Legends of Tech
A weekly podcast where Chris Georgellis, on the Customer Development Team, interviews people across the tech industry. From veterans, to hall of famers, day to day tech industry people as well up and comers. Get to know them as individuals, find out what drives them, how they got into tech, and what they see now.
This week's guest: Els Shek, Field Marketing & Events Manager at Cloudflare.
Welcome to Legends of Tech on Cloudflare TV. Today I'm joined by one of the legends herself of the marketing industry.
She's a super smart, creative person. She's a dog lover and a wine lover.
She's worked for companies like Euromonitor, DTZ, Vision Critical and now Cloudflare.
Please welcome Els. Thank you so much for the opportunity.
I'm really humbled to be considered a Legends of Tech. Els, you're a super legend.
Thanks for joining. I know it's early in Singapore, especially after the time zone difference with us.
We're now three hours apart. So I appreciate you getting up early for us to be part of the show.
But yeah, looking forward to it. So how are you?
How's things? Very well. And don't worry about that. This is worth waking up for.
It's a very good series that we have created. I've learned a lot from your previous segments.
So it's a very good opportunity. Thank you so much. No problem at all.
Well, look, thank you. Thank you for joining. So like all things, I'd just love to get a snapshot of, you know, tell me a little bit about your career and your, I guess, your path.
And I guess, you know, some of the things that you've done in terms of your career.
For sure. And I think you recapped really well earlier.
So I'm the field marketing manager for APEC at Cloudflare. And I work with our lovely sales team like Chris here to understand their needs for the region and come up with marketing strategies to help them build pipeline and acquire new customers.
So when I started out, I was a consultant at an FNCG firm called Euromonitor.
It's a market research firm where we analyze trends on the consumer goods industry.
And we work with clients on specific consulting projects to help them grow their business.
Then after that, I moved into the real estate sector because it was booming at that time.
And I thought it was really interesting to understand more about, you know, property, which is a very good investment vehicle.
And that was a really good learning opportunity too, because I get to understand the trends across your residential, your industrial and your office sectors.
And you can like, you know, see those trends play out right now, you know, during COVID-19 period.
It was then my ex-colleague from Euromonitor told me about the sales opening at a Canadian tech firm, which sells customer experience management software.
And I thought that was really cool because, you know, I get to like enter the sales sector, get to check out what a tech firm looks like, and I get to explore Canada.
So I thought that was a very good opportunity that I shouldn't give up on.
So that is where I am. And I spent four years in Vision Critical.
And as the business grew, the region grew, they needed like a dedicated marketing person to look after the needs for the region.
And I thought, hey, why not?
Let's try out, you know, do something more regional based, check out like different cities across the APAC geography.
And I thought that was the best decision because that role itself gave me the opportunity to take up this current role that I have in Cloudflare.
So it wasn't planned at all, but it all worked out.
What was it like working in Canada? It's very good. First, the scenery is beautiful.
And the people are really nice. Like it's exactly what you see on television.
They are so nice. They're so polite. And people are so sporty there and smart and driven.
So it was a very good eye opener. The only pain point was I had to like, I'm based in Singapore, so I have to travel and spend a day, you know, on the plane to get to Canada.
Are you going to live in Canada during that time? For about a week each time I go there.
You get to explore, you get to be sporty, get to see really nice scenery that you don't really get to see in the rest of the world.
Did you go skiing while you were in Canada? So I can't ski. Skiing takes like a period of time to learn.
And usually when we go to like the ski resorts, it's only a day.
So if you consider like just like sliding on the ice and skiing, then yes, I can.
And the good thing about Canada, they've got probably the best looking Prime Minister in the world.
Oh yes, of course. Very polite too. Yeah, that's very good.
It's funny because a lot of people, I mean, Canada being part of the Commonwealth, they said there's a lot of similarities to Australia.
And I guess, you know, from your perspective, do you see similarities?
You know, you're traveling to Australia and Canada now.
Are there similarities between the countries, do you think?
Yes and no. On the yes part, the people in both countries are really friendly, very laid back, very chill, which is good.
You know, like in the Asian cities, the pace is really fast.
And when you go to Australia, when you go to Canada, things slow down, which is good.
No, because like the Canadians tend to be more outdoor focused, like they go like exercise, hiking, paddle boarding.
And the Australians tend to chill, or my point of view of Australians is they do hike, they do exercise, but I do see them a lot at the restaurants and the bars, which is good too.
I like that too. Especially in the cities. Yeah, there's not much hiking going around the city besides hiking to the bar or to the restaurant.
Exactly, bar hopping.
That's it. Oh, that's brilliant. Now, I never knew that. Yes, I guess Canada is a place that I'd love to go one day.
But yeah, it's a great experience. And what was it like, I guess, culturally, like, you know, working out of Singapore, traveling back and forth?
What was that experience like? And how was it like culturally compared to where you are now?
Hmm, compared, you mean, between vision critical to Canadian?
Yeah, I mean, just, you know, you know, being in Singapore at one point, and then going to Canada for a week at a time.
I mean, that would have, you know, there would have been some, I guess, you know, different cultural aspects to that experience.
It's very good. Like, you get to experience a different lifestyle.
Like, for example, like Canada, you get to see very beautiful scenery, you get to wake up at like 5am and do hikes.
