Women in Tech: You Belong Here
In this female-focused episode of Cloudflare U, our panel will be discussing career development for women in tech and at Cloudflare. The panel will include women from our engineering and security departments and be moderated by our Head of People, Janet Van Huysse.
All right. And I believe we're live here on Cloudflare TV. So welcome everyone. This is Cloudflare's birthday week, and we're spending this week with a bunch of different speakers coming in from companies that we admire, leaders that we admire.
And I'm Janet Van Huysse, I'm Cloudflare's head of people, and I'm really excited to lead a panel today that are leaders that we admire at Cloudflare.
So this is our Women in Tech, a segment, and we have a great panel assembled today.
And it's also the week of Grace Hopper Conference, which helps many women that are entering into tech, internships, new grads, get connected with other leaders and companies.
And so our focus for today's panel is going to be on kind of getting into tech, kind of your early years into tech and the lessons some of our leaders here have learned along the way.
So thank you all for being here. All right, and we're gonna go around and introduce yourself.
So tell us, where did you go to school?
What was your major? What do you do here at Cloudflare? And then Cloudflare has a new hire tradition that everyone shares a fun fact.
So something that we wouldn't know about you by looking at your resume, and I'll let you all cheat.
You can share the fun fact that you actually shared when you started at Cloudflare, or you can totally make up a new one.
So Natalie, you are right next to me on the screen, so I'm gonna get started with you.
Okay, my name is Natalie Rogers.
I went to University of Texas and majored in computer science. My Cloudflare fun fact was that I am number four in the state of Texas at Connect Four, but that is actually a lie that I like to tell people whenever I challenge them to connect four.
I've got so many follow-up questions, but I'll wait.
Okay, Anita, you're up next. Yeah, hey, my name is Anita Tanjarla.
I went to the University of Pennsylvania in Philly.
I majored in computer science, and my fun fact is I just got my first bike as an adult a week ago, so I feel like it's a big Bay Area milestone.
I'm pretty hyped about it.
That is, congrats, Anita, that's awesome. All right, Lisa, you're up next. Hi, I'm Lisa Ratiff.
I'm a director of engineering here at Cloudflare. I'm from South Africa, and I grew up in the Bushveldt there, and as a result, my fun fact is that whenever I tell people I'm from South Africa, I never know whether they, usually when you hear someone's from South Africa and you're American, you might, the response is often, oh, did elephants walk down the street?
Did lions walk down the street?
For most people, that's absolutely untrue. It's a very developed country without animals walking down the streets in big cities, but for me, it was true, so school got canceled when there were lions at the schoolyard, and I did often see some things in the distance from my front yard.
That's incredible, Lisa.
Thank you for sharing. That's gonna be a tough one to beat. Nicole, you're up next.
Okay, my name is Nicole Phillips. I am the data analytics manager on the business intelligence team.
I have a BS in computer science from the first HBCU, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, and I have an MS in predictive analytics from Northwestern University.
My fun fact was, my husband and I got married in less than a year of meeting.
We got married in 10 months, and within that 10 months, we took two trains and a bus from Mannheim, Germany to Boulogne, Denmark to get married.
Awesome. Lisa, did you mention what you, did you major in computer science?
I left the bush to go to Cape Town, the big city, and study computer science.
I did not graduate with a major. I got incredibly caught up in student media, the end of apartheid, anti-apartheid activism, and ended up starting to work before I finished my degree.
Great, thanks, Lisa. And Naya. Hey, folks.
I'm Nat Davidson. I am a new grad of the University of South Carolina. I have a BS in computer science.
Class of 2020, kind of cursed, but my fun fact is that I am a kiteboarder, which is a type of high-performance sailing, you could call it.
And that is what I like to do with my free time. Awesome, thanks, Nat. All right, so I'm gonna go reverse order.
So Nat to Nicole to Lisa to Nita to Natalie, and we're just gonna do a few quick round, quick fire questions.
First one is, standing desk or sitting desk?
Standing desk, for sure. Well, you have to be able to move it.
You can't stand all day. Okay, up and down then, up and down desk.
Okay, Nicole. Same thing is Nat, even though my desk at home is sitting, because I've had it for 10 years.
Lisa? Standing desk, and I know it's not the right thing, but I only stand, I think I sit maybe twice a year when I'm sick.
But when we're in the real office, I actually get to go and sit down in meetings.
But at home, the meetings are standing too, so I go stretch.
Awesome. And Nita, how about you?
Standing, if I could get my hands on one, but they're all like six months back ordered, so I guess I'll take my sitting desk.
Sitting desk for now. And Natalie? Yeah, I also really miss my standing desk at the office.
All right, now I'm gonna reverse.
I'm gonna keep you guys on your toes. So Natalie to Anita, to Lisa, to Nicole, to Nat, and the question is Snap or Insta?
