Mentorflare is a virtual series of discussions with leaders at Cloudflare and guests in the technology industry. The sole purpose for Mentorflare is to provide mentorship to students that we were unable to offer an internship this summer. Cloudflare cares deeply about students that have been challenged due to the current health and economic climate and want to empower these students by sharing our resources
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another live episode of Cloudflare TV. This is our second installment of MentorFlare.
MentorFlare is a virtual series of discussions with leaders at Cloudflare and guests in the technology industry.
The sole purpose of MentorFlare is to provide mentorship to students interested in learning about Cloudflare, staying connected with industry leaders, and learning about future opportunities here at the company.
In this episode, I will be talking with Michelle Zatlyn, co-founder and COO of Cloudflare.
We will start by introducing ourselves and then move to Q &A.
Before this episode, we asked around 1 ,500 students to submit their questions for Michelle and picked some of our favorites to discuss on air.
Thank you to all who asked questions, and I hope you hear yours live.
Let me start by introducing myself. I'm Tatiana Bradley. I'm currently doing a remote internship at Cloudflare.
I'm broadcasting live from my living room in Irvine, California.
I'm a fifth-year PhD student at UC Irvine, studying computer science and specializing in cryptography.
I started out as an undergrad at Scripps College, one of the Claremont colleges near LA, and I studied math and economics.
After I took a programming course for fun in my junior year, I knew computer science was what I really wanted to do, so I ended up going to grad school in it.
My first exposure to cryptography was in a math class, a number theory class, where we learned about basic RSA encryption in just one day, and I had learned how to program in Python just that year, so I decided to write an implementation of RSA, which is actually quite simple.
I showed it to my math professor, and he was very impressed because he has never written a line of code in his life.
My internship at Cloudflare is with the research team. My project is to write an implementation of a cryptographic protocol called OPAQ, which will make password login on the web more secure.
It's a proof of concept at the moment, but I hope this work will greater interest incorporating this into the real world systems.
Let's turn it over to Michelle. Michelle, would you tell us a bit about yourself and your career?
Of course. Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for having me, Tatiana.
Thanks for doing this, and I love hearing about, well, in your case, you're doing your PhD, but what students are doing, because it just gives you real hope and optimism for the future, so I love hearing about everyone's career paths.
That's awesome. Hi, everyone. I'm Michelle. I'm the founder and chief operating officer of Cloudflare.
I started the company about 10 years ago with Matthew Prince and Lee Holloway while we were doing our master's degree, our MBA on the business side at Harvard Business School, and I've been building Cloudflare ever since.
Before Cloudflare, I had worked in a variety of operating roles, some at big companies like Google and Toshiba, some at small companies that you've never heard of, and I've also launched two other startups prior to Cloudflare that were successful but not venture-backed, and now today, Cloudflare is a publicly-traded company, so not the same.
One was a party planning business, and the other one was I was a very early founding team member at a small software company, so I've had a very windy career path, and I always, whenever I hear people who knew exactly what they wanted to do in college, I'm always like, wow, that's amazing because that was not me.
I took a much more windy career path, but as I look back, I feel like I've been really lucky with the collection of experiences I've had.
That's great. It's funny that you think that I, that you say that I knew what I wanted to do because I felt like I was very windy as well, but maybe I just had a shorter wind.
Fair enough, fair enough. Like, yeah, that's good. Yeah, just to ask you, I wanted to know why is it important to you to participate in this mentor-player series?
You know, I feel like I was a student yesterday. I guess now it was 20 years ago, so I still feel very young at heart.
You know, I did my undergrad at McGill University in Montreal, and I was a chemistry major, so a science major, and I loved chemistry, and I just remember, like, I loved science, loved math, like, I loved it, but I really loved the application side of it, and I used to spend, like, my whole undergrad going to professors saying, hey, how is this used in the real world?
And I go to the career services office, and I just felt like I looked around, and I really understood, I feel like there were certain professions that were really well understood, like, if you wanted to go become a consultant, or if you wanted to be a doctor, or a dentist, or a veterinarian, like, they were architect, really, like, defined career paths, but I also realized there was a wide range of other jobs and career paths out there that I just felt really hard to get access to or understand, and again, I was a geeky science student that was really spent a lot of time in the lab, and so, you know, as I've gone and collected a lot of experiences, there have been so many people along the way where I've, you know, read a book, or read a blog post, or listened to a recording like this that kind of were, like, a big aha for me, and one of the best things about technology is I feel like people really pay it forward, and so I, I'm hoping by, you know, speaking to students that I can help show them, hey, there are different career paths, and if they're like, this one sounds really interesting, that they have, they know, A, it's possible, and B, maybe a little bit of the roadmap to get there, although they should pave their own way, so it's really, I, a lot of people gave back to me along the way, and I kind of want to pay it forward.
That's great, yeah, I know I'm really excited to, to be here, and to be hearing your answers to these questions, and I really appreciate the time that you're taking to do this.
Have you ever had an internship before? I have.
I've had many internships. I, yes, I have. I, one of my, one of my internships that was probably the most impactful is I was a chemistry student, and I really thought I wanted to be a doctor, and so I did a research project for three senior physicians out of the Montreal General Hospital in Montreal that it was a retrospective study trying to figure out if a patient had cancer, and then also had two cancers, and two, and a brain tumor, how should they be treated?
That was basically the, the research paper I did, and so I spent a whole summer internship working for three senior physicians in Montreal, and the research actually turned out really well.
I won a lot of awards for it. I was an undergrad, but I won some, an award for master's and PhD students, which was pretty cool, and actually, it was one of those things where it turned out so well, and it was a big aha that I, it was one of the reasons why I'm like, I don't know if I want to be a doctor after this, and kind of opened up this whole, this whole nut in my world of everything up until that point had aligned for me to be a doctor, and I did a summer internship that was really close to, kind of, medical studies, and I was like, I don't know, and, and, and, you know, gave my parents heart attacks, I'll tell you that for sure.
