We are Cloudflare
Meet all the people who make up the Cloudflare team from all offices, all teams, all levels, in as many languages as possible.
Hello, everyone. This is Chaat Butsunturn, host of We Are Cloudflare, and in this segment, I have the opportunity to have conversations with people from around the organization that are behind the scenes.
Everybody knows the usual people, but what about the people behind the scenes that make Cloudflare what it is?
Today, my guests, Mika Akutsu and Justin Wong.
Did I get your names right? It's Akutsu, but it's okay.
Akutsu. Got it. All right. Well, we won't even go with mine. Everyone can call me Chaat.
And Mika is on the product team. Justin is one of our technical support engineers.
So first, by way of introduction, I'll start with Mika because I see you directly to my left and left.
I don't know where I am on your screen.
But thanks for joining. You're welcome. Happy to be here. Great. So what, what do you do?
I know product when I was thinking like, oh, I should talk to someone in the product team was, it's a large, it feels like a large organization.
But what, what do you do?
And where does it fit? So product is actually about 64 people right now.
So it's not as big as people assume it to be. And it's majority of the people in product are product managers and product designers.
And I'm actually neither.
I manage a PMO, which is the program management office, and I manage a team of program managers.
Okay, right. And so what does that look like? What is the, what do you do?
So the easiest way to say it is like we try to take new initiatives into the company and make it happen.
And then anything that takes product and engineering work, we try to be the people who help set that up for success.
So I work with Jen Taylor, and Usman very closely. And fortunately, those two work very closely together in terms of planning the roadmap and doing quarterly planning and making sure that things ship with quality.
And my team supports that in various ways.
I have one dedicated resource who's helping out Dane with product strategy.
And I have one person who's helping out with engineering initiatives, like core resilience, and I guess disaster recovery.
I also have a person who's dedicated in dashboard and email product localization.
And she also works with localizing the product strategy apps that need to be localized.
And then I am hiring a new person who is also going to be partnering with the compliance team to help us get FedRAMP out the door.
Oh, okay. I'm excited about that. We've been talking about FedRAMP for a while.
And so yeah, that's great to hear. Thanks for making movement on that.
So you interact with other a lot of other parts of the organization as well.
Yes, I do. So most of the things that we handle are usually not contained within a particular team.
It's usually multiple engineering teams or multiple product teams, all of them, in some cases, and then things that we worked on in the past, like initiatives like GDPR.
A lot of the things that's new to the company that we need some way to figure out how to manage usually falls on my lap.
And then we figure out, okay, what is it that we need to do to be prepared for GDPR?
And then who are all the people who need to be involved? So assembling the stakeholders, figuring out what the objective is, and then executing against that goal usually is something that we help with.
And with that, we usually get to work with multiple different people in the company and different orgs and different things.
A lot of the processes that we set up are usually like requires input from different people, like incident management basically touches everybody in the company.
So everybody has like different orgs have different things they want to say or have input on.
So my job is to like collate all of those and then make sure that it moves on.
And then that we keep iterating it as we scale because, you know, I joined three and a half years ago, and it was a lot less people than we have today.
So we have to figure out and implement systems that scale and processes.
And I try to be the ear to listen to different orgs and make sure that they're represented as well.
So how big was your team when you started? I was the first program manager that Cloudflare ever hired.
How about it? Okay. Yeah. And what did you do prior to Cloudflare?
I worked at a couple of startups. I worked at a security app startup for five years and had a great time building out the security org there.
Before that, I was at a big enterprise company and I was there for like 10 years and it was a great place to grow up in.
Wow, great. Justin. So we met in the office at 111 which is one of our buildings.
Where I often meet people in the kitchen.
And I remember you're making bagels and I thought it was a salmon, but apparently it was smoked trout.
You recall that? I do. Yeah. And that's actually one of the things I miss dearly about working from home is the chance encounters that happen in the office.
Mm-hmm. I know, right? Exactly. Totally agree.
So you work in our support organization and I think your is your actual title like technical support engineer, is that what you do?
Right. So our role is to directly interface with our customers who have questions on services and products that we offer.
A lot of what we do are technical deep dives to make sure that the customer is using it correctly.
And we're usually in a post -sales environment.
So where we have solutions engineers and other salespeople on the front side of that contract.