Oh, Insta. Anita? Snap, I don't have an Instagram.
Lisa? Neither, although I do have an Instagram account. I'm old. Nicole?
I only have Snap and Insta to see what my daughter is doing, but I don't use them.
It's still a good purpose. Nat, how about you? I don't use social media. All right, how about a hidden talent?
Nat, can we start with you? Hidden talents, jeez. I can juggle.
Oh, that's cool. Nicole? I really don't have any hidden talents. One thing is I won the state championship as a cheerleader.
So not hidden, but a talent. Yeah.
Awesome, Lisa, hidden talent? Best I can come up with is I can bend the top part of my fingers without bending the rest.
Okay, I lost it, cause I can totally do that too. Inadvertently killing houseplants.
I don't mean to, but. Not hidden, cause they're dead. Right there. All right, Natalie, hidden talent?
I can do a backbend still and the splits. All right, so you and Nicole, I feel I could, I don't know, do some performance for us one day.
When we get that Cloudflare talent show we keep talking about doing. We'll sign you guys up.
All right, great. So let's go into the questions now. So thinking back and early in your career, what you've learned and met your experience as a new grad, I'd like you all to answer.
What's one piece of practical advice that you would give to someone just starting out?
Anita, I'm gonna start with you.
I guess I would say to not take rejection so seriously if you're on the job hunt, to get better at taking construction seriously.
Constructive criticism and feedback because that's the only way you'll learn.
But definitely for people looking for the first job or the new job, not taking rejection too personally.
A lot of times it's up to luck or timing or just things out of your control and that's okay.
Something will land and it'll give you a good learning opportunity for the next step.
Great, thanks, Anita. Nat, how about you, a piece of practical advice? I would say- Me, oh.
Sorry, I said Nat. Lisa, you're next. I would say go out and ask for feedback because you might have a manager or a boss that doesn't necessarily, you don't have to be proactive versus reactive.
So certain things, whether it's feedback or even work, you might have to go out and actually ask for those things versus the person giving those to you.
Lisa? Be curious.
I think it takes you very far in life if you're curious and it's often what people respond to around you.
And often I think when you're in overwhelming situations, you forget to be curious.
So just like take a deep breath and think about what's interesting about the situation or the task or the environment and follow that.
That's cool, I love that one.
Nicole? Okay, so I think the biggest piece of advice was something that I lacked, which was, don't think that just working hard is going to be, and keeping your head down is going to be what gets you noticed.
You definitely have to tell people what you want.
But at the same time, when you tell people what you want, you need to have a plan outline, not a long 10 year or five year plan, but a plan outlined because you don't want to be in a situation when you're engaging with your lead or your manager, where they're dictating to you what you should be versus you driving your own career.
So I definitely believe in working hard is definitely the foundation, but you have to advocate for yourself as well.
That's great, so have a plan and advocate for yourself for that plan. Thanks, Nicola.
Natalie, how about you? Piece of practical advice? Yes, I wish that I could go back in time and tell a baby Natalie that you are not wasting anybody's time.
I feel like, you know, when you start and you're surrounded by all these brilliant people that are so far along in their careers, but everyone started right where you started and no one expects you to have all the answers or know what you're doing right away.
And it's perfectly okay to be confused and ask clarifying questions, ask again if you still don't get it, because actually what's best for you and best for your team is if you like ramp up fast and you're not going to do that alone in a corner, so.
Yeah, I love that. I feel like that's part of the being curious too, right?
Is to ask those questions and really dive in. And Natalie, that was a perfect segue to my next question, which is like, so if I'm a new grad and I'm looking for, or I'm still in school and I'm looking for internships or that first job, do I have to have it all figured out?
Like, do I need to know what companies I want to join and like what role or what that career path is?
Or like, how do you think about it when you're just getting started?
Nat, you're shaking your head, so I want to hear your answer.
Oh, I have so many thoughts about this one, but I'll try to condense it.
And I think this is something that affects us as women and minorities in particular.
You're not expected to know everything.
You're really not. That's not what a new grad role is.
Very few people start out knowing everything. And even if they do, maybe in a technical sense, there's still a lot that they're missing.
So my advice for new grads or undergrads looking for internships is obviously study, know your stuff, all that.
But for actually looking for a job, cast a fairly wide net, because as Anita mentioned, recruiting is difficult and rejection is always going to be a part of it.
But what I would say is go and find things that maybe there's a piece of it.
Maybe like, okay, 40% of that job description are things that I'm familiar with.
The rest, oh, I haven't maybe worked with Docker or whatever the technology is that you're not totally familiar with.
But if you read a job description and it resonates with you in some way, please apply.
Yeah, this is a research that generally speaking around gender and applications that men will apply for a job if they have like half of the requirements and women tend to look for 100%.
So I love this advice, Nat, it's just like 40% and it just, there's something about it that speaks to you, just go for it.