I went back to university, and I decided to minor in business. I said, hey, I'm not sure I want to, like, diversify, so I was like, not just science, I wanted to add some business, and next thing I knew, I was graduating, and instead of applying to med school, I was like, I'm going to go work, go get a job, and I remember my dad saying, what are you going to do, and I literally was like, I don't, I don't know, I'm just going to get a job, and he's like, you realize there are a lot of jobs, Michelle, like, what kind of job, and I was kind of a clueless chemistry student that really had spent her whole life, kind of, lining up for med school, and I was like, I don't know, I just, before I apply to go to med school and go down that path, because once you're on that path, you're really in that path, I wanted to try some different things to make sure that's what I really wanted to do, because I knew once I was in that path, it would be very hard to break out, so I felt like I had this window to try something else, and I tried something else, and I never went back to med school, the med school path.
Yeah, that's really interesting.
I'd like to hear a little bit more about why you thought you wanted to be a doctor when you started.
Yeah, well, I, you know, I, part of it is, you know, people around you, they, they, they help create the persona you become, and, you know, growing up, I was really good at science and math, like, I really loved it, I got good grades, I enjoyed it, I, and, and then I was also caring to people around me, and so I just remember pretty early on, my parents were like, oh, you'd make a good doctor.
Again, it's a profession that's very well understood, and so it becomes kind of like a self -fulfilling prophecy, where I was like, oh, I like these things, and I, I did a lot of summer camps that were very STEM -related, like a lot of summer camps that were related to these things, and I enjoyed it, and I, I remember I, I got to go to Tufts, like a program at Tufts one summer, like, like, so I really spent, when I was in high school, like, I really did a lot of things.
I studied chemistry, like, I really thought that's what I wanted to be, and, of course, it was helpful that I had people I really respected, like my parents, and aunts, and sisters saying, okay, you'd make a great doctor, and, and teachers, like, that obviously feels good to have people validate, like, yes, that's a good career choice for you, but then, you know, when I thought about it, I was like, I really like the idea of helping people, like, when I said, why do I want this, like, I like science, I like solving problems, I feel like there's always an explanation, and in medicine, there's a lot of that, and then I really liked the idea of, hey, I wanted to be able to help people, like, I just felt like that, I wanted to do something that I felt like I was making impacts in the world, and one type of impact is helping others, and so that was something that I really, what really drew me to that profession.
Awesome, yeah, that's, that's a really interesting story, and I'm sure a lot of our listeners will want to hear, what is the origin story of Cloudflare itself?
Sure, well, you know, so I, so I decided not to go to med school, and I went and got a job, and that was really hard, I knocked on a lot of doors, it was, you know, back in 2001, and I, you know, I really hadn't, you know, I had done a lot of science geeky things, I hadn't really had really good practical experience, so I knocked on a lot of doors, so fast forward, at some point, I decided, hey, I need to go get my master's degree, an MBA, and I felt like, at this point, I realized I really loved business, I had tried some technology roles, I really liked that, and I really liked business, and I realized I missed some of the foundation, so I was at business school, and the, the story is this following, as I applied to business school, and you have to write essays, and the reflection of my, and one of the essays before you apply to business school that I wrote was, what do you want to do after, which is a good question, like, why do you want to come here, and what do you want to do after, and I, like, I still, you know, there's some things that are imprinted in your brain, like, you know, you forget a lot of memories, but there's some things that are, like, stay imprinted, this is something that stays imprinted in my brain, even though I should go back and check to make sure it's true.
I recall the essay saying the following sentence, when I graduate from my MBA, I want to go be part of a team that was, like, Google before it was Google, or Starbucks before it was Starbucks, and be part of a team that builds an iconic company that, that really wins the hearts and minds of its customers, and helps provide a lot of good in the world, and I, and I said, like, I don't know what that company is, and I don't know exactly the role, but I really want to be part of a company that, that is making an impact in what it's doing, and, and with a really smart team, and so, all of business school, that's what I look to do, like, I, every, you know, one of the things about going to business school is, a lot of leaders come to campus, you read a, I mean, I read 700 business cases over the course of two years, so you get to know a lot of businesses, I mean, it might even be just a story on paper, but you learn a lot about industries and businesses, small and big, geographical, and so I got to, so I went through a lot of iterations of, like, do I like this, do I not like this, even if it was on paper, and everyone who came was like, hey, what are interesting companies, and so I, like, spent my two years really setting myself up to, to go find this next big company that I could be part of to help make it happen, and, and, you know, I, I think I found that, it was back in 2009, that's when I graduated, and I actually was supposed to go work at LinkedIn, which at the time was, like, it was still private, it was growing really quickly, they were known, but they weren't as known as they were, and, and, you know, if I had not started Cloudflow, that's maybe where I would have gone, I had an opportunity to do that, and I think that would have been amazing, but while I was kind of searching all these sorts of things, I was on a school trip, and I was on the school trip to Silicon Valley, and again, I was in Boston doing my MBA, and I was on a school trip to, to Silicon Valley, and there was 50 students, MBA students that were on that trip, my classmates, and a third of them wanted to go into venture capitalists, they wanted to be VCs, they really wanted to learn from the investors, so they were there to meet investors and find out how do I get a job, become a VC, I didn't want that.
A third of the people on that trip were entrepreneurs who had ideas, and they were working on their ideas, and they went on that trip to try and, like, advance their idea further, okay, like, they were there to meet people and try and, like, take this idea and make it a company, and then there were a third of us, I was in this third, who were on that trip to learn and to find interesting companies before the rest of the world had heard them that I might want to spend my career, like, that's why I did this trip, and it was a professor-led trip, and so we were out in, it was, it was the start of my second year, second semester, I was out in the valley for a week with 49 other classmates, all smart, different backgrounds, and we were going around meeting companies, big companies, meeting venture capitalists, small companies, like, it was, it was, it was, it was amazing, it was magical, somebody who was kind of interested in building and reading, but all these people, like, meeting them was awesome, and it was Wednesday, and it was Wednesday, and we were at Plug and Play Sunnyvale, so some of the listeners might know where Plug and Play in Sunnyvale is, and it was Wednesday afternoon, and this was a day where we were hearing really early stage entrepreneurs pitch their idea, so, like, really, really early folks, how they described their idea, and, you know, it was, it was Wednesday, I was tired, I'd been meeting a lot of people, networking a lot, learning all these different things, and people telling all different advice, and, and I remember we had just listened to three founders pitch, or a couple founders pitch, and it was a break, and I walked into the hallway, and, and a classmate who, who I knew from school was next to me, Matthew Prince, and I turned to Matthew, and I said, if that guy can start a company, so can I, and, and to his credit, he said to me, of course you can, and sometimes it's, like, that one thing, like, that one spark literally is what started Cloudflare, and again, Matthew and I knew each other, we were, we were absolutely knew each other, we had been in the same section, but we weren't best friends, like, so we, we were, friends knew each other, but we weren't, you know, texting all the time, or anything, and, and from that conversation, that we had the next conversation, which basically started Cloudflare, and that's, of course you could, and he, as I had known him up at this point, about a year and a half, always took what, talked about something he had, he had started with Lee before, called Project Honeypot, and I said, Matthew, you always talk about Project Honeypot, what is it?
