Cloudflare TV

Dial Up Motive

Presented by Justina Wong, Val Vesa
Originally aired on 

Human-interest segment asking Cloudflare employees what their first Internet experience was and how it informed them joining Cloudflare. Dial-up modems, bulletin boards, punch-cards, Twitch, Twitter and more.

Val first went online back in 1995, as he was trying to visit the website of his favorite singer, Carman , from an Internet Cafe in Romania. This segment has many other fun facts about his early online experiences, his current role at Cloudflare and why he loves managing social media.


Transcript (Beta)

Hello, thank you everybody for tuning in to our Cloudflare TV session today. Before we start, I have a little bit of disclaimer to do.

My network is not allowing me to dial in properly as we would, so I'm being innovative and I'm dialing in from my phone.

It will be my first session on my phone, so if it's like different from the previous Cloudflare TV channel that you watched before, please bear with us.

We're gonna have as much fun. And so now, going back to our session today, welcome to the 25th episode of our Dial Up Motive.

So this is a very casual session for us to talk to our guest, to talk about how his journey or her journey to knowing about the Internet and how they have transitioned to be one of the Cloudflare employees.

Today, we have Val with us. Hello, Val. Hey, everyone. Great, so Val is like one of our really cool employees from our Lisbon office.

No, sorry, London.

I'm just gonna turn it over to you and can you share a little bit about yourself and your role with us so we get to know you a bit more?

Sure, so as you said, my name is Val.

My legal full name is Valentin, but nobody says that. Everybody says Val.

And I work as a community manager out of the London office.

I joined Cloudflare about two years ago. It's gonna be two years in July 5th.

And yeah, thank you for having me. Happy Cloudflare journey. It's like two years is a long time in our office, actually.

But I think like not a lot of us might be aware of what a community manager is.

Can you just share a little bit more of what this job entails?

What is it about? Sure, so community management usually is around talking to existing and prosperous customers, pretty much everyone following us on our social media channels, on our YouTube channel, community also, and receiving feedback, thanking customers for being with us, answering questions, and so on.

So pretty much maintaining a relationship with people who either already use us or thinking about using us, and maybe they have some questions.

And then depending on what the questions come to us about, we can redirect them to support, to sales, or just, I don't know, send a t-shirt out if that's the question.

Yeah, I think for some of our audience, they might have already interacted with you on one of our social media platforms.

I think you were like the person that everybody talked to if they ping us on Twitter, or like they ping Cloudflare help, right?

We do have a team of people doing this, but if it's EMEA hours, most likely they're talking to me, yes.

Awesome. So going back to your role here, you started in London office, and now with the pandemic, are you still in London?

Where in the world are you right now? I'm in London, in Romania, in London, in Romania, it depends.

So depending where the Internet is better. Awesome, awesome.

So is there like a favorite part of your current role? Like what is the most awesome thing with your role here?

I think, you know, pretty much everything you do as a social media community manager is very exciting because you get to actually talk to people firsthand.

So there's no walls between the person tweeting and you.

You know, be it Twitter, be it Facebook, be it LinkedIn, doesn't really matter the medium where it happens, the conversation is very direct.

And then you have to adjust to people being polite to people not being so polite to people being happy or not happy.

And one of the favorite things that I used to say when I go to events, and I speak about social media and social media management, community management, is that if you love people, you can already be like halfway there to be a very good and successful community manager.

If you don't love people, and you know, just, you know, you're doing for the money or for the career or whatever other reasons you may have, I don't think you can be successful doing this.

It's very, very rewarding, but it can be very, very not rewarding if your heart is not in it.

So yeah, I got you. I think you're like one of the most, one of the person who talked to the most people even within the company, like I could see you in every channel, you're talking to everybody.

So I'm very sure you're a very people person.

So now we're going to go back a little bit to our topic for today, and learn more about how you get exposed to the Internet.

Can you describe a story from the first time that you use the Internet with us?

Yes, actually, this is a true story and is back in, I don't even know, I think, 95 or 96, 1996, that is.

So maybe some of the viewers watching this were not even born back then.

And then I was a fan of a specific musician.

Unfortunately, he passed away, but from the US, and I received the cassette tape, again, another keyword that some viewers might not even know what that means.

I received the cassette tape with his songs, there were like five songs on the cassette tape.

And on the back of it, for those who remember, you would open the cassette tape, there will be a cassette inside.

And then on the back, you'd have like a cover.

So the cover would have two pieces, one on the left, one on the right.

And inside, you would have the lyrics of each song. Sometimes you would have like, you know, credits who composed the music and the lyrics and so on.