So Lisa, you and I have talked about this with new grads and kind of having to have it figured out.
So will you share your point of view on this?
Yeah, I really feel for new grads looking for jobs in the tech industry.
And when I've been at conferences like Grace Hopper and had conversations, I try to share with them what I think, but at the same time, a lot of companies have geared their recruitment process in a way that you have to pigeonhole yourself before you even have your first job.
And you have to, it's like, it's a fork in the road, front end or back end, and as you make your way through, you get narrower and narrower.
And I think it's an unrealistic expectation because you're still gonna figure it out.
And so you have to navigate that environment in a way that's gonna work for you and also get yourself a foot in the door.
And I think being honest is probably the way to go, honesty and authenticity, and also just sharing a little bit of who you are as you get that opportunity.
And talk about things you've enjoyed, things you might want to try next, but also be honest about the fact that you're still figuring it out.
Thank you so much.
Anita, Natalie, Nicole, anyone else wanna share any thoughts on your new grad, how you approach this?
Anita, yeah. Sure, I can say something. I guess I'm not a new grad anymore, which is jarring, but I'm two years into my career now.
I guess the advice I would give is, well, first, I think I forgot to say this before, but I'm a security engineer, so I'm on the security team at Cloudflare.
So I guess a good piece of advice is maybe don't expect that your first job or your first internship is gonna be perfect, and your total calling and the perfect role for you that you're gonna stay in for the rest of your life or whatever, because it's pretty unrealistic.
I remember about a year into me and my friends working in our first jobs, and half of us were like, wait, I don't know if I like this.
Maybe I wanna do something else.
Maybe it's a different company or a different role or a different industry.
Just give yourself room to grow and have realistic expectations, I guess, about what your first job is gonna be, and that is actually a really good thing, because then it'll just get better from there.
I love it. I love thinking about how it doesn't have to be perfect.
And Nicole, you've talked about things that you wish you had done differently or that it wasn't, even with the plan, like a straight kind of linear path forward.
So will you talk a bit about maybe a specific experience that you wish you had done something different?
Well, to everyone's point, I know when I came into the industry, I originally wanted to be a software engineer.
That was my goal coming out of school. I fell into analytics by accident, and it was when I had went back to work after having my daughter, and we had just got stationed in the Seattle area.
I'm an army wife, so that's why I said we just got stationed.
And with that, when I fell into BI, I was very upset at how everything played out.
That's a whole other story that I don't even wanna get into right now.
But I think reflecting on that, I wish I would have been more open -minded versus reacting the way that I did, even though things worked out the way that I wanted them to.
So I think that's my biggest regret. You look back now and say, oh yeah, that was- It was actually a good thing.
It was a really, really good thing.
But when you're young, you're naive, and you don't quite react to things in the most mature way.
Well, it sounds like you were pretty planful about things, and so it wouldn't go as planned, right?
Yeah, and I've always been a planner, and I'm extremely strategic.
So when it goes off of my strategy, and I've gotten better at that and become flexible.
So that's another thing that I would give advice to is flexibility.
Natalie, you had a story to share too about something you wish you had to do over or if you could have done differently.
Yeah, so I'm not a planner. I make incredibly rash decisions.
And my first job, basically when I graduated college, I had two job offers.
One was like a continuation of my internship, and the other one was for this, what sounded like amazing role as a sales engineer or a technical salesperson.
It was based in New York. I was gonna travel all the time. The recruiter was like talking me up.
He's like, oh wow, you're like, you know tech, but you communicate really well.
This is such a good fit for you. And I was like, yeah, yeah.
And I just said, sign me up, all right. And then within a week, I was like, this is not gonna work.
Like when I signed a year contract. So I think, so I guess my point is, other than a basic Google search, if you're venturing out into the unknown, maybe talk to somebody who does that job.
Ask them their day-to -day life.
That's great advice. Yeah, I didn't really think about that I would be on the phone for five hours with customers or that I would be doing the same presentation over and over and over again in all these different cities that I'd be traveling to.
So yeah, just reach out to someone at that company, just someone on LinkedIn, reach out to me.
I don't know, just do a little more research before you jump into your next career move, whatever that might be.
So did you stay for a year and finish it out?
Or did you? Yeah, I did. And I almost pigeonholed myself. It was kind of hard to jump from that back into what I really wanted to do with software engineering.
So I did manage. Okay, well talk about that. I think that would be so interesting to learn from.
So then how did you find your way back? Well, if you're not coming from an internship position, it's just a little off the beaten path and it's not the smoothest entry into your first job as a software engineer.
So I kind of found this sort of a startup company. They were hiring a bunch of junior devs and I got hired on with this cohort and we're all still best friends.
We do happy hours and stuff all the time together. So we kind of grew up together as software engineers.
It was really fun. Yeah, that is awesome. I do think those early relationships that you make and the relationships that you make early in your career, yeah, they stay with you.