He said, it's an open source project that tracks web spammers online, and I didn't know a lot about web spammers at this point, and I said, okay, and how many people have signed up for Project Honeypot?
He said, 80,000 websites had signed up. I said, wow, that's a lot of, like, to me, that sounded like a big number.
I was like, that's a lot of people to sign up, and I said, and what do they get?
He's like, well, they put a honeypot on their, on their website, or web page, and it tracks malicious behavior happening behind the scenes, so like, clicks that might not be human, or people who are doing malicious behavior, and then that data kind of gets sent back as a beacon, back to Project Honeypot, and I was like, okay, and what do you guys, what is Project Honeypot doing with it?
He's like, well, we work with, like, law enforcement agencies to go to, to work with them, to go help find the offenders, to get them offline, and I was like, doesn't that take a long time?
And he's like, yes, years, and I was like, I don't understand why anyone signs up for this thing.
This doesn't, makes no sense, like, it's kind of, you gotta be technical to install it, and they don't get, really get anything, like, why is anyone doing this?
And we kind of went back and forth, and at some point, he kind of got frustrated with me, and he's like, Michelle, and he threw up his hands.
He's like, one day, the Project Honeypot users want us to create a service that actually helps stop the malicious behavior, and I was like, oh, they don't have anything, and, and literally, we kept thinking about it all afternoon, that after, that, that night, before dinner, we sat in the lobby at the shelter in Palo Alto, and sketched the idea on a napkin, and, and it started as Project Web Wall.
It started as a school project.
The advisor on that trip, we said, hey, will you be our advisor? Our, our, our deliverable to this, instead of taking a class, was to work on this business idea, was to enter the business plan competition at the end of the semester, and, and we did that, and Project Web Wall turned into Cloudflare, which turned, and if you go back and read our business plan from June of 2009, we basically do what we said we did in that business plan.
I mean, it's evolved, it's expanded, but that's idea, this hallway conversation at Plug and Play in Sunnyvale was where, where we sparked this conversation of, that guy can do it, so can I.
Hey, what's the idea? Wait, and, and part of it was like, hey, if we can help make the Internet faster, safer, more reliable for a lot of people around the world, that would absolutely be something that I would be proud to work on every day, that would definitely help the Internet and people around the world, and, and eventually, we were like, yeah, there's a problem, there's a solution, there's a business model, let's go do this.
The next thing I know, we packed our stuff in a U-Haul, and him and his mother drove it across from the country, from Boston to San Francisco, and we showed up in San Francisco in the summer of 2009 to see if we can make our idea a reality.
Wow, wow, that's amazing. Just for the listeners who don't know, what's a honeypot?
A honeypot is that, and I didn't know either, so one of the things is I now run a large Internet performance security reliability business, and I think the power of rate, the rate at which you learn asking questions, curiosity is your best friend, and so if you were that early in your career, I think you can learn a lot and go into lots of different industries, but a honeypot is, the idea was, Project Honeypot was websites would kind of install a honeypot on their site, and the honeypot would kind of attract malicious behavior and track it, so, you know, what, what humans going online is great, but there's a lot of bots that are automated online trying to do malicious things, they're trying to check for vulnerabilities, they're trying to do, they're trying to find a weakness link on the web page to take it over and to then do worse things, and so the honeypot was kind of like honey, like, you know, you're kind of a bear trying to chop your paw on the honey, it kind of tried to attract the malicious behavior, recorded it, and sent it back to a localized place saying, hey, whether it was this IP or whatnot, it's been seen doing things that are not considered human-like, that is considered bot-like or automated-like or malicious, malicious-like, and if you start to see a pattern of three times in a row, it's like, it's probably malicious and not, and not legitimate, and so that's what these honeypots kind of tried to find the malicious behaviors online, the spammers, the people that were doing things they shouldn't have been doing.
Got it, so the metaphor is kind of like attracting the flies to the honey so that you can then kill the flies.
Yeah, yeah, or stop them. Stop them. Yeah, exactly, yeah. So in the Cloudflare origin, when did Lee come on?
Well, so we were working on this project, and, you know, Matthew and I were, again, classmates, we were doing it for school credit, and Matthew and Lee had built Project Honeypot.
Lee had worked for Matthew at his last company for a long time, and so Matthew knew what an amazing, talented engineer he was, and so he came on really, like, he was not a student at HBS, but he was helping us build the prototype, and, you know, we really made the decision to do this.
It was the three of us deciding together, so, you know, he wasn't there in the hallway in Sunnyvale, but, I mean, he was, got involved very, very quickly, because, you know, if you have this vision of, hey, can we build a globally distributed network that's fine -tuned for performance, security, and reliability, that's technical and engineering, and we needed a technical architect founder to help us build all of it, and Lee was an amazing engineer, a brilliant engineer that Matthew knew and had a relationship with, and was like, this is the person that we should do it with, and so the three of us got together.
Great, so it was all based on those pre -existing relationships.
So how do you think that your role and yourself have grown over the years at Cloudflare, like from the beginning to where you are now?
How has that role evolved? I mean, my job, my role has changed so much, thankfully, like, which is a good thing, which I think is a symbol of growth, and there's some, you know, there's some sayings of, hey, if you're a founder, you're kind of firing yourself from your job every 18 months, and you're going on to the other thing, and I do think in this upswing of your career, it's like, do a really good job of what you're doing, but then there's going to be something else, and you, it's kind of back to this rate at which you learn.
You're constantly drinking from a fire hose, so my role has changed remarkably.
When you start a company, it's all about doing.
