Originally aired on January 3, 2022 @ 9:30 PM - 10:00 PM EDT
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!
We are live on Cloudflare TV. Thank you everyone who is tuning in today with this is another episode of Cloudflare University where we're talking directly to students and new grads that are interested in applying to Cloudflare and just we have a range of many different topics but today I'm really excited because our topic is about internships and with me I have three former interns that are now full-time employees and so I'll introduce myself very quickly and then we'll go on to them. My name is Ellie and I'm on the recruiting team. I've been at Cloudflare for two years and I actually have been helping a lot with the intern program this past summer and the summer before and so we're really excited to see how the program grows and just hear the stories from Curtis, Julie and Ben today and so I'll let Ben go ahead and introduce himself. Cool, first of all Ellie I'm so happy that you reached out about doing this because I would have killed for something like this when I was looking for an internship. I think there's so much material out there that is really formal and just lists of responsibilities and job postings but having a casual place to talk about this stuff is so useful and I think it'll give people a look behind the curtain and how this whole process really isn't that scary. I guess for a little information on me, I grew up as one of those kids who just loved technology. I used to watch all those like Apple product event announcements and then really started taking computer science classes in high school. I then went to Tufts University and studied computer science and got an internship at Cloudflare. I really spent most of my internship time split between two areas so one is technology and the most relevant internship was that internship at Cloudflare but I also had a couple in the music industry so working for different music managers and labels that took up a good chunk of my time too and I am now a full-time product manager on the bot management team here at Cloudflare. My name is Julie. I'm originally from Orlando, Florida. I went to college at Rollins College which is a liberal arts college. It's pretty tiny, a beautiful campus, highly recommend. I was actually focused on history and business in school and then realized that I didn't like business that much and so I changed to computer science. Most of my focus throughout school was between history and computer science and in the meantime I was a work-study for a compliance department so I got like kind of an intro into like security and compliance, like how it all works and then I decided to do my college internships in security. So my last internship before I graduated was at Cloudflare. I interned with Ben and Curtis in the summer of 2019 at the San Francisco headquarters and I was working on the detection response team which is a sub -team of the overall security department and I was focused on writing detections to figure out if bad things were happening in the company and helping respond to them if they did which was really interesting and I loved it and now I've joined back full -time as a security engineer on the same team. I'll go next I guess. So hello, thank you again for having me on Ellie. My name is Curtis. I'm on the application services team here at Cloudflare. I graduated from the University of Illinois, go Illini, in computer science. I interned here last summer along with Julie and Ben and it was a fantastic experience, I just have to say. It was like the best and yeah I'm really excited to talk to you guys today. Awesome, okay well I'm so happy that all three of you are here today. I'm very excited. I think before we dive in to talk like specifically about each of your internships I want to know how each of you found out about Cloudflare. So I think we could start with Ben and go in the same order. Yeah, so I actually had begun sort of looking for internships thinking that I was going to work in management consulting. I was really, I was reading all the books preparing for case interviews and had chased that path until right at the last minute I had a deadline for a management consulting internship and I sort of had this like, I wouldn't call it a midlife crisis, but it was like a like an early life crisis. Yeah, I had an epiphany. I had an epiphany and I realized that management consulting really wasn't what I wanted to do long term. I knew that I wanted to work in tech and I wanted something fun that combined a lot of the coding I was doing in school with more of the like interpersonal and getting to communicate with people's side of things and I actually had a family friend who had said some great things about Cloudflare. I didn't know that much about what the company did at the time, but I knew that Cloudflare was sort of up and coming in the tech space and in the security space and eventually applied and went through the interview process to get an internship at Cloudflare. So I sort of heard about it through the grapevine, but once I really got deep into things I got really into it. I also kind of heard it from the grapevine. So when I was going between my sophomore and junior year, I was also in the Bay Area interning for another tech company and during the time like I was trying, it was my first time in California on the west coast. I was like trying to kind of like just like submerse myself in like activities, like meet people, try to figure out what I want to do and so I would go on these women in engineering hikes with like strangers that I met on Facebook. It was just like a giant group of people who were interested and on one of the hikes I met a woman who worked at Cloudflare and she was talking to me and she was like you know you should really consider Cloudflare and I was like I don't know like I've never heard of it. I'm like not sure like do they have like a