They're like your chosen family over time.
Nat, I know you had a story that you wanted to share about, I don't know, like a hard story or something that maybe didn't go as planned or was difficult.
Mine's pretty similar to the story Natalie just shared. In short, I did internships in software engineering all throughout undergrad.
And last year, my last internship, wanted to go somewhere different and ended up at a company that is doing really well, but on a product that was failing, culture was terrible, no women on the team, just terrible, like onboarding, knowledge transfer, like just a bad situation.
So many things that I could just compare, like, oh, Cloudflare is great because we have X.
But it was really hard. And it really kind of made me question, like, it made me question myself a lot in terms of, oh, am I failing because I don't have the skills or is this a me problem?
But I guess the takeaway from that would be, one, I think it is good to try lots of different things in internships because I'm glad that I didn't sign a year long contract to do that.
And well, I was there for five months, but try different things.
And if you end up in a bad situation, that can happen, you can get through it and don't think that it reflects on your abilities if you're somewhere where the engineering culture is not functioning.
But what I can say from that is from having that experience, it definitely puts things into perspective.
I'm much more appreciative of the good engineering culture that we have here.
And I didn't set you up for that one, but thanks, Nat.
Yeah, sometimes you do go through like that. I feel like you learn sometimes the biggest lessons in what doesn't work versus like, I was so successful at this.
Some of the biggest learns come from a mistake. Anyone else have a mistake or a do-over they would make if they could?
No, all right. What about, okay, this is more about like the industry, but what would you say is the biggest challenge the industry is facing right now?
Just go ahead and unmute yourself or whoever wants to answer that one first.
Okay, great, thanks, Anita.
At the risk of sounding like that character on Silicon Valley, I really think it's a fix.
I think a lot of tech companies need to take a step back and realize why are they actually building this product?
Is it just to make the most amount of money as soon as possible?
Or are you thinking about how this is gonna impact your users and like, I don't know, society at large?
I think there's also another contingent of, do large tech companies maybe not paying their fair share in taxes or not walking the walk in terms of diversity?
Like there are a lot of different things in play there, but I think the common underlying one-liner is just like ethics and taking that morality to heart with like business decisions you make just because you're a business doesn't mean that you can't be thoughtful about the things that you're doing and why.
Yeah, the impact that you're having on the world.
Yeah, with your products. Yeah, anyone else? This, I'm trying to think.
Yeah, I'm trying to think of the PC way to answer this question.
I think with everything that has transpired in society today with COVID actually causing the whole world to be at a standstill, where you have no time to turn away from anything.
Now there's a lot of visibility on the injustices that have occurred in this country for so long and that has bled into the tech industry because those people work in tech.
So with the systematic racism that occurs, the black tax that is implemented on employees like myself, it has caused the tech industry now to have to admit what they haven't done.
And it has put them in a position where now they actually, if they don't take action, the microscope will be on them.
And it's not because the talent is not out there, it's just that they overlooked the talent because of their own biases.
So I think that's what needs to occur.
You now have to put your words in actions and you can't make excuses anymore.
Yeah, it feels like a different level of accountability. Yeah. Anyone else?
Biggest challenge in tech right now? All right.
What about like, what are ways that you feel like you're empowered or able to make a substantial impact or positive difference?
I can speak to this. Yeah, I noticed at a previous company that I worked at, which was smaller than Cloudflare when I joined, that there was a weekly or every other week meeting with some of the women in engineering, just got together during lunch and talk about whatever.
It was like pretty informal. And I noticed that there wasn't something quite like that at Cloudflare when I joined.
So me and a couple other folks started an employee resource group or like an ERG for women in engineering.
And I guess it's been a bit over a year now that we've been running and our goals are basically professional development and getting people to just know each other within the company, especially when it's remote, it's really hard to know who you're working with.
But once you meet some of those people, the next time you have a question about how a certain product works, you'd be like, oh, I could ask so-and-so because I remember her talking about this exact same thing.
And so as jargony as networking sounds, it is actually really useful to know other people at the company and know that you can ask them questions, whatever it is.
Yeah, I call it community, right?
Like building that community within the company.
And I love that the focus has been on development and how to make sure that we've got great careers here as women in tech.
I also feel like the women in technology or the women engineering group does a good job of surfacing up to the blind spots to the leadership team or help us kind of like drive towards action on things in a really constructive way.
So I really love the voice that women engineering group brings to the table.
Yeah, it's a good, one of our other goals was to provide feedback loops and sometimes feels like maybe that can get lost the higher up you go.
Like I can have one-on-ones with my manager every week, but who's giving them feedback and who's giving their manager feedback and so on.
So yeah, thank you for noticing that's something that we're trying to do as well.
Yeah, I love it.
Anyone else like ways that you're feeling like you're able to make an impact or others that you've seen make a substantial impact?