But on the back on the flip back, the you know, the ones who had money back then to actually put out a website also had www.whatever the website was.

And I saw this one, which was his organization website. And in my mind, again, remember somebody being in in my first year of high school in Romania, having zero, you know, Internet connection knowledge about computers back then.

The question immediately popped up, what is a www dot? Like, what is that thing?

Because I could understand English and read, but I didn't know what it actually means.

So I'm talking to my physics professor, who, fortunately, in the lab, we had one computer in the entire high school, which was running Windows 95.

I know, I know, very back and, and it had not a connection to the Internet, because back then, you wouldn't have a continuous connection.

But it did have a dial up modem, and not a 56k one, but a 32k one.

So it's very, very old. And he said, Well, this is a website, oh, website, another keyword, like, okay, what does the website do?

So he said, Okay, you should go because there is an Internet cafe, another keyword, which was really fancy back then, nobody's using them anymore.

Now, Internet cafe in a city next to me that I had to actually go by train for half an hour just to get there, standing line, so that they would open at 10am, go inside, nobody inside 15 stations, all running 1995 windows.

And I asked the lady who was there at the reception, I said, I want to go online.

That's, that's the actual words I've memorized from my teacher, because he said, we go there, have money with you a lot of money, and ask them, I want to go online.

I said, Okay, I want to go online. And she said, have a seat.

There's 15 of them. Take it, you know, have a seat anywhere.

So I go and sit in front of a computer and five minutes pass, and then 10 minutes pass.

I just I'm staring at the screen. And I could see her head, you know, her eyes over her station.

She's like, is everything okay? Like, yeah, sure.

I'm just waiting for it to start. Because I was watching if you remember the the GIF back then the app GIF, you know, circling around the screen.

It was the screensaver, but I had no idea what a screensaver was.

I didn't even touch the keyboard or the mouse, because I didn't know how to use them.

So she came over, she sat next to me, and she said, you've never used one of these before, right?

No. And she did.

Okay, so here you go. And that was my first lesson. So she actually touched with her hand, the mouse, and boom, the computer opens.

And then I see the icons, my computer, Internet Explorer.

And what was it? IRC, if you remember the chat, MIRC, Merck.

I actually don't know. Okay, maybe I'm young. No worries. And that was the first.

So that was the first time I actually used the Internet. So we went on his website, because, again, that's the reason why I went there, right?

To see the musician's website.

We went to the website, and there was a form where, you know, contact form, again, new keyword, contact form, what is that?

And she explained, you know, you put your name, you put your email address, and a message, whatever you want to tell them, and they will reply to you.

And I'm like, email address, what is an email address?

And she's like, okay, let me, you know, hook you up.

So she created my first email address on, which is no longer in use.

Unfortunately, I should have kept it. But you know, at some point, Yahoo introduced the six months login, expired expiration date, they just deleted it, because I didn't use it anymore.

So we sent, we sent an email out, well, we filled the form, and I got an email, I think, two or three days later, she called me because I didn't have Internet connection in my village.

She called me and she said, you have a response because I gave her my password again, you know, working in a security company, right?

So she said, do not do this at home. This was acceptable 30 years ago, but don't do it now.

And, and she said, you have a response, and they want to send you five cassette tapes.

And the response actually read something like nobody ever reached out to us from Romania, we're so excited to even know about us.

And we're going to send you five free cassette tapes, so you can listen to all of the music that you know, this artist record.

So I still have them.

And they're like, the first thing I ever ordered, you know, in the records, I didn't really pay for them, but like order online.

So yeah, 1995. Wow, is that website?

No, they're like, I actually want to go on Google and search for it right now.

The website is still on, I'm going to put this website in the in the search, and maybe we can update the description of the segment later.

Yeah, please do. This is the website.

The artist passed away this year, unfortunately, due to some surgery complications.

But you know, the music is still there, people can still go and watch and buy the music if you want.

So you can support his foundation. But yeah, that was the that was the story of the first encounter of me and Internet in the same room.

That is awesome. I think it's super cool, because like, you literally bring it from offline to online.

And then you do the whole process of contacting and reaching out to each other.

And then he actually bring it back offline and send a physical cassette tape to you.

Like, yeah, it all started, it all started with one cassette tape that I got as a gift from someone from the US, I was listening to the music, got compelled to reach out and see, you know, how can I actually get online to find them.

And they send five more. So yeah, this is an amazing story. Thank you for sharing.

So in a way, this was the first swag I got online as well, if you don't want to call it order.

True, true. And now you're the person who's sending us sending them out.

Everyone watching when you when you ask, when you ask us on Twitter to send you a t shirt or something, usually they come to me and we try to be, you know, as fast as possible.

