Cloudflare TV

Looking for Great Talent? Learn About Returnships at Cloudflare

Presented by Michael Tremante, Gigi Chiu, Barbara Carson, Tami Forman
Originally aired on 

Discover why returnships are “a hidden jackpot of gold” with this 360 degree view of Cloudflare’s returnship program in partnership with nonprofit, Path Forward. You’ll find out how managers across Cloudflare are finding amazing talent by recruiting returners who bring valuable experience and add new perspectives to their teams. Featuring Barbara Carson (program alumni), Tami Forman, (Executive Director of Path Forward), Michael Tremante (hiring manager) & Gigi Chiu.


Transcript (Beta)

Hello everyone and welcome to Cloudflare TV. In this session today, we're going to talk about one of the many ways we look for great talent at Cloudflare and one way in which we've been very successful, or at least I think so, in partnership with the Path Forward program.

My name is Michael Tremante. I'm a hiring manager at Cloudflare and I'm really excited about today.

Actually, this topic is something I really care a lot about and I'm joined by a great set of guests.

I'm going to allow them to introduce themselves in a moment.

Before we jump in, a few quick notes about the format.

It's an open conversation today. It's going to feel a little bit like a panel.

We're going to have a bit of a Q&A. If you have any questions at any moment, feel free to send an email at the production team email address and that is and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

If we don't answer any questions live today, we'll certainly follow up at a later moment by email directly.

We'll also be sharing some contact details towards the end in our closing notes.

With that aside, and to keep on track with time, without further ado, I want to start introducing our guests.

I'm privileged to introduce and welcome Tami, who's joined us today.

She's the executive director of Path Forward and founder.

Tami, why don't you tell us a few words about yourself to kick us off? Yeah. Hi, I'm so excited to be here.

I'm a huge Kovler fan. I have my t-shirt on. So very on brand for you all today.

I know. I love it. I have about six of these because I've spent so much time in your offices, which I'm very proud of.

So Path Forward is a nonprofit organization and we are on a mission to help caregivers get back to the workforce.

So people have taken time off for child care or elder care, anything that's in that in that spirit.

And we work with employers like Cloudflare to do that and to create this returnship program.

So Cloudflare is one of our earliest supporters and longest running supporters.

So I'm so proud and excited and I just love this partnership so much.

Thank you very much for joining us. And today we also have two alumni from the Path Forward program.

So I'm going to hand it over. We go DG and Barbara.

DG, a few words about yourself, maybe. OK. So I came across the Path Forward program after I had taken some time off to be with my family.

And after that, I had some children, a couple of kids, and after they were about school age, I decided I wanted to reenter the full time paid workforce and wasn't sure exactly which direction I wanted to head in.

And during my research, I came across Cloudflare and the Path Forward program.

And I was researching different opportunities and it came under my radar because it was related to some of my earlier experience in Internet based technologies.

And so once we had those conversations going forward and decided that it would make sense for me to join the returnship, I had a really great experience.

Overall, Tammy, I'm just so grateful for this program and excited that these type of programs exist, that Path Forward is able to bring awareness to within the tech industry and others that successful team members can come from all sorts of backgrounds and stories.

So having taken a break from a earlier technology based background, when I joined Cloudflare, I realized that with the returnship, not only was Cloudflare evaluating whether or not I, as a team member, was able to learn the role and be productive and successful, but also gave me an opportunity to evaluate if this was a good fit for me and now my growing family.

So then once I was at Cloudflare and then part of the returnship and part of the solutions engineering team, what was really nice was that we get to work with new and innovative technologies every day.

And what that meant was that my other teammates who may have come from a traditional career path and a traditional story, they had a lot to learn too when they joined the team.

And so part of that, I believe, has built this culture within the solutions engineering team where people are generally helpful and very technically curious.

And they went through that as well. And my manager actually at the time had shared with me that some of the most successful solutions engineers on the teams did not join the team with extensive experience in what we do.