Nicole? I think when engaging with my team, one of the big things I think about impact is making sure I help to guide them in their next career move.
I always tell them, I don't want you reporting to me forever.
So making sure I put the tools and the support and resources in place so that they can grow in their career and also helping them to learn from the mistakes that I've made in my career and why I may stand on a certain path.
So pouring into your team. I love it, Nicole. So it's not about delegating the work and how does the work get done, but how are you as a manager really helping folks navigate their careers and it's awesome.
All right, Lisa, I know you've got something to add to that.
Yeah, more to answer your question, I think. I've just been sitting here listening to everyone talk about impact.
And for me, this sort of combines with the last question as well and Anita's answer to that about ethics.
And because Cloudflare is such a special company, and again, Janet didn't set me up to this.
I actually say this a lot to people I'm interviewing to work at Cloudflare.
But I have never been as much aligned with the values of a company the way I am with Cloudflare.
And that's always been something that I've thought about.
And I've worked with great people, I've worked with great tech, I've been learning a lot, but somehow there isn't this like perfect alignment.
And it's great to work at a company that thinks about the impact on the world and makes decisions sometimes that are contrary to what the industry thinks is the right decision.
And on top of that, the impact that we can have as Cloudflare because so much of the world, so much of the Internet is dependent on Cloudflare.
This can actually be a two-sided coin.
And I also caution people that I'm interviewing to say, sometimes it's really difficult because you'll see something going wrong at work.
And you know that if you ignore it, the impact is really high. And you know that if you jump in and try and fix it, the impact is really high.
And that can feel quite relentless at times.
It's very high stakes is how I describe it.
But you know, it's definitely something that works for me and I think works for a lot of people.
And that's why I'm here. Yeah.
There were a lot of nods as you were answering that. Amani is gonna jump in and then Natalie.
I'm sorry, Natalie. I just wanted to say something really quick because that resonated me, the feeling of relentless just stuff happening.
I guess that's the reason why I feel strongly about employee resource groups or caring about your company's ethics because I often feel maybe a little hopeless or not that I can do much to influence the world as a whole or my country as a whole, but I spend so much time at work.
And so I think that I maybe have more of a voice to take the actions that I wanna do there, which is why I brought up ethics in the tech industry and like why that matters.
And it only takes a few people to feel the same way to make your voice heard.
Thanks, Amita. Natalie. Yeah, I was thinking about impact on like a different level.
So before I was a mom, I had a lot more free time and I spent a lot of that time working with kids in tech, specifically girls in tech.
So something that's like pretty simple that you can do that I think has a pretty big impact is just be there.
A lot of the girls that I met, like I've never even met a female software engineer.
Like we're not pioneers, but we're not not pioneers.
And so I think just like having someone that you personally know that is a female software engineer is really impactful.
And then like just showing them how cool your job is and like teaching them how to code.
Like it's really fun stuff.
And I find it like very rewarding and like hopefully impactful. I love that. I love that kind of giving back and helping get another generation interested in tech and the role of gender in that.
And so one of the questions I was interested in hearing, oh wait, Natalie, you had something else you wanted to add.
That as if you're early in your career or you haven't, you're still in college, that volunteering to do this stuff is actually a really great way to get experience to put on your resume.
And like, it's really fun and you meet cool people. I have known someone at Cloudflare that I used to volunteer with.
Like it's really cool. You can build your network in other ways.
Yeah, it's funny. It ends up being a small world, like globally small world.
Okay, so I don't know, Natalie, this comes up with when you're helping, like the younger generation get in tech, but what's the conversation around like, do I need to act like a man to be successful in tech or how have you all maybe navigated that yourselves in your career or as you kind of help mentor others?
Nicole is shaking her head. Because I think that is a stigma that society puts on women, regardless if it's tech or anything, that you have to alter who you are in order to be successful.
And I think that is unfair and a lot of weight on women to have to feel that way.
So the first thing I always say is be who you are, do not change who you are because authenticity of self is a downward spiral for a whole lot of other things because it's going to drift into other areas of your life.
Your brilliance and your work ethic is not defined by your gender, whether you're in the tech sector, law, whatever it may be.
The way you look at it is you engage with people, you learn people so you can understand how to navigate the landscape.
You may one day have a manager that is not supportive or you may have a manager that is supportive, but in either way, you figure out how to navigate through that by being who you are.
So if any advice I could give is don't try to be something that you're not because eventually people will see that you are a carbon copy anyway, and you'll be working harder at acting than focusing on your actual skillset.
I guess I can speak next to that.
I think the question was, do you have to act like a man to be a successful woman in tech?
My answer is a lot of good traits in an employee are not gendered.
A lot of bad traits are gendered. And so you're only bringing something new and good to the table if you're proactively thinking about this.
So one example I can think of is how a lot of men don't feel comfortable just saying like, hey, you got a nice haircut, like it looks great.
