I hear that. All right, so let's do one more round.
And what are you looking forward to the most in Back to Better? This time, we're going to start with you, Roshni.
Getting out of the house and seeing my co -workers face to face.
That's a good one. Kayla, how about for you? Same thing, getting to see my co-workers in person.
Who knew we liked them that much, right? Mustafa, how about you?
What are you looking forward to the most? Yeah, the same thing.
The social aspect of just being able to hang out with my team and have lunch with them and chat about stuff.
Yeah. Okay. And Erfi? Yeah, the same as everyone else, I guess.
The balance. Definitely Korean fried chicken with my colleagues is something I miss after work.
So, yeah, hoping to do that again. See, I have a similar one.
I miss our team lunches. So, here's the two things. One is I've been having virtual coffee with everyone and I'm kind of done with the virtual coffee.
I want to have real coffee now with real people. So, that's one. And then I miss those weekly lunches because we have this one vendor that I didn't even like in the beginning and now I miss them and that's Halal Guys.
So, Halal Guys in New York City, I'm giving you a shout out because I didn't even like you in the first place and now I actually miss eating the food from Halal Guys.
So, yeah, I get it.
All right, guys. Well, listen, we're going to close out the segment now, but I want to give you a big thank you for coming, sharing your perspective.
This is a conversation that I know we're going to continue to have for weeks and months to come because it's still a long time before we're going to be kind of back to better.
And then I want to tell everybody that next week we're going to actually meet some of our summer interns.
So, it is the summer and Cloudflare did hire summer interns this summer, even though none of our physical offices are officially open.
But I challenge our viewers to remember when they were summer interns and what that experience was like for them.
And then imagine having to meet your new teammates and having a one-on-one with your manager and having to ask for help and having to do all of that remotely and how hard that must be for them.
So, we're going to ask that our interns, I think we have like four or five of them confirmed, they're going to join us and they're going to tell us a little bit about how they're adjusting to working from home and at the same time still gaining valuable work experience.
I actually have an intern buddy and I'm making him come. He didn't want to come and I'm making him come.
So, he'll be here next week. But anyway, and we're going to be back to our regular U.S.
EMEA time slot next week. So, now on to the good news story of the week.
The CEO of Lenovo recently received a fat bonus of $3 million.
Rather than stuffing that entire bonus in his bank account, the Chinese executive decided to give the money away.
So, he's a 48-year-old CEO. He took a $3 million bonus and he distributed it among 10,000 junior level employees.
Among the employees to receive a piece of the pie were receptionists, product line workers, and assistants.
Now, I did the math. I'm still impressed, but I did the math and it only comes out to about $300 a person when you divide $3 million by 10 ,000.
But still, it was very generous of him to do and I'm sure those people appreciated it.
So, up next, more Cloudflare TV and once again, I want to give a big thank you to the audience for joining us and everyone at the table where your point of view is valued, appreciated, and heard.
See you next week, everybody. Bye now.
Bye. Bye. Bye.