Between Two Clouds - A Look Inside Cloudflare Support
Inside Cloudflare Support explores the people and processes behind Cloudflare's Customer Support team and service. Each segment will include a discussion with a different Customer Support professional on their experiences and their take on the effort to support Cloudflare's customers and products.
Hello and welcome to Between Two Clouds Inside Cloudflare Customer Support, the Cloudflare TV segment where we get to know members of the customer support team and just generally how Cloudflare does customer support.
Today I have a really special guest with me and my name is Shane Ossa and I'm your host and I have a really special guest with me today who used to be a tech support engineer at Cloudflare on the customer support team and has recently transitioned to an exciting new role on the solutions engineering team.
I have with me today Alex Mayorga. Hey Alex. Hey Shane, how are you?
I'm good, how are you doing? Doing great, thanks for having me today.
Yeah, thanks for coming on and welcome to the show. We usually are getting to know members of our team.
Today we're getting to know you, a member of the SE team, but you're still considered customer support familia here forever.
Yeah, you have a t-shirt to prove it.
I have the t-shirt to prove it. No, I spent three years and four amazing months doing technical support here at Cloudflare and that actually positioned me well to transition into this new role that I'm doing in the solutions engineering department where I help to be a trusted advisor for prospective customers of Cloudflare, especially in Latin America.
But all the things that I learned in support definitely helped me do this role in a much better way.
Yeah, that's great. Maybe we can dig into that a little bit more.
So solutions engineer, you said trusted advisor for Cloudflare prospects. Can you tell me a little bit more about what the solutions engineer role does?
Yeah, so we participate in meetings with prospective customers that are interested on Cloudflare.
I mean, the level that they know our solutions and our products might vary.
So we participate, we can participate from the discovery part, what we call the discovery call, where we basically meet it with a customer over a Zoom call or in person when that's possible again and basically try to gather what their needs are and how the different solutions and products that Cloudflare has align into solving those needs.
And then after that, if the customer or the prospective customer is interested, we can proceed to coordinate what we call a proof of concept on which they basically will onboard some of their web properties or add a specific web property that they want to test in the platform.
And from then on, I'm going to basically be the technical support person for that proof of concept.
Proof of concepts vary, but it normally takes about from one week to a couple of weeks on where they basically test all that they need to test on Cloudflare and then make a decision to stay as an enterprise customer.
And from then on, we have to do a transition period with their CSM and CSE.
Yeah. Cool. That's one thing. Yeah.
So it sounds a little bit like what I've heard in other industries or companies called technical sales role almost.
Yes, exactly. That's exactly right.
Yeah. Cool. Yeah. And so talk to me about how your experience as a tech support engineer sort of helped with the solutions engineer side.
Yeah. So as you probably know, the broad and depth of all the Cloudflare products and solutions is very, very vast.
So I remember when I joined support, we will learn a given feature, you know, by training and by helping customers, by setting up our own domains, having labs and all that.
So the fact that I got to know all these different solutions is definitely handy when I have to tell a customer why they should try X or Y feature and how that specific feature will help their use cases, advance their business in the end.
That's great. Yeah. That makes sense. So you have hands-on experience with the products and features already.
So it makes sense that now you can, you know, help a prospective customer figure out what the best solution is for their needs.
So yeah, that makes sense. Is there a particular product line that you work with more or is it just whatever the customer needs?
So it's basically depending on the customer needs, but something that is very active and that customers are reaching out to Cloudflare for is definitely Cloudflare for Teams and the Cloudflare for Cloudflare One solution, where they have like an integrated Zero Trust solutions that they can enable with a few clicks, basically.
So that is definitely something that the market is very receptive to. Almost all the conversations that I've had thus far kind of tend to go that way.
In general, it's like a very popular solution and product right now.
Yeah. Yeah. That's great.
Yeah. That's what I've heard as well. So that's amazing. You were, you know, you were with the support team for about three and a half years and then transitioned to the solutions engineer role.