Some locations in the world are harder to reach by mail, especially now with COVID and all the restrictions and slow processing in the mail.

But hopefully, we try to make everyone happy and you know, make everyone's day as I had my day.

Yeah, thank you. Thank you. Thank you for passing it on.

This amazing story. So after this first encounter, how did your first early days of Internet go?

Like, did you start going to the cafe more? What happened?

Yes. So I was lucky enough to be alive in a time where Romanians were, I guess, everywhere else in the world, but Romanians were very hungry for Internet.

And it all started when all these Internet cafes were open.

And because it was much, cheaper to go to an Internet cafe and spend, you know, your money in a half an hour, one hour session there, then actually implement Internet in your own house or apartment.

And then what was really interesting was in our village, in the city, they actually opened a new Internet cafe, and they give free Internet to everyone for one month.

And guess who almost never left from the place. Like my dad would call and say, come home, we need to, you know, go with a farm back then.

We need to do some work or you need to go buy bread, you know, stuff like kids would have to help out in the house.

And I was like, Dad, you don't understand. I'm on the Internet.

Like, you're not producing any money right now. Come on. And, you know, like playing chess on Yahoo chat, if you remember, back in the day when Yahoo was, you know, in full on, and then experiencing the first attacks on, like somebody putting out Yahoo for three days with a DDoS.

That was the first DDoS I've ever heard about that actually was originating in Timișoara, one of the cities in Romania, from a high schooler.

So that was the first time Romanians were known.

But that's not your high school, and that's not where you're from, right? Because now I'm like, no, no, no, no.

I was actually using it and I couldn't use it.

And then you go back to the times where, again, Google was not even invented.

So we're talking about, if you want to search something online, you would either go to Yahoo, that they had their own directory, or you would go to dmos,, which was, I think, the first directory on the Internet.

So nothing was searchable, everything was clickable.

So you'd go to, you know, travel, and then hotels, and then rooms, and you would have to click each way through those.

You couldn't search for anything.

So exciting. And, you know, during high school, we finally got connection to our own house, so dial-up connection.

And then you would call a number, and of course, as you were online, the family would have no phone access, because you're connected.

So anybody calling in to our house, you know, talking to us, or my dad, my mom, anybody in the family, they were like, oh, my God, busy tone again.

You know, we can't get through, something's happening. And my dad was like, just don't worry, Val is online.

So I was learning English, I was watching, you know, everything I could watch.

And then YouTube came along at some point. And yeah, it was pretty exciting.

Now I realize it, it's almost 20 years ago. So I like to pretend I'm young, and pretend I don't understand any of those that you're talking about.

But I do. It's totally fine. I mean, like you said, in the beginning, two years at Clothar, or two years on online with all this Internet, and technology is like, I don't know, maybe 10 years, you know, 20 years ago.

So everything is developing so fast, everything moves at a speed of almost light online.

And yeah. So like, you talk about playing chess online, like you're just like browsing and learning languages, like, what is the coolest thing during the time that you have done?

Like, what is the thing that you're like, oh, that was so awesome.

I want to tell all my friends. I think it was the first time this was not that old, you know, in the old times of the Internet.

But I remember at some point, somebody putting out a high resolution image of an inauguration at the White House, but I don't remember exactly what year it was.

I remember though, being able to zoom in at the level of like seeing nostrils and eyes and fingernails of the people in the audience.

And I was like, because I'm a very passionate photographer.

So that for me was okay. So being online as a photographer is going to be meaningful in the future, because now you can upload full size, full resolution images, and anybody can see your work.

If you remember back in the day, or if you read about it, I was doing Internet development.

So, you know, websites and all that, working with teams out of the Philippines, Vietnam, India, and they would send me a flash.

If you remember flash, anybody watching? They used to have flash websites where you'd have a .swf file loading on the desktop.

And then in the back, you'd have a txt file loading just the text of the flash, because it was just so damn impossible to edit it all the time.

And the flash would have, let's say two or three megabytes, the file, and they would send it to me on Yahoo chat.

And it took usually between three and four hours to download from India to my place.

And then I would have to upload it to the website of the customer, again, maybe, you know, half an hour, but two megabytes.

And think about now you download a movie, which is usually about, you know, two, three, four gigabytes in minutes, maybe sometimes seconds, depending on how good your Internet connection is.

So there you go, speed and connectivity.

And we're here to make it a better Internet. We're helping to build a better Internet.

That's what we do every day here at Cloudflare. Yeah, is that how that get you into Cloudflare?

Like, because you were looking for a better solution?