security department like I'm just interested in security and she was like yeah we were doing a ton of stuff in the security space. So I gave her my email and she emailed me afterwards and introduced me to Joe Sullivan and Nick Sullivan which at the time was head of research and security and I talked to them asking that they had internships and then realized that I was more interested in like a regular security department role. So I reached out to Joe who was working on hiring out a bunch of the teams at the time and I just kind of happened to come in at the right point and ask if they also want an intern. So went through the intern interview process and was able to start right as the brand new team was starting as well which was really interesting. So I kind of just heard it by accident but like now it just feels like a really good fit so I'm shocked that I didn't hear about it through a different way. Yeah my story is quite long. So when I was at the University of Illinois my freshman year in like 2016-17 I wanted to get an internship and I'm sure as many of you know you know getting an internship as a freshman is very difficult but it turns out that Cloudflare, I met the manager there Nick at one of our career fairs and he offered to give me an interview and so I got to go to our local office that we have in Champaign, Illinois and do an interview there and I had a bunch of questions and I ended up getting rejected actually. So I was a little sad about that but I eventually got another internship and the years went by and two years ago now I was at another career fair and I ran into the same manager and he was like hey he's looking at my resume he said looks like you've you know really improved you should apply again and so I did and I actually ended up getting an interview in office at San Francisco. At this point I had another offer from a very big company and like much bigger than Cloudflare and I was swamped with tests and I'm thinking like I can't I just can't possibly go to San Francisco right now you know I'm really interested in the offer but you know it's just so much work and I don't even know if I'm gonna get it right I already got rejected once so I ended up telling them like sorry I can't make this interview but hold up you know Cloudflare was like no we really want you we'll do it remote now and so I got a remote interview instead and they ended up hiring me and so I rejected the first offer I went to Cloudflare and I had a fantastic summer and now I'm here I got a I got a return offer. Awesome okay well I love all those stories. Curtis I especially like your story because we tell people all the time that there are far more qualified people than we have space for and so if you know you apply and you don't get it the first time please please please apply again because we have roles popping up every every couple months and so that's definitely a great story and then Julie also your story I think it's so important to join multiple different groups like you said yours was a hiking or women in tech group you never know what can come from those groups and so I always think that that's a really helpful tip for students right now. Informal networking is the best way to do it because it's not like it's not like rigid and like uncomfortable it's just like you're enjoying activities that you would have enjoyed by yourself anyway but you're doing it in a way that like puts you in a place to talk with people who understand what you want to do and like know people in those industries. Yeah absolutely it's it's very natural and yeah it just feels comfortable I feel like you get to know people in a different easier way that in that route cool awesome okay so now we we only have 20 minutes left this is going by fast but we should dive in and talk about you know what you actually did during your internship at Cloudflare so your role your team and then if you can talk about if you worked on one project multiple projects just kind of like what really stood out to you about the internship when you worked here cool all right yeah yeah cool so last summer I worked on a team called the SSL team if you're familiar with cyber security then you probably know what that is if you are like me at the time and you're not SSL TLS is basically the protocol that makes sure your data is secure as it's transferred through the Internet so I worked on a project that really dealt with certificates a certificate for a website is kind of like a driver's license so every website should have its own certificate to prove that it really is who it says it is so if I go to wikipedia.com for example it might be .org I'd want to know that the wikipedia I'm seeing is really coming from wikipedia and then it's not someone else pretending to be wikipedia so the way we sort of validate that on the Internet or one of the ways is we ask wikipedia to present its own certificate like its driver's license that has been approved by some organization and we built a product that basically alerted website owners whenever a new certificate was issued for their website so this means that if I owned wikipedia which I don't like I would I would get a notification in the email that says hey someone just issued a new certificate for wikipedia you might want to check this and make sure it's something you requested and if I got an email from that I and I hadn't requested a certificate I would know that there's a problem so what I worked on was really that sort of notification service that we offered to customers and it's it's free it's in the Cloudflare dashboard everyone can use it it's really exciting I also I think the other side of the internship for me was getting to have like a social experience in the office and I'm sure we'll get more into that but I learned so much by getting to meet with other people who were sort of my senior and and who had worked in product management for a while we'd set up a lot of one-on-ones