Cloudflare TV

🌐 A Conversation with Cloudflare's Employee Resource Group leaders

Presented by Annika Garbers, Janet Van Huysse, Sofia Good, Shadnaz Nia, Sieh Johnson, Jessica Iyer, Trudi Bawah-Atalia
Originally aired on 

Welcome to Cloudflare Impact Week 2022!

Cloudflare's mission is to help build a better Internet. We believe a better Internet can be not only a force for good, but an engine of global sustainability. This week we'll be highlighting an array of initiatives inspired by these optimistic ideals, as well as stories from partners who share them.

In this episode, tune in for a conversation with Shadnaz Nia, Sieh Johnson, Jessica Iyer, Trudi Bawah-Atalia, and Annika Garbers. Hosted by Janet Van Huysse and Sofia Good.

Tune in all week for more news, announcements, and thought-provoking discussions!

Read the blog posts:

For more, don't miss the Cloudflare Impact Week Hub

Impact Week

Transcript (Beta)

All right. Hi, everyone. Welcome to Cloudflare Impact Week. We're wrapping things up.

Today's Friday, our last day of the week. And there's been such great announcements.

And sharing some of the Work that we do to make Cloudflare a mission driven, purposeful company that's sustainable and doing good in the world.

And so today, I'm Janet Van Huysse.

I'm the head of people at Cloudflare, and I'm excited to be here with many of our ERG leaders.

ERGs are a super important part of life and culture at Cloudflare.

They're a really wonderful way to build community and especially through the pandemic, I mean, ERGs have played such a critical role in building connection across the company, outside of your regular team and your cross-functional partners.

And so today we have many leaders from a few of our ERGs, and if you missed the blogpost we put out, these are the authors of the blog post.

So you get to see their faces.

And if you haven't read it, I please invite you to to check that out.

And we're going to bring a little bit of that blog post to life today.

So to get us started, what I would love for you to do is introduce yourself.

So your name, what team you're on at Cloudflare.

And maybe where.

In the world you are, because we're very global company and then you're a little bit about your ERG.

What ERG is and how long have you been involved? How long is the ERG been around?

So Shadnaz, your next to me on my screen.

So I'm going to start with you.

Yeah, sure.

Hello, everyone. I'm Shadnaz.

I'm a solutions engineer, part of the Amazing Solutions engineering work.

And we're really excited to be here today with you.

I've been with Cloudflare for almost a year and a half and recently took over leading Persian Flare, although I wasn't entirely sure what it entailed at first.

It sort of happened very organically without much planning and was created out of mutual need and concern that we had.

We officially started three weeks ago.

That was where I created our conference page and started having those conversations with Sofia.

So we are absolutely just getting excited, started.

So I would like to just nominate Sofia to go next. Awesome.

Thank you. Thank you.

My name is Sofia. I work on the learning and development team and I'm based out of Austin.

And I started leading Flareability, I want to say, a little over a year ago.

I've been at Cloudflare two years. I believe I want to say Flareability is two years old.

I think that's my best guess.

And we are a very small but mighty little erg, but really a special one, one that's near and dear to my heart.

So yeah, I'm excited to be here and I will hand it off to Jessica.

Thanks, Sofia.

Like everybody else, really excited to be here. Jessica from the Account Executive team based in London, working for the Nordic market.

I lead the ERG AC flare in the region, so really excited to be here with everybody.

The AC Flare is a group of South Asian people and everybody who relates to that in the in the cloud for community.

We created this just to because there were so many South Asian descent people within Cloudflare and I've been at Cloud for just over three years now and I would say they see flare started just before I came in and I've been involved with it from the beginning, initially in more of a supportive function and then slowly took a leadership role.

I'll pass it on to Annika.

I'm Annika.

I'm on the product team at Cloudflare, based in Atlanta, Georgia, and I've been here for around two and a half years, I am the lead for Green Cloud, which is Cloudflare's sustainability focused ERG, and it was founded right around three years ago actually while I was interning at Cloudflare.

So it was super cool to be able to be involved in those very early days and then come back full time and rejoin the group.

Let's pass on to you.

Howdy, y'all.

I probably just gave away my location. My name is Sieh Johnson.

I've been here for about four years.


I'm the global lead for Afro Flare, which is the ERG for those of the African diaspora.

And yeah, I am also an engineering manager for the Zero Trust dashboard team.