But I feel like maybe I can bring that to the team just like some common niceties, right?
Or the gendered characteristic for men in the tech industry is talking very forcefully and talking over people, but that's not cute.
Like a good characteristic is to listen until people are done speaking and actually be a good listener and like wait your turn to speak.
Although it's like really hard over Zoom.
So sorry if I talked over anybody. At least the next question too, we're gonna talk about like, how do you make sure that your voice is heard, especially being underrepresented in many rooms and intact?
Like are there any advice or tricks or tips or best practices you have to either make sure that you're heard or amplifying the voice of others that need to be heard?
One thing is giving credit where credit's due.
So if you, and this is for allies as well, if you notice that someone has said something and someone else talks over that person or just summarizes that as their own, just make sure you be like, oh, I think Maddie said that before and I totally agree with her.
As far as getting your voice heard, an important thing that my manager always talks about is like publicizing the work that you've done.
And that can be really uncomfortable for people, but it actually works wonders whether it's just like an internal memo post about here's a cool project I worked on, but that's how people can tangibly see the stuff that you've done.
And also is a good way to do it if you're not comfortable speaking, just write out the cool stuff that you've done and people will take notice.
That is great advice. I love that. Yeah, even if it's like the internal blog or something, or present at the company all hands, or though, I guess to your point, if you're uncomfortable saying it, you know, the write it is good.
I think to add to what Anita is saying is one of the things that I do is I'm an observer.
Like I told you all, I'm a planner and I'm very strategic. So sometimes I may come to a meeting and just observe how everyone in the meeting is engaging.
So I can learn different personalities so that I know how to engage with each of those individuals.
That has helped me to get my voice heard because I'm able to navigate the waves and the different personalities that I meet.
In addition, I would say to add to what Anita is saying is I agree with writing out and sharing your work because that was one, especially with me being in analytics and building dashboards and doing analysis and providing insights.
That was one of the things that I did not like doing because you kind of feel like it's a show offy type thing, but it's really what I tell my team now is you're showing the work that you've done from the perspective of based on this analysis I've done, these are the types of actions that you can take from it.
And this is the impact to the business.
So that once again, it goes back to what I said, advocating for yourself. So that's how I feel as if there's no one size fit all for that.
I've got two little bits of thoughts that I've come out of listening to Anita and Nicole on this.
And just like Nicole, I am an observer and I think this has served me well in my career because what it boils down to is being a good listener.
And I think that's such a good thing to cultivate in yourself.
And even though it doesn't sound correct, it actually helps you to be heard if you're a good listener because what you can do is you can, you can bridge between people that are talking a lot at different sides of an argument and you listen and then you pick things up that they aren't hearing because they're too busy shouting at each other.
And the other thing I want to say is don't listen to that voice in your head that says, I could sound stupid if I ask this thing or say this thing because nine times out of 10, there are other people in the same room that are gonna benefit from you saying that thing out loud.
And that also adds up to being heard.
That's such a good point, Lisa.
Like I was thinking about that as well. Like what happens in those times?
I'm sure that you've all experienced them. I'm 20 plus years in my career and I still experience them quite regularly when that voice says like, I'm not good enough or I don't belong here, I don't deserve to be here.
Anyone wanna share an experience of how they deal with that when that ugly voice rares or speaks up?
Wow, oh, Lisa, go ahead.
I mean, I was just gonna say like you, Janet. I mean, I can probably come up with times yesterday when that voice has said that to me and I can remember them from 20 years ago.
And it's, you know, sometimes you're gonna listen to it but also just, you know, you can talk yourself up, right?
So you can argue with that voice a little bit yourself and say, come on, look where I was five years ago, look where I am today.
That's pretty impressive.
So, you know, don't listen to this voice. That's one of the tools that I use.
Yeah, I think to your question, like, are you good enough to like be at the table or be at the job?
Like, first of all, if you're taking the time out of your day to like watch this, you're clearly interested in the tech industry and being in the tech industry.
So the answer is yes, you are. Second, like, if you have that voice in your head, everybody does, at least everybody I've met does.
And one thing that's helped me is like self-care therapy one-on-one is like, when you're talking yourself down, would a friend talk like that to you?
Would you let a friend talk like that to you?
No, you wouldn't, your friends are there for you and always like gassing you up.
So you should be gassing yourself up too because you don't deserve that.
Natalie, how about you?
Oh. I just wanted to add, if it helps to think about the benefit to others of speaking.
Yeah, definitely sound like that.
Natalie, Roger. Yes. Do you ever get these voices that say these terrible things?
What do you do? When you asked Snapper Insta, you didn't put TikTok on there.
That is like my quarantine, like favorite hobby now. So TikTok knows my soul and TikTok knows I have imposter syndrome.
So I saw this like really funny video, like last week.
This girl's like at work and she's like at her desk and she's like, are you bad at your job?
