Cloudflare TV

Cloudflare U: Culture

Presented by Ellie Jamison, Andrew Fitch, Kelley Welsh, Scott Tomtania
Originally aired on 

Cloudflare U is a new series for students interested in learning about roles and opportunities within the company. The series will cover all facets of Cloudflare from our technology to our culture. Each week, we will have new episodes with guests from a variety of departments. Thanks for tuning in, we are excited to share our experiences!

Cloudflare U

Transcript (Beta)

Thank you everyone for tuning in today. I'm so excited that we have another episode of Cloudflare U or Cloudflare University today.

I have three amazing guests with me and we'll be talking about all things culture and the different programs that we have including orientation, all of our recruiting programs and our employee resource groups that make a very diverse and inclusive culture here at Cloudflare.

I'll introduce myself quickly and then I'll pass it around the panel.

My name is Ellie and I'm on the recruiting team. I've been here for almost two years and I help a lot with the intern program and the new grad hiring.

I think we can go to Scott.

Thank you Ellie for hosting us. My name is Scott Tomtania and I run recruiting at Cloudflare.

I've been here for three years. Wow, it's already been three years.

It's been an exciting three years already. I have close to about 20 years of staffing and recruitment experience.

I've been very fortunate to have worked at some tech giants such as Google, Twitter, Facebook and Cloudflare so far has been one of my best experiences.

One of my favorite quotes is talent is equally distributed but opportunity is not.

Hi everyone, I'm Kelly.

I work on the learning and development team here at Cloudflare.

I joined Cloudflare a little less than three years ago so a little bit after Scott so almost at the three-year mark which is hard to believe.

I actually started out on the recruiting team with Scott which was wonderful.

I had a great time there and then I moved over into the learning and development team where I work on our new hire orientation and our whole onboarding experience for new folks.

Before this, I used to do a few different things but I worked as a teacher for a while so I taught kindergarten and fourth grade, the kids.

Then after teaching, I worked with new teachers so I would recruit and onboard new teachers and get them trained and set up to start working in the classroom.

Then from there, from the education non-profit world, I transitioned over to Cloudflare and I've been here ever since.

Every day is better. I'm Andrew Fitch.

Hello, I've been at Cloudflare for three years now as well. I just hit my three-year mark last week which was really exciting and also absurd.

I remember very clearly feeling like I was almost a long-termer at Cloudflare at the six-month mark because of the way that we've grown so quickly but now, really, I'm a long-termer here at this company which is wild to me.

I work on the people team as well in learning and development and specifically focused on community and inclusion.

I'll talk to you about employee resource groups and educational resources like bias workshops, so on and so forth later.

My background before working at Cloudflare was kind of all over the place to be honest with you.

My educational background was in international affairs and global politics.

In part because I didn't quite know what I wanted to do after college but also in part because there was a recession happening when I got out of college, I went right into grad school.

When I was over there studying global politics and everything, I hurt my knee so I had to go back home to Massachusetts for a surgery.

Then I ended up staying in Massachusetts and started running a screen acting school.

I didn't have any background in acting or anything but I found that experience to be super rewarding and I was so passionate about it too.

Learning, not just learning acting but also helping and encouraging other people to learn and grow.

That's kind of how I ultimately ended up in learning and development, I think anyway.

There were a bunch of other steps along the way including marketing roles and I used to be called an evangelist at a couple different companies where I was kind of letting the world know that that company existed and talking about all the great things that they did.

Two of those different programs were coding schools that I worked for. I found Cloudflare because a former coding school instructor had come over to Cloudflare and kind of came knocking at my door.

He sent me a text one day and he was like let's go out for lunch and talk about this place.

I said okay and then I looked it up and I thought it looked great because it is great by the way and ended up interviewing and came here shortly afterward.

Andrew wins for most exciting background story.

I think that was fun to listen to. Yeah, absolutely and I was going to say Andrew, I bet so many people listening today who are either graduating or about to graduate, it's a very similar time compared to you know the 2008 recession and so I think that's very relevant experience.

Awesome, okay well I'm just so happy that you three decided to join me today.

You all bring such a positive energy to Cloudflare and I couldn't think of three better people to lead our culture here.

So before we dive in on each individual program, I just wanted to kind of go around the table and just ask in maybe one sentence or two what culture means to you at Cloudflare.

I think we can start with Scott again. Great, what culture means to me at Cloudflare?

