Originally aired on May 19, 2021 @ 9:00 PM - 9:30 PM EDT
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.
This week's guest is Bora Kinay, Technical Support Engineer Team Lead.
APAC Heritage Month
Oh, hey, I didn't notice you there. Hi. Welcome to Between Two Clouds Inside Cloudflare Customer Support. My name is Shane Ossa. I'm the host of this recurring show where we get to know members of the support team and talk about customer support. Surprise, surprise. And today with me, I have Bora Kinay from the Tokyo office. Hey, Bora. Hey, Shane. It's good to be on the air with you. Are we on? We're on. Thanks for agreeing to do this silly thing with me. Yeah, no problem at all. It's exciting. It's fun. So I'm coming from Pacific Time, San Francisco, West Coast, United States, and it must be morning there. Ohayo gozaimasu. Ni hao. Yeah, it's morning here. It's bright, rainy weather, but yeah, it's pretty good. Classic Japanese spring, late spring, early summer type day. Yeah, pretty much. But it's getting warm, so that's always good. I don't have to wrap up in a jacket. Days are getting longer. Yeah. Cool. So it is APAC Heritage Month, which is pretty fun. A lot of the Cloudflare TV segments have been kind of centering our APAC team members, and you are on the APAC team. But you recently moved to the region. Do you have any Asian heritage, cultural heritage yourself? Um, I wouldn't say so myself. My wife is Japanese. I guess that's, that's as much heritage that I have. You're married in. Yeah. And, yeah, coming to Japan has been like one of the dreams that I've always had, I guess, since I've been young. So that's cool. Yeah. What is your cultural heritage, if you don't mind me asking? Sure. So my father is Turkish. And my mother is, she was born in England. But her heritage is from Serbia. So her parents are from Serbia. Cool. So yeah, and then I was born in England. Yeah, I could kind of tell from your accent. Oh, really? I thought I just did an accent. So did you speak Japanese before you met your wife? No, so I'm still learning. And I kind of picked up learning Japanese, I don't know, three, four years ago now. I just started it as like, after work, I was like, you know what, I really want to do this. I'd go on like holiday to Japan. And I was like, you know, I really want to know my parents-in-law better, and then speak to my brothers-in-law. Like, obviously, you can't really do that and have that kind of flexible conversation that we are having now. So I just started picking it up. And over time, we're getting better and better. And since moving, obviously moving to a country really ramps up your the pace at which you learn the language and been able to have better conversations with them and really get to know them a lot better. And it's been great. It's like discovering a new part of, I guess, your family, so to speak. That's so cool. It is really cool. Any, any Turkish or Serbian? So I tried, well, I, my parents wanted me to learn Turkish, and I went to Turkish language school in England. I was young, and I didn't want to go. I was like, I just want to play in a way it might be at the time. So I... Probably some of the basics, but not, yeah. Yeah, I can hear, I can understand basics. Cool. Well, for those of you that don't know, we are both on the customer support team. I look after training for the team. So it's my job to make sure everyone gets the training they need to do their jobs. And Bora is one of our customer support team leads who manages a team of tech support engineers. And you were a fantastic tech support engineer before you were a team lead. And you were on the London team, but then moved over to the APAC team. Yes, that's correct. And thank you for saying that. That was very good. Yeah, well, I mean, you were promoted, so obviously you were pretty fantastic. Yeah, that's true. So I made the move from the London office to our Tokyo office. We started our Tokyo office last year, and we needed to create a support team here. Of course, I had a lot of experience that I'm bringing with me through supporting our product. And that helps a lot in training and doing a lot of background stuff that's really important to really make our support team successful here in Japan. So, you know, like, to move and set up a new office, it's just great. It's like a great experience. It really is different. It's going to be much smaller, of course, as we know, COVID is kind of making, I guess, it different to how it would have normally kind of flourished. Yeah, there's no, you know, I don't go to the office. So, you know, I don't see the staff daily. We have two starters here that, you know, I just basically see through a vehicle. I've met them in person a couple of times. But, you know, beyond that, without an office, it's definitely different. It's very different to start an office without going to the office. