*APAC Heritage Month* We are Cloudflare
Interviews with the people behind the scenes that make Cloudflare what it is. Join Chaat as he interviews people from across all teams and offices. Get to know what they do and the kind of people we are.
Good morning Singapore and good evening in the Americas. How are you? This is Chaat Butsunturn.
I'm your host of We Are Cloudflare and I'm very pleased today to be chatting with two of our esteemed guests from or actually I should say my colleagues from our Singapore office.
I have Sharad Goyal and Kate Fleming. How are you guys?
Thank you so much for joining. Thanks for having us. Yeah my pleasure.
So as you know it is APAC Heritage Month in America. I don't know if it's a global thing but one of the things that we were doing this month is I'm interviewing people from our APAC office and I'm thrilled to be doing it.
I've been doing this show for I guess for the length of that we've had Cloudflare TV and working trying to coordinate with Singapore has been a goal.
So I'm going to check out off the bucket list.
So now here I just had a slice of pizza for dinner. I guess it's 11-ish your time.
What time is in Singapore? Yeah okay great. Well Kate let me start with you.
You are the Director of Customer Success for APAC is that correct?
Correct that's right. So when did you join Cloudflare and what could you describe what you do?
Because I've had I've talked to CSMs before but as Director of our CSM team tell me more.
Okay all right well if you've spoken to CSMs already then they're the people that that are the brains of the operation.
So we should always defer to them but let me give you a quick introduction.
So I'm Australian.
Born and bred. I've lived in Germany and then the last few years I've been in Malaysia and now in Singapore for five years and the last two and a half years I've been at Cloudflare and I've been looking after the success team and let me tell you quickly about success for maybe people who don't work in organizations that have a success function.
The easiest it's not perfect but the easiest way to describe it is where you're old-fashioned account managers.
So for those of us who grew up in sales organizations previously when you had hunters and farmers the hunters are generally the people that go after the new business and the farmers were the people that then nurture those relationships and found ways to make them more profitable both for the company but also that really valuable for the customer.
As we've moved to subscription-based relationships it's not just about getting more cross-sell and upsell it's actually just about retaining them and getting them to renew their subscription and so the success function was born around about 10 years ago actually and still relatively new in this region and the idea is that we work with the customers to understand what is success for them in terms of what drove them to buy our products and then to make sure that we're delivering on that and delivering above.
Okay so is the the success function do you think it's pretty consistent globally or is there are there elements of cultural you know centricity that you need to account for?
Yeah I mean that's a great question so we run as a global team so we're quite centralized in our process and our approach to the metrics that we use however in terms of how we engage with customers it is very different and it's it's actually we've run a couple of shows on this ourselves which is talking about how we manage customers right the way across Asia and just give me two moments and I'll tell you about it.
So if we think about success in APAC we've got markets from Australia and New Zealand which are very proximate to North America in terms of their business dealings, cultural norms, how they engage with even contracts and negotiations.
We then have Japan as an example and Korea is very similar who really want the granular details and where they will build trust in you is you being able to answer questions to the nth degree that someone in Australia might think is not worth it while knowing they just trust those details but for that's how you build the trust.
Then if I look at other places well everywhere relationship is important but it's just important in different ways and let me I'll give you a quick anecdote and then I'll hand over to Sherad.
So in Sydney which is where I grew up in a business meeting traditionally you would have approximately 10 to 15 minutes to convince the person that you were meeting with the value of your time with them and why they should continue to stay with you and you might book a 30-minute meeting and hope it extends to an hour.
In Malaysia, you ostensibly book a meeting for one and a half or two hours but you probably expect to go and eat with people afterwards and you don't just jump into business.
I mean that's so rude and I spent the first few years of my career in an Asian leadership role many years ago unintentionally offending people because I was like hey let's get to business because I wanted to be respectful of their time and that came across as being disrespectful because what I wasn't doing is taking time to get to know people first and so from a CSM perspective a cloud player we make sure that we have our teams aligned so that we're kind of culturally and linguistically sensitive to to our customers and we can actually give them the best experience.
So we have people taking care of all of the countries across Asia and at the moment they're mostly in Singapore some in Beijing and some in Australia but eventually we'll have them in Japan and India as well.
Wow, well I really appreciate that thorough explanation and I especially like the farmer hunter analogy.