We're more to help smooth things over when things don't go as expected or when there may be a higher technical question on how to use a specific product.
The other thing that we do is liaise with the product and engineering teams to help deliver new product features or kind of help the customer understand how the product evolves.
If they have a specific use case that they're normally used to using that somehow changes in the future, we get more information from the product team on releases or improvements that they've made and suggest those to the customer as well.
Right. So we have millions of customers and some of them are on our self-serve, pay-as-you-go, do-it-yourself category of plans and some are enterprise.
Is the team bifurcated as such? Are you in one or the other?
Is it one large team? The way it's structured now, we are all one large team. And as you are hired and onboarded, the expectation is you will be able to serve all of our customers, all the way up to the premium ones that have a very high impact or high visibility on the Internet.
These are household name companies that everyone's parents know, everyone's parents' parents know.
What we do on the daily is we do shard the team members into either working the enterprise and premium queues and working self-serve.
And so that way we can divide our attention to make sure that all of our customers are getting the support that they expect.
So I know that solutions engineers, they straddle the customer relationship for enterprise pre-sale and post-sale.
Myself working in the sales organization, I work with a lot of solutions engineers and have experience with that pre-sales experience.
How do you work together or differently?
Because I do imagine solutions engineers is also a technical engineering resource post-sales.
So how is that different? Yeah, that's a good question.
In support, we do have a lot of resources to rely on, but a lot of what, in my opinion, I think we're doing is a lot of reactive support.
Whereas solutions engineers do a bit more of proactive finding a solution or use case to solve customer problems where the problem doesn't exist in the first place.
This would be advising on a use case for how to leverage workers in their infrastructure.
Whereas if the customer is having issues with the worker that they've set up, we would then be able to advise on how to fix that problem.
I gotcha. Okay. All right.
Interesting. So and prior to Cloudflare, what were you doing? Yeah. Well, what's really great about Cloudflare is they hire from a very diverse pool of candidates.
And so where I came from actually was food service industry. I worked at Whole Foods for a number of years, and it was a really great experience being customer facing, being able to solve customers' problems, and also have really great interactions with all of them.
I wanted something a little more challenging and allow myself to grow in my personal and professional career.
I was one of the lucky people who were able to go to a web development bootcamp and get a job after that.
That's what allowed me to land at Cloudflare, doing a customer facing role that's also very technical.
How about it? That's so interesting. Yeah, I do agree.
Cloudflare does hire from diverse backgrounds. And I don't know, you probably know Mikey.
I do, very fondly. You know what he used to do? I, yeah, I believe he used to work at a Toyota dealership.
So he went from car dealership into technical engineering as well.
And now he's on as part of the CSM organization.
I interviewed Angela Huang of CSM last week. Well, Mika, what do you miss about the office?
The people. Yeah. Cloudflare has such interesting people working there.
And most of the time they're friendly. I do miss having the social interaction around the coffee table or making coffee or hearing about their day or what they're working on.
I miss the lunchtime boost where there's like random people that kind of get together.
And, you know, we talk about food and then we talk about work and we talk about things.
And the topic and the range of subjects that we cover there is just unparalleled.
Like one time I'm getting some super good one -on-one on DNS.
And then other days I'm just hearing about somebody's house, you know, that they're building or doing things with.
And it's just been never a dull day.
Like it's, and it's also, it helps me, like not humanize, but like it helps me realize like there are people that I work with and they're smart and they're capable and they're interesting.
And it also helps them to know like, what does she do?
Who is she? What, what does, why is she just lurking there? And it gives me an opportunity to say, Hey, this is what I do.
And, and most people are shy about like, you know, just asking people what they do outright.
But, you know, when you're in a, especially in the eating or drinking, you know, setting, people are a little bit more relaxed and they're like, so what do you do?
You know, how long have you been here?
Like what, what, what's your story? And most of the time the people around me make up stuff, so it's not always accurate, but we just have a really good camaraderie and I definitely miss that.
I really miss having that little social interaction with my, my colleagues.
Yeah. You know, the, it is interesting how this pandemic has affected the, the, the work environment.
Obviously we're all working from home or, or remotely for that matter.
And I know one of the ideas behind Cloudflare TV is how can we replicate some of the human experiences that we have interacting with, with customers or giving them an opportunity to, to meet us like at a conference, for example, similar conversations where you might be at a, at a dinner or a bar, just waiting in line for something.