So I'll talk a little bit about my journey and as you can see on the screens here, we're all from different parts of the U.S.

or even different parts of the world and my background is primarily from a very small African country called Togo and how I ended up in tech is actually feels like a blessing really and the journey was not a straightforward thing and for me to become very successful, really an integral part of what the culture is here at Cloudflare really tells a lot about the company.

So there are three words that stand out to me when I think about culture.

Number one is principled.

Number two is curious and the third one is transparency and I have found all those three things right here at Cloudflare.

So the reason why those three words really really stand up to me is because those words resonate really well in my personal life.

It's just how I do things, how I view people, how I view relationships.

I like folks who are principled. I like to conduct business in a very principled manner.

I'm also very very curious. I'm a geography nerd. I learn a lot about different countries and the capital cities and weathers and as you just noted, many of us are very transparent about our backgrounds and our journey through tech.

So that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Thanks Scott.

Hard act to follow. To me, I define culture simply as just like how it feels to be somewhere and how it feels to be somewhere is a consequence of both, you know, written or agreed upon rules and norms of a company, what you're supposed to do, what the norms are, what the policies are and a more ineffable how people live those.

So how people, do they actually do those things? Do they actually act in accordance with their values or you know, are there other things that get rewarded other people who get ahead?

And that all comes together and how you sort of just feel when you're walking into a company or once you've worked there a little while and you've had a lot of interactions.

And I think that's my favorite part about Cloudflare is the culture.

It's just we have values, we have, you know, our capabilities, we have policies and ways we're supposed to act.

And I think the people just come together and are way better than anything we could put on paper or anything, how we could try to get people to act.

People are so friendly, so helpful, very collaborative.

And I think people are my favorite part. And what I was looking for when I was, you know, transitioning out of education and nonprofit is people are so passionate, passionate and principled.

People really care about our mission, what we're doing.

And I feel like you can tell that when you come into people are actively trying to help each other and to make this work, both because they're invested and excited about the work.

And they're just so excited about what the company has the potential to do.

You covered a lot of what I would have said to you two, but I'm going to chime in anyway.

And also add culture to me is also about, yeah, norms and everything, communication styles, the way that we treat each other, the way that we act and everything.

Things as well, I think, traditions are an important part of a culture, things that we look forward to and strive to work toward together.

So like some example of those at Cloudflare, I think, are that, you know, really positive vibes kind of just exude or they're all around Cloudflare.

Like from the time that I came in, I remember everyone was just super excited and orientation.

And all the way now, you know, like you can see that we're all pretty excited about what we're talking about here.

It feels like every meeting that I'm in, people are excited about something and sharing something.

And on the tradition side, you know, like we've sort of established here at the company, like we're not afraid to talk about important or tricky issues.

You know, we're not afraid to talk about anti-racism and what that means and the importance of it in today's world.

And, you know, we're not afraid to say we celebrate pride here at Cloudflare, we celebrate Black History Month, we celebrate Women's Empowerment Month and Latinx Heritage Month and several other different important events.

So, yeah, that's an important, I think, an important part of the culture here and something that really resonates with me.

Yeah, absolutely. I think all three of your points, they're, you know, dead on.

I think just to add my very, very brief two cents, I think you join a company for the role and the team, but you stay and you thrive because of the culture.

So, I think it is such an important part of any person's decision in joining a company and, and, you know, somewhere where they can really grow and learn.

Okay, great. So, we have 20 minutes left, not a lot of time, but I think that we should go ahead and just dive in and I'd love to start with you, Andrew.

Andrew helps run a lot of our employee resource groups, he plans events for diversity inclusion efforts, and we just would love to hear a little bit more about what you do.

For someone who's never heard of an ERG, what is an ERG?

Certainly. Okay, yeah, big, big segment. So, if you want me to add more to this, please just let me know.

But yeah, an employee resource group is a group of underrepresented employees.

So, that could mean underrepresented in the tech industry or at any particular company, so on and so forth.

And as many of you already probably know, women are traditionally underrepresented in the technology industry, as are people of different races and ethnic minority statuses, as are veterans of military service.

There are a bunch of different sort of categories that are traditionally underrepresented in tech, and also certainly at Cloudflare.

So, employee resource groups, whereas there are some other different types of groups as well, are traditionally focused on those.

So, a couple examples of these, and I'm just kind of going to list these in the first order of when they were founded at Cloudflare, is Proudflare, the LGBTQIA plus employee resource group, and Afroflare, the people of the African diaspora at Cloudflare, and Latinflare, people of Latin American or South American descent at Cloudflare.

Those are just the first three to kind of form.

There are several other ones as well. And things that I do to, yeah, I guess the way that you introduced this is, you know, plan or lead.