It's one that makes a lot of sense and that's fascinating how it's different for different countries and we really do need to think about where our audience is coming from.
Sharad, thank you for joining.
So you are the head of business partners at least that's what I see on on LinkedIn but I don't feel like that title really does it justice.
So what do you do at Cloudflare?
Well I have the privilege of leading our people practice in this part of the world and what that very simply means is finding great people for Cloudflare, convincing them and helping them get into Cloudflare and then keeping them happy, engaged and motivated at Cloudflare.
So I'm responsible for all aspects of our people practices right from bringing them, onboarding them, helping them settle into roles and then making sure that they feel motivated, they feel like they have avenues for growth and development and professional gratification.
I see my role in summary, I see my role as making our people's lives better and that's how I like to think about it sometimes.
So that's what I do and we have for those watching on video, we have four offices in the region at the moment, our biggest is Singapore.
We have physical presence in terms of offices in Sydney, in Beijing and in Tokyo and here's the plug for hiding, we are recruiting quite aggressively.
So for those of you who may be interested, we're open for business in APAC.
Very good, very good. So is the, when I first started at Cloudflare, it was just Singapore and they didn't have Tokyo or Sydney yet even or Beijing.
So as we grow, how is it recruiting across the whole geo? I mean, you're looking at different countries, different variations in culture, language, how do you navigate that?
That's a very interesting question and I'm speaking for my fabulous colleagues and team and recruiting here but there are nuances to that and I'll try and keep this short because we can spend many hours talking about this topic as you probably understand.
I should have booked an hour for us.
Exactly, I think it's safe to say that Cloudflare as an organization likes to hire a particular brand of people, a certain type of people and I don't mean that restrictively, I mean that from a outlook standpoint, from a cultural fit standpoint, we like to hire a certain type of people and like with any other organization, our considerations are two broad buckets.
One is role-related, job -related.
So do you bring the expertise and the experience you will require to do well in the role that you are interviewing for and then I would say arguably more importantly is the cultural aspect of how you fit within the larger Cloudflare ecosystem, how will you work well with the team, how will you enrich our culture and stuff of that nature.
So with that consideration, it makes it both a little bit hard to find people who meet both of those criteria but in some sense, it also makes it easy because we are only looking for those two buckets.
So to that extent, cultural nuances or language capabilities or barriers or some people like to call them are not really relevant and the last thing I will say on that front is the lack of an ability to travel thanks to what's going on around us has actually leveled the playing field in some sense.
We meet everybody virtually, it's just a little bit of time zone difference here and there.
So that has flattened and broadened the talent market in a way because now you can talk to people from anywhere for roles anywhere.
So that's something that's an enabler in this kind of a circumstance and it's very challenging and it's very fulfilling when you find the right kind of people and they come in and they do well, it's a really fulfilling and gratifying feeling.
So I'm very privileged to have the opportunity. Well, it's great to have you on board and speaking of on board, where were you?
So what was your pre -Cloudflare life?
I mean, were you doing similar roles elsewhere and how did you end up in Singapore?
I have been in the people business for close to 20 years now.
I graduated from business school with a specialization in human resources in 2002 and I've been working in the people business ever since.
I've been at Cloudflare almost six months now.
Before this, I had a variety of HR recruiting people related roles and predominantly technology and media companies and one of my most foundational experiences was with Google where I spent seven years and I mentioned that because that was the opportunity with which I came to Singapore for the first time.
So the first time I came to Singapore to live and work here was in late 2010.
Google at that time was a massive expansion mode of their business and their teams in Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific.
So I was playing the role of a recruiter and HR business partner or have you did that for about two years, helping them grow in Southeast Asia and in APAC at large.
Went back to India but the love for Singapore had taken seed and it was very deep-rooted.
So I got an opportunity to come back to Singapore in 2016.
So I moved back here with my last role before Cloudflare.
It was a very interesting company called Robert Wienberg & Associates.
It's a media and technology -focused advertising agency, part of the IPG group and I have been here since 2016 and now with Cloudflare for the last six months.
And you're from Australia originally, is that right?
I'm originally from India. I've lived and worked most of my life in India outside of the seven or eight years that I've been in Singapore.
I'm Indian by origin and grew up in India, studied in India and been in India for most of my professional career outside this like I said seven years that I've been in Singapore.