Yeah, super excited to be here.

Great scene.

I'm actually going to stay with you for a minute because Afro Flare is one of our longest long standing ergs at the company and you've been a lead of it for many years as well.

So I'm hoping you can just share with the audience like why you got the group started.

And what about the ERG is most important to you? Yes.

So Afro Flare has been around for, I would guess about five years, so a little bit before me.

And I'm really glad that it had some sort of history and rapport here at Cloudflare.

And I think those who really started this group, because for me, it's about community, you know, meeting and connecting with the members, championing the different voices of those in the diaspora and then, you know, celebrating the different cultures within the group.

It really feels like a family.

And that's why I decided to get involved and, you know, work with the group till this day.

Yeah it's been great and Flare is very active and puts on so many great events and programing, and I feel like I've learned a lot in the five years after a Flare has been around and definitely under your leadership skills, so thank you.

Shadnaz, you said that Persian Flare is just three weeks old. So on the opposite end, it's kind of one of our I guess most, our youngest ERG.

And I actually love its origin story.

So can you talk about can you share that like how it got started and why it's important to you to build this community of Cloudflare and make Persian Flare an official Employer Resource Group here?


I'd be happy to, Janet. I mean, it has been some time since we have been hearing about the events in Iran and in the news.

However, I mean, for those of you that you may not be aware, four months ago, a young woman named Masa Amini was violently killed by the so-called morality police in Tehran because she was not wearing her headscarf properly.

This brutality by the police sparked widespread protests in Iran against the Islamic Republic regime, which has been in power for the last 43 years since the 1979 Revolution in Iran, which is a gender apartheid and dictatorial regime.

The movement known as Woman Life Freedom Movement carries a powerful message about women's rights, human rights and freedom of speech and expression.

These are the things that many people in Iran have been denied, despite the protesters just peacefully calling for their basic human rights.

The regime violently suppressed the movement as it has for the past 43 years.

And it was a difficult time for me, and I'm sure it's been the same for a lot of Persian and they live oppressed.

When I heard that many young girls, boys and human rights activists and journalists were detained in Iran and the videos being broadcasted was really disturbing and horrifying.

The Islamic Republic actually shut down the Internet as they have done in the past, so that they can suppress people without media coverage.

As an Iranian, I have family friends in the country and it was difficult to focus on work knowing what was happening in Iran.

Although I was super fortunate and I still am, to have a supportive team who constantly checked in on me to make sure if I had the support when I needed it, I still felt powerless and helpless and I decided to take some time off, which made I realize that actually it was a bad idea because the work makes me my busiest schedule and it just helps me to not overthink what was happening in Iran on the Friday that I was signing up.

I was contacted by a call from product team asking if I spoke Persian.

He told me he found me on ping board and asked me if I was native speaker.

I go yes, and he connected me with anger.

They asked me if I can help translate work client for Persian speaker because they couldn't get a hold of a professional translator.

Before this, I kind of thought with myself that I'm not a politician or an influencer or someone in a position of power, so I cannot really help except by tweeting and trying to be voice of people in Iran in social media.

But after this, I actually realized that I could actually make an impact by helping to translate this.

It really excited me, and I spent most of my time off working in it and delivering it.

And it was a time sensitive project so that we could make it accessible to people of Iran as a means to have access to a more private Internet.

Working on this project, I got connected to another Iranian fellow, part of infrastructure team Amir, who helped review the translation.

And we talked about some other ways that we can actually or Cloudflare can actually help to go around the restrictions and Internet filtering in Iran.

And this was how it sparked the idea of Persian and how we could establish this community within Cloudflare to keep us close together.

And together we can brainstorm and discuss how we can make an impact.

So this was the whole story, and I'm so happy that it happened.

Yeah, it's such a great story.

I'm so glad it happened to and so happy to.

I think one of the things that we've learned when we go through these tough times is if you can be of service and support, it just gives more of a purpose to kind of get through and kind of navigate.


difficult events that happen.

So thank you for sharing, Shadnaz.

Sofia, I'm curious to hear about Flareability, because you shared a really personal story on the blog that if you could just give us a bit of a recap on that for folks who haven't read the blog yet, I think that be great.

I'm also curious to know, you said you started two years ago, which is kind of when you get started, but you've only.

Been a lead for the last year.

So I'm just curious if it like took you time to warm up to the idea or kind of what was your journey into ERG leadership?

