Cloudflare TV

Optimizing the Road Ahead

Presented by Elina Todorov, Christine Hu, Zoe Huang
Originally aired on 

Join the women helping shape Cloudflare’s global GTM strategy while continuously optimizing processes to run as effectively and efficiently as possible. This session will dive into their unique journeys, highlight key learnings, and provide insight and guidance into paving the path forward for women in tech.


Transcript (Beta)

And we are live. Good morning everyone. Happy International Women's Day and welcome to our segment on Optimizing the Road Ahead.

My name is Elina. I'm on the Global Go-to-Market Strategy and Ops team here at Cloudflare.

And joining me today are my two lovely teammates, Christine and Zoe.

Very excited to have us all together. Let's dive right in and start with some introductions so you can get to know each of our unique journeys to Cloudflare and add a bit more color into some of our key learnings along the way.

Christine, would you like to kick it off? Yeah, of course. Hi everyone.

My name is Christine and my journey started here at Cloudflare after college.

I was actually an intern for this exact team where Elina and I kicked off our sales campaign strategy.

I was so curious and just excited to be working with so many different teams and it really helped me figure out what I wanted to do.

And actually, even though I decided that this is the team I wanted to be and where I wanted to continue to grow, I felt like I couldn't do that without being part of the field first and actually going out and implementing what I was adjusting and seeing.

I wanted to get a better understanding of the sales cycle and gain a more holistic experience where I can provide fuller analysis when I rejoin the team in the future.

So I was lucky enough to be able to work out a plan where I have a Bruce stint as a BDR and then return to the team once I was ready.

So I was on a self-serve team and helped lead it to be one of our top pipeline sources today, as well as helped it scale out from the three person team it was then to the 10 plus person team it is now.

After I had the opportunity to rejoin the global go-to -market strategy team again, now refreshed with new ideas and a deeper appreciation.

What about you, Zoe?

Yeah, I was in business majors in finance, accounting and econ, which naturally led me into consulting.

And I spent two and a half years with McKinsey China where I specialized in helping foreign insurance companies to enter Chinese markets and design their go-to-market strategy.

It was definitely a very challenging but rewarding journey.

I worked on average 16 hours a day, but really got exposure to various topics such as regulation, operation, product design, recruiting and training.

That's really when I started to consider a switch to business operations where I could have more direct impact on business.

And later when I decided to relocate to the Bay Area to stay with my family, and that's when I got the opportunity to join Cloudflare go-to -market strategy team.

I was a bit surprised that during interviews with Cloudflare, people really take time to know you in person and make sure you are a good fit to the team.

I even had my final round interview with our CEO, Matthew Prince.

And I believe that everyone here should have had at least one call with our executive teams.

And that's really stood out from other companies. And I know before I joined that employees are definitely one of the biggest assets of this company.

And Elina, would you like to share your story? Sure, I'd love to. I also remember thinking that was really cool when I was going through the interview process.

I think overall, it's just great that we have direct line of sight into our exec team.

We value transparency, which is unique and key to running a successful board.

My career started out in engineering. I actually studied chemical engineering and material science at Cal, thinking that eventually I'd end up in med school.

Turns out that I started my career in tech at a small company founded by a few Cal PhD students.

We eventually went public, then got acquired, your typical Silicon Valley saga.

Thinking optimistically about the acquisition, I saw it as a great opportunity to pivot into a customer -facing role.

And so I moved into product line management, where I really thrived. I have to say that I probably gained the most insight and experience into how to run a global business in this role.

Yes, it was very demanding, but very rewarding at the same time.

I can certainly relate to you, Zoe, in working 16 hours a day. That was definitely the norm.

A few of my colleagues even went on to start their own companies.

Maybe I will do the same someday. Who knows? Eventually, I made my way back into the startup world and really never looked back.

I have to say, I really found my calling in go-to-market strategy here at Cloudflare.

I'm sure you can both agree that there is never a dull moment, and I certainly thrive in fast-paced environments.

We have an amazing team, and my passion entails connecting the dots between different groups in an effort to drive alignment so we make smart, data -driven decisions to optimize the path forward.

I'm really grateful to have the opportunity to do just that here at Cloudflare.

Well, we're really lucky to have you, Alina.

Also, when a new team member joins Cloudflare, we have them submit a fun fact about themselves during orientation.

So I thought it would be pretty cool and fun to share what ours were.

So, Zoe, since you're the newest of our team, can we start with yours?

Yeah, of course. Well, I don't quite remember what I shared during orientation, but a recent fun thing for me was definitely my relocation to the States during the pandemic.

And because of the travel ban, I wasn't allowed to enter the States unless staying in an unrestricted country for at least 14 days.