And then when you travel to somewhere like Hong Kong, you get to like, get really fast at what you need to do and know where you want to go.
And then when you go Australia, you go like, good day, mate.
Let's chat for a while before we get to business.
It's very good. It gives me more exciting moments in my life than to just stay in Singapore and do the same thing every day.
So I really like it. Hence, this role really suits my character. That's good.
Good to hear. So how did you get into the tech sector? I'm always fascinated.
Because if you look at all the people that have been speaking to it, they started off in one career direction, and sort of ended up into the technology world.
So I'd love to hear your story. And I guess what drove you to come into the tech world?
Yeah, for sure. So when I started my career, I thought I'll be going down the research route.
Because then, you know, I thought, hey, you know, people who do research and analyse data are very smart people.
So I want to be one of that. However, one or two years in, I realised that it's a bit too mundane for me, like looking at data all day and like, no, that's not what I want to do with my life.
So I started thinking about how I want to map my career in the next five and 10 years.
And at that time, you know, tech was booming, and tech had a lot of different interesting things, innovations that help make the world a better place, like, you know, making it more efficient, or, you know, coming out of like Uber, so you don't need to get a car.
So I thought, hey, you know, that's somewhere that I should work towards too.
So I just like keep an eye out for an opportunity. But I didn't like, really actively look for it.
It was more like by chance where my ex colleague came like, hey, there's a role.
Can you tell me like, you know, anyone who wants to do a sales role in Vision Critical?
So he told me about the role. He told me about a company, told me about a product.
And I'm like, hey, I actually want to sign up for it.
So that was it. It was a casual lunch. And he was asking me if I knew anybody.
I'm like, no, I'm myself. I will sign up for it. So that's how I entered tech world.
That's brilliant. And I guess what was it like entering into a new domain?
So you were in real estate and some other guest industries before.
What was it like, like pivoting to, I guess, a completely different sector?
It was really exciting. Like, you get to be exposed to a whole new world of things that you never knew.
And my stay in Vision Critical really opened my eyes to how different like companies work, different cultures work, how things are done, you know, how contracts are being signed, how do you like pitch to like C levels.
It was such a good learning experience. And that really started like the whole thing about myself where I realized that, hey, you know, if I want to continue, you know, doing my best in every job, every role that I do, I need to learn.
I need to be able to like be picking up new things because I get stagnate, like, or I get bored really quickly.
So I need something that keeps like engaging my mind. And, and I was really grateful for the opportunity because it really helped me understand myself better through like the jobs that I do there.
Yeah, right. Wow. So that's great.
So you joined the tech sector. You love it. So you joined us into a sales role.
Yes, a sales role. A sales role. Then how did you get into marketing? Yeah, so I started out as a junior sales role then.
The office was just set up in Singapore.
And then three years in, there were more and more salespeople, the team was growing.
So they needed a dedicated marketing role to, you know, look after the needs of the salespeople in the region.
And they wanted someone who can start on the job quickly, who understands the company and have a relationship with the salespeople.
So the opportunity came and I decided to take it up because it was, it was a perfect way to like travel around the world again.
So, so you get to not just travel, but you get to dabble a bit into like, you know, events, marketing, where you can wine and dine the customers, which is always fun.
You get to do like digital marketing stuff.
And as a marketer, you get to do like those corporate fun stuff like QPRs, you know, strategy planning, spending money with a budget that you have.
So I was like, hey, let's try that out. That's fantastic. And I guess having the sales experience, how important was that experience within your marketing role?
I think it's so important. Having been in the role for almost like three years, I think, and please tell me, Chris, like your experience working with me.
I think having that sales experience, the sales mindset, when I come up with like marketing campaigns, I think about that.
I don't, I don't just like think, hey, this is a good idea.
I want to do it. I have to think like, is this something that the sales will take it up?
Is this something that the sales would believe in? And can we get the right people for the sales to follow up with?
Like, I think a lot of marketers out there, sometimes they think like, this is a great idea.
Let's try it out.
But I don't like things like that. I think my salespeople has to accept it.
They have to buy into the concept before we go ahead. And I'm sure like when you work with me, you know, having the sales experience, the conversations become very different.
And I will let you talk about that if you want to. Yeah, look, I think, I think it's very important.
It's not, there's not many marketers out there that have the sales experience.
And you're right. It's good having a good idea. But if you can't execute on the idea, you're going to get disengagement from the sales team or from the organization and your ideas never going to get off the ground.
So I've worked with a lot of marketers.
And I must say, you've been the best one that I've worked with in my career.
So, but I think it's because you've come from the angle of understanding the sales process, understanding what's important.
And, and know it like, you know, it's great to have big ideas.
But if you can't conceptualize and materialize that idea and execute on it, then it means nothing anyway.
So you're, you're the best, Delz. Believe me, it's good. I'm not the best. The previous Legend of Tech that you interviewed, Krishna, he's the best.
Well, I haven't worked directly with Krishna.
So right now, in my opinion, I'm a little bit biased because we work together.
So maybe you should swap roles with him. Maybe he can become the field marketer and you can become his boss for a couple of years.
That's good. I think all he does is he just sits back and relax and like dedicates all the work to us.
I would like to try that for a change. He hires good people that can do a good job for him.
So that's, that's good leadership. He's good.
No, that's awesome. So how did you, how did you come across Cloudflare? How did you actually join our great company?