Yeah, and I forgot to mention that Flareability is for folks with disabilities or allies of folks with disabilities.

And we talk mostly about disability and disability or and accessibility at Cloudflare.

And so I shared a story on the blog about growing up with a learning disability and being undiagnosed until the third or fourth grade.

And I talked a lot about kind of like that feeling of isolation and when you're unaware of what's going on.

I think it's so much it's so magnified.

And also, as a child in an education system that's tailored to one style of learning, it's really hard to feel like you don't fit that mold.

And so that's something that continued through my whole education.

That kind of feeling of aloneness, because I didn't meet any role form a community of folks who had a similar experience.

It seemed like everyone else learned one way.

And so I found a community in college, took up until college that my whole education basically of having that feeling until I found a group of folks, an organization called Eye to Eye.

That made me realize there's so many other people who have had this same experience.

And that was completely changed my perspective of my of my whole life, I think up until that point and really allowed me to see that it wasn't a deficit.

It was really something that I should celebrate for who I am and why I am that way today.

And so.

Truthfully, when I joined Cloudflare, thinking about my learning disability in the context of a career was not something that was totally front of mind, although it definitely impacts the way that I work, of course.

And so when I came to Cloudflare, I think I don't lead with that story.

That's not something that I'm sharing right off the bat when you meet me.

For a variety of reasons.

But I think I eased into the idea of that in my first year and realized there is there is the opportunity for me to have this be at the forefront of the conversation, to connect with other employees who have had a similar experience.

And I think I held back in that first year and I'm really excited that I decided to join Flareability and take on a leadership role.

It was actually one of our leads was leaving, so they really needed someone to take over.

And now that I have that community, I can't imagine Cloudflare without it.

We've grown tremendously over the last year.

Tremendously could be 30 to 40 folks.

That feels like a lot to me.

And just knowing that we have that community that we're meeting, that sometimes we're talking about disability accessibility and sometimes we're just hanging out.

And that's what I love, is that I know there's folks that are similar to me that have similar experiences and a group of people that are willing to support one another, even though we might not know each other that well.

So it's been really, really powerful and I'm glad I decided to take that leadership position.

We are, too.

Sofia, thank you. So a lot of the tech companies that I have worked at in the last 20 years, like a lot of the employee research groups tend to be more narrowly defined around either gender identity or race or ethnicity, like groups that are underrepresented in tech.

And I think obviously there's a ton of value in that, but I really love that at Cloudflare, we have this very expansive view of the value of employee resource groups and how to build those communities.

And so, Annika, I feel like Greencloud, I've never seen an ERG like that at a company that I've worked at.

So I'm just curious if you will share with us kind of how that got.


And why it's important to you to foster this within an organization like Cloudflare?

Yeah, absolutely. I think there's a.

ton of people within Cloudflare that care about sustainability.

But around three years ago, when the ERG was initially created, a lot of the people that were asking those types of questions like, Who at Cloudflare is doing this work?, were having a hard time finding the information.

And the reality is our infrastructure team is thinking about sustainability when they're trying to design more efficient servers and get better use of the power that we have in our data centers doing more with every electron.

Our Places team is thinking about sustainability in our offices and how to reduce energy use and waste.

Our HR team is thinking about the benefits that we can give to our employees to help them make more sustainable decisions.

And our product and engineering team is also building sustainability related features for our customers.

So there's all of this work happening, but there wasn't anywhere at the time when this ERG was created, where someone new to Cloudflare, someone that wasn't directly participating in one of those efforts, could get that cross functional view of all of those efforts and also contribute new ideas.

And so Greencloud was kind of founded out of that place to create a space where we could share across the board the efforts that are already happening within the company to foster new ideas and projects for things that maybe didn't have a clear sort of line of ownership and gather groups of people that were interested in contributing to things that sort of side projects, and then also to be able to represent to our leadership that sustainability is a really important theme that a lot of people within our company care about in the same way that the presence of diversity focus here.

Do you help push for DEI at Cloudflare, Greencloud is helping push for sustainability, and I think the last thing is sustainability is really such an intersectional issue, underrepresented communities and underserved communities are the most likely to be impacted by climate change first.

And so being involved in the ERG community at Cloudflare helps us stay connected and keep that intersectional perspective really front and center in all of our dialog as a group.

I am so glad I asked.