Doing, doing, doing, doing. It's about writing code, it's about writing the marketing copy, like, there aren't that, there was three of us, so we were all doing a lot of things, and even when we had 10 people, I mean, I did a lot of support tickets, I talked to a lot of customers, and that was great, like, that's what you should do when you have 10 people or 20 people, like, that, I mean, it's very much about doing, but at some point, again, when a startup starts to transition to, wow, there's a, we built something that somebody is actually using, then it starts to transition to, like, can we scale this, can we build a business around it, and then now we have a business, how do we scale the business to go very large, like, there is a different transition, and so my role has really changed, and today, I do a lot less, you know, like, I think if I was responding to support tickets, I do that sometimes, but like, that's not, we have a great support team where they are doing a really good job of that, and that's great, and so it's, today, it's much more about setting direction, setting vision, helping unblock roadblocks that there are that arise for our team members so that everyone, including you, Tatiana, can do the best work of your lives at Cloudflare, right?
It's making sure we continue to hire great people in Cloudflare, and how can I help do that, like, that's really important, being representatives for the company externally, like, that's a big part of my job, and so I still do things, but I don't do things the way that I did in the first iteration of Cloudflare, so it's, my job has changed so much, and, you know, there's been a lot of times around along the way, and I think this is something that a lot of people listening can identify with is, is, like, am I the best person for this new job?
And it's really easy to find all the reasons why you're not, because it's like, well, there's other people who've done it before, and, you know, sometimes this gets described as impostor syndrome, and I've really had to learn, like, just showing up, being part of it, doing the work is a really, and surrounding yourself with great people is a really good way to help overcome that, so you can almost convince yourself, like, you know, I am the best person for this job, and I'm gonna give it my best, and put my best foot forward, and so, but yeah, it's changed, it's changed a lot, and, and I'm, it's been amazing.
I wish I had taken more pictures and written more down along the way, because I can never go back.
Yeah, sometimes it's hard to even remember who you were.
Yes. Yeah, thank you so much, so I'm just gonna transition to the questions that the students submitted.
Wait, before you do, Tatiana, one thing, although my job has changed a lot, one thing you said at the end is, I, my job has changed a lot, but, like, I still think I feel like I've done a good job holding on to who I am as a person, and so, you know, that's maybe one of the proudest things that I have, where I feel like, of course, I've, I've, I've, I've evolved, and I, my leadership style has evolved, and I have a stronger point of view, but, like, I feel like I'm still, I haven't lost who I am, and I'm really proud of that, so even you have had many jobs, I still feel like I am, been authentic to who I am, and I, I am proud of that.
That's great, yeah, I hope I can say the same.
Yeah, well, also be okay to evolve, shift, things will shift to you, and, like, that's good too, but, you know, I think if you can stay who you are and authentic, there is something really powerful about that.
Yes, all right, so let's, let's do the student Q&A now, so I love this first question, and it is, what was your first ever job, not, not, what was your first job out of college, what was the first thing you did to make money?
My dad, my dad, my dad was a lawyer, and he, and I grew up in a small city in Saskatchewan, Canada, and he ran, he ran his own law firm for a long time, so my first job was working for my dad at his law firm, doing, like, administrative work, so I answered phones, I filed things, I put things in the mail, and I helped my dad a lot, especially because he ran a small business, so when there was someone called in sick, Michelle would come after school to help, you know, I learned a lot about, you know, when lawyers, when you're a lawyer, details matter, turns out, like, details matter when you're running a business too, so that's been, that was a good lesson, it was hard work, I think that's also been a good lesson learned, and, you know, one of the things, again, I grew up in a really small city, and my dad ran this law firm, and people worked for him for a long time, and there was, like, clients who kept coming back and back, so there's kind of, like, value of community and relationships, and I think that's something else I took away from my first job, but yes, it was a lot of found memories of Zatlyn Law Office.
For sure, yeah, I want to answer that question too, my first job was being a babysitter, as many people's first job is, but I also had a, I also had a stint as a web designer for a local business, I had to do a, I had to do an eighth grade project, so I decided to make a website for a local business, so I made them a website, and they paid me in a hundred dollar gift card to their store, so there you go, there you go, that's awesome, so you mentioned that you're from Canada, and I, and I know that there's, like, a lot of struggles with immigrating to the U.S., and also to a lot of different countries, and I wanted to hear more about, like, what was your process in immigrating to the U.S., and do you have any advice for, for people who are going through that process?
Yeah, that was not a bright spot in my life, or my career, it was really hard, it was really hard, and, you know, my now husband, then boyfriend, is also Canadian, and it was really hard for him, too, it was hard on our relationship, it was, we were, I think some people have really easy immigration stories, mine was not easy, and so, and so I empathize for the people who also have hard times, I mean, I, the best way I can describe this is the following, you know, there's a, there are, you need to have a strategy when it comes to immigration, and, and it's, there are different ways, the U.S.
has a system, and you gotta just understand the system, you gotta partner with a good lawyer to understand the system, and you gotta figure out what is the strategy that, where you have the best outcome, likely, and, you know, I, I went to grad school in the U.S., so I was able to stay for a year on something called OPT, Occupational Practical Training, which was a, which is an amazing part of the U.S.
system, like, that, as a student, you can stay for a year just to learn, and do whatever you, like, really, in any sort of role, which was great, and, and then I got an H-1B, but as a startup, it's so hard, I mean, it was, it worked out, but it was really hard, even as a Canadian, it was very hard, and then, and then, and then I got a green card, and so I think that, you know, the things that I would do, again, is I had a good immigration lawyer, and I, when I understood there's different strategies, kind of like, okay, we're gonna do plan A, plan A doesn't work out, then here's plan B, and if plan B doesn't work out, here's plan C, and, you know, I think after plan C, the answer was, okay, well, then I'm gonna have to go back to Canada, like, that was kind of my plan C, so, or plan C, D, I guess, A, B, C, and, and for me, understanding there was different kind of plans, strategy, this is where we're starting, and then this kind of, how we're gonna approach it, it's a little bit like business, and business, sometimes, you know, you might be building something, like, okay, I'm gonna do this, but if this doesn't work out, then here's, kind of, leave room for, well, then we would try it this way, or then this way, there was some scenario planning, it was hard, it was lonely, it's so uncertain, it was not fun, and, and again, I, I went through it for myself, which was not fun, and then I went through with the person I was, like, my, my, my partner, it was not fun, now, it's fine, now, we both have green cards, and, and we, you know, we've been able to find that footing, but it's hard, and there's some parts of the system that are good, and other parts that are hard, so I, I hope that people find good partners to go through it with, partners isn't, like, legal partners, and companies that were supportive, I was really lucky, Cloudflare was really supportive, but it was lonely.