And that's pretty cool that at Cloudflare, you know, we have these sort of opportunities for growth into different teams, into different roles.
You know, each department hires people externally, of course, external candidates, but also internal candidates that people can transfer.
So if you do have a career goal to work in sales or to be an engineer, a software developer, or, you know, a program manager or a product manager that we sort of have those opportunities internally as well.
And I think that's really great.
And the support team in particular has sort of, you know, seen people transition to a lot of different roles within the company, which is great because we have sort of champions in each, on each team.
Yeah, no, basically all the things that you mentioned are true stories that have happened to support engineers.
We have colleagues that are now product managers, colleagues that before were in support and now are network engineers.
Definitely we have a couple of CSMs that came from support.
So yeah, no, it's definitely a thing.
And that's something that I really appreciate being a part of Cloudflare. People has the flexibility to explore and pursue the career of their dreams, not only, you know, on job roles, but also I see that they can move across locations where we have offices and like, yeah, definitely, definitely something that I have not seen in other companies that that much, but yeah, definitely a thing here.
Yeah, it's really great.
So I'm based in San Francisco, California, out to California.
And you're based, are you still in Austin? Yes, I'm in the Austin metropolitan area.
I came originally from Mexico. I was living in Monterey before, but then I moved here for the job.
Yeah. So currently Cloudflare doesn't have any like bases in Central America or South America to work out of yet.
Is that correct?
No, not yet, but I'm working from the inside to change that. There you go. There's Miami, I guess, in Florida, I think, right?
There's a small office there.
Yeah. There's a sales office in Miami. Yeah. And are there any sales offices in South America yet, or Santiago or Brazil or Argentina?
I don't think they are.
We just have data centers all over South America and Central America and North America, but not yet.
Of course. Yeah. So that's interesting. So tell me a little bit more about your origin story and how you found yourself working at Cloudflare on the tech support team.
I heard that there might've been a browser and a pizza party involved.
It was, it was. So yeah, at the very beginning, I studied information systems engineering, graduated around 2004.
And then I had my first job as a Jack of all trades for a local university in my home state of Zacatecas.
I stayed in that job for about a year and a half. And I was doing, like, I basically built that network with my hands.
I plug every computer in that university.
I run the cables. Everything was my doing. And that was amazing. I also teach some programming back then in Java and Prolog, basically.
And then after that, I moved to a consulting firm in Monterey, where I work for a financial company for 13 years.
And in there, I was doing Java application servers, mostly WebSphere and WebLogic.
And in that one, I was kind of working as part of the CTO office, doing all things Java, basically.
So I buried my head deep into stack traces and crashes of the GBM and all that.
I worked with various vendors in there. And then since 2007, around that, I've been a volunteer for Mozilla, the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation, the maker of Firefox.
And as part of that volunteering, I discovered a program they had back then called the Mozilla Tech Speakers.
And in this one, basically, Mozilla takes a number of volunteers and teach them a tiny bit about public speaking and how to, like, do what we're doing now, like, you know, TV interviews, radio interviews, because they don't have a giant budget, like you have sales reps, if you will, in every corner of the country.
So I participate in that. And as part of that, at the end of the program, we stay and I still connect there.
We have a chat room where we interact. And somebody there was like, hey, check this company, the one with the orange cloud, because they sponsor pizza for your meetups.
I think the program still exists in Cloudflare.
So basically, if you have a technical meetup, if you speak for a couple minutes about what Cloudflare does, they can pay for your pizza for your meetup.
And that's how I learned about Cloudflare. Somebody shared that resource there, and I was like, oh, Cloudflare.
And at the time, I hadn't really heard of it. But then I started researching the company.
And what really stuck with me was the part about the mission of helping build a better Internet.
As you might think, part of me volunteering to Mozilla was that idea of, like, yeah, let's build that Internet that is more inclusive, more open, more helpful in general for everybody.