I support, at least that's how I see my role here, I support the leaders of these different organizations, and try to remove roadblocks, and try to help them succeed, and help make things better for them, and help them carry everything that they want to do across the finish line, because it's important for us to do this as a company, especially to help people who are traditionally underrepresented at a company such as this.

So, yeah, there are tons of different events that we do and everything.

I already mentioned some of them earlier, but we're right in the middle of Black History Month right now in the United Kingdom.

So, I guess I can speak to that right now, like the Afroflare leaders are doing tons right now.

Actually, two different events this week alone. They'll be publishing a blog post later on this month, and collaborating across different locations as well to support the Afroflare United Kingdom chapter, and to make it a truly global celebration at our company, not just focused on that one office, but to have the whole company involved.

So, hopefully that helps answer your question. Do you want me to cover anything else?

Yes, well, I mean, that was a great intro. ERGs are so important, and I actually, I didn't know what an ERG was until I joined Cloudflare.

So, I'm curious, you know, what impact do you see that ERGs have on, you know, the overall health of the company and the employees as well?

Okay, I'm glad you asked that as well.

I think they are so important, and we talked about culture earlier.

I really do think that employee resource groups are probably the most important component of our culture, or at least one of the most important components of our culture.

I'm of the opinion, and I know our founders at this company as well share this opinion, is that, you know, these different groups are so important that it's, you know, it's like, it carries up the, it lifts up the whole company when everybody is having a good time together, and knowing how to work together, and support each other, and people of varied backgrounds, people of varied racial and ethnic minority statuses, people of different genders, people from different geographies as well, like different regions of Cloudflare.

If we're all working together, and getting along together, and working together to leverage the importance of diversity, and to be a better company, the whole place is going to be a much better place to work as well, and that's going to have a very positive influence on the company culture.

So, I think that's what's happening, because I feel that at the company.

I know there's definitely more work to do, there always will be, but I think we've come a long way in that area, and I think we're, we're doing pretty well so far.

Yeah, absolutely. This past summer, we had, you know, an all-company event, the Day on Learning, and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about this, because that was an event that I thought was incredibly impactful, very genuine, so honest, and it really, I think, you know, I think it opened up a very difficult conversation for so many different employees at Cloudflare, and it was so important.

So, I'd love if you could, you know, tell our audience a bit about that.

Yeah, certainly. In the, in the wake of the death of George Floyd and several other Black figures in the United States, and beyond as well, we decided that, you know, and this came from our Afroflare leaders, by the way, decided that we needed to have more conversations about racism, anti -racism, discrimination, bias at the company, and, you know, everyone was really feeling pretty negatively affected by what was going on, and so it got the company's attention, and our leadership enabled us and encouraged us to create a resource, like an educational experience for not just the people of Afroflare or their allies, but the whole company, and so what we did is we brought in external speakers and also a couple internal speakers to speak about what is bias, to speak about the psychological effects of racism at work and outside of work on the people of the company, to speak about racism and bias, how it's built in tech technology, and how somebody who works at a tech company can work against that, and also, too, the historical context involving racism and what we can do to change that, so it was a heavy event, and it was a lot of content, but the majority of the company tuned in.

We called it Cloudflare's Day On, instead of taking a day off to mourn, to process, we took a day on and really dove into this, and, yeah, Ellie, I'm glad that you mentioned authenticity earlier on, because I do feel it was an authentic, important event for the company.

To my understanding, this is probably the first time that it was actually spoken about externally, other than those speakers that came in.

This was about us learning and growing together. It wasn't a marketing tactic.

I think it was an important leveling set, level setting moment for our company.

Yeah, absolutely, and thank you so much for expanding on all of that, because I did think it was such an impactful event for everyone, not just, you know, groups and things like that, so thank you, and also just your energy towards these efforts.

It's so contagious, and it just makes me really happy to work here with you, so thank you so much, Andrew.

Okay, so moving on, Kelly runs our orientation, and for many of you students that don't know, lots of different companies have kind of an orientation program.

When you join, it's to get to know the company, the different departments, and also have camaraderie around different people that are joining at the same time.

I hope I didn't butcher that, Kelly.

You can give a much better explanation, and so I will let you take it away.

What is orientation, and how is Cloudflare's orientation unique? Yeah, that was a great intro, perfect segue.

So our orientation, I mean, it's definitely the best I've been through, and I think it's pretty unique in a lot of ways, and it's just always so fun for me to be running it and meeting our new employees.

What we do is we have, it's not quite a week, about four-day-long orientation for all new employees, and this includes interns or new employees all over the world.

