*APAC Heritage Month* Fireside Chat: Roy Lo
Roy Lo, EMEA Sales Manager in Cloudflare, will share the story of his career, and the path he took to be where he is today.
Okay, hi everyone. My name is Alina Ha and I work as a Customer Success at Cloudflare and today we have, we're kicking off our APAC Heritage Month at Cloudflare together with Roy Lo who is joining me today.
And so like just to give you a little bit about the APAC Heritage Month, so Azure Flair and Disney Flair and Cloudflare, we are planning a month-long celebration of our colleagues of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage.
And today myself and Roy will talk about his story and his career, the path he took to be here as he is today.
And so Roy, can you please introduce yourself, tell me your name and title and what you do at Cloudflare?
First and foremost, pleasure to be here.
And I've got to apologize about the background.
Apparently there's a bug in Zoom so I couldn't get the APAC Heritage Month background behind me.
But yeah, I'm Roy Lo and I am a Sales Manager for the UK, Ireland and Sub-Saharan team.
I manage both the mid-market team and the field team for my regions.
Nice. And you know, I remember first time I actually met you virtually.
It was last year, you remember we were doing virtual drinks every Friday and you were putting music.
And honestly, this was very nice and very kind of welcoming thing, especially I joined Cloudflare virtually.
I didn't know anyone and I was very shy to speak to people.
And you know, those gatherings were like, you know, you kind of can blend in in the background, but at the same time, listen to some nice music, hear some like chit -chats that you usually hear like, you know, kitchen.
And yeah, like this was really cool introduction to yourself. Yeah, that was one of the things that we were doing during the first lockdown when it first happened.
And we thought to ourselves, how can we be more social? Because normally when we're in the office on a Friday, you might go down the pub or somewhere and socialize with your workmates.
So we said, let's do a weekly happy hour.
So during the first lockdown, we did a Friday happy hour, you know, drink soft drinks.
And then a few of my team were also DJs. So we took it in terms to rotate the DJs and what type of music that we're playing and stuff.
So that was fun.
And then that kind of extended out to, okay, we just have a free invite for the other departments.
And that's when, yeah, you first popped in. Yeah, but it's like, I think that's what I love about Cloudflare, you know, that doesn't matter how you join and whether you know people, you always find a way to kind of feel yourself part of something.
And speaking of, you know, like last year and how everything changed.
Can you just tell me how have you been holding up in 2020? Like as a leader, have you made any adjustments?
And like personally as well? How did that affect you last year?
Yeah, I mean, on a personal front, it's been it's been pretty good.
I have three children. So it's been great seeing more of them. I mean, they're probably fed up with me now.
But yeah, it's been really good. And just sort of, I guess I've also reignited some of my old hobbies and interests and stuff, which has been quite, quite cool.
But yeah, definitely missing friends, family, socialising, partying.
And now that weather's getting better, obviously, we're in the UK, the weather's been cold and miserable through the autumn and winter.
Now that spring's it's good that we can enjoy more of the outdoors.
And yeah, it's things are looking up again.
So that's my personal point of view. It's been good. But I haven't been as social as I'd like to have been.
In terms of professionally. Yeah, I mean, I think we've done really well.
We're, you know, thankful that we're in a great company and industry that's doing really well.
For my team, we just encourage each other to make sure that we stay connected, team collaboration stuff like what we spoke about the happy hour drinks and making sure that we have informal tea breaks, because half my team actually were hired during the last year.
So many people haven't actually met each other in person.
And obviously, you're the same as well, right?
You haven't met a lot of the team in person. So making sure that people are staying connected, having the informal breaks that you know, the water cooler, tea breaks that you don't have anymore.
And also, I think it's also been easier to stay connected with customers in certain aspects, because they're more willing to meet you virtually face to face, whereas you have to do the traveling and, and prepare, you know, everything else beforehand.
So yeah, that's been really good.
In terms of what we do, because I manage the sales team, we've had to be mindful in terms of certain customers, their situation, because some have flourished, some haven't.
So we've had to look at the industries and verticals in terms of who we speak to who we prospect and, and who would, you know, adopt and use our services.
Yeah, I definitely like the same for us, I think, customers also feeling that we're in the same boat, like, you know, we going through the same things, or sometimes I'll start conversations.
And there's like, yeah, I had, like, you know, I was ill, and you start, like, discussing how was it and you share all the moments.
And personally, I find that it's made it more like you connect with them more.