And what about you, Kate? When did you come to Singapore? Yeah, so I had an APAC-wide role in Australia working for a software company there and it just became evident where our business was at the time.
We had a massive growth for us in Malaysia and it made sense for us to move our regional headquarters there and I went out with that.
So I moved to Malaysia in a relatively similar role a few years ago and spent a couple of years there and then that organization made a actually a pivot to pretty much move all of their investment to the US which was not necessarily what I was that thrilled about.
For my personal interest, I loved being in Southeast Asia. I loved Malaysia in particular.
My daughter was born there. We felt really had a really good network of friends and so when I had an opportunity, I was invited to join another company over the causeway as we say because Singapore is an island off the Malaysian peninsula and was part of Malaysia until 50-odd years ago.
So you can literally drive over the causeway from Malaysia into Singapore and when that opportunity came up, it was a no-brainer for me to move down here and I've been here for five years and my daughter just anecdotally, I'm sure something that a lot of people would be aware of when they're thinking about Asia-Pacific Heritage Month and we think about people with Asian heritage living in America is this notion of a third culture kid.
There's been a lot of literature and research around children who might grow up in a culture that is different to their parents and then they move from culture to culture and how they identify and my child who's got blonde hair and blue eyes, for the longest time assumed that she was Chinese Singaporean.
It was the day she realized she wasn't Chinese was honestly, it was really, really hard for her.
She was gutted. She was just gutted that she and that she could never be Chinese.
She just thought that maybe she hadn't grown into it yet and her diet is entirely Eastern.
So when we go back to Australia, if the grandmas can't cook rice, kids not going to eat.
So are you a multilingual household? Well, we try to be.
So my daughter's at a bilingual school. So she speaks Mandarin 50% of the time and schooling here is very much geared towards that.
So that's the case right through nursery as well.
I actually am a German speaker. So I went through the notion of raising my child as a bilingual German English speaker and that lasts about three months.
But yeah, so she's learning Chinese and I'm following on her coat heels, her coat tails.
And we have a bit of Tagalog and a bit of Malaysian too in the house.
Right, right. So this is Asian Heritage Month and I was interested in your perspective and you're already starting to touch it.
You don't often think of the white race as being a minority.
Clearly you are in Singapore. So when you moved into Malaysia or Singapore, what was that experience like for you?
And did you feel like a minority?
Yeah. I'm so glad you asked that. And for people watching at home, we did not set this question up, but you've touched on something.
So growing up, I want to give people a bit of an understanding of Australia if you only know us from the Crocodile Dundee movie.
So I grew up in Sydney and according to our last census, 28% of Sydneysiders are of Asian ancestry.
So if you think about geographically, we're geographically very proximate to Asia and a lot of our, certainly not our business practices as I explained before, but the food that we eat or what people look like on the street, what looks normal for us is a very strong mix.
We've got 28% and there's another one or more percent that identify as Pacific Islander.
So we've already got a bit of a melange going on there.
That said, when I moved to Malaysia, I've been doing business trips there say 10 times a year for a number of years beforehand, but living there, it was the first time I really felt like a minority.
And not only was I Anglo-Saxon in appearance, but I was also a female in business.
Now there's a lot of women in business in Malaysia, but I wasn't, my hair was not covered.
I wore Western attire, I wear pants.
I was always respectful in my dress, but I wasn't wearing a dress and my hair was out.
And I became acutely aware that I was the other. If you go back to the old Edward Said, like the original kind of occidental studies and things like that.
And it was a really interesting experience and a really important one for me to understand how aware of your surroundings you can be.
Like no one would have paid it.
No one would have cared. No one probably even noticed me, but I noticed me.
And it took a while. Singapore is a little bit different.
So actually around about 5% of the population in Singapore. So the biggest proportion is Chinese descent.
That's 74%. I've got the figures here. Malay is 13%, Indian 9%.
And then the balance is 3%. And a lot of that are Eurasians.
Singapore was a British colony and there is a very strong Eurasian population here.
So there's actually a lot more people that look like me here. And so maybe I was used to it after living in Malaysia and also probably Singapore is a little bit different, but absolutely chap.
And it really gave me an understanding for how people could feel, how people who might come to Australia or go to other places when they look different to other people, how they might feel unwelcome, even if we mean welcoming in our hearts, but maybe just how they might feel that way, because you feel so different.