We used to have everyone come to San Francisco, and so it was people from all different geographies, different roles, different teams in a room together.

That's not happening anymore, obviously, and I think it's an exciting chance for us to re-envision how orientation can be, and how it can be more inclusive to folks who maybe can't leave their families for that long, or don't want to travel, or for whatever reason that doesn't work for them.

So what we currently have is an all -virtual orientation, and so it's all of our new hires, interns, whatever they may be, join for the four days together, and not always together, sometimes based on time zone.

So Asian folks and folks in the U.S. can't necessarily overlap for all the things just because of time zones, but we do try to get overlap where possible.

And what happens during that orientation is there's a little bit of IT setup, you know, some HR things you have to do, but a lot of it is just hearing from execs and leaders in the company about what our company does, why it's important, why they came here, and just learning about different aspects of the company.

So what I like about it is it's not role-specific.

Everyone, whether you're in finance, legal, an engineer on the sales team, you're in this orientation together, and you're hearing from executives about the different parts of the company.

So everyone sort of has a baseline understanding of these different departments, even if it's not your department, and you also get to start networking and building connections with people who you may not otherwise have connected with.

Even in the office, there may not have been a reason for, you know, a new sales hire to interact with, you know, a senior legal counsel who's joining our legal team.

But in orientation, you're sitting next to folks, you're chatting, you're getting to know them, and that's still happening virtually.

Obviously, you're not sitting next to them, but we have different virtual events, so you're still connecting with people, and it's a great chance to network with folks in Cloudflare and also just to meet new friends and make it a fun experience.

So it's all virtual.

Everyone from different roles and countries comes together, and then folks break off after that for more role-specific training, but they have that core, you know, cohort of new hires that they join together with in the first few days to learn about the company.

Absolutely. I'm curious how, and obviously the remote part of it, but how has orientation changed since you, you know, grew into this role and you've been managing the program?

Yeah, good question. I was in this role for a while before things went virtual, so there was room for change.

I think one change we made is we've had to streamline it a little bit, so one thing I love about Cloudflare is everyone wants to do new hire orientation.

I know some places you kind of have to, like, pull people in or force them to make the time, but here I have the opposite problem of where I have to be like, thank you for your interest, but we just don't have time for everyone to contribute, but our CEO still talks about orientation.

Our COO and co-founder, we have a lot of executives speaking, and they like it, and so I always have people who are, you know, they want to meet the new hires.

They want to, like, share their experience, and so we had a lot of different sessions, and I think it was maybe a little too much, so when I started taking over, I streamlined that a little bit and just tried to make sure that there was an overlap and that we had the most important sessions happening, but that it wasn't using too much of people's time unnecessarily, and we've also, even before virtual, switched to using more online learning, so we have an online learning management system, and so in addition to the virtual, it's virtual but live sessions that new hires join, there is online courses that they complete as well, so this kind of is more respectful of their time in person, and then it gives them the opportunity to engage with the rest of the content on their own time.

Yeah, definitely. I think that that's super helpful, and just allowing people to learn at their own pace is incredibly important, so I'm glad that we do that, and I also want to hear about the buddy program, because you also run that.

I think that's incredibly unique to Cloudflare, and it's really helpful, and you know, I just want to hear more about the buddy program.

Yeah, I love the buddy program.

It was one of the first big projects I launched when I took over this role, and I was really excited about it, so we have a buddy program that is different from, you know, a mentor program or someone who is coaching you on, you know, a certain skill in your role.

A lot of teams have that, too, to help you just get up to speed with more skill-based things, but our buddy program is for everyone in the company, most folks in the company, and we just pair you with a buddy who isn't there to, you know, watch what you're doing or help you learn or report back to someone on you.

They're just a buddy. They're just there to share resources, to answer questions, to be a welcoming and friendly face when you come into the office, so I think this is especially great for interns.

They get a mentor.

They get a buddy. They are starting to build these connections, and they have someone they can safely ask, you know, somewhat silly questions.

I don't like to say that because I think all questions are important, but if they have a question they're too nervous to ask their manager or someone about, you have this buddy who you can ask whatever you may need to ask, and when we're in the office, it's super helpful because they can help you, you know, figure out how to print or where's the best coffee or, you know, things like that, just getting the feel of the office, but even virtually, I think it's even more important because you may not have as many connections as you would in person, so this is a way that you're meeting people outside of your team, outside of the people you work with every day and building a relationship with them.

Yeah, absolutely. I've heard so much positive feedback about the buddy program, so I think you're doing an incredible job with that, and also just from all the interns, they absolutely love having a buddy, so thanks for all your hard work, Kelly.