And you can just strike up a conversation with prospective customers or technical colleagues and the like, you know, I definitely miss that experience as well.
Yeah. Do you, so you've been at cloud for a while. Did they have the fun fact thing when you started?
Yes. Yes. I, I, I'm not that early. I, I did have the fun fact when I started.
What was yours? So I spent an entire summer working at a distillery in Scotland at a scotch distillery.
So I know a lot about scotch and I know how it's made and I know which ones are good in my opinion.
And I've also, I'm probably the only Asian female that has climbed into a mash tun in the Highlands.
A mash? Did you say tun? Where they do the fermentation. It's pretty gnarly, but I got to go in and clean it as part of my internship.
And so the thing, the fun fact is that I'm also a total teetotaler.
So whatever I could enjoy was like this much.
And I'm pretty sure that's why I was, I was selected to be their intern for the whole summer because I definitely wouldn't be caught drinking.
I bought the inventory, right?
Yeah. And where in Scotland were you? I was in Blair Athol and I was in another one where they made the Royal Loch Nagar.
Ah, right. Yeah.
Justin, you a scotch drinker? Yeah. Call me, color me green or jealous. My jealousy level is like up to here.
You can't see it because it's off screen. That's pretty cool.
I mean, what an experience. That's pretty neat. Right. Yeah.
I have a signed bottle from both distilleries from all the people that used to work there.
And I still haven't been able to open it because it's like a, it's like, it's such a special memory.
Oh, right. So much dog bedding and hanging out with all these Scots and Scotsmen, mainly.
It was pretty fun. Can you, can you pull out the Scottish accent?
No. Never. I could never do it justice. Right. Right. Justin, what about you?
What was your fun fact? Uh, yeah, they, they asked me what that was.
And I thought of a few things, um, for the people who knew me, they all predicted that I would say that I make my own beer and, you know, love to share it, which is true.
Um, but what I wanted to share was that I have been fortunate to travel to 14 different countries on, I think it was four continents.
Um, you know, I was hoping to expand that this year, but unfortunately everything is locked down.
I know. Right. So of those 14 countries, what was the most, like people go to France and Spain and Italy and, you know, some, there are some obvious ones.
What's the least obvious place that you've visited?
Uh, you know, that's a good question.
I guess that depends on the perspective of who's asking. Um, I would say the, the farthest I've gone to take a vacation was New Zealand.
That's something that maybe a lot of Americans go to.
Um, but I think the most life-changing country I've been to was when I went to China and Vietnam with my family back in 95.
And this was before the dot-com boom and bust in 2000.
So at the time, um, China and especially Vietnam, they were still very much third world countries and going to, um, wet markets and seeing just the way that people lived, threshing rice on the street was eyeopening.
I hadn't experienced anything like that in my life. Apparently I've been told, and I unfortunately haven't been back, um, in the time since, but the economy in both places have boomed because of the offloading of tech jobs into those countries, um, has allowed for their own, uh, economies to rise, which is also an interesting dichotomy to see, um, these five-star hotels with marble lobbies and then people still threshing rice on the streets, you know?
Yeah. Wow. Uh, so do you have family in, in those countries or? I do.
Yeah. I, we still have a bunch of Vietnamese relatives, um, in, in and around, uh, Ho Chi Minh city or, uh, it's always going to be Saigon to me.
Right, right, right.
Wow. That's, that's really interesting. Yeah. Um, for me, like the, probably one of the most, uh, um, non -obvious places that I've been to is, uh, Ethiopia.
Uh, my son is adopted from Ethiopia. And, uh, so I had the opportunity to travel to the country twice.
And I think when people think of Africa, you know, you're usually thinking, you know, Egypt or, you know, Morocco and, and Ethiopia is, it's a beautiful place with a, uh, a strong heritage, but it's, it's not one that's usually on the, the short list for, for, for, for visiting Africa.
Yeah. Um, I had another question, which was, is there, uh, are there particular projects that you guys are really, or initiatives that you're, you're working on or involved in that, that you're particularly excited about?
Cloudflare, I think they have, there are many ways to get involved either within your org, uh, or, or outside of it, just in terms of like the call for culture.
And I didn't know what, I'm curious what, what might be, what it might be for you.
I don't know who wants to take that call, that question first.
Jeopardy music. You go first.