After sorting out all the visa issues, flight transit, multiple COVID tests, I finally spent 17 days in Cambodia in a hotel before I finally got admitted to the States.

I was quite nervous during the trip, to be honest, but it was definitely a life experience for me.

Alina, any fun thing to share? Wow, that is quite the journey.

So happy you are safe and in here with us now. Mine is slightly embarrassing.

I'm contemplating whether I want to share it on TV. But yeah, okay.

So I grew up doing ballet, jazz tap. It was my life since the age of five.

And I dabbled a bit in baton. Yes, baton, the metal stick that you throw up in the air, do some flips and catch on the other side of the mat.

As crazy as that sounds, I did just that and one year participated in an Easter parade with my baton class.

So if you can picture me in my neon tracksuit, twirling a baton in the air, what a sight to see.

I'm sure my parents have some embarrassing pictures and videos from that event somewhere.

Oh, and the weather didn't fare at best. It happened to be drizzling that day.

Not enough to cancel the parade, but definitely not the safest conditions to be throwing around wet metal sticks in the air.

Christine, what was your fun fact? Well, mine's definitely not as cool or interesting as either of yours, but something that I do pretty often is that I hiccup.

I've always had it from what I can remember, and it's not like a normal hiccup.

It's really hard to explain, and I know, Zoe, since you haven't been in the office yet, you haven't been able to experience it firsthand.

But it is very, very embarrassing, and it just comes at the worst times.

Usually it would come at an important meeting or right when someone is trying to say something.

But now, thankfully, on calls, I can just mute myself, so hopefully it doesn't happen on this.

Christine, your hiccups are one of my favorite things about you.

I miss them. Can you maybe try to do an impromptu one for us now?

I think we'll just have to wait and see if they happen.

Fingers crossed. Hopefully Zoe will be able to witness them live soon.

And if they happen right now, please don't mute yourself. I'd love to.

That's so cute. But, Alina, I would like also to see a picture of the neon tracksuit of you.

Maybe create a Zoom background. Oh, no! There will definitely be no Zoom background.

Oh, my God, so embarrassing. Definitely not for the broader public, but maybe I'll share some pictures of you both.

I need to ask my mom or dad to see if they can locate them.

And, by the way, Alina, I'm just curious, what is your most frequently asked question at a school?

Where do I begin?

Our role is so dynamic, and we work with various cross-functional teams, which I absolutely love.

It just makes it rather difficult to pinpoint one specific area.

Being close to the data, I think the most frequently asked question I get is, what's working?

So this is a great question, and definitely helps us to surface trends and then develop execution plans to scale out further.

But I challenge others to ask your strategy colleagues the opposite.

What's not working?

In performing various win-loss analyses, I have found that it's just as important to understand what to avoid and where we have gaps.

This enables us to glean insight into what we need to do to improve and operate more efficiently moving forward.

Christine, I'm sure you get a lot of interesting questions. Yeah, a question I get pretty often is what a good account for Cloudflare is.

And I think that's actually a really cool and the best part of Cloudflare is that almost anything can be a good account for Cloudflare.

We touch all parts of the Internet and cater to so many people across the world.

But we also work with so many different types of industries.

We provide security and performance to personal blogs from mom-and-pop shops to unicorn startups and global 1000 companies.

So I guess the short answer is that there's endless possibilities and that anything is good for Cloudflare.

But I think the most interesting part and maybe the hardest part is that it gives us the freedom to explore and pushes us to be more creative on our approach.

So it's up to us to be more strategic on what and where we want to hone in on first and then expand from there.

And out of all the questions that you get, Zoe, what's the one you get the most?

Yeah, I agree. It's actually hard to summarize because we have a lot of questions.

But a typical question I get is, could you help me put together an analysis?

And I usually dig out the underlying business question people are trying to solve.

And it usually comes down to two types.

One is internal management when self-leaders reach out for insights to better manage their team.

And the other is more external facing when salespeople would like to better understand their customer usage or just their pattern before reaching out for upselling.

Yeah, I definitely get asked about creating a report or a dashboard in Salesforce daily.

We should probably create a wiki for that. Yeah, I know we've talked about it before, but it would just be great to maybe have a repository of the top 10 reports or so that would be relevant for folks and then point whoever asks to the wiki.

Just food for thought. So our roles are so dynamic, which keeps things interesting for sure.

Christine, what is your favorite part about your role at Cloudflare?

And maybe how does it compare to your previous experience as a VDR?

My favorite part about this role compared to being a VDR, I think is what I get to see and work with.

I get to go behind the scenes and go beyond the implementation and really be a part of the strategy behind the sales process.