And so that collaborative culture of being able to learn from others and feel comfortable asking questions made it a really great experience and made me really comfortable because it was kind of awkward getting back into the groove of things, essentially.

So ultimately, yeah. You've been also super successful at Cloudflare because now we've worked a lot together and it's been a pleasure working with you as well.

And so Gigi as well, so myself and Gigi are also in the solutions engineering team.

And Barbara, you as well, you joined us with the Path Forward program and you're part of the team.

Quick two words about yourself as well, maybe? Yes, I am also a member of the solutions engineering team.

And it's been a pleasure just growing and learning as much as I have at Cloudflare.

And, you know, my role on the team is really to sort of help, you know, our enterprise customers, you know, solve their critical problems or critical issues and really the most out of their use of Cloudflare.

So it's tremendous. Thank you. Thank you for that. So I guess I joined quite a while now in terms of Cloudflare years and I actually joined in the London office.

And back then, when I started hiring for the team, we actually didn't engage with the Path Forward program.

And I guess that's maybe a side question for you to tell me later, if it's international expansion for this.

When I moved to the U.S.

with Judy, who is one of our internal recruiter, who is helping a lot with the Path Forward program, we immediately got engaged, you know, got engaged with the program and it became really successful pretty quickly.

I never asked the question, though, how did you come up with the idea and how did it all start?

Yeah, so Path Forward actually started as a HR initiative within a private software company based here in New York City, where I am.

And it's a software company that got sold last year and doesn't exist quite anymore, but was a company that was part of the Union Square Ventures portfolio.

So for those of you who are familiar with Cloudflare's heritage, so this private software company started this initiative for itself, for its own HR people, but then other companies started reaching out and asking, like, hey, how do you do that?

And could we be part of it?

And the CEO decided to start a nonprofit. And so and I said, can I help you do that?

So here I am. And one of the things we did, of course, is we started reaching out to our friends and family within, you know, the different venture capitalist networks that the CEO and the company were part of, including Union Square Ventures.

So Fred Wilson introduced me to Michelle Zatlin, came out to San Francisco, sat down with her.

She's like, of course, of course, we'll do this. This is great.

This is amazing. And she's been a great supporter and champion, which was amazing.

And I really feel like we have grown up with with Cloudflare in some ways, because Cloudflare, I was asking my staff, no one could quite remember.

It was either everybody has a different number in their head.

It was either 130 or 150. It was very small.

It was much, much smaller than it is today. So to see a company embrace this kind of a program that early in its life and when it was still relatively small was so exciting.

And you, Cloudflare is the company that has, it was part of the very first Path Forward cohort of companies in the summer of 2016.

So four years ago, and has participated in every recruiting round since.

Yeah, the solutions team is definitely not the only one participating in the Path Forward program.

No, definitely not. Definitely not. Across the organization. Yeah, security, sales, design, people ops, like there's, there's returnees all over the place at Cloudflare.

Yeah, it's great. How, I mean, I've been part of Cloudflare. If someone, you know, how does someone, I guess, get involved?

Is there a format to the program to get engaged?

Do people reach out to you? Do they reach out to the end companies and then they sort of get referred back to Path Forward?

For participants, so for people who want to get returnship jobs, so we have a website where people can sign up and they get emails from us.

But what we're doing is telling people about the opportunities at companies.

So, so Gigi and Barbara both, you know, somehow found links to the Cloudflare returnship programs and, and apply directly with, with y'all.

So, so Judy in the recruiting department is working with managers directly and, and bringing people in and doing that.

So we run, well, we used to run live events.

We now run webinars where we bring people together who are interested in our program and want to learn more about our employers and what we do and get themselves ready to go back to work.

So we do that kind of audience building, if you will, but we send people to the companies to apply.

Got it.

Got it. No, that's, that makes sense. And Gigi, I guess, question to you, Gigi, how did you come across the Path Forward program initially?

Because you actually joined the company in the US before I moved over in San Francisco.

Were you looking specifically at Cloudflare?

Did Path Forward come across just by chance or were you specifically looking for a returnship program?