Excellent. So four years into Vision Critical, I was looking for a change.
I was looking for the next step of my career.
And I still wanted to be in the tech sector and I wanted it to be in a sunrise industry, meaning if there's recession, if something happens, the world is coming to an end.
The company still needs to be around. It has to be something that benefits the world because there are a lot of companies that produce things that nobody uses.
So it has, the company has to do something that people actually use, you know, and can grow.
And I also wanted to maintain like the cultural aspect where it's like a multinational company, you get to have different like mobility, you get to try different things if you want.
So there were a lot of criterias when I was looking for my next role.
I was just searching on LinkedIn and I saw this Cloudflare job posting up on the website.
And I was like, what is Cloudflare? You know, like, what do they do?
So I went to research on Cloudflare and what really caught my eye was Michelle Zaklin's reply on Quora.
Someone asked her like, hey, how does it feel like to work in Cloudflare?
And she said three things, which I still remember from time to time.
She mentioned, you know, her answer was like, you have to be like enthusiastic, you have to be like passionate about what you do.
You have to have the ability to get things done.
And you also need empathy for your colleagues, your team, which was very different from what you will see.
Like, you know, other CXX, they'll reply, oh, it's a great company.
But Michelle's answer was very authentic and real.
And I was like, oh, that's cool. Like, not bad. So I decided to give it a go.
And that was it. There was like, what, 13 interviews over like, for me, it was short.
It was like three or four months, but for the rest, it could be longer.
And I met Krishna for the first time. I thought he was cool. You know, he wasn't like the corporate guy that you would expect.
Like, he had this, like, T -shirt coming in and jeans and coffee, really relaxed.
And I thought that was a very good first interview.
And then the next one that I had was with Aliza Knox, our managing director for APEC.
And that was, that just blew me away. Like, she came in and she read my resume.
I was so nervous. Like, oh, my God, you mean you read my resume?
Nobody does that. And she started, she realized that I could speak like Mandarin.
So she started, like, conversing with me in Mandarin. And I was like, oh, that was cool.
That was really cool. And after my interview with Aliza, I'm like, that's it.
I need this job. I want it. Yeah, I want it. That's who you're in.
Yeah, like, so cool. You know, the leadership team here. Awesome. So who was your final interview when you joined?
My final interview was with Jeanette, our head of HR.
It was very short and sweet. No fuss. But, you know, you always feel like, will I make it?
Yeah, it doesn't matter. I better not stop it up. Yeah, exactly.
Like, no, did I mess it up? How could I have messed it up? Samantha, you raised a really interesting point around being part of an organization that's a, what did you call it, a sunrise organization?
I've never heard of that terminology before, but I'm just thinking about Cloudflare and especially what we've gone through or what we're going through now, kind of pandemic.
It's very true in terms of we're a company that's relevant, that's needed, even if there's a recession, even if there's a pandemic going on.
I mean, how, I guess, how did you come up with that vision or that thought process?
I've never heard anyone sort of select an industry that is a sunrise.
I've just never heard of that term.
I've heard of people say other things, but it's quite a unique saying. So how do you come up with that?
So there are some industries, then the opposite would just be a sunrise.
I think there's not much to it.
But how I came up with those job-seeking criterias was, and I'm not that old, but I've been through the Asian financial crisis, a bit of the dot-com bubble.
And you notice that a lot of people who have worked in very, very good companies in the past, they might stick to the same company for like 10 years or more.
And then all of a sudden, everyone becomes irrelevant. You get let go in a very difficult period of time and you do not have the necessary skill sets to look for a new job at the time.
So I wanted to make sure like my industry, my skill sets would be translatable regardless of what the economic circumstances would be.
So all in all, it's just really more about being relevant, having the opportunities to learn and also being able to have that mobility.
If I want to switch industries or I want to switch roles or I want to switch countries, I am able to make that choice for myself.
That's a very, very, very wise words by you, Earle.
That's great. And how did you come to the, I guess, to the realisation that Cloudflare is one of those organisations?
It's, I mean, where do I start?
So when I joined on day one, I was put straight to work.
There was no like, hey, just relax and, you know, enjoy meeting the colleagues, have some free lunch.
There was nothing like that. Like right smack in the beginning of QBR and, hey, start planning for Q2 or Q3, just start executing.
So it was, at the time, I was the second marketing hire. So I had to work with all the sales leaders across the region immediately.
And I have to act like I know something when I know nothing.
So the first thing was to, hey, let's just do events.
Events are working really well. And we planned and executed on average 28 events per quarter across the whole APAC region.
And that's like about three events a week.
And it was a very, looking back, it was very interesting. Like, how do we even pull that off?
So in like the peak, during the peak season, there was only like three of us, Krishna, myself and Ravi, who heads up our digital marketing.
And three of us could be in a different city at a different point in time.
And at that time, if you are in the Singapore office, like we have colleagues be like, where is marketing?
We can't find anyone. They are not at their desk all the time. So that was that.
And it was a really good opportunity, I think, because like the company's at its initial stage of growth.
There's many things that you can do. There's no like rules to hold you back.
So we did a lot of things as a team. We tried out a lot of things.
And at that point in time, it was also during the period our company went IPO.
So we get to launch the IPO party within like three weeks. Like, hey, guys, like, we're going to go IPO, do a party for like 200 people.
