Recruitment Corner: An Unconventional Career Journey to Customer Support
Justina Wong will be joining the EMEA Recruiting Team to share her story of her unconventional journey to Customer Support and her progression to become a Team Lead on the Cloudflare Technical Support Team since taking this career path. We will be talking about Justina's experience being on both sides of the table: once as interviewee and now as interviewer and about what it takes to be successful in an interview process when applying for a Technical Support role.
So welcome everyone to Cloudflare TV and our Recruitment Corner series. Today we have Justina live in our series and we're going to talk about Justina's unconventional journey to customer support and a technical support team here at Cloudflare as well as touch on her experience interviewing for the team as well as being a interviewer right now while we're hiring and building up the team here in Europe.
So very briefly to introduce myself and then we'll go over to you Justina.
I'm a recruiter on the EMEA recruitment team working alongside a few other folks based out of London in our Lisbon office and helping out with hiring for different teams including the customer support team.
So Justina and I have been working hand-in-hand for the past few months.
Yeah over to you Justina. Hello everyone so my name is Justina and as Anna has introduced I actually work in the customer support team here in the Lisbon office.
So this Lisbon office actually started one year ago last year and a week I think.
So I'm here to help build a team here in Lisbon and in the customer support team we have our team in APAC area in Singapore, we have teams here in EMEA which is our Munich, London and Lisbon office and we also have our team in US which is Austin, Massachusetts.
So right now I'm here in Lisbon helping to build up a team of like hopefully we'll have like a lot more engineers here in Lisbon so we can help support all our customers in the EMEA region and whoever that speaks our language as well.
So yeah we keep hiring here so if you want apply now.
Thanks Justina and I think we'll touch on this later on in our conversation but what I wanted to kick off actually first things first is your story because when I've met you when I started working with you and obviously throughout the last couple of weeks I actually got to know you a little bit better as a hiring manager as well and got to know your story of how you came to customer support and I found it very interesting so I wanted to to kick things off or kick off our conversation talking about your journey so maybe you can share a little bit of how you came to to work in customer support.
Sure so I think if you look at my LinkedIn and you go back to the very very very beginning of my career you will notice that I actually started as a flight attendant so that has nothing to do with Cloudflare at all in any part of the technology that we have today but every part of my career has always been a customer focused role so from being a flight attendant to being a teacher to working for an NGO so I've always been a handling customer and I've worked with like people from very very different backgrounds and eventually a job before I joined Cloudflare I was working as the customer success manager so from there I actually my main job is like to do more customer focused communication and to help the customer with like whatever problem they have and because of that role I worked very closely with the support team in my previous company so I was like actually the support team is very fun like they get to actually like fix some issue in the back end and they they get to get their hands dirty into changing configuration or updating something for the customer so I started like working with them and I'm like can I try different things and they let me so eventually I slowly transitioned from being a customer success manager to being the support team and I actually continue to work in support team from there and I've been here for two and a half years now.
Great we're very glad to have you on board but what made you actually because I've also went through your LinkedIn profile and seen that you worked in a other company before that what made you go ahead and apply for Cloudflare's technical support team?