So that mission basically went right to my heart. And I was like, oh, let's see what they have for openings.
And it turns out they had an opening for somebody that spoke Spanish to do technical support.
And that was me. I applied, and then I got some interviews here in Austin.
That was actually my first ever time visiting Austin for the interviews.
Wow. And fortunately for me, I was selected to be a member of the technical support team, where I spent then three and a half awesome years with all the crew in there.
That's right. Yeah, it was quite a journey.
And here I am now. That's right. Yeah, thanks for sharing. And I remember when you started, and it was great to have you on the team.
Everyone really loved your presence and the energy you brought every day.
And we miss you.
Come back now. We're happy for you to be on the solutions team and to have a friend on the solutions team.
So when you were doing support in Spanish, were you supporting customers in Spanish?
I know we do a lot of English support and you were doing that, but did we get a Spanish kind of support program off the ground?
Yeah, definitely. I think that was part of when I started, that program was in the nascent part.
If you will. So we had a lot of manual things that we were doing.
We have a special queue that we had, some special alerts that we were monitoring.
But now I think we have Spanish speakers in our offices in Europe and here in the US.
So we kind of are covering almost 24 hours. I believe the next step for expansion and at the time I left was getting some Spanish speakers in our Asia Pacific offices have like this follow the sun coverage.
At the time I left, we kind of promised support from nine to five US time.
That was what I was doing at the time.
And definitely, yes, I had customers calling from Central America and South America sometimes, and I will answer the phone in English, but because of the tooling we have for you guys in support hub, we can see where the phone call is originating from.
So whenever I got like a five two country code, which is for Mexico, I will kind of ask, hey, would you be more comfortable talking in Spanish?
And if they were, I was always happy to carry the conversation in Spanish.
And for customers, they do appreciate that. I mean, if you come to them into their native languages, it's very useful for them, especially if they have like team members that do not speak English, that's a barrier that we reduce for them.
So they definitely appreciate that fact. Yeah, that's great. And do you think there's still a lot of opportunity in the market, in the Latin market for expansion and more Cloudflare customers?
And are we just getting started down there as well?
Are you getting a lot of prospects, for example, in that region? Yeah, definitely.
I think even though Cloudflare is a very well-known brand, it's mostly, as I said, in the English speaking regions, like it's big in Europe, it's expanding quite a lot in Asia Pacific as well.
I think definitely the markets in Latin America are prime to start listening to what Cloudflare has to offer, because there's a lot of companies down there moving to the cloud and exploring SaaS solutions and Zero Trust opportunities that they might have.
So yeah, definitely I see a great deal of potential in the region.
And that's basically my dream there is to help accelerate that and basically make the Internet faster in my home country and my home continent.
Yeah, that's exciting. So is there anything you sort of want to speak to about your experience in support?
Were there any highlights or major challenges that you feel like either the team or sort of the industry as a whole needs to address?
Now that you've kind of stepped back and into a different role, what's your sort of impression of supporting a platform like Cloudflare?
Yeah, well, definitely the interesting part of supporting a solution as Cloudflare is the depth and the breadth of the whole solution.
So you might start investigating an issue that you might find in a given section of the product or the offering, and then kind of like the rabbit hole takes you like, oh, guess that?
That was not it.
But it was the routing or something different. Or it was like, there's a very special case that I particularly remember when I had to become part of what they call the Tiger Teams Insights Board.
There was a customer in Brazil that was having a specific routing issue that was like very difficult to troubleshoot.
And back then, what I ended up discovering is that there was an issue not on Cloudflare infrastructure, but on an Internet exchange, I think in Rio somewhere.
Interesting. So it took me quite a few days of researching, and I ended up finding the root of the problem in the, you know, in the mailing list of the Internet exchange.
So for me, that was like, oh, this is great. That's exciting. Like in the guts of the Internet here.