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, what's wild is, you know, we're getting to the point where maybe 50% of the team, or maybe more than 50% of the team are people that we've never met in person, face to face, which is really wild when you think about it. But we've been able to pull it off. And I'm really kind of constantly impressed by the work that the team is doing. You know, without seeing each other in person, we thought that was, you know, really important. And it is, but it's, it's definitely been something that we've been able to manage without. We have a 24 seven team. So for those of you watching out there on the Internet, we support you 24 seven via mostly email via customer tickets, we process them and work them as tickets. You just send us emails. But we have a 24 hour team, which means that we have people stationed all over the world. We have people in Tokyo, we have a big team in Singapore, that was sort of our Asia HQ. And we have people in London and Lisbon and Munich. Those are Europe bases. And we have people in Austin and San Francisco and a couple others scattered around the US now that we're kind of moving to a hybrid kind of remote model. And so the US team hands over to the APAC team every day at the end of the day here in Pacific time and, and then the Asia team starts the day you're in the you're in the first people zero UTC that start everything off again. So you're in the future. Yeah, we are in the future. It always I mean, fascinates me that we are picking up and we like, let's say, my mom might be going to sleep. And I'm just starting my shift. Yeah, so she called me this morning. And she's like, Oh, yeah, just go to bed. So I'd have a chat with you. And I'm like, I'm just starting my shift. I've just dropped my son off to school and just starting up. So that always, I don't know if it fascinates me or surprised me, I guess time zones are really just strange like that. And that's something I kind of have to get used to a little bit. But it's interesting to see from the other point of view of picking up the shift, kind of, you know, let's say you start on Monday, and you're being handed over effectively from the weekend for the Sunday, you're on a Monday. So it's always fascinating. And yeah, when we pick up the shift, we you know, we're just carrying on the good fight as well. And it's, it's, it's really great. It's a different perspective. As well. Obviously, Mondays behave differently, because you're coming out the weekend. Yeah, you're not kind of starting in the thick of it. So yeah, that's right. It's really great. Yeah. So we have a sort of skeleton crew working on the weekends, we cover the weekend. So we do have people working the weekends, but not the whole team. So we have enough people to work with our enterprise and premium enterprise customers. And anyone who's writing in with like a really urgent issue, we prioritize that and anything that can wait till the week, we try to, you know, prioritize the most urgent issues. And then so Sunday evening here, Pacific time, we hand over to APAC, and it's Monday morning, in Tokyo, and Singapore, that used to traditionally be sort of a slower time in terms of customers contacting Cloudflare, period, because the rest of the world, like you're saying, in the UK is asleep. So Europe is asleep. The US, it's Sunday night, people are, you know, not going online or breaking the Internet as much, I guess the devs out there, you know, making changes to web applications are kind of not doing a lot. So that tended to be the time that was a little quieter. And I know this, because that was always a good time for me to arrange trainings was Monday for the APAC team was Monday morning, APAC time, Sunday evening, Pacific time. Is that still the case? I feel like we're getting to the point where it's just constant customer contacts. I think I think there's still some of it behind. I mean, obviously, it's definitely increasing, you know, we do have a lot more volume. But it I think Monday still typically quieter than the rest of the days of the week. I think you can't beat Sunday. Yeah, much. Yeah, everyone's hungover. So yeah, so I mean, I've been a Cloudflare about four years, and you've been in Cloudflare for like, just after me, maybe three years? Yeah, it's coming up to three years. Yeah, I would say like, maybe two and a half. I don't know. I would say almost three years, something like that. There we go. Yeah, no one's counting. Well, HR is counting workday or whatever is counting. I was counting with my fingers over here. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, so it's long enough for for things to have changed a lot like Cloudflare is, it's a great experience where we're growing massively, our customer and our team, right? When I started, we were 25 people. And now we're 120 people in four years. And when I started, we had two people working with enterprise customers at any given time, right? We had sort of a point person and the other person kind of backing up. And there might be, you know, two or three or four or five enterprise tickets to work at any given time. And now, you know, fast forward four years, we have at least 10 people working enterprise customers at any given time. We've got 40, 50, 60 enterprise issues that are open at any given time in various stages of, you know, investigation and resolution. So it's been quite the challenge and the fun challenge, but it's been hard to try to figure out how we're going to manage this influx of and it's great. It's a good problem to have, right? Because it's more business and Cloudflare is growing and more websites, more secure websites on the Internet is a good thing for everyone. But it's been a fun challenge as a