and just check in with each other and and I'd get to ask questions about what they were working on probably one of my favorite one-on-ones was I would schedule weekly one-on-ones with Curtis and we would call them one-on-ones but really they were one-on-one ping pong matches so that was that was a big learning experience as well there. Yeah I remember the office very fondly especially there was a coffee shop right next to like connected to the same building as the San Francisco office so there were so many times that I asked people to do like coffee chats or like I would get paired up with like an intern mentor and we would just hang out in that coffee shop and like talk about like what they were doing what I was doing different things like Cloudflare was launching like who to talk to in the company for like certain knowledge and that was really fun like I do miss that being virtual I have done quite a bit of like one-on-one chats and they're still fun it's just like not the same when you get to go for a walk and kind of experience like the office vibe as well. For my internship I as I said before I was on the detection and response team I focused on two projects so one I was helping kind of reorganize and create a new strategy for the bug bounty program which is a way for security researchers to report that they found vulnerabilities in Cloudflare products so that initiative started when I was an intern it continued even to now they're still working on it but I was able to do that which was really interesting and I got to work with different people in this in the security department and then on my team I focused on writing detections and for different scenarios whether that was something to do with a suspicious behavior network logs or whether it was something on the endpoint just different ways to understand if there's abnormal behavior going on that the security team needs to investigate. So it doesn't sound like too much but it did take up like a good bit of my summer and plus I spent a lot of time like kind of networking, learning people, learning different roles and but I really like the experience because the security team is very they very highly emphasize diversity and they're very empathetic and people are all like team players which I really appreciate like they're always trying to help each other and it's probably the best security team culture that I have had in my past couple internships so it's something that can be hard to find and I really was proud of it so I wanted to convert to full-time and I was able to to do that so I started in April of this year back after I graduated. That's great yeah I just wanted to mention really quickly our head of security Joe Sullivan our chief security officer he cares deeply about diversity not only within his team but the entire company so he leads lots of different diversity initiatives and inclusion so I'm glad you mentioned that that's definitely something that's really important. Great it's your turn. Oh yeah so when I was hired at Cloudflare we have this internal admin panel a lot of companies have the equivalent of this and there's this really big security problem an engineering problem called authorization so when we've authenticated someone saying oh yeah they are actually you know who they say they are the second part of that question is well what are we going to allow them to do and so on our internal admin panel you know we have many different actions and we don't want just any employee to be able to access any resource and this is a and we had a solution for this but it really wasn't scalable and it required the team I was on I should say this I was I'm on the application services team it required them to put in a lot of work toil work manually changing you know who can do what and so when I was hired they wanted me to overhaul this entire system and build something better that that can help this process go faster and take a lot less work from our team so as it turns out this project ballooned quickly to be much bigger than what I could possibly do in three months so that might be one so when I was so when I worked on it what I really tried to do is is is narrow my focus to to try to to try to get what I could get done in the scope of my internship so I so what I worked on was just identifying the different parts of the process that were taking a lot of time and how can I write some sort of command line tool or or whatever to make speed up that process and make it take a lot less manual work by the time I got to the end of my internship you know the process was nicer but it wasn't as you know it wasn't to the point where I personally felt like it would be you know the the the best possible solution so when I got rehired what I'm working on now is is actually tearing out that entire system in its entirety and replacing it with something that's just better from the ground up so that's a so so part of the interesting thing about you know working at Cloudflare has been how my summer work as an intern has extended itself into my full-time work as a as an employee and you know and that's been a really educational part of this process and I've also been working on a lot of different systems my team specifically works on many different products internally and externally and getting to work you know at the database level all the way up to the front end you know fixing little errors and how the UI looks in very specific edge cases that most people won't notice that's been very interesting from you know my personal career development so by the way the the stuff that that we're talking about and I'm just like this is coming to mind as I think about the stuff that Julie and Curtis worked on it's all like this is stuff that really matters like as an intern you get to work on products that affect Cloudflare they're they're not dummy projects set up for interns they're they're real things and you're often working with the