Yeah, yeah, and I have a personal experience with that, too, my family wanted to immigrate to Australia when I was around 10 years old, we did live there for about two years, and we applied for permanent residence, but, and I don't know what all these different strategies were, because I was 10 years old, but we didn't, we had to go to Plan D, and had to move back to the U.S., so yeah, it's, it's really tough, and thank you for sharing that story.
Yeah, yeah, thank you for sharing yours, it's, yeah, I think it happens all the time, yeah, and look like, I mean, again, this is not, I, what I think is underappreciated in the, in when you're trying to move to other countries, of how much people sacrifice to do that, like, and again, it's not, it's just, like, you gotta, there are rules, you gotta follow the rules, and some of those really require big sacrifices, so, you know, at some point, I was in the U.S., and I was getting my green card, and like, really good friends were getting married in Canada, or wherever they, Mexico, wherever they picked to get married, I literally couldn't go, because there was a long period of time where I couldn't leave the country, because of, you know, my processing papers, and, you know, again, those, those seem like, okay, you missed a wedding, but like, when they're your really close friend, or family member, or like, like, they're just, you know, now, with COVID, like, it's the crossing the border is serious stuff.
It really is, yeah. All right, so, switching gears a little bit, I know you mentioned that you got an MBA, and perhaps some of our listeners are thinking about getting an MBA, or going to grad school, what do you, what kind of opportunities do you think the MBA opened up?
Obviously, you met your co-founder, but in, more in general, what do you think, what opportunities are opened up by an MBA?
I will say that I think it, it is uncool to do your MBA when you work in tech.
I don't think that's a, like a, there's a cool and uncool popular opinion.
It's kind of in the unpopular opinion. You know, for me, it was amazing. Like, I had the best experience.
I, I developed my business skills and language, which have been very helpful.
I have built my business skills massively, broadened them, and while I will never be a CFO, the fact that I did, took finance one and two, and FP, financial planning, and financial literacy, actually matters a lot when you're running a public company.
These things matter, and I feel like I have a lot of confidence, and yes, I could do that without going to an MBA, but it's much easier when you're in a, it's a, it's a, it's a luxury to be able to do it in a structured program, and, and, and I really feel like I did learn.
I met great friends, like great friends, like some, like, wonderful people that I'm still really close to 10 years later, and will be close to for a long time, and aside from friends, just peers, like, I mean, people work at Cloudflare, people like investors, other founders, people we partner with, like, it's just, you know, at, at Harvard specifically, like, you're in a class of 900 impressive people.
They all go do impressive things, and now that's part of your network that you now know, and 10 years later, they're all doing really interesting things, and whether it's I'm traveling to a city for work to see a customer, I can catch up at night, or we collaborate on different sorts of things.
It's, it's, it's been a really, the people I met were, were wonderful, so those are some sorts of things, and again, for me, the added benefit that I met Matthew, and we started Cloudflare, which was just, which was just awesome, so, you know, when I look back, and a lot of people in school didn't like it, so it's not just because you go, you're going to love it.
I really wanted to be there, and I loved it, and I think people who do it just because they think they're going to get put it on their resume, that's probably not a good reason, and what, how I found, I think it's like, if you really are there for something, for some reason, everyone has different reasons, it can be a great two years of your life, and to me, it was like a luxury.
Like, I got to go back to learn for two years in a pretty, you know, structured setting in a beautiful campus.
Like, it was, it changed my perspective on life, and opened doors that I had no idea even existed, and it was my first time living out of Canada.
Like, I had grown up in Canada. I went to school. I worked in Canada.
I traveled a lot, but coming to the U.S., and coming to school here, very international perspective.
Harvard's program is very global. There's a very global class, like 35 percent at the time was global.
It's gone up even since then. I mean, my, what I realized was, like, I lived a very sheltered life, and the world is a big place, and there's a lot more going on than I ever knew, and so it was very eye-opening from that perspective, too.
Yeah, that's great. Yeah, that makes me also think about, like, what kind of other roles, like, if you had decided to not be a co-founder, if you wanted to just sort of get a job, what kind of other roles might you have done with the MBA?
Yeah, yes, yes. I mean, I had spent my summer at Google.
I did my summer internship at Google, and that was helping them think about how do we, again, different era, totally different Google 10 years ago, but I was in a group that was trying to get more small businesses to use Google AdWords, and how to do that through partners, because it was, they were, Google wasn't going to have a sales team to go after one small business after the other.
It was like, but how do you partner with companies that already have relationships, and so I worked on that.
I could have, again, the LinkedIn was kind of similar, kind of a role of a own, helping them grow a new initiative they had under one of their business units, so they kind of had, and so I think that that was interesting.
I had a product manager role before, where I ran about a 60 million dollar product line, like a 60 million dollar P&L, a profit and loss statement, like business unit, and so those are some of the things that I liked, like I liked being, I liked building.
I really wanted to be building. I think being close to either product or customers is a really good place to be when you first come out, and so that was a place, but I, but I didn't see myself in sales, and so I kind of found, but I think like when you build things and ship it, and customers are using it, like you learn a ton.
You learn a lot, and, and that, even if that's not what you want to do long term, that those are the sorts of roles that I was looking for.
Yeah, yeah, that reminds me of what you said about having to do everything when you were first starting out in Cloudflare, and how if you really have to ship a product, you have to do everything.
It doesn't matter if that's your specialty or not.
You really are much broader, like at a small company, inherently your role will be more broad than if you're at a big company, because there's just way more things to do than people to do.
Yeah, and I've never had an experience like that, where I had to do everything.
I've always just had my like little niche, where I only am in charge of this particular thing.
Though this, the project I'm doing here at Cloudflare is opening me up a little bit, because I have to like actually figure out how to make a real web page, which I haven't done before, so.
Eighth grade, since eighth grade taught you. Since eighth grade, well eighth grade was a little bit different.
It was like a, it was a very basic web page, but yeah, I've come far since then, and this is a little bit more of a personal question, but I think it's really important, and it's just how do you balance your career and your family?
