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.
And we're live. This is Chaat Butsunturn, host of We Are Cloudflare. Thank you for joining today at We Are Cloudflare.
I'm introducing our viewers to the people behind the scenes and under the hood at Cloudflare that make it what it is.
And today's guests are featuring the waiting room team.
It's one of our newest products.
And what I find really interesting about this is we'll be able to talk through how different teams work together.
And so I don't know what order everyone is seeing everything, but to my left is Fabienne and then I have George Thomas, Brian and Matthew.
And welcome, guys. Hi, everybody. Hi. So let me just, I'll start with Brian, who I met in the San Francisco office in the before times.
And Brian, you're the product manager, correct?
Yeah, I'm the product manager here at Cloudflare for waiting room, load balancing and sound health products.
OK. So what does a product manager do? What's your role? It sounds like you're managing multiple products.
So how does that work? Yeah. So a product manager definitely normally wears many, many different hats.
But I would say the product manager, you know, as a definition is an individual that gathers requirements and it kind of sets the vision for what a product should do, how it should operate, how customers should experience with it, what their user journey should feel like, and really pull together the resources against engineering, design, front end engineering, marketing, sales, and so on and so forth to really make sure that not only is a product built in such a way that meets the requirements of our customers, but also is sold and marketed and again, goes to market in a very smooth and aligned way.
And so I'm one of those folks that try and make that process as soon as possible and make the lives of my engineers as easy and straightforward as possible as well.
So do you work with, for every product that you're managing, you work with different sets of engineers, I reckon?
And there's probably some overlap. There is some overlap.
Yeah. So there for, you know, the load balancing team, there are different set of engineers, but both Fabian and George, you know, built out our standard health insurance products.
And so, you know, there's definitely overlap here.
And, you know, Matthew has joined us for the waiting room team. And we're so exceptionally happy that he's joined us and has been a massive integral part of building some of our amazing products here at Kloepfer.
That's great. And so for our system engineers, I've got three of them today.
Thanks for joining guys. Now is system engineer and any of you can answer this question, but are, I imagine system engineers to be multifaceted and that there isn't just one type of system engineer.
So, or are there, are, what's, what's common about system engineers and, and what, what makes them different in terms of the roles that they play or can, can play on a, on a team?
Well, I feel it's a term that is used a bit differently by different companies.
So as Kloepfer, what we refer to as systems engineers, it's a role that is referred to as backend engineers in some other companies also.
So yeah, what we do, the three of us is, yeah, it could be referred to as backend engineering.
So backend engineers make the part of the products that people don't see, like we make things work behind the scenes.
Great. Yeah. And so you guys are the ones building the, building the product, I guess.
We cannot entirely say that because like, we do build up products that like Brian gives us the vision for.
So like, we need that as well.
So like, it's like a team effort, I would say. We build what like the spec says, and then we, we do give feedback to like, and then like, make sure like it, it's like, it will work for the longer term.
So, and like, we might have to make changes to the features that are being asked for based on that.
So it's like multiple things, like there is like the design aspect of it. Like, you know, how do you architect and design this, this feature that Brian wants us to build?
And like, or will we have the ability to build it on the timeframe that we expect to go live?
And like, there are different things related to it as well. So.
How is the team assembled? We are all from the load balancing team. So yeah, waiting room is kind of an offshoot of load balancing at the moment.
I can see that.
So yeah, like Brian said, George and I who are already on the load balancing team and had been building the standalone health checks feature.
And so we kind of volunteered and were volunteers to build this new product.
And then we hired Matthew to help us along.
Yeah. So my entire experience at Cloudflare has been here at the, on the waiting room team.
Oh, is that right? Okay. And when did you, when did you join the team?
And you're in Austin. I'll tell her. I am. I am in Austin despite the background.
I joined in mid-May of last year. Mid-May. Okay. Right.
Uh-huh. So, and then the waiting room product, I mean, that, that is, it was just recently announced like maybe a month ago, but there was, you know, and I didn't even, I didn't even know it was, it was a thing until it was already out.
So how long has this been in development?
And when did Matthew, when did you join the, I mean, was it already mid-flight by the time you joined or were you at the kind of like the, you know, the Genesis of, of the project?