Awesome. Okay, so last but not least, we're shifting gears to Scott.

Scott is our head of recruiting, and so to get started on this conversation, I'm curious, Scott, what has recruiting been like at Cloudflare in the past three years that you've been here?

That's a great question.

First of all, I would like to say that what makes it special for us, and the reason why our job is very easy here at Cloudflare is because of folks like Andrew, Kelly, and Ellie.

Andrew, in particular, because of all the work that you're doing with ERGs, it makes it very easy for us recruiters to talk about our culture and how it feels to work here, and then also Kelly, one of my favorite parts about what we have at Cloudflare, I mean, from the very start, so when I joined, we had less than 500 employees at Cloudflare, and now we have more than 1,500 employees, and one of the core areas is that we give you that extra week when you join to go through orientation, and it's been one of the strongest backbones for us at Cloudflare.

I felt like I learned a lot about the company during that week, and now we have offices in 14 countries, so needless to say that the recruiting team has been very, very, very busy.

In fact, I don't know how Ellie finds the time to even host Cloudflare TV shows, so we've been extremely busy, and if you watch some of our numbers that we shared more publicly last quarter, we had well over 40 ,000 applicants that applied through us, and our application numbers have increased, and it's a testament to every single one of you that are watching and seeing what we're doing and are also very curious about what you can contribute to helping us build a really better Internet, right?

That's a very, very bold and ambitious thing that we're talking here at Cloudflare.

Absolutely, and that leads me to my next question because I know we're growing very quickly.

What can you share about how fast are we growing, and then I think a lot of people often ask after we hear how fast a company is growing is how do we maintain our culture, and what are things that recruiting or interviewing teams do to combat those difficulties, like, for example, the final call and the deliberate process?

Great. So I gave two numbers earlier, and the first one was when I joined, we had less than 500 employees.

That was in 2017, and now we're well over 1,500 employees. That tells you that we've tripled that, right, the size of the company.

That is massive. Now, how do we make sure that we're maintaining culture throughout the whole practice?

What we do is that as much as we interview candidates for our roles here, we also allow the candidates to get to know who we are.

We feel that that's actually a very important part of our process.

You know the teams that you're interviewing with. We don't just rush through to give you an offer, but we're very deliberate and thoughtful about each step of the process, right, and at the end of the interview process, you get the chance to also speak with either our CEO or COO or a CTO or a chief HR officer.

So you get the chance to talk to folks on your team, cross -functional members, leaders, and also the executive team.

So it gives you a good sense of what you're joining, and by that time, we feel that we've assessed the talent really well, and we feel that we're bringing in folks that deeply care about our culture.

Absolutely. I think the chance for candidates to speak to someone of that level, no matter what role you're applying for, at the very end of the experience is so unique to Cloudflare, and so I'm so happy that at our size, we can continue to do that.

So with, since we have a student audience, and you've been handling multiple applications and interviews, what are some, and I actually want to open this up to everyone, but let's start with Scott.

What are some tips that you have for students today applying for an internship or a new grad role at Cloudflare?

Great question, Ellie. I will say there's no silver bullet, but one of the core things that we do really well here at Cloudflare is that we share a lot about our culture, about our product, about our technology in our blog posts.

So as a student, I would say familiarize yourself with our blog posts, right?

Read the blogs there, you know, go deep there.

We like to hire folks who are very, very, very curious, so the more you know about us, and the more you can express that to us, the better it is.

A very practical step is this. When you reach out to a number of folks here at Cloudflare, they respond back to you, right?

They might not respond within the next 24 hours, but I can tell you enough about folks who've reached out to our CEO, our COO, our head of engineering, expressing their interest and really passionate about building a certain segment of what we do, and that are currently working here at Cloudflare.

So I will say that we deeply care about folks who are very passionate about what we do.

Don't take that for granted. It's good to apply everywhere.

At the end of the day, not a lot of folks know exactly what they want to do, but at a place like Cloudflare, I would say zoom in, reach the blog post, reach out to us if you've applied and you feel that your application is not being looked at, and we do take that very seriously, and we will get back to you.

Absolutely. Okay, we only have five seconds left, so I just want to thank everyone for joining, and I wish we got to talk more, but thank you so much.

Thank you, Ellie.

Good luck, everyone. This was great. Good luck.

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Cloudflare U
Cloudflare U is a new series on CloudflareTV for students interested in learning about roles and opportunities within the company. The series will cover all facets of Cloudflare from our technology to our culture.
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