It was such a good answer.

Like you see kind of the breadth of it all. And I love that you bring in intersectionality.

It's just so critical.

Now you wonder why doesn't every company have any ERG like that?

Exactly right.

So, Jessica, I would love to talk a bit about Desiflare, because one of the things that I heard and I'm going to admit we did this wrong at Cloudflare, that a lot of times when we talk about measuring the diversity of our teams, we have, I think for maybe US based companies especially, we tend to default to what we are required to report on to the government.

And in that was like Asian and it was this huge bucket.

And so I heard a lot that like I don't see myself in these categories or too broad in some ways and not broad enough in others.

And so, that was something that really resonated with me.

And so we've done a lot of work to work on how we capture diversity data.

Cloudflare So would you talk about how how does Claire kind of view that, and the importance of getting that ERG started here?

Yeah, definitely.

Myself, I can speak for my experiences. I was born in India and then I moved to Sweden when I was about 11 years old.

So, for me, I have obviously lived and grown up in India.

I went to school there, have born to Indian parents, and then moved to a completely different country with a completely different culture in the Nordics and then moved here for work, to work for Cloudflare in London.

So everybody has a very different experience of what it is to be connected to your culture and connect it to your heritage and connect to your roots.

Some might look a certain way and find that connection there.

Some might feel a certain way and have their stories and their roots and kind of the heritage that they have grown up in.

So I think that plays a really important role in how you define and how you relate to a certain subgroup.

And it's not always that you just relate to one.

You might relate to a few different ones depending on how you've been brought up, where your parents come from and where you've lived, right?

But also what cultures are most attractive to you, what kind of interests you and where you're drawn to?

So I think within that saying, Asian is very broad and that's why we've narrowed it down and basic layer to southeast is South Asian.

So that basically includes all of the all of the countries in South Asia, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and many others that have a similar sense of culture and community.

Of course, there's so much diversity just within India, there's so much diversity just within Pakistan and in each country.

So it's impossible to have everything under the same roof.

But we still wanted to make it into a community.

And, like Sofia said, I think the most beautiful thing about having a community and having an ERG at Cloudflare is that you get to not only meet people that you wouldn't otherwise be working with, but also have people around that you can share your experiences with if you're going through something similar.

And in they see flare during COVID, there were a lot of our American colleagues that were having a lot of immigration issues or having to go back to India, having their parents visit things like this that we actually created guides on and we educated from our own experiences, other people around who are struggling with the same with similar things.

In London, we organized an event around cricket because in Britain cricket is still a thing which, you know, luckily for us we could connect it to what we were also experiencing growing up in the countries and in South Asia.

So there's there's community events that we do. We've done virtual events, we've done trainings, we've done shared experiences during COVID as well.

We there was a point where India had completely lost any oxygen supply and we actually raised we actually created a list of resources that were reliable for to raise funds.

And all of the Cloudflare community contributed to that.

We, we advertised it on the beer meetings.

And so I think overall they see flares is for any allies and anybody who feels connected to the South Asian community.

But again, it's any anybody in everybody that wants to be a part and support that or just wants to learn about the new experiences.

We've had people who have just popped in to an event and been excited to hear about why we've celebrated something and why we have an event.

So I think that is the most exciting part about running in New York is that you get to educate so many people about the things that are closest to you in your heart.

Yeah, I think that's so true. And also your point about when there is a crisis or emergency to be able to galvanize people like here are some trusted resources and be able to kind of funnel places, funnel the help into the right places.

I feel like that's just been such a big part of.

Kind of look like look around the room like almost a lot of our ERGs have a story like that.

Yeah. So this week is all about making an impact.

And so I would love to hear, as you think about your ERG, maybe in 2022 or even these last few years, where do you think the ERG has made the biggest impact?

And Sophie, I'm going to start with you, but I would love.

Any and all of you to answer this question.


In thinking about this question, I realized it's kind of it's hard to measure the impact of like building a community, but it's definitely a feeling that feels really.

It's a new feeling and it's growing, I think, with us. One of the ways that I think about measuring kind of a simple way to measure it is we went from almost 30 to closer to seven between 70 to 80 members.

And not only is that just folks have joined in the year, but I think the consistent folks, people who are showing up, who are wanting to connect, are actually really starting to form real relationships with people, which is really cool to watch as a leader because, you know, we're there to facilitate and bring people together.