It had started being designed and slowly like starting to be implemented by the time I joined.
But there's definitely like a ton of groundwork that we all did together to design all the systems that help waiting room work today and make it resilient and make it scalable for everybody.
It's been like a long road and it's gradually evolved even after I joined to dramatically change the system design.
Well, for those not in the know, Brian, could you give us a, you know, 10,000 foot view of what, what is waiting room?
So, you know, when, when you go to chat.com, you're sending as an end user, you know, I'm sending a request out to the Internet and different applications, different websites, different services can have some sort of capacity, right?
They can only handle so many requests, so much load. So I think we've all had this situation where we send a request and we get an error page back says 404 unavailable, or, you know, some thing that doesn't actually load the site up and it's like an ugly looking error message.
And so what we've saw is that, you know, many, many different websites, especially as of, you know, what's happening today, the, with the COVID-19 pandemic, different applications, especially COVID-19 scheduling services are being inundated left and right by too many requests, too many people wanting to send a request and sign up for those vaccinations.
Thus those applications are being brought down entirely. And so what waiting room does is it solves two problems.
Number one, it takes all the excess load, all those extra requests that the application can't handle.
And it places those requests into the waiting room queue to make sure that one, the application stays available, stays reliable.
The second thing it does is it lends as an avenue to create fairness into who can get in and get access to these vaccines and as in a democratic way as we possibly can.
And lastly, it lends to helping the customer experience.
So as a user, you know, I might go to chat.com slash vaccine, trying to get up to my vaccination site.
But if it's too busy, instead of being shown and being taken to some other website that I don't know what's going on, I'm actually brought to a branded waiting room page queue page that then says, Hey, we're a little busy right now.
Here's your estimated wait time to get into the application.
Just sit tight. As soon as space is available, we'll get you loaded up and you can start executing your tasks.
And so we take care of that customer journey, making sure people already know what's going on, what's the next steps and what is expected rather than have a bad customer experience where they get an error page and then potentially, you know, her brand trust, you lent a frustration, you know, went to more abandonment of that site, things that we've all kind of been through.
And so I remember when I was trying to get tickets to Hamilton, gosh, what a nightmare that was, right?
Exactly. And I actually ended up having like, two laptops, my phone and iPad, all trying to get in and hopefully one of them would would would work out.
And it did. And I remember actually, a second device also got in the queue and I just gave it to one of my colleagues to get, you know, Hamilton tickets they wanted.
So but I could see this application, you know, being used for any high demand type of event.
Let's say, new sneakers are getting dropped or or or, you know, ticket sales, obviously.
And or in this case here, vaccination queues.
Right. So that that seems like to be a spectacular application.
That's one I think we were all really excited to be to be a part of.
So what did you I'm just going to go around the horn here. George, what did you do before Cloudflare?
So before Cloudflare, I used to work another company in the Bay Area itself for close to a year and something.
So that was like my first job in the Bay Area.
So I was working in my ad tech industry. And I was also like a back end engineer.
It wasn't systems engineer, it was like back end engineer, as Fabian mentioned.
So and then like I moved on to like Cloudflare when the opportunity came.
So. Right. And what about you, Fabian? So, yeah, my previous job before Cloudflare was actually in France.
So I worked for a classified platform like Craigslist.
It's called GlobalCoin, if you have any French people watching.
And yeah, so I was a back end engineer there for five years. And before that, I worked in digital TV.
Oh, is that right? OK. All right. So are you did you pick up the accent in France or are you French?
I am French. OK. People can usually ask me, are you French from France or are you a French Canadian?
Oh, yeah. I'm from Buffalo, New York.
And while it's not where anywhere near Quebec, I'm familiar enough with the French, the Québécois accent.
Or I have another friend who's from Newfoundland and he has yet another accent that I can't even I can't understand.
Yeah, I just I just nod my head politely when he talks in English. His accent's really heavy.
Matthew, how about yourself? And you joined in May. So you've actually never been to the Cloudflare office or have you?
I have been near the Cloudflare office.
It's here on 6th Street in Austin. I actually pulled up to get this chair that I'm sitting in right now.
So that's the most interaction I've had with that office.