Sure, so I'm married. I talked about my husband, Jamie.
We have two kids. I have a young kid, six and a four-year-old, and I'm really proud of that.
Like, I love that. I love that. I love that I have a career that I love, like I have a job.
I work, like so does Jamie. He's an entrepreneur. It's great.
I love that I have kids, like a family. I love, and so for me, it's, I really wanted a career.
I really wanted a relationship with a partner, life partner, and I really wanted to have kids, and you know, when I was 20, I didn't know that, but what I kind of graduated from business school, I was like, I do want that.
Like I, you know, at that point, I was like, I do.
I want those things. I'm ambitious, but I also want a life partner, and I want kids, and so for the last decade, I kind of said I wanted that, and I made choices to make it happen, and so I have that, which is great, and I love it, and I wish more people would talk about it, because I think you can have a great career and a relationship and a family, and you know, I feel really grateful when I can look at people ahead of me in life who have done that, who share, and who talk about it, and I hope more people talk about it, because I, when I was 20, I didn't know.
Like I didn't really know. It didn't really cross my mind, so I think more people talking about it, and the worst thing is when people say, is it possible?
I'm like, of course it's possible. Something like 65% of Americans come from a dual working household, so it's absolutely possible.
I just think more insight into how and whether you want that or not, and not everyone wants it, which is fine, but if you do, you can.
Yeah. Take your life partners carefully.
Carefully, yeah. Yeah. I'm married, and I have two cats, but I think that's all I want for now.
That's perfect. That's great, and that's great for now, and then it might change in the future, and that's great too, but yeah, I think.
Yeah. So do you have any specific tips and tricks that you have for people who really do want to have that family, and also have two working partners?
I mean, so I guess, I don't know if they're tips or tricks, but a couple things.
I do think, I mean, I said it flippantly, but I really think it matters on both a co-founder and a life partner.
Choose co-founders wisely. Again, I had, Matthew and Lee were wonderful co -founders.
Matthew and I are still running the business.
Couldn't ask for a better business partner. Feel very lucky, and so it's like, it was very purposeful, and same on the life partner side.
Be thoughtful about it, and I think that some of the things that I realized early was somebody, Jamie was always really supportive of me, a champion, even when we did long distance.
I didn't talk about that, but we did long distance for four years, and two of that was when I started Cloudflare, and that was not part of the plan.
Part of the plan was, hey, we were going to go move to the same city, and I changed it on him, saying I have this idea, and never once did he give me a hard time.
He was like, you should go explore this. I never want to be the reason why you didn't do something.
Please go explore it. We'll figure us out, and lots of people wouldn't say that, right, and so I just think, and it comes back to the person and what you're trying to do together, and so I think he's always been my business champion, and that's huge.
You can choose who you spend your life with. You can't choose your family, so that's important, so that was great, and then now that we have kids and further along, I think that we do some smart things for a long time.
We had small commutes so we could spend more time as a family. I'm absolutely ascribed to it takes a village, so I'm all about aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and our babysitters and nannies and friends.
It is a village to make our life work, and I like that, and I'm okay with that, and just like at work where there's sometimes where you got to give away jobs.
You're like, I should no longer be doing this.
Someone else should be doing this. In my personal life, I go through the same process.
I'm like, should I be doing this, or can someone else be doing this so I can free up time to do, I don't know, to do something, to go do a music class with a child or something, and so I think it's some of the things I've learned at work has made me a better parent, and then a lot of things I've learned as a parent made me better at my day job too, so those are some of the things that I would say have been kind of ahas along the way.
Yeah, that's really cool, and I didn't really think about how you could kind of manage your family in similar ways the way you manage your job.
That's great to hear.
Thanks for sharing. Let me switch gears a little bit to like advice type questions so that we can get a little bit of that in, and this I think is a really important question for people who are just starting out, and it's what tips do you have for showcasing your skills and knowledge to potential employers, especially when you have little or no work experience?
Oh god, that was me calling those people for my first job, man.
It was hard. It was tough. I mean, look, I think stories, be a good storyteller, but don't be a fraud.
Being a good storyteller is different than being a fraud, but like I think if you can tell stories, translate technical things, translate skills, be confident, upbeat, say hey, I'm not sure, but I will put the work in to learn.
Those things just, not with everyone, but for a lot of people go a long way because so many people don't do it, right, and so I think that's like being a good storyteller to try and connect the dots, and so I'll just give you, I can give a personal example of what I mean by that is I was a science student, and I literally was really good at science, but I was trying to get a job in business, and back to I didn't know a lot about business, and I was, I got an interview, like there was a research job, a research associate job.
I was like, oh, I like research.
I'm good at research. I did my summer internship as doing research in the medical field, and this was a financial services research role, but I was like, I can learn the industry.
I'm good at research, and so I got an interview, and it was so interesting.
Obviously, I put my best foot forward, and I ended up getting the job, and it ended up being a great job for a lot, and I had a great boss, and I kind of asked her like, why did you even look at my resume, and the reason why I got the job in the end was I was very good with presenting data, analyzing the data, finding trend lines.
I knew nothing about the domain, like literally knew nothing, but like when they put a chart in front of me, I could like read it and analyze it and synthesize it because that was something that you have to do all the time in science, and what was really interesting, which I didn't appreciate as someone 21-year-old graduating from college was, we'll teach you about the domain.
Most people can't do that, like the fact that you, and so, you know, you got to, you have people, everyone has skills, and so I was like, yeah, I loved looking at data and telling stories on it, and so that was something that like really stood out, and so you got to just put forward what you're good at, and then be, I am super eager and willing to do the work to learn the domain or this or that, and if as long as you are, I think like you just need one person to take a chance on you, right?
You don't need a hundred, you got to just convince one company, one person, and you will find that if you really try hard enough, and so that's, I think, being a good storyteller around that has been really, really helpful, and then just saying, and I will work really hard to learn all that.
Now, having said that, there was a professor I tried to do a summer internship with, and I used the same strategy, and he was a little bit of a curmudgeon, and he said, oh, I hear about people willing to do all the work all the time.
No, thank you. So, you know, it doesn't always work out, and I was like, okay, never want to be like that in my life, but I end up doing the research project for the doctors instead, but I was trying to get a different internship that summer that didn't work out, so it doesn't always work, but it can work, just this, I'm really good at these things, and I'm willing to put the work in this other area, and there's, again, I just took one person to say yes.