core engineering teams that are making all this stuff happen so there's there's this extra sense and I know this sounds kind of cheesy but there's this extra sense of purpose like what you're working on will actually have real impact this stuff went out and affected real customers so it's it's really really fun to get to see not just that stuff come together but then to see it like launch and affect customers. I have software that I wrote as an intern that's running right now in production and it's being used by big customers that you will that you might have heard of or you know you might know of so it's it's it's quite interesting yeah. I don't see that going away anytime soon either like for example our team has an intern right now and the projects that he is able to work on like we're actively using and even if we stop like if we iterate on it it will be an iteration it wouldn't be like we would get rid of it when he's gone because it's like something we actually need and we've been waiting kind of for the bandwidth for someone to come on and be able to do it and since Cloudflare is full of a lot of small teams like having an intern really gives us extra bandwidth to be able to accomplish like really important projects versus just having an internship to be able to give the experience to someone. We're using right now we're using a project that an intern from this summer wrote internally for all Cloudflare employees that we're using so it's interesting. Yeah I think it's really cool we this past summer a few of our product manager interns they worked on a project that ended up kicking off birthday week this year and so that was like a huge exciting successful project for them and something you know that Cloudflare uses that's at the forefront of Cloudflare right now which is just very it's very interesting to be able to intern somewhere and then actually see such a big difference that you're making at the company. It's really crazy like it's actually we had a lot of moments where we would sit together and like in the all hands area at the office and sort of look around and be like should we even have this ability to make products that are like really launching and going out to people it's it's nuts and and in the case of like I was a product management intern and I'm now a product manager the the responsibilities are the same. I think it's just the quantity of the work that changes like as an intern you might get one or two projects and as full-time you might get a lot a lot of projects but the responsibilities they are almost identical. Yeah I did say I probably got like a little bit more responsibilities because like depending on what type of engineer you are you have to be on call so I would say the on-call part is fun and interesting and sometimes stressful but a lot of the projects I'm doing now like are like very closely related to what it does an intern and there's more quantity there's more meetings there's more meeting with people like discussing applications versus just like making something but I find that part really interesting because then you kind of get like full circle. Yeah it's yeah it's definitely was a positive experience. I did not have this experience of like the code I you know the code I wrote is still in production still being used by people. I did not have this at my two previous internships. It was not like that at all no. Absolutely well moving on to one of my last questions before we talk about your full-time roles now. If you can look back at your internship and have just kind of one key takeaway and what I mean is I think you know the most important purpose of an internship is just real world experience seeing what you like what you don't like things like that like for example I interned on Capitol Hill and my takeaway is that I don't want to work in government and so something like that I think would be great if we could just go around and if you have kind of one big key takeaway. Yeah I think for me it's that as much as I love what Cloudflare does and I'm a big believer in the product I think that in an internship the most important thing is well it's the people who work around you and the people you get to work with like really for us I think our favorite part of the experience was the social component in a lot of ways and that even though we're super super passionate about the stuff we were working on we would get to hang out with these other people who are really like-minded and care about the same things like I mentioned Curtis and I would have ping pong games weekly I was in Orlando earlier this year and I hung out with Julie because that's where she's from and she showed me around like it's really cool that you get to build these relationships with people who are working on similar but not identical things and the other interesting thing there is like we had very different roles when you're a software engineer or a security engineer or whatever you are working on sort of your day-to-day is fairly different from a product manager's day-to-day but once you all sit down for lunch it sort of doesn't matter and you all just talk about what you're working on and it's and it's fun so my takeaway is that those relationships are the important thing both in an internship but also in a real life job that's what's going to make you happy and that's what's going to make you care about the company. Yeah to kind of piggyback off of Ben so the other thing that like really drew me to Cloudflare was how innovative and friendly and humble people were like I had not been in an environment where people were technical and very smart like in various ways like people that would go from like one focus area and know everything about it to something completely different and like also succeed in it and be able to like tell stories and and just like have that component like I was just shocked that it existed an entire company and that like really drew me into