And it's more human touch, you know, human kind of connections with them, rather than like, okay, let's make a bit do the business and, you know, make a transaction.
So thank you so much, you started to talk about, you know, like work related and more of how you work with your team.
And, you know, every quarter, we hear really great things about, you know, like your team yourself, and in your career, has it been a piece of advice that's, you know, set you up for success?
Can you share with us? I think that in your career, you really have to, I think everything that you do in life, you have to set yourself goals, something to aim for.
And you have to plan that journey, how, what is the end goal?
And how do you get there? And it's also fine, if it doesn't pan out the way you want it to pan out, because you can reset and have new goals.
And as we evolve, we always have new goals, you have short term goals, long term goals, and absolutely plan of how you get there, have your one year goal, five year plan, 10 year plan, it's the same as our business, you know, as we grow as well, we have a long term, long term plan.
And I also think that use it as part of your learning, always be learning, never, you never know enough, every day is a school day.
And make sure that you surround yourself with the right people, the ambitious people, smart people, because ultimately, if you have high aspirations, and you want to go somewhere and you have big ambitions, having those types of people around you will push you.
And, and naturally, you will, you will learn those things and progress towards those goals that you have.
Yeah, sounded, I agree. And another thing is like, I think you're right about, you know, hiring, like being around smart people, right, and putting some goals, I think, one of the motivation for me always to be surrounded by people I can always learn from, you know, like not to be the smartest person in the room.
And, and, you know, like, obviously, now, it's very different, right, like how it's been before.
And do you have a story for us from your early days of your career that will contrast to what it is right, like, right now, like today?
I've been in technology sales for 22, 23 years now. So massive contrast, I can think of, when I first started, I was selling hardware, you know, today, where most organisations look at cloud based solutions, selling hardware, I'm just trying to think, going back in the day, I mean, today, buyers are much more informed in terms of information that you have, everything's online, people have written reviews, it's freely available.
And today, it's about the buying experience and level of service that you provide to the customer, not just the products.
And it's the same for our sellers, we're much more informed about the people we're targeting, we have LinkedIn, all different sources that we can focus on.
And there's more focus on social selling the tools. Whereas I guess, when I started, it was, the contrast was that it was most of it's cold calling, we didn't have LinkedIn and everything else, it was a case of not selling hardware.
I mean, we were still selling solutions to connect to the Internet.
But I was selling routers and 56k and 33k modems to dial up to the Internet.
I mean, people will remember the days of those modems, you know, the phone noise and the crackling noise that you had to connect.
And then, you know, the speed of things that download, you know, video would have been impossible back in those days, I guess, even uploading a photo took minutes.
I guess the major contrast is that, you know, I moved my way up like most people from like a BDR, internal sales and, you know, AE, etc.
And then now sales leader. But I guess the contrast now is that today we have lots of these tools, intelligence tools to look at like LinkedIn and all the other tools to gather data and contact details.
But before it was kind of, you had yellow pages and a script, and a phone, and then you were told to do X amount of dials per day, or sometimes, they even encouraged you to go and knock on people's doors and things like that.
So I guess that's a major contrast from, from, you know, the early days of my career, but selling is still selling, the principles are still there.
I didn't find identifying the right customers needs, and making sure that you got a solution that fits their needs.
In terms of selling, do you think it's like you said, Oh, before, like, we didn't have LinkedIn.
And I remember that, like, actually, back the other day, I was thinking, Oh, my God, like, we didn't have Instagram, like, you know, what, 16 years ago, or something like that.
And we were fine. And, and what do you think about selling?
Like, would it change in 10 years time, or would be like, we'll just have another tool.
But the concept of this, finding the right contact and finding this, you know, connection with customers would be the same.
I think the concept is always the same, the tools may may change.
And that's the one thing that we have to do, right, is to adapt to those changes.
But the actual concepts of selling gets in hold of people understanding where, you know, where our solution will fit in and talking about business needs and points that will always be there.
But the way of getting hold of people contacting them would get more sophisticated, probably, but sometimes it's the most simple ways of, you know, getting hold of people is the easiest sometimes.
That's so true. Okay. And, you know, very philosophical question to you.
Like, if you, if I can magically put in front of you a version of yourself, from the first year of your career, was your entire journey in front of you?
What would you tell the audience? What would you tell yourself? And how, you know, like, what advice would you give yourself and the audience that are watching us right now?