Well, Sharad, so you're Indian and Singapore, I guess you are a different experience or would you say it's very similar, even though you are of Asian descent, where you were different Asians?
I think this is a safe statement to make.
I have not visited any country and I visited a few. I have not visited any country more welcoming and more open and more international than Singapore.
It's an exceptionally cosmopolitan, multicultural country, city state.
People are very respectful. And I have never felt like an outsider. I have never.
Yes, you're right. Statistically, like Kate shared 9% of the population in Singapore is Indian.
But it's very welcoming, very open. And like I said, I've never felt like an outsider.
In fact, one of the four official languages of Singapore is Tamil, which is actually an originally an Indian language, because there's a very significant Tamil community in Singapore who've existed here for generations.
And, you know, so it's that. So no, as an Indian, I don't feel like an outsider at all.
It's been a fabulous experience of living and working here. I'm not saying there is no experience of other people with respect to a little bit of, you know, like negative experiences around inclusion and acceptance.
I'm sure, you know, it happens.
In any large data set, there will be a little bit of, you know, sprinkling of that.
But by and large, it's not been my experience at all. In fact, on a funny one, the joke with the Indian community in Singapore is that Singapore is the best city in India to live in.
Yeah. That's how significant the influence of Indian culture is in Singapore.
I was speaking to a few of your colleagues last week.
I had another show where I talked to a few of our other colleagues. And one of the things they mentioned was that while there were children growing up in Singapore, they do have a tradition of you have to dress like another culture.
I don't know if it's like a Halloween, but it does give, I think, the natives an opportunity to empathize with the international community that Singapore really is.
Yeah. I was curious also about your fun facts. Now, it's a Cloudflare thing, as you may know.
When you start, they like to have you share a fun fact with the company.
It used to be something that you'd have to share in front of the whole company.
But as we continue to grow at a torrid pace, now these fun facts are they're still there, but they're maybe hidden in Pingboard.
So Sharad, let me start with you, because yours is probably fresh.
What is your fun fact? My fun fact is that I have only not set foot on one continent on the planet, and it is not the one you think.
Okay. So you've really been on Antarctica? That's right. That's right. I have been on Antarctica.
I have slept on the continental Antarctica on the ice shelf for a night as part of the adventure of the excursion that I took.
This was four years ago.
So my fun fact is not very fresh. But the fact that I haven't visited Africa is fresh because I haven't yet visited Africa.
So that's my fun fact. I went to Antarctica on an expedition vessel four, four and a half years ago.
We planned it for a long time and finally got around to doing it.
I got permission from the headquarters at home, if you know what I'm saying.
I made the trip happen. So that was a fabulous experience.
Is it flat? I imagine Antarctica to be really flat.
Am I wrong? You know, there are lots of misconceptions about Antarctica. Now I can sound like an expert for like 30 seconds.
It is very flat. Contrary to what people believe, it is very dry.
It is one of the driest places on the planet. And in the time that you are allowed to visit Antarctica, it is not very cold.
So those are the three things that I realized about Antarctica to be myths.
Right, right. Yeah, I could see where they probably don't want you during their winter time.
So I guess you were there when there was daylight. That's the other other thing.
That's right. That's right. You can only see the horizon. Exactly. You can only visit for a few months in the second half of the year.
I think the window is typically between late October to, I want to say, late Jan, maybe early Feb.
And, you know, before or after, it's very, very difficult to do.
All right, Kate, fun fact.
Do you remember yours? So firstly, I don't. And secondly, even if I did, it's not going to match.
I went to Antarctica and slept there for a night. He said a high bar.
He said a high bar. Dude, you're like, you're just throwing me under the bus there.
I got nothing. Yeah, we thought Australia was down under and I think he got you beat on that.
I don't know.
I've done a lot of crazy things, but I think honestly, my fun fact was probably something like I arranged my bookshelf in color order, you know, according to the visible spectrum of light, which is which is generally what I do and generally what I play with when I'm stressed.
I'm like, so is that, you know, what shade of orange is that really?
Where should that book go? It's yeah. Well, I think we should move on from that question.
That's a really tough one. I should have started with you because after that one, I mean, it's just like, OK, I'll put the mic down and go home.
Right. So, well, OK, let's talk about the office now, the Singapore office.
Sharad, you've never been. Is that right? You started I'm sure you started or actually how normal are things right now in Singapore?
That's a great question.