It had come across by chance.

And I guess the promotional work that Path Forward had done, it came up in my research and it's been a while now.

So I don't remember exactly how, but it was, there was enough out there.

And the website was such a great resource that I don't remember exactly what I clicked on, but there was enough for me to click on.


And Barbara, is it a similar, similar story for you there? Yeah, you know, I, so let's see, I, it, it did come about sort of accidentally, but wonderfully.

It was like a happy surprise. I found out about Path Forward through the Cloudflare website.

So, you know, so a bit about my background. I mean, you know, prior to Cloudflare, I was in sort of various technology-based roles, you know, various startups and within the e-commerce division of a retail company.

And then I took some time off, I stepped back to take care of a family member.

And, you know, when that stabilized and I was ready to sort of restart and reboot my career, I found this opportunity on the Cloudflare website.

And I knew immediately, you know, it was instantly clear that this was a tremendous opportunity.

And so I was so excited to apply for it.

And I was so excited to join, you know, and I mean to join the returnship.

And, you know, I would say that, you know, instantly, immediately, what was really clear is that everyone at Cloudflare, you know, managers, team members, really everyone really wanted the Path Forward returnees to succeed.

And that was tremendous. That made all the difference. I would also say that, you know, team members were very open to sharing their knowledge and information.

And, you know, that kind of collaboration was also critical, I think, to, you know, the Path Forward returnees success.

I joined with another returnee as well.

And the kind of role that I'm in, and, you know, Cloudflare's ever growing suite of products, you know, there's a lot to learn.

So that kind of collaboration and that kind of culture was also very helpful.

Yeah, no, for sure. Well, I found, you know, we have several Path Forward alumni on the team.

Gigi and Barbara are not the only two.

And you're right, Barbara, I found everyone that's joining from the program tends to be very driven.

And, you know, they really want to get back into the workplace.

And from my experience, it's been extremely successful in that regard.

I guess as a hiring manager, or better, even from someone participating in the program, Tammy, maybe this is the question for you.

From a tactical perspective, what does the program look like?

And I've heard that you now have the concept of cohorts as well.

So I'm assuming some community behind it where Path Forward candidates can even help each other.

Do you mind maybe explaining?

Because I actually don't even know too much about that side of the program.

Yeah, so a lot of companies that we work with, they bring in returnees in groups of, you know, depending on the size of the company and kind of how they're hiring.

And it could be three to five people, it could be, you know, we work with Walmart, they bring in 30 people.

So it can vary in terms of the size, but they bring them in, in a cohort style similar to a college internship, right?

So college internships happen in a group, because that's when they're available in the summer.

But we felt like that same concept, that idea of being going through an experience together is helpful.

And then what Path Forward does is we also do some programming with returnees in terms of helping them think about how they can maximize the experience, make the most out of it, and give them a chance to support each other and create community.

And, and that's been great. And it's really tremendous.

And we, you know, take advantage of the opportunity to bring, bring returnees together within a company, so that Cloudflare, like for Cloudflare folks, they can meet each other, but also across companies.

So we partly want to expand, I'm trying to create a little bit of an old girls network, if you don't mind me saying so, right?

Like, so I'm trying to create a group of people, and we're working on our alumni programs and finding ways for people to connect.

So that they can help each other, not just now through this experience, which we think is great, but also through their career, right?

We think I'm playing a long game, Michael, I'm getting, I'm getting women into the top jobs, right?

That's, that's the game I'm playing.

So, yeah. And, and the other thing I actually, because I was told initially, going back, I started in London, and we weren't partnering with a PowerPoint program in London.

So right now, are you, you know, are you helping Cloudflare from a global perspective?

Is it still localized in specific cities? We mostly work in the US, we do have a couple companies, we don't have audience outside of the US, which would be very hard for us to build.

But we have some, some loose partnerships with, there are similar companies in, in India, and there's one actually in London.

So we have ways to connect our partners with companies locally, who can help them find the talent source.