Um, it's a hard question because it's, there's so many, there's so many, like, it's like picking your favorite child.
I cannot pick, well, I only have an only child, but I still can't pick my favorite child out of all the things that we're doing.
Um, there's an important partnerships coming up that we are working really hard to deliver against.
That's been a lot of moving parts and a lot of different teams contributing, um, which is always exciting, but always like, you know, stressful as well, cause we got to make sure we hit those things.
And there's always a lot of unknowns.
Um, I'm very excited about all the engineering efforts that are being done to make sure that we're more resilient and that we have high availability and, you know, there's much more stability in things that we deliver to the customers.
That's always exciting. Um, and then I'm very excited about FedRAMP, which is a new initiative for the company and all new initiatives are always exciting, challenging, and fun.
Also multi -year effort. That's going to be quite the ride.
Um, I'm very excited to have a new resource, joined the team to help us out there.
And, um, I'm looking forward to growing this person into, um, the team as well.
So. Yeah. And for those not in the know, I just wanted to, uh, uh, ask you to explain a little bit of what FedRAMP is, uh, just for my perspective, I work in business development and I know that there are many government, uh, many companies that work, uh, that do government contracts that require certain kinds of certifications and the like FedRAMP is one, um, that I hear about all the time.
And we've in the sales org have been, have been wondering about, and that's very exciting.
So, uh, could you tell us a little bit more about FedRAMP? You essentially explained it really well.
It is definitely any business that you do with the government, the U S government requires FedRAMP certification and you require a sponsor that sponsors you.
And then we, we pursue certification and it needs to be, we need to pass that.
Um, we also, it's not over when you pass it. We actually have to continue providing, um, evidence that we are, we are still compliant.
Um, it is, it is an interesting one because it is one of the most complicated and most difficult compliance projects out there.
So, um, I'm very excited that the compliance team is, is, um, partnering with us and we hope to deliver on our side of the bargain, which is, you know, making it happen internally.
Well, it sounds exciting. Good luck. Yeah. We're all excited to in the sales board.
Justin. Yeah. That's also a difficult question for me to answer, but it's difficult.
Uh, not for being able to choose between, but for the fact that a lot of what we do and the projects that we have going on, our team are more internal tool-based.
A lot of what we are doing are improving the way we are, um, interacting with and reporting metrics on our customers and, um, a lot of how we're able to better support them either through, and I, I know a lot of people, uh, don't like the idea of being, getting an automated answer, but the fact is we've done a lot of really good work to get, um, as much pertinent information to the customer on a first touch.
Um, it allows for the volume of tickets to, um, be such that the limited amount of resources we have in support can go directed towards the most complicated, uh, technical issues.
Um, and a simple question like what's DNS can simply be directed to our publicly available knowledge-based articles.
And so there's a lot of good initiatives and internal tools that we're building out.
Um, a lot of that, unfortunately, I'm not able to talk about publicly, which is why it's a much more difficult to answer.
I totally understand that. Yeah. So when you're now Cloudflare has, uh, I started also about three years ago and, and, um, you know, the product, the products we offer today, it's so much more expansive than, than three years ago.
How does, how do you keep up Justin? Cause you've got all these different, I mean, I have to keep up with what, what are we offering?
What can we, you know, what, what are we capable of?
What can we sell? And, um, to be able to support that from a, uh, you know, an engineering and technical support aspect must be equally challenging.
Probably more because you're, you're really in the weeds.
Yeah, that's, that is a good question to answer. And as we grow, we've filled out a lot more positions to allow for that, uh, information dissemination to scale.
One of the things that has occurred since I've been hired is the weekly, um, developer engineering, uh, project manager meeting in which, uh, leads or heads of every department come together and kind of discuss round table, what the future is for the, uh, products and what, um, what needs to be done to support that.
Uh, within our own support organization, we've sharded off, um, technical writers so that we can have the correct public documentation available to the customer before we launch a product.
We also have product liaisons that come and do demos on the product itself to help educate all of the technical engineers.
And of course the responsibility of the technical engineers is to use these products on their own test domains to see and become familiar with those products before launch.
And in doing that, um, we're able to kind of give enough of the information in all of the different places that we need it so that the company can grow as a whole, uh, both in developing products and also in educating our own team members as well as the public.