Wow, wouldn't we all love to have a time machine to go back and readjust and redo things or learn from the things that you did?
That's also part of your life journey, right?
You know, what you learn, how you adapt to it, how you change and, you know, learn from those experiences.
But what would I say to myself if I went back?
If I had the time machine and went back, I'd say that, again, you know, already I've said make sure you set yourself goals, plan, achieve, reset if you have to.
If you want, you know, an ambitious person, just tell your manager where you want to be, how you're going to get there, and find help from your manager, from people senior than you to have a plan of how to guide you and get you there.
In the technology world, you have to constantly adapt. That's the constant thing that we have is the change.
Technology is always changing. The way we work, the solutions we sell are constantly evolving and keeping up to date with it all, making sure that you're on point with the trends and addressing the market, keeping an eye on the industry trends, you know, who are setting the trends, who's disrupting the industry, what's worked, what hasn't worked, who are the established players, who are the up -and-coming players.
I mean, personally, I've worked for established players, and I've worked for the up-and-coming players, and it's a different world, and I definitely think working for Cloudflare, who is an up-and-coming disruptor, and I've been here five and a half years, it's definitely more fun than working for the big, large, corporate, well-established guys, but I'd say that, yeah, I mean, there's some of the things, and I also say that, you know, selling is a roller coaster.
Make sure you have a really strong mindset, keep motivated, and, you know, learn from the things that don't work out, and that's what I'd say to myself if I had a time machine.
Whether or not I do things differently, I don't know, you know, it'd be great if I do have a time machine and a crystal ball, because I don't know, you know, you might be a lot more well-off than you are currently, but, you know, I wouldn't change things as such, but that's some of the things that I would say and advise.
I totally agree with you.
I think a lot of the time when we're younger, right, and less experienced, we think people can read our minds, you know, they can understand what we want, but, you know, sometimes we just need to go and get it, but, like, we need to be open with our managers, you know, like our peers, what we want and what we're looking, what motivates us, and I'm sure, like, we will be directed to the, you know, pathway we are, tend to be, right, and something when it doesn't happen, but it's not meant to be, like, I guess we just need to let, but, you know, you were talking about it, and I think a lot of, and I'm not saying, like, I'm sure there is a lot of that came from the, your personal experience, your, like, you know, background, how you grew up, and so let's shine more spotlight on you as a person, and can you give us, like, a brief path of your, you know, like, that took you here to sales, to be a sales manager in Cloudflare?
Okay, you mean within Cloudflare or from the beginning?
Like, just to, I guess, more, how did you, I guess, end up being a salesperson, like, did you always want to be a salesperson, or how did it start?
I fell into it by accident, I mean, yeah, my, if I'm going way, way back, my journey started as, how can I put it, so my parents were first generation Chinese immigrants that came over to the UK, and they, you know, when you come over, you naturally have to set up a business, and, you know, I'm very much stereotypical here, where my parents ran a Chinese restaurant, but us as kids, we were drafted into the business very early, we had to, had to work, you know, as soon as we were old enough and able enough, we were in the back, prepping food, or doing the market runs, getting the stock, and from a very early age, I had, that business understanding was instilled into me, that hard, well, that hard work and ethic was instilled into me, learning how to run a business, what it meant to, you know, get orders, customers, customer satisfaction, and I guess part of that was, you know, working in the back, prepping food, working at the front of house, making sure customers are happy, taking orders, and I guess that instilled the, some of the business acumen and hard work and ethic into me, and it got to a point where I knew that wasn't what I wanted to do, and obviously my parents didn't want that for me either, because as first-generation immigrants coming over, they always want the best for their kids, they want the, they want them to, you know, go and get a degree, have a profession, and, you know, typically it's, you know, again, you know, we laugh and joke about it, you know, go be a lawyer, an accountant, a doctor, that type of thing, but I, that's not what I wanted to do either, but I grew up in a environment, in the restaurant, we had lots of waiters and waitresses that came over from Hong Kong and China as well, and one of the waiters actually working for my parents was, that was his second job, that was his evening job, and he worked in an IT distribution company, and my parents always bugging me about, you know, go and get a, you know, profession, everything else, and I thought to myself, yeah, working in the restaurant business, seven days a week, I see how hard it is, 16 hours a day, not for me, and the waiter in the restaurant said to me that, yeah, you know, how about you, you know, I think there's some BDR cold calling type of jobs going on, why don't you apply, so that's how I got there, and that goes back to the story I just mentioned around selling modems and routers to connect to the Internet, and literally, I started there, this was 20 something years ago, on like 12 grand a year, or whatever it was, you know, literally next to nothing, and it was, here's a script, here's a phone, here's a bunch of phone numbers, go and book us some appointments, and that's how I started, 20 plus years ago.