Before that, I was working for IBM Cloud for their platform, for their dedicated host project.
So working on the provisioning for that.
I see. OK. And Brian, pre -Cloudflare. Oh, pre-Cloudflare. What a ways away that seems.
I worked at a much smaller company, a seed level company that focused on machine learning with test automation, trying to solve the issue of failing tests and trying to make sure that the quality engineering and quality assurance services within different companies was handled in a more scalable way.
So I worked as a product manager there. Yeah, it was a lot of fun, but I did that.
They were at a place where they can move on to the next step. And I wanted a different type of challenge.
I've been working in some different areas of testing for many, many years.
So Cloudflare was the obvious next step. So remind me when you started, because it was definitely in the before times.
We met each other in the office.
And I kind of feel like it was towards the beginning of your tenure. Yes. Yeah.
You were one of the very first people I actually met in the office. I was hired October 15, mid-October of 2019.
And it's so interesting because my job beforehand was a completely remote job.
There was no office in my role. And then in my interviews, it was very important to me to come into an office.
And so in all my interviews, I asked, even the folks on this call who helped interview me, I asked, do we have an office?
Is it expected to come to the office? And it was so great.
And I really enjoyed seeing folks and having that schedule, having that routine.
And then, oh boy, what a turn we had. Right, right, right. So what was your fun fact?
Oh, my fun fact. The most recent trip I took before COVID-19 hit was doing a trip to Europe and I went running with the Bulls.
I was right. I ran.
So that was a fun time. Were you wearing white with the red collar? Yep. Whole thing, whole shebang.
And when I do trips like that, I try and immerse myself as much as possible.
And so without being as disrespectful as possible, I want to really experience the culture.
And so, yeah, wore the full thing and I was able to run with the Bulls and went into the arena and didn't realize that when you go into the arena, they close the doors and let a Bull out in the arena with nowhere to go.
So that was a fun little journey. Did you get to touch a Bull? Yes. Oh, man. Oh, gosh.
All right. Well, I'm glad you made it out safe and sound. How about George?
When did you start at Cloudflare and what was your fun fact? I think I started September of 2017 or 18.
Yeah. So basically two and a half years back. So I was thinking before this what my fun fact was and I tried a lot and I have no memory of it.
Do I have to look it up?
I think it's got on our pain board. Okay. Well, I can come back to you.
You can think of your fun fact. I'm going to go to Fabienne here while you think of something fun.
I'm sure you can think of something. Yeah. So I've been at Cloudflare for two years.
And it's funny that you have an animal fun factor. So, Ryan, because my fun fact was I went swimming with a whale and its baby.
Wow. It was a lot more peaceful than your experience.
Sounds equally dangerous, though.
Yeah. I didn't get too close. Nice. What kind of whale was it?
I think it was a humpback whale. Wow. Awesome. That is incredible. And Matthew, what animal have you had dalliances with or what was your fun fact?
Well, I can just kind of come up with a fun fact about my encounter with an animal.
I have been threatened by a monkey over a bottle of Sprite. Yeah. A surprisingly terrifying experience for such a small monkey.
Yeah. You don't want to get between them and sugar.
Where was that? That was in I think it was a Thirupali Falls.
It's in southern India. All right. Who got the Sprite? I got the Sprite.
He had the bottle opener. So I'll get George.
Oh, so as everyone is in the animal spectrum, I would say like not I mean, everyone is talking about animal experiences.
I can also talk about something.
So there was a time when like a bunch of friends and us, like we were in the woods, like a hike or something.
And then suddenly it was a place where there were elephants.
And everyone said, like, if you ever see an elephant, be still. Like real elephants or not see elephants?
Like real elephants, wild elephants. It was back in India.
So once we went there and then like so the instruction was to stay still.
But then like we felt some movement and like a bunch of us were there together.
We're supposed to stay still. But in the instant we ran. And actually, luckily, it wasn't an elephant.
So we survived. What could you possibly mistake for an elephant that's not an elephant?
It was like some small animal, which is moving the leaves.
So we were just scared. That's awesome. That's pretty funny. So, you know, the office environment, I mean, Brian, we're all working remotely now, right?