How did your story come to Cloudflare? I was aware of the existence of Cloudflare, I think, even from the early years of Cloudflare being a startup.

I was working back then with Sucuri. Sucuri was acquired by GoDaddy. So they now power the security services of GoDaddy.

But being hired at Sucuri, which was basically doing almost the same thing as Cloudflare, but of course, at a much lower, you know, startup-ish level.

We were aware, like I was watching social media feeds from Cloudflare every day, you know, because you look at a competition, even now we do that.

So we want to see what's out there, what's new, if it's something that is relevant to us, or if it's something that we think would help our customers.

And also, it's very important for us to receive and understand the feedback that customers are sending through social media channels to us.

Because, you know, we take all that in, and we provide feedback to our internal team.

So if somebody's using, you know, our warp service, for example, and they come in and say, I would like to have, you know, this and that in the dashboard.

I don't have maybe visibility into how many other people ask for that internally.

But if I go to our chat room, and I say to the warp team, hey, this request came up, they can go like, oh, that's interesting.

We have 10, 20, you know, 300 more of those. So that's going to come a feature, most likely, you know, some other features may not be happening immediately.

But we always welcome feedback. So if you're watching this, and you think about, I really love the service, I really like what Cloudflare is doing.

But, and if at the but word, you start with an idea or a suggestion, please tweet at us at Cloudflare.

We love to hear about what you're thinking.

If you want to work here, again, there's a lot of jobs on the website, you know, come join me and Justyna doing whatever we do in our separate teams, but together collectively, again, helping build a better Internet.

Yeah, I think like whoever has an idea right now, like just go on Twitter, ping, ping.

They can ping me, they can ping Cloudflare, somebody's always going to be reaching out and confirming that we did receive the feedback.

Exactly, exactly. So like, now that you talk about like some of our product and tying back into the early days that when you were, when you're a web admin yourself, so in Cloudflare, we do encourage a lot of people to dogfood our own product.

Are you still a user? Like, are you testing out?

What is your favorite website that you're hosting right now? I cannot confirm the number of websites I have behind Cloudflare, but there are a lot.

So yes, I have, I have a plan. I mean, I have a domain on each of the plans that Cloudflare has plans with.

So if any, like, let's say, Justyna, you are on the pro plan, and you're coming up and you ask me, you know, hey, Val, how can I blah, blah, blah, because I don't see this in the dashboard, I will open my own website that has that plan.

And I will make sure to see your screenshot, my screenshot, something doesn't match something as if it is it your local device, your desktop, your browser, that is hindering you from seeing, you know, maybe have some extension on the browser or something that doesn't allow you to see the button or the feature or to have it enabled.

And if not, then yes, we can submit it as a bug to our team.

But I have a website for all of the features that we have at Cloudflare. And I'm testing every day, anything that comes out new in our chat, if anybody's talking about, we're going to launch this at some point, I always ask for a seat, I want to test it, I want to see how it works.

Because once we release it out there on, you know, people watching this, maybe are already watching our and following our blog, which is blog at blog.Cloudflare .com.

That's where we announce all of the new features, all of the new products, we try to blog every day, at least once.

So, you know, come by, read, see what's happening, there's going to be some very interesting things happening in the Zero Trust space next week.

I'm not going to say more, but do follow along and watch.

And what I can say is that not only since COVID happened, but all, you know, two or three years ago, all this movement towards either remote or working from home, or at some measure, not being inside an office is requiring teams to have a lot of extra security happening around how their employees are connecting to the servers, to the offices, and then back.

So this is what we're going to be talking a lot about in the next week.

Yes, so please stay tuned.

I think there's going to be a lot of updates and information flooding on our blogs and different channels.

So if you have any questions, or if you have like new ideas that you don't know, if we are already on the roadmap, just ping Cloudflare and or Cloudflare help, then we could look into that and see if like, it could be a reality in the future, right?

Yeah, usually, if we can identify the person who initially submitted the feedback or a feature suggestion, we always reach, you know, back and just say, Hey, Justyna, you, you know, you wanted us to have whatever implemented, it's done, it's live.

Thank you so much. So, you know, why not?

I mean, submitting, submitting feedback to a service provider should not be difficult and should also be seen as as a way for you to give back to other users.

So you can actually have impact on millions of people's lives, just because you suggested an extra button in the dashboard, or an edit feature somewhere, you know, or, or a bulk import or something that is making people use less time to do more tasks on that particular screen.

And I always I'm always happy, like I reach out on social media to all of the service providers that I use and always provide feedback.

And when I provide feedback, I like to provide screenshots.