But then the program itself, we can do, we do a lot of stuff remote.

So we worked with HPE on their program, both here and in London, here and in, you've got me thinking about London now, Michael.

I want to come visit you.

That works for me. We worked with them both in Texas and in India, and we were able to provide participant support to the folks in India, but like, we just can't provide the signups, the applicants.

But the pro, the idea of the program, the program itself is, you know, can be adapted to any, any office that a company is in.

Yeah, that makes sense. And, and actually going back to the hiring perspective from, from my side, we all know, I mean, technology does have a bit of a, you know, a gender equality problem, and participating in the Power Forward program for, for me, has actually helped diversify the candidate pool a lot.

That's been a really, really good for us as well. And Barbara, you were mentioning this already.

We've, I found everyone on the team to be very driven in that regard as well, which has been super helpful.

I'm hoping, you know, I am moving back to London.

So I'm hoping that things do expand in this direction of the world. That'd be, that'd be pretty awesome.

And, and because I'd definitely be willing, and I'm sure a lot of other hiring managers at Cloud for even other companies will be willing to participate and help out in that regard.

So I guess, how, how large, no, how effective, maybe that's the wrong word.

We've been participating with, with, with yourselves a lot.

You know, if I count in my head, we probably have five team members, alumni from the Power Forward program.

Gigi might correct me here.

I think it's four or five at the very least. So we, you know, every time we've opened a role, we've made sure we can, we can support the candidates joining us because there is, of course, it's coming back to work, maybe after a few years out of the job.

Therefore, we need, we always wanted to make sure we can support and sort of ramp up candidates as necessary when they join the team.

Do you have an idea?

I think we were looking at some of the numbers earlier of how, you know, what other teams and what, how things have panned out at Cloudflare from a wider company perspective.

Yeah, Cloudflare has an excellent conversion record.

So our sort of overall stat is about 80% of people get converted into jobs.

So that's across all of our companies. And, but Cloudflare's record is actually 100% of the people who have gone through your program have been offered a job and 92% have accepted those jobs.

So your conversion record is actually excellent.

And I think it speaks to the things that both Gigi and Barbara were talking about.

And my team works with managers too, right, like our team, you know, we do work with the attorneys, but we also do work with managers on helping them review resumes, do interviews, get ready for people to come on board, onboard them successfully, manage, you know, give feedback, manage.

And the Cloudflare managers consistently get high marks from my team as like, they're just so great and they care so much and they, and they get it right there, you know, they're engaged, you know, they, we can get them on the phone and they, they, they understand, you know, and they, they implement the things that we tell them to do in terms of, and a lot of it's just, to be perfectly honest, good management.

So kudos to y'all, but like, but they really invest in themselves and in the program and in the returnees and it shows up in the conversion data for sure.

And that's, that's really good to hear.

So I'm assuming where those numbers are above, above the average across. Absolutely, absolutely.

Above the average, way, yeah, quite above. I guess you're, you're a manager now at Cloudflare, so things have found out really well.

I'm assuming you lots have an opportunity to engage with Tammy and her team as well moving forward.

Definitely. That would be awesome. We love that. Yeah, we're, we're, I mean, Cloudflare, we're not the only ones that we're, we're definitely growing a lot.

So we're always looking for, you know, for awesome candidates to join us. If, if, so from, I guess, for the audience at large, because we probably have people from Cloudflare watching us today.

And for them, yeah, it's easy, it's easy to get in touch.

I guess we have Judy Chung on our team who is, you know, working a lot with the Path Forward program with Tammy and her team.

And what, what does it look like, you know, if there's other, other audiences from outside of Cloudflare listening to us today, what, what would they need to do to engage, engage with Path Forward?

They can reach right out to us. We have an email set up at hello at

So people can email hello at and my whole team gets that.

So someone will very quickly get back to you to tell you all about how you can work with us.

But for folks who are Cloudflare that are like 100%, Michael, like reach out to Judy.

She's eager to engage with you. She'll help you get your job description up, get candidates into your pipeline.