support team to try to figure out how are we going to handle this, right? Yeah, it's, I mean, just like you, I've kind of seen that progression from where we've had, you know, a lot less, you know, tickets to generally deal with in support to where now we've got, you know, a huge amount to really handle. And, you know, that, as you say, it's we're flourishing, we've got a huge, you know, portfolio of products, it's really expanded over that time as well. And of course, you know, as you increase your portfolio of different products that you can use, you open up to different people to be able to use those products. And, you know, if you're increasing the volume of people that you're making your platform available to, you're naturally going to get more, more people that are going to use it. Um, so, you know, it's a natural growth. And it's, it's great to see. And, you know, I've been, you know, in previous jobs where the alternative to that is like, you know, if it maybe business is not really going forward, or it's, you know, you're not seeing the future of growth. The alternative is you kind of get stagnant, and you feel like, well, where, where, where am I going to go? Like, right? Like, what's, what's two years down the line? What's five years down the line? It's, yeah, the future becomes kind of foggy. And, you know, you don't see the roads forward. Whereas, you know, obviously, you got loads of roads, because, you know, we've got such a huge opportunity, basically, ahead of us. So it's great. It is really great. It's a challenge. I think we're doing a great job in working to meet that challenge. And it's just exciting to see where we will be in the future. Like, you just don't know, basically, yeah, how it's gonna, and that's, that's part of the fun, isn't it? You just don't know. Imagine you knew where it was gonna go. Okay, well, I know in five years, it's going to be the exact same thing as right now. Right. And that might work for some people. For me, it's like, I like to see the future. I like to see where things are going. And I guess I always have this hope in my heart that the future is always going to be better as well. And the fact that you can kind of see that is, is, is great. I don't know. Yeah. Yeah, I agree. You know, the only thing we can count on is, is change, right? Sometimes I tell people that Cloudflare is like a different company every six months in terms of the products we've released, and what's the hot product at the given time? What's the product line that's growing the fastest? Because we're trying to learn about it as a team, you know, as a support team. When I started, we didn't have load balancing, for example, right? We didn't have a dozen or dozens of the features that we have now. So, you know, it was brought on as a trainer to help build a program to sort of scale this team up to hundreds of people and hundreds of features to support. And I'm curious about your perspective as a tech support engineer. And we can even talk about your previous experience and what that has been like in other places, but even just your experience at Cloudflare. First, going through the training program that we've built, and then, you know, getting released into the wilds of helping to solve customers' issues. Eventually, then, you became an expert in several of the product lines, and you've even helped develop and deliver training now on lots of different products, and then have become a manager. So, you know, do you want to speak to any of those kind of experiences and what's been hard and what's been fun and what's been weird and just anything? Yeah, I mean, that's really, that's really wide. I'm going to start with being dropped, or going into the wild. I don't know why, but that instantly, imagine just me kind of as a hunter-gatherer, like kind of like, I don't know, something like that. Sure. DNS, hunting DNS records. Throwing a spear at DNS and seeing it. Curling it. HTTP. Yeah, like, I'm gonna, so going to the point about change. Yeah, change is good. I think change, like, you know, trying not to go down the line of like, all change is good change, if that makes sense. Like change is good, and I think the changes that we've been making are, you know, positive changes. So, if you imagine, you know, I don't know, like, you always, I guess, eat with a knife and fork and use your knife to cut, I don't know, the food, like let's say steak, and then, you know, you change it. So, you know what, instead of using a knife, you know, I don't know, use a cup, you know, that's a change, but it's not, right? It's not a positive change, right? So, you know, not all change is good, but the changes that we've been making is like, yeah, you know, we've got a knife as an effective cutting tool, but then we'll, like, look at other ways, like, okay, well, you know, let's, you know, maybe change up the food that we're eating, or like, maybe add on dessert, or something like that, you know, the changes that we're making are enhancing what maybe what we can do with what we already have. Right. It's, you know, use the, you know, use the cup to drink tea with your meal, or something like that. I'm struggling. Here's a couple of examples, like, if I can jump in, it's like, we've released a lot of different products, and they were different, technologically