And she's like, well, your manager hired you.
So if you're bad at your job, then that means your manager is bad at their job.
So it sounds like their problem, ha ha ha. Like, you know, which like it's, I feel like that reminds me of the situation and that like, I'm obviously not encouraging anyone to be like intentionally bad at their job.
But like, if you have a job in tech, that means you went through a tech interview.
And you know, those are not easy.
Those are notoriously hard not to, you know, it can discourage anyone, but you will find out eventually that, you know, a tech interview is like an all day thing.
I personally studied for like at least two weeks before any interview, no matter what stage I'm at in my career, because you never know what they're going to throw at you.
So if you've got, I'll also add, you know, I've been in interviews.
I've also been an interviewer. And so, you know, after we interview you, we have a little discussion, right?
And we're like, hey, like, what do you guys think?
Should we hire this person? And I feel like, sorry, I'm getting like really excited about this.
I feel like we've never had a conversation that went like, oh gosh, like she was terrible at coding.
And like, you know, her like architecture diagrams were like all over the place.
We don't understand anything, but you know what?
Diversity, so let's hire her anyway, right?
That conversation never ever happens. So like, if you're at the table, you earned your place at the table.
If you made it through that brutal interview, you are here and you belong here.
And like kind of just coming at it from that mindset, like I think, again, I wish baby Natalie knew that, so.
Nat, I see you shaking your head a lot.
Did this come up a bit, you know, kind of early in your interviewing and schooling or not yet, now or like?
Oh, you're on mute. I'm sorry. No, I was getting excited about Natalie's response.
So I think we do talk about imposter syndrome a lot.
I feel like in the spaces that I've been in of like undergrad tech, women in tech groups, it's nasty.
It doesn't feel good to feel those feelings, but I would say, I would encourage seeking out your peers, whatever that is.
And if you have classmates or other interns or it could be through social media, though I do think like having a conversation in person virtually helps more.
Talk to people who are your peers and in your similar situation.
It really helps to kind of feel like, okay, I'm normal. Yeah, I wonder, like Anita, do you feel like the women in engineering group like offers that support to each other when they need it?
Is that a part of it or not so much? I hope so. I think a part of that is first of all, just getting to know other people at the company.
And then once you meet someone and then you're like, oh, I actually like them, then you kind of take it offline and are able to have like those conversations because you're growing a friendship.
And even though it's a work friendship, it's still a real friendship.
We also had a panel of like more senior employees and they also talked about similar topics.
Lisa was on that. Thank you. So yeah, that's definitely something that comes up.
Okay, that really leads me to a question around mentorship and how do you think about finding a mentor?
Do you need a mentor?
Are there other kind of resources that have worked better for you along the way?
I'm curious if anyone's had good experiences or learnings from there. Nicole, I see your hand going up.
I think with mentors, you may have different, like don't think you need one mentor for everything in your career.
That's the first thing.
You may have different mentors for different things in your career.
In addition to that, you may get to a point where you have just reached the peak with a particular mentor.
And then that mentoring relationship just turns into like a peer type coaching relationship.
I've had, I didn't have a lot of mentors in my career until my previous employer.
And I did have different mentors for different things within it, whether it was growing in leadership, focusing on the technical track.
And then I would blend that together.
However, this is one thing I need young people to understand. When you are seeking a mentor, do not just come to them and think they are just going to lay out your whole career for you.
You have to come in with, okay, I am a software engineer one, or I'm a data analyst one, big data engineer, whatever it is.
It is your job to look at where do I wanna go next?
What plan I'm going to outline? And then allow your mentor to help guide you through that plan.
But it's not the mentor's job to do all of the work.
It's a partnership in the situation. So that would be my feedback.
Natalie, I saw you thumbs up in and doing all sorts of things in your rectangle over there.
Do you wanna add something? Yeah, I just wanna strongly emphasize that getting a mentor right away is really important.
It's a way you can just go have coffee.
You definitely though need to do most of the work in the mentorship, like come with some questions.
And if you're kind of at a loss, it's kind of awkward to build a relationship with someone you're just like, I don't know, can you be my mentor?
So something I've done before is take a coding book and do a couple chapters and then we can talk about design patterns or talk about current events, kind of help them help you understand fundamental things or really specific things, but kind of come to the conversation with something to talk about and not just like, let's just be pals and have coffee, because you're not gonna get as much out of it that way.
Sure, I have something to add to this.
I am not convinced that having a mentor is necessary for everybody, because I don't have one and I don't think I've ever had one.
Instead, what's worked for me, I think it's because it's a lot of pressure sometimes to find this one person and be like, okay, you're my person and you're gonna help me do all the things.
What's worked for me is having a few different people that I go to for different things if I need it.
So if I have a question about how a product works, I'll ask so-and -so.