And I like to provide arrows in those screenshots. So I don't just send a huge, you know, screenshot of my of my screen saying there's a bug in this image, like, how can I find it?

So I'm going to indicate it with an arrow. This is not necessarily something that I'm just scolding people to do.

But yeah, we like to receive very detailed feedback.

And if something is wrong, we need to know when, when it happened, what, what your device type is, what your browser is, and all that.

Just saying, hey, Cloudflare, my site doesn't work, is usually a start of the conversation, but it's not, it's not telling us much, right.

So we're always happy to help and respond and check specifically on each website.

But please do understand, we need as much detail as possible, when you submit a bug, or, you know, when you're saying something doesn't work.

Yeah, I totally, I totally echo that.

Because for my role, I do work with a lot of different teams. And a lot of times, like when you ping someone, but like, hey, Val, help me to look at this.

Oh, well, there's a lot of things going on the Internet.

What exactly do you want me to look at?

Like, there's many things I could test, right? So, yeah. And it's also important for everyone out there to know that our DMs are open on, you know, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on.

So if you have something that you want to ask, if you want to submit a screenshot, you don't want the whole world to see, do use that.

But also, if you are a customer, our recommendation is to actually use the support desk system, so that everything is securely shared with us.

And of course, we only going to be talking to the account owners.

So if you submit an email to support ad, for example, and you're not an account owner with Cloudflare from that email address, most likely you will not be getting any help.

And that's just because we put security on a higher pedestal than just, you know, providing help.

I mean, we do provide help, but after security requirements are met, and this is the order how things should be done.

So if you get annoyed when your employer reminds you that, hey, you haven't changed your password for your computer in six months, don't get annoyed, just change it.

It's not difficult. If you use a service that doesn't have a 2FA authentication implemented, just drop the service, provide them feedback, say, hey, if you want me to come back to your bank, or whatever the system is, please implement 2FA.

If not, goodbye. There's so many other services who put security first, and they can still get your business and your money.

And the other ones are not worth it. I'm serious. I'm very serious. This is not to be joked around with.

And do not share a password. Please don't. Like I know we've all done that in the past, like 20 years ago.

And this is like the number one rule of do not do on the Internet.

So use a password manager always is the only password you need to remember is your password to your password manager.

That's all.

Nothing else. If you can, if you can say by heart your password of any other service, that's already an indication of possible breach.

Because, you know, a few glasses of drinking or some other situations happening, you might give it away easily.

If it's something that's, you know, very common for you in your brain. Don't do something, I love my mom, I love my dad, you know, that's so easy to break.

Although we do respect your parents and we do want you to love your parents, but don't use them as passwords.

Okay. I think, I think we really need to set you up for another session of like what to do and what not to do on the Internet.

And I think you could give a lot of good advice to all of our users.

Like let's, let's do it.

Yeah, we should, we should really think about it. So we do only have a tiny bit of time left.

And thank you for sharing all the stories of like how your early days transition you to be someone who's in coffee right now or a customer.

Is there any advice that you would want to give to anybody who are inspired with your story today?

And like, maybe they want to become like you, like, what should they do?

Yeah, will you tell them? If you want to do anything in the community space, my advice is going back to what I said when we started is love people.

Genuinely love people.

If you don't love people, it's going to be very difficult to work with them.

And we do work in the community management space a lot with people and you work with, you know, different temperaments, you work with different, you know, social backgrounds, historic, you know, culture backgrounds and so on.

So if somebody like, I'm not going to be very specific.

I think we're almost out of time, but, but specific words in different geographies and cultures can mean different things.

So if somebody is reaching out, or if you see a tweet from someone tweeting something, think about this.

They may not be English native speakers.

So whatever English they write there and you have, you see a typo, don't pick on the typo.

Just answer the question they have. If somebody says, how can I, you know, blah, blah, blah, do this.

And they have a typo or a grammar or a spelling problem, just answer and provide help.

Don't scold them about their grammar.

Nobody's a scholar or, you know, I'm not, I'm not an English born native speaker.

I do my best. I do try to make myself be understand, understandable and understood.

See, see, I'm doing it. But I think it's really good to be helpful and to provide always a smiling face when you answer a question.

Yeah, I totally agree. I think this is how we build our Cloudflare community and please keep helping each other.

And thank you again. It was great having you today. See you next time.

Now we're hooked. We have to do it next time. Of course we will do it. Bye everyone.

Thank you.

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Dial Up Motive
Human-interest segment asking Cloudflare employees what their first Internet experience was and how it informed them joining Cloudflare. Dial-up modems, bulletin boards, punch-cards, Twitch, Twitter and more.
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