different to some of this stuff we were already doing, our bread and butter, there's core, core, DNS, authoritative DNS, right, DDoS prevention, rate limiting, you know, balancing traffics. And, and then we released a lot of other stuff. And as a team, that's really hard, when you hire people with certain expertise, you build training courses, programs, online training, everything based on certain products and features and technology and tools, and that changes, changes really fast. One of the things we've been doing is specializing a little bit more, it's no longer reasonable for everyone on the team to be an expert at everything. And when I say expert, I mean, like, a really like advanced level of expertise. So we've naturally started doing, you know, specialization, and we've actually started routing our tickets to people with specialization. So we're doing this skills based routing model, where okay, DNS tickets go to me, because I'm a DNS expert, but caching tickets go to Boro, because he's a caching expert. And we've been sort of experimenting with this workflow for at least the last six months. So these are just examples of changes, right, of just things, ways that we're trying to change. The product team changes stuff, too, we observe changes, we give them their feedback, we give them our feedback, when I say they, I mean, customer feedback, when a product could maybe use some more observability, analytics, Cloudflare has a pretty aggressive go to market strategy, right? So sometimes we, we go into market with a product that doesn't have as much bells and whistles as it eventually will have, right, this is normal. And the customer support team will, you know, part of our job is to kind of report a product and say, hey, it'd be really nice if there was, you know, this analytics was exposed to the customer, this thing, we're pulling logs manually, and telling the customer, giving them information, it'd be nice if if that tool was in their hands, and they've delivered on this. Yeah, I mean, I think, like, it's a good point. So a lot of it is like additions, new technologies, the changes are basically making the sharp, the knife sharper. And, you know, kind of coming early to market with different products, it really helps people who need the solution now, right, and there's nothing else there. You know, yeah, right, what else have you got, you know, I'd rather help test and work towards something if I have a solution, you know, problem that I need solving right now. That is a great way to, you know, really solve those problems and help those people as soon as possible. And you kind of think about other, like other industries, you've got like, in the gaming industry, you've got like early access games, right? They come out in alpha, beta, and you're getting your feedback, right? And that feedback goes straight to the developers, and they take it on board, they make the game better, and they improve on it. And what's the benefit for me, I get to play this game that looks amazing earlier, right? That's a great, I might have to steal that. Yeah, it's and it's amazing. So it's a win win on both sides, I get to put my feedback if I don't like something or something didn't quite work out, you know, hey, look, you know, I played your game. I found that this, you know, the crafting system is a bit broken here. Yeah, it'd be better if you didn't have to, I don't know if it's a survival game, you'd be better if you didn't have to eat every five seconds to survive in the game, it makes it really tough. And then you know, yeah, that's a good point. Let's work on this. And then at the end of it, you come to release it. Generally, it's a fantastic game. Yeah, everyone's enjoying playing your game. So it's, it's, you know, that's, that's almost like the model that I guess, a lot of industries to be successful going in. And, you know, that's, that's, you know, I guess, in our industry, cloud is almost a pioneer in that, in that space, you know, because of that, it's really great. And, you know, you brought up SBR, and you know, you have that increase in tickets, because naturally, we have more products, and more customers, you, you reduce the time, like if you've got like, you know, you can't hire everybody in the world to work on the tickets, right? You've got a limit, right? And you have to reduce the amount of time it takes to work on any single ticket. To make it effective to reduce that time, right? You need, you need to have people who can, who know it really well, and know what to do in the first 10 minutes, let's say, as opposed to spending that 10 minutes figuring out what, what this even is. And then another 30 minutes trying to figure out, okay, how do I even tackle this issue, and then eventually finding out where things need to go. And then that all those other steps just lengthen that process. And that's going to be key to our success as well as support here. So yeah, I mean, we're going, it's going to be so many directions. Yeah, there's so many directions to go, right? I mean, yeah, we help our free customers, and there's millions of free customers, but I don't think anybody would think it's reasonable for us to have a million support personnel, one to one ratio of free customers to support personnel on our team, like no one would say, oh, that's