Like, you know, there's so many similarities, and we talked about this, right, like from my parents also running restaurant business, and I know, like, what you're talking about, like, I've been wiping tables and helping since I was 10, you know, and then, like, I grew up, and I was promoting every year, like, you know, and every time I was asking for some money, they were like, well, you know, it's coming, you know, the family budget, but I remember I was promoted to, in 18 years, to a bartender, and I was like, oh my god, this is like the pinnacle of my career, and I do agree, it's, it shows, like, it does give you this business ethics, you know, understanding, because you do work all the time with people, like, you, it's kind of, I think everyone needs to go through this, you know, waitress type of restaurant type of work, because you meet so many different people, you have to adapt so much to different style working, and I believe it does make you, I can think, then sales, and being BDR, and then talking to people, like, it's just kind of, not, I don't want to say easy, but it's very manageable, because you've done it already in a very different way, right?
Yeah, it definitely instills that hard work ethic behind you, a sense and understanding of business, how it works, then it gives you exposure to, obviously, different demographics of people, and the way you have to adapt to them, because the customers are completely different, and obviously, you know, you have to be customer-facing, and you have to sell, ultimately, as well, you know, in that line of business, you have to sell, because ultimately, you want them to spend more on food and beverages, so, you know, there are very, very close similarities to, you know, business, you know, across all aspects.
Yeah, and you mentioned, like, wanted to hear more about your personal hobbies, you said, like, you know, you came back to your hobbies, and tell us more about your DJ career, like, we want to hear more.
That was, that was, growing up in South London, in the Surrey suburbs, in the 90s, we weren't very much into music, and yeah, all my friends were DJing, or radio stations, and the entrepreneurial side of us also made us want to host our own evenings, so we used to go to the local bars, and clubs, and print off our own flyers, and tout people, and organise our own nights, and to the clubs and bars, it's all about the headcount, and people you have in, but for us, it was about the love of music, playing in front of an audience, so me and my friends, yeah, we used to, we used to love playing music, DJing, record shopping, and that's, you know, that's a fun fact, but for me, I guess, is that I still collect vinyl, and I still put, and I have probably over 3,000 vinyl of different genres, mostly house, which is soulful, funky, tech, deep, and also things like very much London, UK-centric music, like Garage, and Drum and Bass, and things like that, and yeah, I mean, that's one of the hobbies that I've kind of rekindled, and rediscovered in lockdown, was that I've got this room full of all this vinyl that I've collected for over 25 years, and started to enjoy that, and part of our Friday night happy hours was that, yeah, getting all that music out, and playing that again, and yeah, it's been, it's been, it's been, yeah, a big part of my life, and yeah, it's kind of taken a bit of a back seat now, obviously, with work, and family, and stuff, but yeah, it'll always be, you know, a hobby that I'll get back into.