Like, okay, sure.
In addition to all the work that I have to do, definitely can't wait. And that was really fun, like once in a lifetime opportunities that you get.
Speaking of that, like, recently, we just opened our Tokyo office too.
And our team had the really wonderful opportunity to launch a brand campaign in Japan.
We also get to do a Japan office opening ceremony virtually during COVID-19.
So there were a lot of new things that nobody knew what to do.
And we just had to try and had to learn and iterate and do what's best at that point in time.
And recently, you know, this year, actually, it's our 10th birthday for Cloudflare.
And we also tried something with the ANZ market where we did the online birthday celebration.
So that was cool too.
And I'm going to like keep that as a sneak peek to what we're going to launch in Q4.
Awesome. Now, that's brilliant. Now, it's been good. And I guess, you know, you joined, everything was very events driven, physical meetings, physical conferences, then this pandemic hits.
How, I guess, how did you deal with that situation?
I mean, I'd love to get your thought process when this all came to a head, I guess, what went through your mind at that point?
And how did you, I guess, how did you shift the mindset and I guess, our direction in terms of our marketing strategy for Cloudflare?
When it first hit, the first thing that we all had to deal with was the cancellation of events.
Like we were so busy with the cancellation of events and like rescheduling or just dropping the whole entire plan that we had in that quarter and coming out with new ones that we can activate immediately.
So it was a lot of researching and hunting and trying things out.
And nobody knew whether, how long the pandemic will last and whether our new plan will work.
It was a lot of uncertainty. But I think as a team, we did really well because we, there's a lot of empathy for what's going on within the team due to the uncertainties present.
But, but what we did was we just, we just try it out.
There was a very strong culture of experimentation. And even our CMO, Jake, was like, hey, like, don't be afraid to try, like you can fail.
Not everything should be like a beautiful piece of result slip.
Like if you fail, that's great.
Just make sure you take the lessons learned and then don't do it again.
So I think that really empowered us to just try. Like when COVID-19 hit, the way the world is run, the way you live your life has completely transformed.
It's a blank slate of paper that we can build on.
So I think that was a really good opportunity for myself to try things that I never, I always wanted, but never did.
And I think, you know, working with the sales leaders like Raymond, you know, and also the sales team like yourself and the broader sales team, everyone has been really understanding and supportive.
You know, like, hey, if this is something that we're trying out, it might work, it might not work, but let's do it.
The team culture here is really strong and the support is really strong.
So I thought like that really helped me and my team to do our best and switch gears when the pandemic hit.
There you go. And you've done an awesome job, Els. It's been great. I think you're the one that gave birth to the bingo night, which has been astounding.
You've got so much good feedback, but I think like all things, when crisis happens or pandemics happen, I think innovation occurs as well.
So I think, you know, the fact that we're getting through this and we're driving, you know, in a different direction, adapting to what's happening, I think, you know, it's a testament to, I think that's a really good point, you know, don't be scared of failing, learn from your lessons, but you've got to try, you've got to try things, otherwise you may just be stuck with what you're doing.
Exactly. So that's flying high.
So Els, if someone was to look at you and go, hmm, what is something that we don't know about Els?
What would that be? I don't know. Why don't you tell me?
I'm asking you, tell me a fun fact about you, because I know it, but I'm so super curious because I never knew, but I'd love to hear about your little, I guess your side activity or your side hobby that you may have.
It's not a side activity anymore because of COVID, but I did learn how to fly a four-seater aircraft during my younger days.
Wow. Yeah. So like anytime I'm sick of like my job, I can like rent a plane and fly off Singapore.
I'm like, I've had it enough, I'm going to fly out of this country.
I mean, how did that come about? Were you always into flying or was it something that you wanted to do?
How did that come about?
Oh no, I just decided to take it. So every time someone asks me if I have a fun fact, I can just use it.
Yeah, but I'm saying, how did you get into flying? How did that start?
Yeah. So during that time I was in school, I was studying and we had like an extra curricular activity, like different ones.
You know, you can take up basketball, you can take up volleyball, you can take up rugby, whatever you want to take up.
And then there was the option to learn how to fly. It's part of our program in Singapore where the military use it to send out candidates for fighter pilots or other kinds of pilots.
So I thought, hey, this is like an interesting opportunity and I get to learn how to fly for free.
So I'm going to just try it out. And something that people didn't know was you have to fly during the day, right?
And then you get to skip school officially.
You get to like get this sleep that allows you to be away from school.
It's like, perfect, I'm going to do it. So it got to a point where, because it was like a two -year course, it got to a point where I was barely in school.
And then my mom was like, you're not going to school? I'm like, that's fine.
Be fine. Be fine, I'll just fly out of here, be all good. Exactly.
And my mom was like, I give up on you. Just do whatever you want. There you go.
So what was it like? I mean, so you said it was a two-year course. And I guess what was the training like?
I mean, how much preparation did you have to go through to get to your first flight?
Oh, it's a lot. Like you have to first learn theory, you get to do like tests, you get going to lectures.
It's a proper like flying school curriculum.
And that lasts for about two months. And once you pass like the theory test, there were two theory tests, you get to start learning how to fly.
And there'll be like, I think 50 sorties, they call it, where you do different things.
Your instructor will expose you to different parts of the aircraft.