You're fixing the Internet. You're actually...
Quite literally, our network team partner with the team on the Internet exchange and made the Internet better in Brazil, not only for our customer, but for everybody that was connecting there in Rio.
So that was amazing. Another particular story I remember quite well is as part of me volunteering for Mozilla, I like AlphaTest, the Firefox browser.
So I will have always the latest features that Mozilla had into the browser.
And one of those at the time was encrypted SNI. So I remember having an issue on, I think it was a blogging platform.
So I reported the bug on my spare time to Mozilla in their boot tracker.
And it was like, okay, yeah, we found the issue.
And it seems to be an issue with the rollout of the SNI on Cloudflare.
So I happened to be that connector because I was like inside Cloudflare.
Oh, that's great. So I ended up like asking on our internal bug tracker, like, hey, there's this issue, what we can do.
And I remember the top most highlight of that story was the fact that I proactively, I was told by the engineering team to proactively create a support ticket for this customer and basically tell them, hey, if you flip this setting in your Cloudflare dashboard, then the bug will not be a problem.
And I remember the customer being super appreciative because like I told them, right, like this is not a problem right now.
It's a problem that is going to happen in two versions ahead of Firefox. But there's the potential solution here that you can implement.
And for you, it's only like a click or a flick of a button of the setting.
So that kind of showed me like the real power of the Cloudflare platform right there, because this blogging platform has thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of users out there.
So for me, the fact that I wrote a ticket like that small paragraph and that made the Internet more secure for all these users, it was amazing.
That's cool. It was a real highlight of my tour de force in support.
That's great. That's so cool. Wow.
Yeah, I love that. Yeah. And with the Tiger Team one, those are fun too. And premium enterprise customers are sort of entitled to a Cloudflare Tiger Team, which can be sort of formed in response to a major event or incident or something that's happening.
And we sort of get a few people from each team, their success manager, their customer solutions engineer, and a senior tech support engineer and other people will sort of all start diving in and investigating the problem.
And so it is something that our premium customers can take advantage of, which is pretty cool.
Yeah, that's such a great story. I really love that. It's kind of a great like selling point for if anyone's watching out there thinking about applying for a tech support engineer job and thinking about the impact that you can have on a day-to-day basis on the Internet, on improving the Internet, on making it so a blogging platform with hundreds of thousands of users on it will not have a bug, right?
So it is some exciting problems that we get to work on and solve compared to maybe a call center that is you know, something not as cool.
I always say it like I'm not solving this performance issue for this one request, but I'm giving seconds or minutes of their time to humanity basically for them not to have to wait for a page to load, you know, that's my framing.
Multiplied by thousands and thousands, you're saving the world hours and hours of looking at an error screen.
Exactly, that's exactly right. That's cool.
On that front, on the recruiting front, you know, if there was anyone out there watching this wondering, gosh, maybe I would like to be a Cloudflare tech support engineer, that sounds pretty cool.
What advice would you have for a person like that?
Yeah, no, definitely if you're passionate about, you know, helping build a better Internet, literally, definitely check out the careers page.
That's basically what I did.
I mean, I didn't have like nobody on the inside. I didn't know anybody working at Cloudflare before and that is also something that is really important to me that the company is very inclusive in their hiring in the sense that they are not going to look if you have a, you know, a master's degree on network engineering or anything like that.
If you're passionate about and you have the knowledge, you can definitely showcase that in your application and from then on, just be ready.
The interview process is going to be intensive. I'm going to make like a dozen new friends in seven hours that I'm hosting here.
Yeah, and that was fantastic because everybody here is like very friendly and welcoming, so definitely if you are considering it, I encourage you to, yeah, hit that apply button and give it your best try with your most best looking resume there.
Yeah, yeah, I agree and Austin, Texas is one of our fastest growing U.S.
offices. We have an office in San Francisco, California as well and offices in Lisbon, Portugal, London, UK, Munich, Germany, Tokyo, Japan, Singapore and we do have some remote workers as well, so it's not all tied to offices too.