So things in Singapore became more normal a few weeks ago and then they became less normal because the community cases of covid infection in the community suddenly spiked.
Now, that needs to be put in perspective for our viewers for about if I go back three or so weeks for about two or three months before those three weeks, we had between zero and one case in the community every day.
I want to say the average was somewhere between half a case in the community every day.
So it was very well contained.
The government machinery and the health machinery and the retail ecosystem did really well to control it.
People have been very law abiding, very disciplined.
But we had a spike in cases in Singapore three weeks ago when we had double digit number of cases and then it rose.
So over the last four or five days, the average number of cases in the community is in the range of 20 to 25.
Now, given the density of population, how close proximity people kind of operate in in terms of public transportation system, etc.
The government decided to introduce restrictions that are close to the restrictions that were put in place around the time that this pandemic was just about spreading.
So I want to say about April 2020, about a little over a year ago.
So things are not very normal. Till three, four weeks ago, 75% of an organization's workforce was allowed to be in the office with safe distancing measures in place and masks on at all times.
Dining establishments were open, you could collectivize in groups of up to eight.
Those restrictions, those permissions have now been rescinded. So you can't get together in any more than groups of two.
No dining out is allowed, no public establishments are open.
And retail establishments have been asked to limit their occupancy to 25% of the capacity that they have.
And all offices have been asked to go back to default work from home.
Right. I've been to the office a couple of times.
I absolutely love our office. It's a great office. But it's unfortunate that we can't we can't be there very much right now.
Okay, what do you what do you what do you you've been in the office?
All right. So is there? What do you miss about the office most?
Or are you what are you looking forward to? Yeah, so so one thing, you know, that's that's very big in in the Singapore office and, and very common right across the APAC region is, you know, lunchtime.
So people generally take lunch at the same time and then go out together to eat or they get food from we've got a hawker centre, really good hawker centre right across the road from the office.
So people come down, grab their lunch, and then come up and sit in the all hands.
So I miss that. I really miss those times, you know, everything is around food, like we had lunch together on a Wednesday, formally, and then we'll have lunch together every day.
And then we have breakfast together on a Friday. And so that engagement, and also trying new foods, because we're always kind of sticking, you know, pre COVID, we were always sharing our food.
Yeah, I know. Yeah.
And from a business perspective, like the ad hoc, that ad hoc serendipitous meeting, you know, you and I might get let's say you're in Singapore, and we're at the coffee machine at the same time when we're chatting, and then you tell me about a project that you're working on.
I'm like, oh, my gosh, that sounds like something that would really help my team, let me introduce you to so and so, we don't get that.
And we don't get to embrace the new people. So I you know, I feel for people who who who are brand new, and only know cloud flarians as people on a screen.
Yeah, actually, Sharad, Kate, have you two met in person? Yeah, we have. Yeah, we've met a few times, actually.
Yeah, we have like 30 seconds. So just tell me in that minute, you guys share how did you guys meet?
And what was it? It was Kate was kind enough to spend time.
So she was one of my interviewers. And I'm still here.
So I'm surprised what she was doing. But that's okay. And then she was kind enough to spare an hour for coffee, even before I started at Cloudflare.
So we met, we met for coffee.
And we chatted about a number of different things. And I was, I was, Kate, I'm gonna embarrass you a little bit, I was just just blown away by her energy and her passion for Cloudflare.
And for people. She was a site lead for the Singapore office for a long time.
And she did a fabulous job there. So I was really fortunate to be able to meet her.
And then we've met in the office a couple of times.
Yeah. Right, right. And what he said, there you go. Right. I appreciate that.
I well, I really enjoyed this conversation. And I can't believe we have 50 seconds left.
So I just want to thank you both for joining me on we are Cloudflare and I wish we had another half hour.
But perhaps I'd love to have another opportunity to, to chat with you more casually.
This has been a real pleasure. Again, this is chat with we are Cloudflare with my guest Sharad Goyal, and Kate Fleming, live from Singapore.
This is me in Oakland, California signing off. We still have 20 seconds.
Is there any any last words in 10 seconds? Thank you very much, Sharad for having us.
And the one thing I want to say is our hopes and prayers and wishes are with India in this time of, you know, difficulty.
So just that.
Thank you so much. Appreciate that. And with that, I guess I'll wish you a good rest of your day.
Thank you so much. Bye. Bye. See you later.