And every time there'll be like some assessment in that one hour that you go up into the air.
And after you finish all the 50 sorties, then the instructor will decide whether you are qualified to do a solo flight on your own.
And that is the major milestone during that period of time where everyone just works towards getting a solo flight as part of their journey.
And not everyone makes it. Some people, they just cannot handle, you know, the mechanics or they are not used to it.
Then they will drop off halfway.
So the final moment when you fly on your own is the milestone moment.
And as fantastic as it sounds, when you get up and do your own solo flight, it's just five minutes.
You just do one circle and you land back. They don't let you go like, you know, travel around and you like start, it's like, you know, one circle and back.
Here you go. What was that experience like? I mean, I can just imagine that would have been amazing.
What was it like? Well, everyone thinks that it's like amazing, but let me tell you the truth.
You have to put on like a fireproof flight suit and that is hot, really hot.
And in Singapore, for those who have not been to Singapore, like Singapore is very, very hot.
It's very humid.
And it depends on where you are. You may not get wind. It's very unlike Australia where you get like the cool breeze, get like the nice sun.
No, it's nothing like that in Singapore.
So when you wear the flight suit, first you try not to sweat, you know, and then you get into the plane and then you close all the stuff.
And it's just like a sauna. It's a sauna as you go on. And then you just like take off the flight, you know, you face the sun and you struggle with everything, like stabilizing the flight.
Sun in my eyes, the heat engulfing me and all, and you have to like try not to die.
That was it. But once you get over the whole drama, it's really fun because when you fly on your own, you have no instructor shouting at you, you know.
It was a very peaceful moment where you get to appreciate the scenery and the fact that you're in air on your own.
It was very cool. I was going to say, was it very stressful, your first solo flight?
Were you concentrating more on the stress than having a good time?
What was that experience like? I was focusing on not crashing the plane because I'm not sure whether my parents would have to pay for the plane and just not die.
It's a very scary moment in time. You're like, what, 18 and you're flying on your own, controlling a life.
Yeah, it's amazing.
And how many solo flights have you done? In total, I think just slightly short of a hundred during the previous, yeah.
Okay, so during this time, you potentially could fly over to Sydney if you wanted to, if you've got the skill set to do it, right?
I think so, but I think it's better that I just do it myself and not endanger someone else's life while I'm at it.
Elz, we've actually got a call in, so I'm going to play this message.
Awesome, got a question from Jason. This guy's awesome.
He comes in every week and asks a question, mate. We've got fan bases all over the world, US, Europe, Uzbekistan, the whole lot.
So here we go. Hey, this is Jason calling from San Francisco.
Big fan of the show, Elz, this has been great.
I'm loving hearing about your experience flying airplanes. If you could fly in one place around the world, where would it be?
Where do you think the most beautiful place to fly?
And would that be, would it be like wind to worry about?
What would your concerns be? Looking forward to hearing. Awesome, this is cool.
Thanks, Jason, for the question. And if I were to choose a place to fly in the world, I think it would be Canada.
I'm going to fly like in between the mountains where you have the lake below.
And then, you know, snow-capped mountains. How cool is that?
And I'll head into like a nice resort, you know, get some wine and cheese and just stare into space.
How nice would that be? That is awesome. I like the sound of that.
Yeah, that's a great question. I never thought of that, actually. Yeah, thanks.
Thanks, Jason. Jason's one of our, he's one of our number one Cloudflare TV fans for Legends of Tech.
So he's a top guy. Jason, kudos to you, mate. I'm going to send you a pair of Cloudflare socks shortly.
Appreciate it, mate. No, that's great.
Great question. Yeah, so you've never thought, so I guess, you know, being able to fly, you know, that's quite a big milestone in terms of, you know, the theory behind it, even the practicality part of things.
I guess at such a young age, being 18 and learning that type of skill, did that, I guess, set a good groundwork of possibilities or endless possibilities for you?
Yeah, for sure. Like, I think, I think that really started my whole thing about, you know, you can do whatever you want, if you want to try it, you can be independent, you can, you know, try new things out and not be afraid of failure.
And if it's a new daunting skill, it's fine, you can pick it up.
You can just do whatever you want, if it looks like a good opportunity to you.
So that has guided me throughout my life, whenever like, you know, making decisions about my career or making decisions about, you know, marrying my husband, things like that.
Like, hey, this looks good. I feel good about it.
Let's do it. That's great. So did you have to use the flying metric to decide whether or not you marry your husband?
Yeah, I think like, you know, this guy, will he like topple when the wind blows?
You know, to land? I think marrying my husband is a lot more simple.
Well, that's good. Is that a compliment? It's an easier decision to make than, you know, like...
Good. It wasn't a complex decision.
Well, that's positive then. Because if it was a complex decision, then you might be questioning, what am I doing here?
Yeah, exactly. That's awesome. So when you look back at your career, or just in life in general, were there any, I guess, pivotal sliding door moments for you that, you know, that's pretty much got you to where you are today?
Yeah. And I think the first major sliding door moment was when I was in Vision Critical, doing the sales role.
I was just with the company for, I think, about two months.
And I took up the job because I believe in my manager.
I knew him, I trusted him, and I know that he will guide me really well. But two months into the role, he tells me one day, hey, I'm quitting.
And I remember like, what are you talking about?