That's great to hear, because, you know, a lot of the students, I felt like there was a theme of what should I be learning?
Should I be learning foundations of computer science? Should I be learning this specific new technology?
Do I need to learn everything? And from that, I would take away that you just need to learn something, and then show that you know that thing, and you can keep learning, and that's been so true for me, too.
Like, I feel like I know nothing every time I start a new project or job, and it's just, you just learn it.
You just figure it out, so I think it's really, really possible.
I think, and that's the thing, doing things is a secret weapon, and as a student doing anything, like, I was part of this organization, or I did this project, or I did this open source thing, or I just did something, because it turns out doing is a skill.
Like, start, middle, end. Like, I was involved. I, like, I finished it.
I started it. I finished it. This is what I learned. Here's the impact.
Like, just like that, some people don't do things, so I think, like, if you just get involved, and showcase your work, and talk about your work, and if you can kind of say, and this is what I learned from it, like, and like that, you're really far along the path.
Yeah, yeah, and kind of along the same lines, one student said, searching for a job or internship can often lead to multiple rejections, so how do you go from one rejection to another without losing hope and confidence in yourself?
Yeah, it's hard. I think back to that chemistry professor who said, no, now.
Yeah, I mean, I, I, look, everyone in their life has heard no.
Well, maybe not everyone. Most people in their life have, and, you know, I actually think it's humbling, and it's probably good for all of us to hear no a little bit more often.
The good news is you don't have to publish how many times you got said no to, and so, and so, I, I just think, again, you just need one yes, even if it takes, you know, 10 no's, and so.
Or 100. Yeah, right, right, right, and, you know, I think back to my first job when I was trying to get, I, you know, there were other jobs I applied to that I got really close, got the final end, and they said no to me, and I was crushed, and there's some where I was in the final, and I really needed a job, and I was like, and I said no to them, because I was like, if I'm honest with myself, I don't want to do this.
Like, I, like, I, you know, I was like, I could, I got the job, I really don't want to do that, because I was really trying a lot of different, was very open in what I was applying to, because I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do, and so, I think it's, I think that's okay.
You just got to keep going.
You got to find, find the one, and, and again, I think just don't, you should learn and reflect on it.
Okay, what can I learn from this?
I think that's a really important part, but don't beat yourself up on it. Like, those are two different things, like learn, reflect, but don't, it doesn't define you.
You know, go find the yes, and yeah, but it is hard, and again, I've had a lot of people say no to me in my career, and, and I think it made me better generally.
Actually, one time, I, at some point in my life, decided I wanted to move to New York City, and I quit my job.
I sold every single thing I owned, and I moved to New York City.
I got a great job in New York City, and I couldn't get work authorization, and I couldn't with my plan A, B, or C, and I had to move back home to nothing.
Like, literally, I had no, I had sold my, like, I, I'm sorry, I was renting.
I had given up my apartment. I'd sold all my stuff. I mean, I don't know what I was thinking doing this, but like, the point is, is like, that was like, not a high point in my life, but yeah, you, you, you, you make lemons out of lemonade.
You make lemonade out of lemons.
Yeah, yeah. I just, just as a personal experience, I just want to say that I didn't get any internships when I was an undergrad, zero, and once I started grad school, I started getting internships.
I, my first internship was actually just because my advisor knew someone, and so I, that was kind of like a fake interview, but I mean, it was kind of like, you know, you get it, you get it how you get it, and every, every year I would apply to Google because I really wanted to work at Google as for an internship, and so every year I would, and every year I would get rejected and be sad, but then finally, last year, I applied, and I was like, okay, this time I'm going to get it, and I just, like, prepared really hard, and I did the interview, and I ended up getting it, and it was like, I think just all those times of trying, just, I just kind of knew how it worked, and I finally got my internship at Google, so, and I mean, it's not just the internship at Google, you know, it's, just keep trying because there's no limit to how many times you can try.
I love that, exactly, and again, nobody talks about these things because this is not fun, so it's, so, so again, just if you get, no, no, someone else has too, they just probably aren't talking about it, so the other, I love that story, Tatiana, and thank you for sharing that.
The other side of it is, if you don't put your, like, in many ways, a no is actually better than nothing because if you don't put your name in the hat, you will never get pulled, right, and so that happens to people too.
They're like, well, I don't want to apply because I'm going to get a no, and I'm like, well, you don't even know.
You, if you, if you don't apply, you certainly will never get a yes, and so I think that's, there's, there's kind of, like, both sides of it that's really important.
Totally, totally, yeah, okay, like, switching gears a little bit, I thought this was an interesting question, and I'm interested in hearing your perspective on it.
What were some of the biggest challenges that Cloudflare is experiencing right now because of the COVID-19 situation?
Yeah, well, we were, we went from, we have 15, we have about 1,400 people around the world, and we have 16 offices, and we are definitely a company that came into the office every single day, and overnight, we now have basically the whole team working at home, except for our Munich office, which is back reopened, and so that's been, like, that was, that's, you know, you kind of go from an in-person, seeing your colleagues on a daily basis to everyone at home.