So does that feel familiar? Or what do you miss about the office? Or what do you like about being back in a remote environment?
Yeah. You know, it's very interesting, you know, looking at my experience, weighing my experiences of working remotely from my previous role to Cloudflare, you know, Cloudflare is orders of magnitude better because, you know, no one's paying me to say this promise, but, you know, this is one of the most sensible, realistic, you know, supportive companies I've ever worked at in my career.
And so to have such a healthy culture, be able to be shifted so quickly to such a large scale of individuals that work at this company across so many different geographic locations and still be able to produce such meaningful amounts of work, such high quality work, and for people to be so empathetic and understanding of the different situations across, you know, all of us individually, it's been very surprising how seamless of a transition it was.
Now, I do love that I have a little more control of my time, I can try and take breaks, I can go, you know, if I need to go take a walk outside, and that feels very natural.
But on the other hand, you know, it's a little tough that your work is always at home.
Not everyone has an office available to them. And so segmentation can be very tough, especially if you know, if you have kids, or you have to take care of other family members.
So there's a lot of give and take.
But Cloudflare has been, I think, one of the most incredible, incredible companies to really be empathetic and to take everyone's case individually and like be able to accommodate.
I do miss 100% of seeing folks, I miss seeing you, Chad, I miss seeing, you know, Fabien, George, Matthew, I miss just the general interactions.
I'm a pretty extroverted, you know, individual. And so just having the routine, just seeing folks and having those natural discussions that kind of take place and bond you over, you know, over time.
I miss that a lot. So I'm looking forward to getting back from the office.
But, you know, I do, I do love not having a very long commute.
So yeah, right. It's like super short. I do miss the coffee station.
It's very rare to run into a lot of you guys, actually. So George, Fabian, anything else in San Francisco that you miss?
I would say like, I miss the snacks.
Yeah, I miss having lunch with other people.
Yeah. So Matthew, is there something in particular you're really looking forward to, like when you get into the office?
I'm looking forward to meeting a lot of the people at Cloudflare. I've only met one person at Cloudflare physically.
So it'll be nice to meet the people who work here, who I talk to every day.
So what's that been like? I mean, like onboarding into a new role, a new company remotely.
I mean, have you felt disconnected or have you actually managed to feel engaged in like part of something, even if you're, you know, at home?
So when I started, I was pretty nervous that it would be kind of difficult to work remotely with my team, my whole team's in San Francisco.
But every single meeting we have is remote, virtual, right? So I'm in every meeting with all of my co-workers from San Francisco.
So I'm not excluded at all.
I'm included in everything and every meeting, every discussion. So it's actually worked out really well for me and we collaborate pretty well this way as well.
Well, I'm glad you brought up collaboration. So I'm interested in like, how do system engineers work cross collaboratively with other parts of the organization?
Clearly you work with product managers. Who else do system engineers engage with?
Are you ever in touch with, I don't know, the infrastructure team or sales or who are the people that are normally within your universe of engagement at Cloudflare?
Mostly other engineers. We talk a lot with engineers from other teams because we integrate with their systems or sometimes we think maybe someone else has encountered the problem we're facing now and maybe already has a solution for it.
So yeah, we talk a lot with other engineers.
And what about on product management? I mean, you probably have your fingers in a lot of pies.
I talk to everyone and anyone between inbound sales, outbound sales, go-to-market strategy, marketing teams, design, back-end engineering, front-end engineering, product marketing management.
I don't think pricing, I don't think there's a single team that I've yet to speak to at Cloudflare.
Yeah, I have my finger in a lot of pies, but I love this job. I love what I do.
I love working with amazing folks and they're the reasons why that make it worthwhile.
Right. Yeah. So back to waiting room. We got about five minutes left or so.
So what's the backstory? And I'm always interested in how we come up with the product roadmap.
Because me in sales, I only hear about it when there's actually something to talk about, but clearly there's a lot of stuff happening in the background and I don't know when you get involved.
And yeah, when do things get on your radar?
Folks, anyone want to take that one? Well, it got on our radar when we were told, oh, we decided that the robot load balancing team is going to build it and we're looking for engineers in that team to take it over.
So yeah, that was in April last year.