I think as a VDR, I had a very singular focus.

I was learning what and how we currently sell, a really very difficult challenge in itself.

But now I get to work on the who, what, when, why, how we should sell, the things I'm most fascinated by.

So while I learned a lot on the sales team, I wanted to be able to share what I've learned.

So now I get to work on more analytical projects that really help the greater team.

What about you?

What's your favorite part, Zoe? I would say it's definitely the direct impact on sales performance.

Of course, we are very data-driven and one analysis could directly lead to a reshift of focus or reprioritization of the entire sales team's efforts.

So the impact really comes pretty soon, for example, in the quarter. So you can tell immediately what you did make sense or not.

And every number counts here.

It doesn't end up in decks of nice presentation, but instead it matters to individuals who are working really hard in the field.

And Elina, what do you love about this role?

What I love about the role is our collaboration with all teams across the org.

So we pretty much touch all facets of the business and as a result, carry deep insight into how to shape the strategy.

When I first started out my career as a product engineer, I often found myself so far removed from the outside world.

From the revenue, from the customer base, from the market landscape. I was heavily focused on building cool products, but where were they going?

Who was adopting them?

It seemed that all I ever heard about was the bad news. What bugs I had to fix, what fires I had to put out.

Which, as you can imagine, can get depressing at times.

So please keep this in mind and share your data frequently with your fellow engineers.

They will be delighted and always good to keep the engineers motivated to build more new products.

Got it. We'll make sure to do that, hopefully.

Moving away from work, after the pandemic is over, what is the first thing you two would like to do?

Travel! I think I'm speaking for the greater population.

But this is definitely one of the things I miss the most. I just love being immersed in different parts of the world and learning about other cultures.

I find it fascinating. Zoe, how about you? Well, definitely travel. I would like to visit London, where my best friend just recently relocated to.

And Japan, of course.

That's my favorite place. How about you, Christine? I think I would just really love to see my grandparents.

I haven't seen them in almost a year or two.

I was supposed to visit them right before COVID started, but since it happened, I couldn't go.

And I just really love to give a mug. Since we're not able to do all these things yet, have either of you guys read a good book lately?

Yeah, for me, one good read recently is called Remote Saviour. It's actually a Chinese novel out there for some time.

It talks about how a person applies his philosophical thinking to his work.

And from successfully running a private fund in Germany, helping relieve a village from poverty by uncovering their competencies that no one else can compete, starting a trade war with the dominant players in the audit markets.

It's quite interesting to learn that no matter what he's doing or facing, no matter if it's very fancy or low-key, he can always keep consistent with what he believes and really be peaceful about ups and downs in life.

And keeping peaceful is something I feel that I have difficulty doing throughout the time because I could just be easily affected by what people think about me, or even just what I thought people would think.

That really creates some unnecessary depression on me.

But really, why does it matter that much? If you are strong enough mentally, I believe none of it matters.

And it's a lesson that I shall keep learning and practicing.

So I'm really glad that I ran into this book, which shows how people are practicing being peaceful.

Lina, how about you? Yeah, I can definitely empathize with you, and I'm sure others can as well, especially during these uncertain times with everything going on in the world.

Peacefulness is so important and something I really cherish these days.

But that sounds like a really fascinating book, Zoe.

I too am continuously learning and practicing the art of peacefulness, definitely spending a lot of time on my yoga mat these days.

One of the books I recently read and happens to be on brand with today's theme and overall theme of the month is Alpha Girls.

Have either of you read it?

Not yet. Highly, highly recommend. It's a riveting book that outlines the stories of four women trailblazing their way through the venture capital world.

They were the first women to make partners at their firms. I think this book is interesting and translates well for those outside the VC world, like us, especially since the tech world really isn't that much different.

One of the Alpha Girls even made early stage investments in our sector, in F5 and in Purva.

So I thought that was pretty cool and close to home for us. I can certainly relate to various different aspects of their stories.

In particular, one that stood out was how they felt overshadowed in meetings and not taken seriously.

I remember I encountered this early along my journey, before I entered my career when I was studying at Cal.

I walked into one of my upper division engineering courses and the TA looked at me and immediately informed me that Mass Comm is next door.

I was shocked, though I understood I was one of less than a handful of girls in the class, but not great to judge a book by its cover.

I remember pulling out my syllabus to show that I was in fact registered for this course.

And this took place not too many years ago, which is just crazy to think about.

I have to say, the event probably only further encouraged me to pursue a career in engineering.

I think it also helps to have a good role model and advocate.

I remember my father being that at the time.

All the Alpha girls had other partners at their firms that were always rooting for them and encouraging them to reach higher.