I think like if we like a lot of us like they when we go for our the website we see like we help build a better Internet it's a little bit cliche but like this is like a very big thing that attracts a lot of people because if you actually read about like things like Cloudflare that's from online articles and like different like analysis and you will see that this company is actually trying to help a lot of different customers like from our highest paying customer to all the free customers who might just want to have a blog that they could keep safe so reading about our mission statement and looking into like the things that we actually do is really attractive for me and actually from my from my last job before I joined Cloudflare because of my job nature I actually hit a lot of our firewall so on a daily basis I would see the Cloudflare firewall within my work scope so eventually it really interests me to like find out okay so what is this company and who are they like why are they on my screen every day so like this is actually how I get to know about Cloudflare a little bit more and I'm like okay and eventually when that when the opportunity came when I moved to London I'm like oh they are hiring too like maybe I should give it a try because I've seen them a lot so maybe it would be fun to work on the other side to actually maintain the firewall for the customers so yeah that was great and then well here you are going through the interview process and maybe for folks that are considering interviewing I can very briefly touch on the process and then I'd be very curious to know what your experience was going through the process so what we typically do is obviously once a candidate applies we try to to engage with the candidate in a brief conversation to find out more about their their interests in the role as well as sort of career aspiration and then as part of the technical support interview process it is important for us to identify the level of technical skills and experience as well so we ask candidates to complete a take-home assignment in their own time usually I tell candidates there is no right or wrong it's literally them reading up information and typically information if they do their research can be found online but this is also a very important skill right for the role of a technical support engineer and right after that what we typically do is invite folks to a round of interviews with different members of the team as well as stakeholders so usually we would have done this locally in one of our office pre pre -pandemic but now moving to a more virtual setup we we set up those conversations over google hangout so folks still have an opportunity to engage with with the different members face to face and get a sense of how it will be like working within a team for some people it might seem like a long process but obviously I always tell candidates that use it as an opportunity to engage and ask questions while while talking to different members of the team but how was it for you going through the process and I guess even two and a half years ago it was pretty similar to what we do have now right yeah actually we have pretty much the same process as we have when I first joined so in the beginning we would evaluate if our profile is matching with what we need as a technical support engineer we're not looking for people who have experience like for years like but more of like if they have like some hobby or if they want to learn about more about Cloudflare so we do have candidates that has like very minimal background like myself like maybe I worked in support role before maybe I did customer service before but the tickum test is a very good way for us to evaluate if we actually we could help a candidate to learn and if the candidate actually themselves they are interested in the kind of technology that Cloudflare does because within this test you will be given a set of questions that we are being asked on a daily basis by our customer so when looking at the questions you feel like oh my god this is what I want to learn more about like this is like this is very interesting for me and when you do the research like the whole research process will be really fun and engaging and so like this is this is a very good chance for everybody to evaluate if this is what they want to continue to pursue like if they feel like oh no actually this is a bit different from what I thought it would be and you don't want to continue anymore which is totally fine as well because like everybody has different interests and we want to make sure that when you get the job you're you're loving your job and like this is something that like makes you happy and like this is something that you could keep learning every day so for me that tickum test was actually really really really tough I look at I look at the test and like most of the questions I have never seen it before but it's really interesting for me because I'm like I'm an Internet user so I should know about this is something that I shouldn't have heard of before and I'm sure I did but I just don't know the terminology of like how to answer someone like I have a bigger picture of like okay this is how it works like how like the IP address is like looking up like on the phone book but like I want to know more so I did a lot of googling a lot of learning well thank god like we have like a community that has a lot of people asking similar questions before as well so I could like do my research and compile a different answer into something that okay now I understand what is happening so and maybe for folks that don't see those or review those tests on a day-to-day basis what is the test about maybe in one brief sentence so the test is really about it has like a lot of different questions like for example one of the tests one of the question is asking you to read the mtr of an output so if you have never seen an mtr output before you could actually just go on google and like you could see the format and have a better understanding of what each line means and what different numbers would mean and these are things that seems very daunting when you look at the questions but when you actually do a little bit of research like you would be like everything makes sense now but it is not very uh straightforward I agree but like if if you if you actually take a little bit of time do some preparation and spend like five ten minutes to understand what is happening it actually comes very easy afterwards so so what do you think I mean you you touched the the point on preparation already um what do you think helped you be successful in the take-home test as well as later on in the round of interviews you had yeah indeed like preparation is the key because if you actually uh let yourself indulge in the environment that like these are the questions being asked or like these are the knowledge that I would need to uh have further understanding of in the future like it when the time you start preparing it is the time when you start learning as well so but like so our test is actually very self-explanatory it's it's like if if some if a happens what will you do or if b happens what will you do so if we actually prepare it in advance then you will have a mindset of like how to tackle the problems like it might be different problems but like you always