But what happens once everyone's together has nothing to do with us and everything to do with them connecting.

So watching folks come back, we have monthly coffee chats where we get together and folks have coffee and we chat.

And like I said, sometimes we talk about disability and accessibility and sometimes we don't.

But folks who work on different teams are getting together now outside of our group meetings.

They're talking about work in addition to just life, which is pretty cool because they're starting to work better together cross functionally because as a result of meeting through flexibility.

One other thing that I'm really excited excited about is a subgroup that our team or that our ERG came up with is, is now we have a neurodiversity group which is an offset of flexibility and so that one's going to start growing.

It's still small and mighty, but really excited to see what happens there as well.

Anyone else want to share an impact your ear has had in the last year?

I think I talked a little bit about there around COVID.

That's been a part of our lives the last two years and it doesn't seem to leave us.

So it's during that time, I think we were all struggling with different things and kind of trying to cope through what was going on.

And during that time, especially with the DC flare, there was a lot of a sense of that.

The family layouts are very similar in a lot of the South Asian community, which by that I mean the grandparents are very close to the to the kid, to the grandkids that they're often living together or visiting.

Often there's a close community where when you visit them, often you're there part of your lives.

So that completely went away during COVID and we were trying to cope with how we can overcome that and how we can make it accessible for people to still have those experiences while being following the rules and adhering to all of that.

So we've done a lot of help and kind of coaching and kind of counseling each other and getting through this tough time together.

So I think in that, of course you have your team and you have your friends to reach out to during these times, but they might have a different life experience.

They might have a different family structure than you and they might not always have the same things that they're struggling with during a time that was very trying.

So just having a sense of relatability with everybody that you were talking to within the ERG just helped tremendously to kind of be like, okay, we'll get through and get through this together.

This is how I'm getting through it.

This is how you can do it.

And this is what's allowed in the rules that we have and things like that.

If I can jump in here, too.

I think when it comes to Afro Flare and the time that I've been here, when I first started, I was one of two black people in the Austin office.

It's a new day, you know.

Our group has also been growing, just like Sofia said.

It's just this surge of people and not just members, but also allies that are contributing and feeling like they can also celebrate and do some of these things that we do naturally or that are very key and core to our group.

And, you know, over time, you know, we've been working more with recruiting.

We went to Afro Tech this year.

It was in Austin.

It was amazing. We also had a Black Women in Tech event, which was a discussion panel on what it's like to be in this group and in tech and the challenges we usually face.

Another big thing that we did is, you know, after during the Black Lives Matter protests, we really worked with the community here in Cloudflare to try and help members heal.

We had healing sessions with a professional therapist to kind of have like these this small group discussion.

And some of us cried and it was just about that connection.

And then we also provided a lot of resources for allies to educate themselves and know how to be a good ally.

We had Ally Sessions, so it's all like a a wonderful thing.

And these are some things we're hoping to also bring into 2023.

But we have some other awesome ideas that we're looking forward to in U.S.

Black History Month and beyond.

Annika, Shadnaz, anything you want to share about impact and.


Should I? Should I just like I'm three weeks old and actually in the origin story I feel like that was such a big impact as well.

But anything you want to kind of share with the group.

I think something.

That's been cool to watch over the last few years is how Greencloud is helping our customers, not just the folks inside of Cloudflare and thinking about our direct impact as Cloudflare, but also how we help our customers make more sustainable decisions for their own network.

So some of the announcements that went out for impact, I think on Wednesday we had a sustainability focus day hour around helping our customers understand the carbon use of their use of Cloudflare Services and how they can reduce it.

We've got products like the Green Pops, which allow customers to run compute workloads in data centers that are powered by renewable energy.

And a lot of green cloud members are really instrumental in helping products like that get off the ground.

So really a place of generating new ideas and helping with not just the direct impact on our own organization, but then also this sort of second order and third order effects of our customers in their and customers at the end.

I think if I can just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger, the more you talk about.

Anika. I'm sorry, Jessica, go ahead. Yeah.

Being in a customer facing world in the Nordics, sustainability is a huge, huge question.

We actually are one of the vendors that differentiate ourselves within sustainability.

So there's nobody else really out in the market that has that carbon report or shows the impact that we are having towards our customers.

And that's huge.

So it's plus one to green flair.

I have also been a part of it as a member rather than a leader, and it's a great community.

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