All in all, it's a very fun and empowering book that I'd recommend to you both, along with all of my colleagues.

Christine, have you read any good books lately? I'll definitely be looking that one up and I'll tell you what I think about it soon.

But the one I wanted to talk about, it's not really a book.

I recently watched a pretty great documentary called My Octopus Teacher.

It documents a filmmaker, Craig Foster's year in which he builds a relationship with an octopus.

It starts with his own personal journey and it brings him to dive into a kelp forest where this octopus catches his eye.

She was doing all sorts of crazy things like picking up seashells and stones and rocks and placing them all over herself to disguise herself to essentially catch her fish or prey.

Then he decides to visit her every day and win over her trust.

After the two form a sort of bond that's really adorable and he reflects about how she and everything she's taught him really impacted his own life.

While I love octopods, I didn't really expect to be personally touched by this story.

I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I did almost cry in this.

I would highly recommend this documentary if you're looking for a quick little escape and want to feel good.

Also, just if you love animals as much as I do.

These are really good recommendations and thank you both for sharing.

Lastly, to conclude our segment with one final topic, advice. Since we all have been through different journeys to get to where we are today, maybe we can each just share what we have learned that could be helpful to other women in the tech or those looking to enter the tech world.

Do you want to start?

Sure. Great question. My advice is simple. Be bold. What's interesting is that this was actually one of my prior company's values and didn't really resonate with me at the time.

As I developed my career further, I started to understand what this meant for me.

Studies have shown that women are more hesitant to speak up or afraid to ask questions, specifically in meetings where maybe we're the one with the least amount of experience or knowledge of the subject matter at hand.

Studies have also shown that diverse teams perform better. So instead, let's empower each other to speak up, to ask questions, and challenge the status quo.

Or yet, better said, through the theme of the month, let's choose to challenge.

Choose to recreate history, not be created by it. If it feels like you are in uncharted territory, keep going.

And remember that it takes utmost perseverance to succeed, especially if the road is unpaved.

Just know that through your journey, you are not alone and on the right track to pave the way for generations and generations of others to enter the tech world and thrive.

Christine, what advice would you give?

My advice would be to know that you belong and to remind yourself of that until you believe it.

I think more often than not, and even now, I feel like I don't always belong.

And to be honest, even though my journey is still short and it hasn't been the easiest, there have been people who have tried to put me down and make me feel so small that I believe them.

I thought that because I was young, I wasn't smart enough or just not good enough.

Even now, I feel like I shouldn't be giving everyone advice when I think I need it the most, but here I am.

And I'm lucky enough to have co-workers like you, Alina, and you, Zoe, and everyone else on my team and all my friends at Klevler to remind me that I am good enough, especially when I don't believe in myself.

So, yeah. What about you, Zoe? What advice would you give to everyone?

Yeah, Christine, that's really great. I can certainly relate to the feeling that I didn't get a sense of belonging to a new environment or even just shut down myself.

And my advice is somewhat related to that. I would like to say, don't be afraid if you like to switch careers to tech but don't have any tech background.

I always got asked in the interviews, why would you want to switch to tech with a business or consulting background?

And I always told them, first, how I uncovered my passion from a relevant experience.

And second, the analytical and fast learning ability I can bring in from my previous experience what made me a valuable addition to the team.

And I know it's easier to say so than to really do it.

But when I look back, I definitely feel that I've spent too much time underestimating myself and being in depression.

So when you're not feeling confident in your journey to tech or even just any new environment, try to think about what you are capable of.

And believe me, you will sooner or later find the sweet spot in this industry where you will be valued.

You both belong here and I couldn't agree more.

Having a sense of belonging and not being afraid to do something different is just very important in helping you navigate through your career.

As I highlighted earlier in my journey, I didn't anticipate being in tech.

I first thought about med school. Then I thought about patent law. Then I ended up starting in engineering.

Moved to product line management, business development.

And here I am now in strategy. I tie all the pieces together. So I think to sum things up, the moral of the story here is be fearless.

There is no single set path you have to follow.

Everyone has their own unique journey. There is definitely no one size fits all.

No one road fits all. Just made that up. But thank you both for sharing.

I think that's great advice all around. And that's a wrap.

Thank you so much for tuning in and hope everyone enjoyed our segment on optimizing the road ahead.

We all want to see more women in tech leading the way from the front.

I always try to give my hand of support to women in Cloudflare by making a space for them to speak up, supporting their initiatives and just being there in moments of doubt, inspiring them to never give up and keep their chin high.

I choose to challenge my own perceptions and those of others to discover how we can push those barriers to create an equal world.