My team will walk you through the process.

So, so it's very easy to get involved in. And Cloudflare is there, there's a lot of support from people like Michelle Zatlin and, and Jenna Van Hughes in the people team.

Like there's a lot of executive support for this program at Cloudflare.

So like you should feel confident like that you can go for it.

And I know that when I work with Judy was, there's been, I think that's part of the cohort concept.

There's been specific timelines we have to follow when opening roles and hiring people into those roles.

Is that strict or is there some flexibility there?

There's plenty of flexibility and Cloudflare has always kind of taken the, we're growing, we're going to hire people when we're ready to hire people and we support them when they're, when they're there.

So, and by the way, we now live in a time when time has no meaning anymore.

So we are even more open to people coming in and starting.

We do a lot of our work virtually now with folks so we can pull across different companies working on different timescales.

So if you are ready to go with a path forward job, you should let Judy know and she'll be excited.

And I guess the other thing I've always done, you know, while working with Judy, we've always, the path forward returnship program per se has been about three to four months long.

Is that something that, you know, we try, you try to be descriptive about or, you know, is there, how does that part of it work?

So we try to, we encourage companies to think about at least 16 weeks at a minimum because we just feel like that's the amount of time it takes for someone to, not just for someone to get ramped up, but also for the team to be able to give the guy, you know, do all the things that we're doing.

So we like 16 weeks at a minimum.

We have companies that work with people longer that do, particularly for certain technical roles, they might work on a, on a six month timescale.

We don't like them to, that four to six months is, that's, that's the way to go.

That's the way to go.

Yeah. And I guess, Gigi, Barbara, I'd like to hear, I guess, your opinion, having participated in this.

Did you find the timeline for the program suitable?

Because I'm assuming there's, it's two ways, right? To some extent, yourselves were looking to get back into the workplace.

I feel very self-conscious as well to try and get the best impression of Cloudflare when people are joining us as a team.

Did you feel the timeline was appropriate? How did that pan out, the ramping at Cloudflare when you joined with Pathforward?

I can start first. Yeah. So it was very collaborative.

What I liked about it is because the program was very flexible, it wasn't predefined what I would be doing each week and how I would ramp each week.

So what it ended up being was that on a regular basis, it was a dialogue between myself and my manager in terms of how I was ramping so I could get immediate feedback.

And then also for me, what was nice was my manager was checking with me whether or not this was the direction that I wanted to head in.

Was this a good fit for me?

And so that we could continue that conversation. So for me, the timeline was good.

It was just the right amount of time for both of us to determine if it was a good fit.

Barbara, do you share the same? Any other thoughts on that?

Yeah. I thought that the program and that timeline was just right, just as Gigi said.

And just really well designed, really well thought out. And it really helped on both sides of the equation.

So at Cloudflare, my manager was very engaged and very supportive and understood what the program was.

And team-wide, I felt like I was integrated immediately.

And then on the other side of the equation with PathForward, the amount of support was incredible.

Tammy, those workshops were excellent.

So Tammy spoke to this, touched on this a little bit briefly earlier, but being part of a cohort, one of the other things that you'll do is PathForward has these three sort of evenly spaced workshops throughout the returnship.

And the workshops were really designed to make sure that we, as a cohort, are getting the most out of our returnship.

And it was just invaluable, really.

And also I want to touch on the alumni network, which is also incredible. PathForward has an established alumni network, and it was very helpful to have the alumni come to our cohort when we were at these workshops to speak to us about their experiences.

And so it was really more than I could have ever asked for. It was so complete and total.

Yeah, I'm a big believer in there's no one way to be successful in a returnship, as I say all the time.

So we bring different alumni in to talk about that.

And I think it's, I find it inspiring. So I think other people will find it inspiring.

We have folks come and talk at events and webinars and workshops, as Barbara mentioned.

So Barbara and Gigi, you'll be getting emails from my team because you're doing such a great job today.

And I can't wait to have you at one of ours.