a good idea. So, you know, everyone knows that we have to figure out ways, and a lot of this looks like great content for customers, so that, you know, their issue, they don't want to contact support. They don't, they don't wake up going, you don't wake up going, gosh, I can't wait to contact tech support, because I'm going to have a problem, right? Most of the time, they just want to find the information that the feature just works, or if it doesn't, the information is there for them to find, and if that's not there, okay, then they contact support, right? Yeah, and I think that's where, you know, our community side is really important, as well. That's like how to the community forums. Yeah, exactly. That's like having your million support engineers, right? You can get all or a lot of information out there, people helping each other, you know, really putting content out there that is going to help, you know, everybody in the long term, right? And I think everyone can help out in that, in the community space, because, you know, there's going to be so many different scenarios, setups, type of, you know, problems that could arise, that, you know, if everyone worked together on them, and they all have their different experiences and backgrounds. That's the thing about the Internet is it's just an infinite amount of combinations of web servers, and, you know, things that people can be running. Some of that knowledge is more than my knowledge. Yeah, completely. You never know, and our customers are trying really interesting things, right? And so, you know, we're really good at solving novel problems internally. I mean, people love, that's one of the fun parts about this job is getting to solve, creatively solve problems that we haven't seen. And the problems that we have seen, we try to document and let the customers find the answers themselves, right? So that we can let the humans do what the humans are good at, and what they like to do, which is, you know, a challenging puzzle, right? Yeah. Problem solving is fun. I mean, that's why I got into support. I like solving problems. Yeah, I talked about gaming. I mean, that's where it kind of gamifies, right? One of the more fun tickets that I hear people say are more fun to work, and it's not fun for the customer when it's happening, but are the under attack tickets where, you know, there's some sort of DDoS attack occurring, and we have to help them figure out the best way to mitigate it. Yeah, it's a challenge. It's a challenge, right? It's like an adversary. It's a very clear, like, you've got an attacker. Yeah. And you've got, like, somebody to protect. So it's like, it's very clear. And at the same time, there's all sorts of sophisticated ways, and they're always trying to one-up us as a team, and or, you know, Cloudflare's product as well, or any kind of mitigation that you want to apply. They want to kind of one-up that. So, yeah. I mean, I'll say, if you're a customer, and you're watching this, let us know the severity of the issue or the problem that you're facing. We look at every ticket, and we triage them, and we handle them by severity, by priority level, actually. We use a P-level system, P1, P2, P3, P4. P1 being my site is offline, and P4 is, like, a simple question, like, can I have a free T-shirt? Something like that. So let us know the, you know, the actual urgency of your issue, and that will help us get to you faster. And, you know, let us know, you know, what features, and is broken, and stuff like that. It's pretty obvious, but it really does help us when the customer is explicit. Some people can just say, I'm having an SSL issue, and you're like, oh, okay, sounds okay. Sometimes, yeah. I wish I could just say, put comment below this video. Yeah. Just comment down below. The other thing, the other thing I'll say, or I'll ask, because we're almost out of time, is kind of cliche, but what advice would you give other tech support people out there that maybe want to work for Cloudflare, or, you know, if they were going to apply, what should they go study? What should they do? That's a very good question. I would say, in terms of, I think the main thing that is important from my perspective, is to just go out, learn about, I don't know, let's say you come to Cloudflare, learn about some of the web products, and have fun, just tinkering with different things. I wouldn't say anything specific, just get the, I don't know, like, yeah, just enjoy learning about computers in general, and then trying to figure out how they work. And bring that to you, with you, when, if you do want to apply to Cloudflare, if you do want to join Cloudflare, bring that enthusiasm and inquisitiveness, because I find that that's what makes people really successful in general. Yeah. And, yeah. That's great advice. Great. That's perfect. So, we only have 30 seconds left, Bora, it's been really fun to talk to you, went by ridiculously fast. Yeah, it's great to talk to you, too. What's your, what's your plans after this? Well, I'm gonna go make dinner, I think. Yeah, and just hang out with the family. Cool, that sounds great. Yeah. Well, thank you for having me on the show. Yeah, thanks for coming on. Tune in next week for Between Two Clouds. Thanks for watching, everyone, and enjoy Cloudflare TV's next segment.