being a part of it because it wasn't like those people were separate from everyone else they were like they were able to like talk to you and explain things and just like give you advice in a way that was like very same level versus kind of like typically in an internship you might get like a very uh kind of like jaded where one person is like oh I've been in the the industry for like 10-15 years I kind of talked down to you because you're a student um and at Cloudflare like I never had that happen um that was long side tangent I would say my my one key takeaway was that it's really important to work on um multiple projects during your internship a lot of companies will give you like a core project but I was lucky my team like emphasized me taking on like a side project as well so I got to work with other security teams outside of ours and because of that like I knew like hey like this is how much like product management work I would be comfortable with doing in my job but I wouldn't be comfortable doing a product being a product manager or um like this part of it like I really like I think it's interesting but I don't think I could do this like like my for my whole job and it really like gave me the ability to say like this is the aspect of security that I want to work in and then I like was able to tell like a really good story about why I chose like the team I did why I chose the position and why like going forward in my career like I want to stay within those boundaries because I got like really good exposure and I was able to compare that to other experiences and other work on security insecurity yeah uh my my key takeaway from this uh from this internship well um you know I would say I would agree with uh you know a lot of what Ben said about you know personal relationships but you know making friends with people um you know I you know I've worked at at other companies where there you know there wasn't a uh this sort of camaraderie you kind of showed up at an office um and I felt like Cloudflare did a really good job of making me care about other uh you know about you know our message together I remember joining like uh the first day and everyone was like yeah we're gonna we're changing the Internet we're making the Internet a better place and I kept thinking like okay sure um but you know honestly I can say this you know as I've been working here more and more you know I really see that and it's not just talk it's you know people are actually here you know like you know making the Internet a better place and they're doing all sorts of things uh on my team we're doing you know I think we're doing great stuff to you know help the Internet and Cloudflare as a whole being better uh which I think is is awesome it's very motivating and I feel like that you know what I'm doing matters you know it's gonna it's gonna make a difference and I feel like uh that's you know that's a good thing and that that really makes this job enjoyable and I'm happy I got to be an intern here thank you yeah that was great um so we only have three minutes left which means we're probably not going to be able to talk about everything that I wanted to today um actually probably a lot of it but I think uh one thing that we should definitely end with is that since you are all um in full -time positions now just seeing how you know the world has changed and applying for internships and new grad roles is very different um do you have any advice for someone going through it right now um and just even if you can touch on like working remotely and and how it's changed and you know how we're adapting to that oh that's that's a tough one Ellie yeah I'm sorry to end with a tough one no no it makes sense though I mean I think part of it is like we haven't gone through the process of applying in a pandemic so we're fortunate in that respect but I think the big thing is just know that there's there's no secret sauce to applying to an internship if there was if there was one tip that we could give you that would change everything then it would immediately be out in the open and it would no longer matter um so really I think the only thing you can do is is work your hardest like like really make sure you're out working everyone else who's going through the process of looking for an internship and that doesn't mean staying up all night it just means being smart about the connections you're making when you're looking at different companies and when you're working on your applications I think that's really really important there's a lot of people who um you know have a test coming up in college like Curtis was talking about and they think a lot about the the short term about the test the test results are very immediate and it's hard to see the the dividends that you'll get paid from working from a job in the long term but remember that that job or that internship will affect your whole career potentially so really spend the time to make sure you're out working other people and that you're putting in the proper effort when you're applying to different jobs and I have one minute left Ellie do you want to wrap up all about internships yes sorry we we are sorry time no no I think um I think this chat has been incredible honestly and just the advice throughout the past 30 minutes has really done a great job and I think will be for students um if you are a student watching and you're interested please please please check us out on Cloudflarecareers.com we're currently hiring for a software engineer intern a new grad role a product manager intern role a security engineer intern role a data scientist intern role and a technology research engineer intern role thanks again for listening and also feel free to reach out at any time to cf -internships at Cloudflare.com again thank you so much Curtis Julie Ben it's been so much fun um we're so happy that you're with us full time now hope to see you guys soon yeah super excited