Oh, I got a better job. I'm leaving. So we can just take over the whole office right now.
And I'm like, okay, cool. Whatever you say.
That was fun. Sounds like fun. And actually, that was the best opportunity, you know, I still keep in touch with my ex -manager.
We just had like drinks last week.
And it was really the best because, you know, being thrown into a world of unknown and you to figure everything out yourself.
That is a very important skill set, I think, for a lot of people today to adapt, especially during COVID-19 times.
So in that short one month after he left me on my own device, like I have to pick up like sales skills.
I have to book meetings with like CSX of your global insurance firms.
And you have to like go in and pitch to them in person when there was still like in-person meetings.
You pitch to a CSX sitting there and act like you know something.
That was a lot of nerves. And then when, you know, people want to buy from you, you have to start doing the contracting.
Then you meet like other people in the different parts of the department, like your legal team, your compliance team.
You have to figure out what the hell SOC 2 is. Then you have to do like, you know, the after sales process.
You work with like the customer success team.
Really cool. And I don't think I'll have it another way. Like the opportunity to learn so many things in such a short period of time.
The exposure that you get.
Super cool. So that was one major one. And then, you know, joining Cloudflare was also another sliding moment.
Like, you know, you read the job description.
It looks like you can do it. It looks very normal, the job description. But when you get into the wits of it, hey, welcome to Cloudflare.
There's so many other things that you can do and you would like to do.
You don't just do your normal day job.
You do, you know, the IPO party. You launch something else as part of some other team's plan.
Get so many projects at one time. And I look back at my like one and a half years in Cloudflare.
I wouldn't have it another way. It's very cool. That's awesome.
That's really cool. And if you look at your career now, I guess, are there any, you know, I guess highlights for you that stand out that you're proud of?
There are many for sure.
But I think for this year, if we were to look at, you know, how whole COVID-19 changed the world.
I think the Japan office launch campaign and also Cloudflare's 10th year anniversary and also, you know, Cloudflare going to IPO.
Those are really the career highlights that I'm very grateful for.
Like, you know, I don't think many people will have the chance to enter a company before the IPO and then experience the whole journey after IPO.
So that was really cool. And then, you know, not many people get to experience the launch of a new office.
So you get to do a lot of things related to the launch of an office, conference, you know, office opening.
And then it being in Japan, which was really good too, because I studied Japanese when I was young.
Now I get to like really revise it for work.
And if I knew I'm going to do, I'm going to have this project 10 years down the road, I'm going to pay more attention to like my Japanese classes, right?
That's how life works. And then 10th year anniversary for Cloudflare.
We get to try something interesting. We get to like celebrate it in style.
We work with like experts like Troy Han, and then I get to work with James Orwell, which I really admire.
I love his book. And then get to work with Jan Taylor, our chief product officer.
And also, you know, Raymond. It was a really fun project too.
And I look back now, you know, like all the things that we have done as a team in Q4, in 2020, sorry.
We have done it. We have worked very hard. We have done a great job.
But we as a team, we did it with a touch of humor. We still have fun.
We still like make jokes. And I can't be more thankful for that. That's fantastic.
That's good. It's good to hear that Cloudflare is the one of the, I guess the biggest highlight or one of the biggest highlights of your career, which is awesome.
That's great. And if you look at your, I guess, again, back to your looking at your career, were there any, I guess, you know, key lessons that you've learned on the way that have really galvanized you as a person and I guess brought you to where you are today?
Yeah, for sure. And I think this would be something that you are experienced to because we are part of the team.
I think that the major thing that guided me was you have to be 100% authentic.
Like you have to mean what you say.
If it's a yes, it's a yes. If it's a no, it's a no. I think that's the key to attracting and working with like-minded people.
And that will make the whole like collaboration a lot easier.
Because at the end of the day, you have to make decisions that you yourself have to feel proud for, for the rest of your life.
Like you have to feel comfortable with your own decisions. And if you're going to say like, maybe because, you know, I don't want to like make the other person unhappy but what's the point of it if you yourself are unhappy at the end of the day?
So I think that has worked really well for me. Though it might be not a pleasant experience for some people but I think that's a good advice.
That's fantastic. That's really good. And I guess what's your advice for people that are coming through?
I guess whether it's they're starting off in a career, whether they're trying to figure out what to do.
I mean, I guess what's your view of the world?
I guess what sort of advice can you give to people that are either in a similar position to you or are looking for a career change or looking to break into a new sector?
Oh, those are very different questions, man. We ask very complicated, very interesting questions here on the Ledgers of Tech.
Many, many lessons and I have to thank, you know, I stand on the shoulders of like great giants and many people have guided me well during my career.
I thank them for it.
But most importantly, a few things like you have to listen well. A lot of people tend to like talk over each other nowadays, especially with Zoom, it's not helping.
But you have to listen well, listen in between the lines, listen and listen again.
Like, is this what this person really means? And when in doubt, just ask.
People don't ask enough questions. People assume and when you assume it, it don't really go down the right way.
So I always ask questions. And if I don't get it, I ask again.
Like, don't be afraid to sound stupid because at the end of the day, we're trying to like work together.
We're trying to achieve a common goal.
It really does help to listen and ask questions. Something that has served me really well too is having a growth mindset.
Like, you know, wanting to learn new things, not being afraid to learn new things, not being afraid to fail really helps to keep me going.