That's really cool, like, I think it's nice to hear to everyone that, you know, from the very professional, you know, like, front, there is, like, a fun part of you that's still, like, and I really like that the first, as I said, impression of you, and the first introduction to you was for this happy hours, you know, music, and fun part, and, like, makes it so much nicer to get to know everyone in Klaffler, right, and we only have a few minutes left, but I wanted to ask you, like, we, we spoke a lot, you know, about your work in Klaffler, but how did you, like, what was your path to Klaffler, how did you get here, like, and you've been here for five years, it's, like, now, it's almost, nearly five, nearly six years now, so I, I've worked in IT distribution to, to begin with, and selling products like Cisco, 3Com, networking products, and then I went to APC, which is American Power Conversion, who's owned by Schneider Electric, selling cooling and powerful data centers, and then went to Cisco and Rackspace, so, you know, combinations, as I said, some of the established players, like Cisco, then working at Rackspace, who was an up-and -coming hosting partner, and it was really exciting seeing that growth, and going there in the early days, where a few hundred people leaving there, when there were thousands of people, and then going on to Riverbed, who were an up-and-coming WAN optimization player, and doing really well there, and they became public, so I went through it for IPO, actually at Rackspace and Riverbed, and one of the guys that I worked with was headhunted to help build the sales team for Cloudflare six years ago, and back in those days, Cloudflare, there wasn't any sales in EMEA, there was a small engineering and support function with about 15 people, and then there, and then they started growing it, and I hired Mike's colleague to set up the sales team, and he basically said to me, you should come and join Cloudflare, really exciting pre-IPO, they're doing some great things to make the Internet a better place, but at the time, I was like, yeah, I'm doing well, I have a young family, I'm well established, I don't know if I can take those risks, and it was a startup back in those days, I think it was 100 employees globally, but Mike's colleague kept on calling me every couple of months saying, look, come and join us, I think you'd be, yeah, I think you do well, and it'd be really exciting to have you on board, so I thought, okay, I'll give it a chance, and came in and thought, wow, you know, what a great journey, and a story that Cloudflare have been on already, and I'd love to be part of it, and take it to the next level, and when I joined, there was two sales people, Julian and Michael Merzai, and two SEs, James Ball, who now heads up the global CSE team, and also Michael Tremonti, who headed up the global SE team for a little while, now he's in the PM team, and that was us, that was the dream team back in those days, was that there were five people in sales, and I remember interviewing, where you walked in, and there was a corridor, one office was the support and engineering team, and there was probably about 20 people on that team, and the sales office was a room with four or five desks, and that was it, and yeah, about 25 people in the UK over in Bank, and then we moved to Lamington Street, I joined as an AE, I helped with building the the EMEA region, and we can sell everywhere, back in those days, we sold the whole of EMEA, was basically the world of ours, that we can sell across all regions, we had no BDRs, no marketing, and the phone line, we had to take the support calls, and it was scary, our way of onboarding new hires, was to say to them, until the next new hire comes, the phone is yours, every inbound call, you have to take, whether it's support, whether it's for a free plan, the phone is yours, so it was quite scary, basically answering 20, 30 calls a day, and it could be anything random, it could be someone wanting support, someone trying to sell you things, someone wondering why the website they try and buy something from, isn't working, so yeah, it was crazy times, and obviously, as you grow, you kind of segment and look at specialising in terms of, first and foremost, putting languages and people country-specific in place, and yeah, and then obviously, to who we are today, over 2,000 employees, and nearly a couple hundred, yeah, in the EMEA sales team, there's probably 150 plus people in the complete sales team now, so that was my journey, started as a help bring some partners on board, like for example Rackspace, I helped that, they didn't do anything with us in the early days, and helped bring those guys on board, and now, and then on to looking after being a team lead, and then a sales manager, so that was my journey into Cloudflare.
That sounds so exciting, you know, I love, I think nowadays, it's very rare when you can find people who stay in one company for, you know, over two, three years, and meeting someone who is here for five years, and especially like, startups are always hard, right, like because it's, you have this growth pains, and as you said, like you do everything, like you're a master of everything, and I think it tells a lot about the company, and the culture, and the product itself, that you stayed here because, you know, something, you saw something in Cloudflare.
Yeah, it was brilliant, I mean, at the time, it was a bit risky working for the established vendor, then jumping into somewhere where there was, there was a big dream, but we all believed in the dream, and yeah, when you work for somewhere that's literally in a, almost a startup phase, yeah, you had to get stuck in, you had to do everything, you had to be a receptionist, a marketing person, we had to carry boxes from, to all the events that we went to, you had to do everything yourself, be a support person, be a BDR, but that's also part of the learning as well, and that was great fun to get stuck in, and you know, do absolutely, you know, different things across all the functions.
That's amazing, but yeah, like, thank you so much, we have just one minute to go, and I'm sure you, and like, and like, I just want to remind everyone that, first of all, we have a lot of openings, you know, like roles in Cloudflare, and please, you know, check out our LinkedIn, you know, like our career page on our website, and also we'll have many, many more cool conversations like this for our APAC Heritage Months, please check out our Cloudflare TV schedule, and Roy, any last thoughts to our audience?
Any last thoughts to our audience?
Look, those that are within Cloudflare, and want to speak to me, feel free to speak to me, more than happy to help and assist, and anyone who's seen this from the outside world, yes, you know, it's a great, fantastic place, and yeah, more than happy to share more of my experiences, and our experiences, and if you want to learn more, just reach out to us.
Cool, thank you so much, everyone, and we are wrapping up.
Thank you so much, Roy. Thank you. Bye-bye.