Do you, uh, is there any product specialization that happens on your team or are you all like kind of expected to, uh, know everything, which seems another good question.
Um, it is expected that we at least know of the people who know as much as possible.
Um, when I started, we had something called subject matter experts and we still do, uh, those people still exist where they are very good at one particular thing.
Um, and if anyone has a question, uh, it's always just expected that you can go to them and get a great answer.
And we're continuing to do that. Of course, we want to be able to bring everyone up on the org to be, uh, very, very, um, uh, comprehensively, uh, technically aware of the intricacies of our products because we do have a lot and they are very technical, but of course that, that takes time and we're growing and we're scaling and we need to bring everyone up.
And so it, it does pose a challenge certainly at times.
Yeah. And your, your team is, uh, actually Nika, I imagine your team also is, is global.
Are you both in global teams? Uh, right now they're, they're in the U S all in the U S right now.
Right. For product and, and for, you know, our, our sport engineers, I imagine they're going to be Singapore, New York, London, right?
Yeah. We, we have a follow the sun model and every one of our, um, technical engineers is a Cloudflare employee.
I think that might be something that some people don't understand.
You know, a U S based person will make an emergency phone call to us and think that they're getting a help desk or some sort of phone answering service.
It's actually going to be our technical engineers in Singapore who are picking up that phone call.
We have tons of satellite offices in Europe.
Um, we have of course the main office in San Francisco, we have an office in Austin, um, to help with the off boarding of the European shift, New York shift as they come on.
Um, yeah. And Singapore to cover all of Asian Pacific. Right.
Right. Yeah. The follow us on model is a definitely a, uh, and that's a great point that you made.
I appreciate that, that, uh, when you're dialing into Cloudflare for your, your sport issues and as an enterprise customer, you are getting Cloudflare, you're not getting a farmed out, you know, phone bank.
Right. And, um, I was curious, like, you know, in sales, there are, there are teams that I typically work with, but I'm curious, I sounds Justin, like you, you work with a lot with product team.
Um, and, uh, as well as, uh, with, uh, with probably with, with CSMs, do you guys work with CSMs as well?
Yeah, very frequently. Um, we're there to support the customer through their contract.
And that involves getting the CSM, um, you know, to look at issues that might need, uh, you know, a better guidance or they're basically there to handle the relationship.
We're here to handle the technical aspects of that.
Got it. Right. Right. Yeah. So we covered a lot of ground in the last 27 minutes.
I'm wondering, is there anything that I've, I've missed or that we want to like, uh, cover in the last, last couple of minutes here?
You know, the five questions I mentioned, I always want to ask, what do you do check?
What did you do before we talked about that? Your fun fact, uh, things you miss about the office, exciting projects that you're working on, you know?
Um, and you know, I I've always been interested in like who, how we're able to work across, across the organization.
Um, I think, uh, you know, it sounds like both of you in, in your roles, like in, in the sport, you're obviously very product focused and customer facing.
And then in product, you're, you're, you're looking at the roadmap, uh, and probably get a lot of that guidance from the front lines, from, from people who are, are, are working with the customers and looking for, is that, is like, where, where does that guidance come from Mika?
Is it, is it more internally or externally driven?
Most of my things are internal. It comes from like what the heads of product and engineering wants to see.
And also, but we do have a lot of interactions with, um, different people like CSMs.
Like we actually do work with them a lot.
They contact me for improvements on that. They would like to see, um, we cover is very transparent about incident reporting.
So that's one area that, you know, starts, it starts somewhere in engineering.
We remediate the problem, but then we have to like provide a very clear explanation on what happened and, and, uh, what we're doing to address those things.
And that requires a lot of coordination and customer communication from people.
We also, I also get pinged a lot for running postmortems when something has not gone as well as we wanted it to like migration issues or things that impacted the customer in a particular region.
And it had, it touched a lot of people like product and engineering and sales.
Like, you know, people had to jump on a call to like try to fix the problem. People have to, um, you know, talk to the customer and make sure that everything was okay.
Um, I'm sorry. I just noticed that it's two 29. We're probably, I don't want to do this to drop mid-sentence.
So pardon my interruption. Thank you both Mika and Justin for joining me, uh, for our discussion at we are Cloudflare today.
And, uh, I look forward to seeing you guys back in San Francisco.
Thanks for having us.
Thanks for having us.