have a set of questions that you ask yourself or ask the customer like and then you could go to the next step so I would always always suggest any candidate to do a little bit of preparation before their technical round of interviews especially because after the take-home test you will understand what might be the field of knowledge that you're left off for example for myself like I really don't understand how to read an mtr like before before my interview and because of that I will read a little bit more about that and things that I'm already good at I just need to like study a little bit before the round so like make sure that you go read and make sure you fill the gaps that you know that you might need more knowledge and yeah yeah great well we started talking about your journey to Cloudflare a little bit but then since you've joined two and a half years ago you you've came along and you know explored explored different roles as well as different regions as well so maybe you can share a little bit your journey from a technical support engineer to now a team lead in Lisbon and where you've been in in you know in the meantime so I actually started in the London office as a technical support engineer at the time the team was very small but the company itself is already growing a lot bigger in the APAC area so we start looking for candidates that can speak Asian languages and I happen to speak Chinese so it was a perfect timing for me to join the company because on top of the technical skills that match Cloudflare we also want to expand our our pool of engineers that could cover different languages so like we can make sure that we can provide local language support for everybody around the globe and I was very lucky and then I started in London after around a year I need to move a little bit closer back home for my own personal reason so I was then transferred to Singapore where it was actually another time of the year that we are actually expanding a lot and expanding rapidly in Singapore and we want to have a bit more headcount over there so the transition was very smooth like for my own personal reason and for the team to continue to expand as well so I was there and I continued to help with the hiring process in Singapore and Singapore naturally is a hub where we have a lot of people from different backgrounds so it's really fun to work at the team over there and we start like hiring so many people from so many different countries and so like that was I think maybe one of the most diverse team in our our customer support role as well so there's like one person who speaks like different language so we cover every customer base that we hope to and and yeah and I think last year when the Lisbon office opened so in in the company wide we were looking for volunteers who who are willing to move to Lisbon to help build our new technical hub in in Lisbon area so previously London is a very big technical hub for us actually not just technical we have our sales team, our administration team and like many many different teams are based in London but we want to have an even bigger base that will allow our technical engineers to be able to work there so we started the Lisbon office and naturally we need customer support team to have presence as well so I volunteered to move here alongside three of my other colleagues from London and here I am helping to start the team here and yeah I think with the years of experience and the knowledge that I have gained over the past two years then so I started applying for the team lead role so I could help like grow the team I could help like do more of the hiring process and like like to help train the new joiners as well so everything just come through naturally and and I'm the team lead here now.
Yes and we have very big plans or since the beginning of us opening the office last year we've been hiring in all the teams based out of Lisbon and obviously customer support was a team that had big hiring goals to to achieve and we continue doing this as well throughout this year.
One of the the key elements for us in Lisbon was actually hiring folks that speak additional languages in order as you mentioned just now support customers globally probably at any given time.
When I first joined supporting customer support obviously I sat down with a few customer support engineers in order to get an understanding why we're looking to to hire different language skills even Mandarin speakers which is like one of the roles we're currently trying to to hire into out of our Lisbon or EMEA offices.
Would you share with with the folks that are viewing us right now why it's important?
Yeah actually it ties back into when I first joined Cloudflare I was the first one who speaks an Asian language in in the EMEA team so back then already we were expanding our customer base in APAC so to give a better picture because the support team works 24 7 and so as a lot of our customer so for example if say like Cloudflare is a customer that is based in Asia even though it's not their 95 anymore they will continue have customer that use their website so they have to maintain their website even off their office hour which would naturally fall into the EMEA hours or the US hours so if they have any questions or if they have any trouble they need help they would be contacting us at any given time of the day so we have to make sure that we have our engineers that speaks the language during their office hour which match our Singapore time but also when they're off of the office hour like at the night time when maybe the site traffic is the highest then they continue to be able to get local language support so this is why we are hiring talents of different language skills around the world actually not just here in Lisbon but also like even in US or like in any given offices that we have so and naturally our customer base grow a lot in a Chinese speaking market like because they have such a huge base and they have like so many like business and websites going on so like we also need a lot of engineers that can support all our new users so we need to make sure we are matching our user base so we continue to give them anything or any guidelines that they might need at any time of the day so yeah yeah and I think important to mention here is that obviously we're always open to applications from I would even say anywhere in the world if someone is interested to move to a country like Lisbon where obviously we do have a big office in the meantime already if I'm not mistaken we're quite a few folks based out of Portugal right now we also do support candidates moving to another country whether it is they're based somewhere else in EMEA or they're planning to to relocate from from APEC for instance as well just as you did Justyna a few months ago and now one thing I wanted to go back to is we briefly touched on this when talking about the take-home test as well and what it takes for a technical support engineer we in the last few months been obviously looking at the the team and looking okay what are the roles we're looking to fill and what are requirements as well would you be able to explain in a few sentences what the differences are between a customer support agent we're looking currently to hire as well as a technical support engineer on the team yeah so this customer support agent