Sometimes I think it might do me more harm than good, like taking too many things that I want to go, but so far it's okay.
And I think the greatest threat in life is you think you know it all and you have always done things this way.
Like, that's the greatest threat. And COVID-19 is definitely here to prove that point.
Oh, things have always worked this way. Not anymore. And something that I like to do is I like to challenge the status quo and say, there was one time I read, like in life there's three doors.
That is like the first door, which is the yes door. The second door is the no door.
And then there's always, if you look around, there's either the back door or the window, anywhere you can do to get into what you want.
You know, like someone says, yes, great. You can open the door. Someone says, no, that's fine.
I'm going to look for another door to get into the house.
So when I think like, hey, you know, the yes option is not good. The no option is not good.
I'll be like, what is the third option? So I'm always looking for a different option.
Window, back door, under the house. Yeah, yeah. Like, how do I like get to what I want?
What's the other door? So that's fun. I guess, you know, having that growth mindset, was that something that's always been in with you or is it something that you discovered later in life?
I mean, how has that been instilled into your, I guess, your, you know, your persona?
Hmm. I wouldn't say like I was born with a growth mindset, like, you know, genius, like Einstein or something.
But as I started working and I looked around, I realized like, you know, having that open mind and the flexibility to adapt to new things is very important.
In the past, during our parents' days, maybe doing the same job for 20 years is okay.
But now it's not okay. Things move so fast. The world changes so fast. The only change is, the only constant is change.
And in order to adapt to change, you need to be open-minded.
You need to be flexible. You need to want to learn new things.
So I learned that in the first few years of my career. And I made it a point like every year I need to learn something.
I need to try out something new. And it has served me really well.
That's great. So you've had to build that, I guess, that mindset over a period of time.
Yeah, you have to build that mindset. And it could be challenging, like in the beginning, because a lot of people are afraid of failure.
But as you just get into the weeds of it, you start doing, you start trying new things, you fail, then okay, you move on and you learn some other things.
Then you get into the groove of it and you start enjoying the process, I think.
Yeah, that's great. No, that's awesome. So if you look at, I guess, right now, are there any key people that are either involved in your career or your life that you seek advice from today?
Definitely. I know nothing about the world.
I need my North Star. Yeah. There are a lot of people actually. I think right now in Cloudflare, the major person that I seek advice from is my manager, Krishna.
He's really experienced and he's very good at identifying what the problem is.
And he's very good at guiding us as a team what needs to be done. So every time I come up with, I encounter a work challenge, I will just get on the call with Krishna and tell him, here's the problem and please guide me.
And he's really good.
He taught me a few things in the short amount of time that I'm working with him and I'm still learning how to do it.
The first major lesson I got from Krishna was when you had so many things to do and you can't do it all, you need to do ruthless prioritization.
Like what you can really do now, what you can wait, and what you can hand it off to other people.
So I think that has served me really well ever since I got that advice.
Another two advice that he gave me, which I'm still working on.
I'm not an expert. The first one is, breaking down a seemingly big problem into smaller pieces.
Most of the time, I tend to think of a big problem as a big problem and I get overwhelmed by the big problem.
But actually when you break it down into smaller bite-sized pieces, it doesn't look like a big problem anymore.
So sometimes when I talk to Krishna and he points that out to me, I feel really stupid, but that's fine, we move on.
I get enlightened from that session.
And the last thing that he taught that really got into me was, if we were to tell him, hey, here's a challenge I'm facing, he will ask, what do you really think the problem is?
Where is the licking bucket? And that really provided clarity on what exactly is the problem and how are we going to solve it.
That was really important. So three things that he taught me in my short stint with him and I still try and apply it from day to day.
And the last thing, I think it's really evident in Cloudflare, especially so because it's in COVID-19, it's important to be kind to all your teammates and just understand that everyone that you meet might be fighting a battle that you know nothing about.
The best you can do is have empathy, give benefit of the doubt and be kind.
And I think if I were to look back this year when COVID-19 happened, there were a lot of scenarios like that.
It does pay to be kind and give people the space and time that they need.
That's great. That's awesome advice. I'll probably take a few of those pearls of wisdom even for myself.
Sharing is caring.
Sharing is caring. I was having a chat to a mate of mine today, actually a couple of mates that are all in similar roles.
And I think during this COVID era or time, I think we just forget to be empathetic and be kind but also to help each other out because a lot of people are going through similar issues or challenges.
And I think the more minds you can have to work on a particular problem is good.
And I actually had a chat about, similar to what Krishna said to you around it may be a big problem, but if you break it down into smaller pieces, it doesn't feel as overwhelming.
And I think, especially now, we're very guilty of, we've got this influx of information and everything's so big.
But realistically, if you go, okay, well, I've got a bottle and let's start with the cap and then I'm going to start with the label and then I'm going to get into that period, you start to break it down.
So it's really, until you verbalise something like that, you're applying to your, the way you're doing things.
And I think when you're in a hole or if you've got a problem to solve, it's something, you just need something to trigger, I guess, that mindset.
So that advice is awesome. Some enlightenment. When in doubt, just have a drink.
Exactly. Have a glass of wine. It doesn't matter what time of day, right?
Exactly. Now is a good time. I think Australia is ready. We're eight minutes to 12.