So yeah, we basically learned about it when we started working on it.
But it had been, I think, in discussion for a while before. Yeah, I can add some extra context there.
So I was approached with, I'm an engineering manager as well, Dimitris, and we were approached by some other folks in the team at Cloudflare to say, someone had their personal website, their personal website was being hammered left and right.
And they're like, had this cool idea. What do you think about it?
And they presented it to us and we thought, okay, this is kind of cool.
What do you want us to do about it? They're like, we want you to build it. And we are the load balancing team, right?
That's why I'm being said. And we do command a lot of the behavior of how traffic kind of flows through Cloudflare.
And so that was an active step for our team to take in.
So I thought it was a great idea.
Our engineering manager, Dimitris, thought it was a great idea as well.
And that was basically the decision. Dimitris, he's the head of load balancing, right?
He's the engineering manager for load balancing, yeah. Okay, right. I met him actually, for those out there that don't know, and also for Matthew.
Back in the day on Wednesdays, we used to have lunch, catered lunch.
And I don't know what it's going to look like in the future.
I'd be so bummed if they don't have that.
But I just sat down at a random table one time with Dimitri. And I actually don't know how to pronounce it.
Is it Dimitri? Dimitris? Dimitris. Dimitris, yeah.
Yeah, really nice guy. So that's one of the things I miss, is just the random interactions that you can have with people in the hallway at lunch, at the coffee station, whatnot.
So you managed to go to market for this product. So what's the first step in that?
Do you get a user? Or do you, I mean- Yeah, no, I mean, the first step is we got to talk to customers, right?
As a product manager, as part of the waiting room team, we have hypotheses.
We have things that we think, based on our personal experiences, that would be good.
But at the end of the day, you can make as many hypotheses and assumptions as you want.
And there's a lot of times that you take a lot of risks that you could be wrong.
And there's a lot of frustration around building something, spending a lot of people's time and effort and heart and sweat, and to get something that's incorrect and doesn't work with folks who actually use it.
So you got to talk to customers. You got to hear it from directly from their mouths, exactly what they want, the problems that they're having.
And then from that problem, see how you can define solutions with them that would work in the ideal implementation, so on and so forth.
And so once you have customers, once you know what to build, then you can start putting together a strategy for how you go to market, what would resonate well, how you test this, so on and so forth.
But one thing the team has said is that it takes a village, right?
It's not just me. I'm not the one driving to go to market. I am part of it.
But there are so many more folks along with the team here, along with Demetrius, along with so many other people at Cochlear that is required to make something like this successful, to have really proper execution, to fall in line with the brand and the quality that Cochlear is known for.
So it really takes a lot of folks behind the scenes to make this go successful and properly.
So the idea of it being rolled out to help manage the vaccine queue, brilliant, great idea.
But I mean, was that the original idea? Or when did that come up as like, hey, I got an idea.
This is a perfect application. We should do this.
Two weeks before it happened. Yeah, I guess that's when they announced we're having problems with the vaccine rollout.
So interesting. Yeah, it was the idea of our CEO and co-founder Matthew, and also one of our senior execs, part of our ETI group, Dane Connect.
And so they had this idea where I believe Dane's wife was trying to sign up for the vaccine and they're having a lot of problems.
And then Matthew contacted me and other folks on the team.
And it was, because we had this idea, what do you think of it?
And we basically ran with that. And Matthew and the rest of the folks in the executive team are brilliant folks and they got the spot on.
And we wanted to try and help, and we thought this was a natural avenue to help.
And so we've seen really good traction, trajectory, and responses from customers so far.
Well, this is great. I really appreciate the waiting room team joining me today on We Are Cloudflare.
We have about 50 seconds left. Any parting words or thoughts anyone wanted to share?
Any other stories? Yeah, we have the four of us here, but a lot more folks have been involved in making the waiting room.
And yeah, it's really, we've built onto the work of some other people and some other have come and helped us.
That's good. Especially the workers and durable objects teams.
Oh, that's great. I wish I had more time to get into that. We have 10 seconds left.
So with that though, I'll say thanks for putting that plugin on workers and durable objects.
This is chat with We Are Cloudflare. I want to thank my guests. Ciao.