role is a new role that we have come up with like I think in the past few months because we do like when we do hiring in Lisbon for example we start looking at a lot of like different talents at the beginning I touched base because we see a lot of people who are interested in applying but they don't necessarily have the technical background whether they might not have done like their computer science study or they might be new to the workforce so they've never had like customer service experience at all but we noticed in the past that these are important experience that we look for when we look at candidates profile but at the same time if someone who actually has a has an interest or like they have their own hobby in looking further into these technologies like for example someone who might have built their own website or they might have like do some like hackers like hackathon and things like that like they might not necessarily have that kind of skills on their CV and a lot of them actually they didn't even take computer science maybe they were a like for myself I did economics major but I took one course of computer science when I was in university and that really sparks my interest and then I start like you know building my own little website and I start like okay then but I need to protect my website as well so there's like a lot of people that gain some experience outside of the normal resume that we will be looking at and they might not have the technical background but like it doesn't mean that they cannot be trained as an engineer and this is why we come up with a new role that is a lot more how do I put it it accept a lot more diverse candidates because in the agent role we're expecting a more junior person that could eventually become a technical support engineer so we'll be providing them more training and more support into helping them to ramp up to be an engineer so these candidates usually are people who are with a less technical background but they have a huge interest in learning and they are someone that are into like being a part of so we want to make sure that we give everybody an opportunity to learn and to grow with the company as well so yeah definitely that's great and it's been an interesting experience um hiring for this new position as well we we definitely seen uh a very I would say diverse uh round of candidates applying for the role that as you said might not have the years of years of technical experience as some of our very experienced technical support engineers but they bring in this keen interest to join the organization and particularly to join the customer support team where at the end of the day obviously you have to have an interest in working with customers on a day-to-day basis and engage with external stakeholders as well now you briefly touched on training and I know we only have six minutes left but I believe training is very important as well so obviously you do invest in the interviewing process and then when you're successful you join the organization but what do we do maybe in a few sentences to then help folks ramp up and be successful in their roles so now we have our training team uh I remember when I start like it was it was like one person training team and he was taking care of all the new joiners of the entire global support team and now we have like our trainers from different parts of the world so every region will have their own dedicated trainer and so when you join Qualifier we we have a few key elements that we look at to see if you are matching certain skill sets that we need and if not then our trainer would already be flagged like in the beginning so like oh this person is very strong in doing one thing and like we need to help them to get more training on the other and vice versus for like different candidates because everybody has the different strengths so we want to make sure that we continue to help them to grow and but we also teach them things that they might not already know before they join Qualifier so we do have this training program most of them is on the job training so you will be working on the tickets to understand like what is the customer questions but at the same time there's a lot of training that would teach you about the theory and like a bigger picture of like what certain feature is about and then from there you could have like a an understanding of like the technology to be able to answer a specific question raised by a customer so typically our support engineer they would be given like a six month of training program where they would learn about all the different products and we are hoping like by the end of the six months then you'll be able to support like even our highest paying customer of course but of course like people who might have like different ramping pace some might take a bit longer some might be taking a bit shorter but it doesn't matter because our training team is right there to like adjust to your own needs so yeah yeah this I think it's great that we also have someone who's based in EMEA time zone as well Rebecca so that's good to have support out of the region too now just a few minutes left but one thing I always like to ask folks that are also on the other side of the table like you are as a hiring manager right now and as an interviewer and obviously you you talk to a lot of candidates as well is there any advice you would give candidates that are currently in the process or are considering applying for a technical support engineer role or our customer support agent role on the technical support team from your perspective so we're always looking for people who are willing to learn and because like if we tie everything back in we provide training and we we keep like talking about like throughout this last 30 minutes that we're not just looking for someone with experience but it's all about your interest and your willingness to learn we have a team of like we compose of like senior engineers very senior engineers and like people who might be newer to the to the industry but the key is if you prepare yourself and you're still interested in learning like throughout your journey with Cochlear then this is the kind of people we're looking for because if you actually look at our past years like you will notice like Cochlear has like new features and new technology that comes up on almost like on a regular basis like almost like every other day you will see new release or like like like our birthday week is coming up and we're looking to have a lot more exciting products or exciting features that were rolled out so if you're someone who are willing to learn and willing to continue to learn you'll be the perfect candidate for us and we also need someone who's willing to teach as well so we just keep keep the traditional going for like learning and teaching and yeah great well we're about to wrap up from what i see you see i thank you so much for for joining me today in the recruitment corner series i hope to see you again maybe for a part two um if anyone watching has any questions um feel free to drop us an email and justina and i will follow up with answering those and otherwise we wish you all a good starting to the day or wherever you are um have a good rest of the day thank you thank you anna and thank you for anybody that watched this thanks everyone bye you