That was a big change, and I think we've, we've adjusted and very thankful for things like Google Meets and chat rooms and Zoom that, that, that we're able to do that, so that was, I think, like, on a personal level, and the other thing I would say is, you know, everybody is going through it, like, whether you are first out of college or a really senior executive, like, COVID is impacting everyone in lots of different ways, and it's heavy, it's hard, and so part of, you know, leadership or your job is, like, showing up every day, and sometimes it's like, wow, do I even have enough energy to get myself out of bed, let alone, you know, bring people along with me, and so I think that's been hard for managers and leaders of, like, they are also so personally dealing with COVID that I think that it's like, hey, do I, can I be a good enough leader during these times, because I'm just personally dealing with a lot, too, because it impacts everybody in the world, this is pandemic, so I think that's, that's, I would definitely say that, and the second thing I would say, so that's a very internal thing, the second thing I would say is, I mean, literally, and again, there's probably a lot of, I hope, a lot of technical people listening, but, like, overnight, Internet traffic surged around the world, surged overnight, like, and basically, it is amazing that the Internet hasn't, like, I mean, it's both amazing what it was built for, hasn't fallen over, and of course, like, the true heroes of this are the first responders, the medical providers, I mean, it's amazing what all those people are doing, and we're so thankful for them, but, like, the trustee sidekick has been the, the Internet of enabling all of us to stay connected, all of these services that's, that are still working online, I mean, the traffic, Internet usage is way up, and so we are, Cloudflare runs a global network, we deliver performance security and reliability to 27 million Internet properties, traffic to all of our customer sites is way up, and behind the scenes, that takes people on our side to make sure that's working, and so people are working really, really hard to keep the Internet functioning, and this is, like, Cloudflare, this is AWS, this is Google Cloud, this is Microsoft Azure, this is Akamai, I mean, there's, there's companies like Zoom, like, they're Slack, like, there are people who are working really hard, the network administrators behind the scenes are, like, working really hard to keep all these things together, so that there isn't a, so that we don't have another element of, oh my goodness, like, why, why can't we, why can't we do anything, like, I think the Internet functioning is really important at this point for trust around the world, and so, so that's been, that's been both exciting, but also hard on our team, to, like, just a huge surge in traffic in a very short period of time, and there's been a lot of people behind the scenes working really hard to keep that working, and, and they take a lot of pride in making sure that that's functioning seamlessly, and so, again, there's been a lot of people who have done that, and so that's also been kind of the, the, the, a hard thing, and again, it's not, it's not about, oh, wait, way to go thing, no one's saying, hey, here's a gold star for doing that, but you don't get gold stars once you're in business, you just got to do it, and, and it's in service of saying, hey, you're a business, you used to do, have a yoga studio, no one come into your yoga studio, oh my god, this is your livelihood, you're now going to an online model, how can we help you, like, how can you be, like, and that's, these are, like, real stories, or, or, or restaurants that used to have in dining, who all shifted, many to takeout services, well, how do we run that, like, I mean, you just think, if you're a business that's helping business, restaurants do that, you're really busy right now, and it's life or death, like, those companies are either going to succeed or not, not survive based on how well you help them, and all of these things on the Internet need to be fast, safe, and reliable, and so our team's been really busy helping enable that for, for, for all those sorts of digital experiences.
Yeah, and just on a personal note, I know when I was, when COVID-19 was just starting to be a problem, and I realized things were shutting down, I was so scared that my internship here was not going to happen, and I remember just, like, kind of panic emailing my, my recruiter and boss and everything, like, is this really going to happen, is this really going to happen, and they kept assuring me, yes, it's really going to happen, it might be remote, but it's going to happen, and I really liked that commitment that Cloudflare made to keep employing the interns that it had made a commitment to, and even, even extending that commitment to, to other, other people, and, and that was just really meaningful for me, so thank you, Cloudflare.
Good, thanks. And I, yeah. I was just going to say, thank you for being, doing your awesome, your amazing work and project, I can't wait for you to show it to the world.
Oh, yeah, stay tuned for that blog post. On that note, what kind of opportunities besides internships does Cloudflare have for, like, early career professionals, new grads type things?
Yeah, we are hiring, and we need great people to come work on Cloudflare to help us with all these digital first experiences for our customers around the world, and to help, you know, help stop cyber attacks, and help make the Internet faster, safer, more reliable, and we really are hiring.
I think there are, when I look at people who are early in their career, it's a little bit, the one thing about technology is there, if you go work for a tech company, it's a little bit of choose your own adventure.
There's lots of ways to get into tech and have career paths, which is so awesome.
It can also be daunting at first.
And so some of the areas that we are hiring for people earlier in their career, for sure, if you are a developer, computer science, software developer, I mean, we have a lot of engineering roles, and kind of for that meant for that first, second, third job out of college, like, very well positioned and around the world.
I mean, we have, again, 16 offices, we have engineers in many locations around the world.
And so that's one path. Another common path is maybe somebody's like, I really want to get into tech, but I'm not super technical.
So we have some people who go into our customer support team. And, you know, if you're helping customers every single day, whether it's a startup, or a nonprofit, or a small business, or a large enterprise, you learn so much.
And then our people from our customer support team often go into other teams around the company, because they have such a customer first centric attitude, and they learn their technical skills, they just learn so much.
So we have a lot of people post graduation going into customer support and working with customers on a day to day basis.
In sales, we there's a there's a role called business development representative, some companies call them SDRs, we call ours BDRs.
So it's sales development representative or business development representative.
And it's like a first, it's like a first or second sales job.
And in this job, you are helping to your, your, your, your when people call us, you're answering the phone and explaining hearing what they're looking for.
And you're saying, yeah, we'd love to help you.
And this is how we could help you. Or you're, or you're reaching out to those law firms or their startup saying, Hey, we have other, some of your peers use Cloudflare, I would love to talk to you about how we could also help you.
And, and so we have a lot of people coming from college or MBA programs or master's programs who go do their first job in sales, because they just want to be get that experience.
So I think those are really, really common. Those are probably the most common.
Of course, there's marketing, there's lots of other roles. But those are kind of, I'd say, three really common great places to start if you're entering your career at Cloudflare.
But if you go to Cloudflare.com backslash careers, I think we have something like 300 open jobs.
So again, we really are hiring.
But those are three paths that I've seen where people come out of school, join Cloudflare.
And then what we want is we want you to have the career of your life.
So a lot of those people stay and move into other roles, which which is pretty amazing.
So they get to try new things. All right, we have one minute left.
So let's do a really quick final question. Okay, what advice do you have for students?
What should they do this summer? If they didn't get an internship, are struggling?
What should they do to make career happen? Oh, I'm sorry. And I know it's a terrible economic environment.
So I really, I'm sorry to deal with this. I guess like my best thing is kind of back to what we said, do something.
And it could be a side project.
I mean, Matthew and Lee started Project Honeypot as a side project, which turned into Cloudflare eight years later.
So like, just start a side project, a hobby, contribute to an open source project, and just say, I'm going to get involved in this.
And just so at the end of the summer, you said, I did this, and it feels really good.
It builds confidence that I did this. And this is what was easy about it.
This was hard about it. This is what I learned. And I think doing things is a just do something.
Totally. All right. Thank you so much for chatting with me, Michelle.
It was great to have this conversation. Thank you so much, Tatiana.
It was so fun. Yeah. All right. Good luck, everyone. Thanks, everyone.