If you're interested, if you're out there working from, you know, Champaign, Illinois or something like that, we have an office there too actually.
We have some people in Southern Illinois. Yeah, I would echo that.
It's one of the questions we ask is why do you want to work for Cloudflare and we ask that every time and I don't think that's a secret, although that's not the only thing we ask.
You don't have to be aligned with the mission, but it sure does help.
When you're passionate about computing or making the Internet faster or even just a particular part of that because like you mentioned, Cloudflare is such a large breadth of, you know, different features, you know, you can be passionate about any one of those, but bring that.
And for tech support engineering, like Alex said, I would say, you know, also a passion for solving problems and fixing things.
You're the type of person that maybe wants to take something apart to know how it works.
You're the type of person that maybe wants to read the manual on the camera you just bought to see all the cool features that it has, right?
You like to build Legos and follow the well-written Lego instructions, but then sometimes you build your own based on no instructions and you build something even cooler.
Yeah, I mean, I would also recommend people create your own website.
You can use one of the platforms that are out there for building your own that make it really easy, but even more bonus points, if you can start with your own server and install your own web server, follow the instructions there are online, there's some free things out there that will allow you to do that.
Or there's things that are like five bucks and you'll learn a ton and you'll have fun and you'll have your own website.
And then when you come to the Cloudflare tech support engineer interview, you could say that.
And that is something we would be really excited about.
And we would look at your site and we'd be like, hey, this person is trying, this person is learning, this person is messing around on the Internet with websites.
That's the kind of people we want. People who like to tinker. Definitely.
Or go even a step further and have no server with our serverless platform.
There you go. You can have no server. If you have a Cloudflare, a free Cloudflare account, you can use the worker's platform to have a serverless web application.
That would be major bonus points out there if you're watching. That would be, I would advise that.
Yeah, definitely give that one a go. Or we also have pages now, the pages offering.
So basically you just create a GitHub and then you spin up your page from right there.
It's quite amazing if you think about it, how we are pushing the technology further.
It's amazing. Yeah. And we're trying to center the developer experience as well, right?
I guess with only a little bit of time left, I know we're in the middle of Cloudflare birthday week, which is pretty exciting.
Once a year, every year we have our birthday week and we announce a whole bunch of cool new features.
Is there anything, I know we don't have a lot of time left, but sort of like in a lightning round way, is there anything that's already been announced this week that you're particularly excited about?
Well, the email bit. I remember when I had my first trainings, it's like, if it's SMTP, just tell them that's not a Cloudflare problem.
Right. Now, Cloudflare is also investing in that space and hopefully we're going to help to reduce all the annoyances that people have with emails.
Fishing and all that stuff. Yeah. I'm excited for that.
Definitely. Yeah. Yeah, me too. I was excited when I heard we were going to do that.
So that makes the whole Internet better as well. Usually in birthday week, we like to sort of give away free features that will make the whole Internet better, right?
Yeah, that's absolutely right. Well, cool, Alex. Thank you so much for coming on.
The time sort of flew by and with our last few seconds, I just wanted to say thanks for coming on and I appreciate your time and come back again.
No, definitely. Thanks for having me, Shane. And everybody watching out there, once again, join this amazing team.
They really are an awesome group. Yeah, that's right.
We're hiring in all regions for lots of different roles, especially multilingual people.
Even better, which is great. We're trying to be able to provide support to people in every language, ideally.
But that's okay if you don't, you can apply as well.
And yeah, you'll find the link at Cloudflare.com slash careers. And you can come work on the customer support team at Cloudflare, which as is evidenced by Alex, can lead to even greater things and fixing the Internet.
So thanks for watching Between Two Clouds.
Thank you, Alex. Hope you all out there enjoyed it and that you enjoy the next Cloudflare TV segment, which is about to start.