But, you know, we just think that's really helpful. And then we've worked with more than 70 companies now, and across a range, right?

Everything from companies like Cloudflare and similar like Medallia and Cloudera, like, you know, sort of in that, to Walmart and SAP and HPE and, like, really big companies.

And I think that alumni network also creates that power of being able to manage your career as you go forward.

Because we're, nobody's going to be in the same thing for, you know, forever.

We're going to move to different things and do different things.

So I like that part too. And I've also done a couple of sessions with the Path Forward team.

So even from the manager side, we get, you know, we get some of the sessions, make sure everything is going well, we're doing it properly, any feedback both ways.

So there's definitely a lot of engagement and support.

And, you know, even simply getting the candidates. I remember when we opened the roles on the Solution Engineering team, and we wanted to publish them as Path Forward roles, we, I would work really closely with Judy.

I guess Judy was our proxy.

We, you know, we would receive from you quite a substantial amount of potential applicants.

And that was extremely, extremely useful for us as well.

And the, you know, at the end of the day, we don't skip the interview sessions, right?

We're still, we're still in an interview session, there's still a conversation with the candidate.

But once I feel, you know, if the interview goes well, once we bring someone on board, I think Gigi, well, I think everyone mentioned this, we do want to make everyone successful.

It hasn't happened on our team.

But for sure, even across teams, we're very flexible. If someone joins, and they're not maybe enjoying the role, or they think the role is not the best suit for them.

There's doors already open in many other teams across Cloudflare as well.

Which brings me, I guess, I think we have a couple of Path Forward openings right now on for, you know, with Cloudflare.

Yes, there's a job right now down in Austin, Texas.

So that is something you can find both on the Cloudflare career site and also on the website.

So we always put them both places.

So if you're interested in a job down in Austin, you can check that out.

But for Cloudflare managers, again, Judy is, her door is always open, let her know if you're looking for someone.

And we're working with you across, across, across, across offices.

So if you're, if you're interested, let Judy know.

And that, that opening, I believe, is for the customer support team, right? Yes, yes.

Yes. And there is a returnee. That's the team that Gloria is on, right? Am I going to get that right?

Gloria Marcu? Yeah, so there's a returnee on that team, which is, which is awesome.

She's one, she was the first, she was in the very first Cloudflare cohort, and is still there at Cloudflare doing great.

We have more than, more than one on the CSO team.

Because I remember actually, we had a candidate, they initially were, we were interviewing for the solutions team.

I think her name is Pramina.

But then eventually she, she joined, she still joined Cloudflare, she joined on the customer support team.

So that's awesome. And hopefully, hopefully we'll have more roles open up.

I'm sure, I'm sure we'll have plenty more roles open up.

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I guess I'm just wondering, do you think, Tammy, that now that we're all working from home at the moment, does that make it a little bit more difficult?

For who? For people, for the, you know, for us to basically make sure that the path forward candidates have a good, good experience.

So we, it's interesting, we have, you know, so we came into 2020 with a bunch of companies signed up, and some of them pressed pause, which we weren't surprised by.

But many of them moved forward and kept going and hired their candidates remotely, and remotely onboarded them and have been giving them a remote returnship experience.

And I will say across the board, the returnees, feedback on that is this is great.

This is awesome. And, you know, there's all kinds of issues going on in just in the world right now with homeschooling and childcare, and there's a lot of, you know, logistical stuff.

But, but the, the returnees are really enjoying and grateful for that experience to be able to get back to work remotely.

So I think I'm excited that companies will be more open to that in the future.

Perfect. Thank you. So I guess we're nearly at the end. I want to thank everyone.

Thank you, Tammy. Thank you, Gigi. Thank you, Barbara. Thank you, everyone who's listening in.

And if you want to learn more, send us an email or head over to

Or, you know, if you do find a path forward job opening, just apply and we'll connect the dots.

Excellent. I think that's it for today.

Great. I look forward to working with Path Forward in the future for sure. Awesome.

Thanks, everyone. Thank you.