So the pub's open at 11 here. So people are probably drinking already and it's 28 degrees out there.
It's actually looking quite nice. That's good, I should catch up.
No, absolutely. So, what motivates you in life and what gets you out of bed every day?
Many things. It's a good time to be enlightened.
I always think, I think what keeps me going is the ability to learn, continuously learn.
It doesn't need to be work stuff.
It could be like a simple thing like gardening, making your compost, or it could be, you know, walking a dog and then learn how a dog interacts with a human, that's cool.
Learning different things or even like meeting people like yourself in a wider team.
Learning about different cultures, learning about their backgrounds.
It's so cool. I don't know, I love it. When I feel like I'm in a limbo, I will go and look for something that I want to learn and then I just like learn it just to keep the mind going.
And I also feel like, you know, when I'm stuck in a rut, I will try and look for best practices if I think, oh, I don't think I like this wine anymore.
What can I do? Then I will look for like my wine friends and like, hey, can you show me like what have you been drinking?
What are the new stuff? And then you will learn new things and be like, oh, that's so cool.
I want to try it. And then we can get going again. We can start drinking again.
Something like that. I don't think that's a good example. That's a good one.
Since you put that idea in my head, I need to catch up. And I always believe you're the average of the five person that you hang out with.
So I always try and like surround myself with good people, smart people, fun people, just a different mix so that you get to experience different things and not be the same situation that you're in so that you can like just try new things.
You never know until you try.
I think that's it. Not much, man. Pretty simple. Keep it simple, I say.
Exactly. Exactly. Just have fun. Joke around. I think you're absolutely right.
I think if you're not having fun, then it's not worth it's not worth doing it here.
So it's really it's really cool to hear some of your I guess your motivational tips.
And I like the fact that just go out and try something, learn something.
Definitely. Surrounding yourself with the right people does help. Right.
Because, you know, I guess things rub off you and you get influenced or you just you know, it's a human nature thing, really.
So that's pretty cool. Now, you've been a Cloudflare TV star yourself and I've seen some of your awesome Zoomilier sessions.
Tell me what was it like for you to do Cloudflare TV? Because I think it was you did some pretty awesome segments, an awesome show.
It's very different as well, which is cool.
So I'd love to hear a bit about that. That was fun. It was a fun experience because I think Cloudflare TV was something built by our team internally around June this year and was something that nobody had experience about.
And I thought, hey, this is a good time to try and see if I can change my career and be like a top host and maybe I can earn more money and, you know, do more cool stuff with it.
And I thought it was actually very difficult because you meet external guests and you have to keep the conversation flowing for like 30 minutes, in our case it's one hour.
And sometimes they talk too fast and you end a bit of time and you run out of questions and you have to think on the spot.
Sometimes they talk too much and you can't interrupt them and you can't end the show.
Like there's a lot of improvisation that you need to do at a split second and you still have to like look cool in front of the camera like calm and composed like no dude, like we are running out of time.
So that was a very good experience. But what I thought was way more cool was that the Zoomilia part we get to interview like people who mix alcohol, different types of alcohol around the region.
So we had like winemakers from Chile.
We had wine distributors from France, some craft beer makers who's like based in Hong Kong and having like a really cool lifestyle.
We also have sommeliers who serve like the greatest leaders in the world like Lee Kuan Yew from Singapore, Tony Blair from the United Kingdom.
So it was a really cool experience where you get to meet different people from different industries, hear about their lives in a very short amount of time, in a very efficient way through Zoom calls.
I think like if I didn't have the experience, I wouldn't be able to learn so many things about that industry, which I really like.
And I thought, hey, you know, looking back, like that's a very good decision to make for myself, for fun.
Yeah. Like, wow. Who would have known that, you know, we would have Cloudflare TV down the road.
And the feedback has been great. Like people thought it was really cool to go for like those Zoomilia sessions.
And other than that, like, you know, there are people who go for the Legends of Tech, we get to meet very cool tech people.
We get to know more about our own team members. And, you know, recently we have this like customer success segment where I had like my ex-colleagues telling me like it was very good.
Like Cloudflare TV is such a cool idea.
Like it was just an idea that we're going to experiment as a company, but it took off and we are actually having very good reviews about it.
So it's good to be part of it.
Awesome. So when's your next session? There's no next session. There was a thing that we were doing then and it was fun.
I think we are going to do something else down the road.
Q4 for APEC. And I'll keep it hush hush for now. You can't like let people know your grand plans.
Aha. So something coming down the pipeline here, I feel.
Well, I'm looking forward to it. Let me know once it's on. Els, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you today.
I know we talk every day on chat and meetings and whatnot, but it's been awesome just to have, I guess, a session with you just to chat about your life and your experiences.
I've learned a lot about you today, which has been awesome.
I've taken some good advice from you, which is great.
And I've had a really good time today. So I appreciate you taking the time out today in your very busy schedule.
And thanks for your time. I hope we can do another session soon and then hopefully I get to watch one of your next ventures in Cloudflare TV as well.
Thank you so much for the opportunity. It's been really fun, too.
And once again, I'm really humbled to be considered a legend of tech.
I don't think I'm anywhere near there. But thank you for considering me.
This is fun. Awesome. Thanks, Els. You are a legend. Thanks for your time today. Guests, viewers, everyone in the world, good morning, good evening, good night.
See you all next week. Bye.