If I have a question about, I don't know, does my architecture make sense or whatever, then I have someone else I can go, so like a senior engineer or whatever.
And then if I just need to completely decompress and I'm so sick of it and everything, then I have somebody else to go to and I think piecing together all of those people makes a sort of mentor relationship that works for me.
And I've heard other people say similar things. So yeah, I think really- I feel like you've got a squad, Anita.
I will just, I love that.
It's something you have a lot of mentors to meet, but I think, I guess for some people, forming those relationships isn't as natural.
And so kind of just emphasizing that, however you must do it, you should do it, because it's good to have someone to kind of help guide you and answer your questions that maybe you're not comfortable taking in front of anybody else.
Can I add one more thing to that, Janet?
When seeking a mentor, don't chase titles. Really chase what that person is doing that you would like to do.
Because if you chase titles, then you will completely miss the mark and that person may not be a value add to what you want to do in your career.
Yeah, that chemistry is important and that alignment of values and those things.
Yeah, that's good advice. All right, I've got a really specific like to COVID times kind of question.
So a lot of us, whether job seekers, whether they're new grads or not, are now interviewing virtually, onboarding is being done virtually.
What advice would you give to someone trying to navigate this kind of doing it all virtual?
Nat, it's so recent for you, so I would love for you to get us started.
So what advice would you give someone to start interviewing and onboarding in this virtual world that we're in?
Oh gosh, I don't think I have the answers more than anyone else, but I would say if you do, if there are like any issues you have related to like not having a desk or a place to, anything that's like actually impacting your ability to work, like don't be afraid to reach out to like the company you're interviewing with or your school or whatever, and let them know because they can't help you with the problem if they don't know about it.
And yeah, I would say try to keep up the same good habits. I know that's really hard in some ways, like for me in terms of like diet and exercise, that can go down a little bit, but the habits that I have kept up are informational interviewing.
So going and reaching out to people on my team and on different teams, just cold emailing them saying, hey, I'd like to know more about what you do.
And yeah, that would be my takeaway is like try to, you're obviously not gonna have all the same structure.
That's just not possible in work from home, but pick a few things that you know are like really important to you and keep those as habits.
I didn't wanna- Yeah, I love how much you talk about curiosity there and then Nicole and Natalie next.
This is just really quick. I think for as you're interviewing to definitely look at it like they're interviewing you, but you're also interviewing the organization.
So definitely ask those questions like what have you done different from the pre -pandemic versus what we're in right now?
Because you wanna see how that company is transitioning into engaging with their employees while we're in COVID.
So I think asking questions in the interview process will definitely help you determine is this the right place for me?
So I'll just leave it there.
Yeah, that's good. I love that. You can ask that question of every company, like what's changed?
What are you doing differently? Natalie, how about you? I only want to like sing Nat's praises because she and I actually are on the same team.
We're both on the workers team. And yeah, she reached out to me last week. She pretty new to the team.
So I thought that was like really a smart way to handle that.
So I just wanna say good job. I have a response to your question, Janet. I think there can be some benefits to coming into a company either as an intern or a new grad during COVID.
And I think about our internship group that spent the summer with us.
And we put a lot of effort into the hiring process and so on. So maybe there's some credit to Cloudflare there as well.
But I have never seen a stronger group of interns at the end of that summer.
The things that they managed to build and ship, we have press releases about that.
We've launched new products based on what those interns built.
And I think some of the things that might be harder for someone new joining the team or spending three months with us is how groups maybe click together.
They go to lunch together and forget to invite the newbie or they are making coffee in the kitchen and it feels inaccessible.
And some of that is no longer possible during COVID.
So maybe there is some upside there. And also, when the company puts in the work to create the scaffolding, to make this virtual onboarding the best experience, I think that can also set people up for success.
Yeah, I love that you're talking about the silver linings, Lisa, I've been trying to look at them a lot too.
And there is this kind of level playing field with everyone being virtual.
That really, I think, is one of the silver linings. All right, we have a minute left and I wanna just go around the horn.
This is Cloudflare's 10th birthday.
And so looking out for the next 10 years, just what's one thing that you're really excited about in the next 10 years for Intech, Cloudflare Tech, Women in Tech?
One thing you're excited about for the next 10 years or something you think is coming down the pike in the next 10 years?
Natalie, we'll start with you. Well, I think just the face of engineering in general has changed a lot in my short tenure so far.
So I'm really excited to see what's to come. I think we're headed in the right direction finally.
And Nat, how about you? I don't know if I wanna make any predictions, but I think, yeah, I'd like to see engineering become more representative of our users.
I think I ditto all of them. The face of tech just becoming more diverse and inclusive.
Awesome, Anita? I can't add anything new here. That was mine. It was great, Lisa?
I agree with what everyone said. I'm also excited about quantum computing.
That's something that we've been talking about for a long time in the industry.
And I think it might happen in the next 10 years. You guys, great job.