Cloudflare TV

We are Cloudflare

Presented by Chaat Butsunturn, Suzy Bates, Jason Henrickson
Originally aired on 

Meet all the people who make up the Cloudflare team from all offices, all teams, all levels, in as many languages as possible.


Transcript (Beta)

Good afternoon, everyone. This is Chaat Butsunturn. I'm your host of We Are Cloudflare, where we introduce ourselves to some people at Cloudflare, get a sense for the people behind the curtain, under the hood that make Cloudflare what it is.

And today's guests, I have Suzy Bates and Jason Henrickson.

Hello, guys. How are you?

Hi. Good. Great. And both of you are in the program management group, I guess.

But I think I'm looking at the entire group right now. Is that correct?

Currently. Currently. Okay. So now, program management. Now, you reside, I guess, within marketing, right?

So I'd like to start first with just a high level of, and either of you can answer this, like what is program management?

So program management is, it's the person who is responsible for the organization of projects, the execution of schedules.

Often they have budgetary responsibilities.

And so they're really, if you ever, if you ever go on a trip and there's that one friend who's like super, like already has a schedule and, you know, has looked ahead to see what the good restaurant is, they have a program management mindset.

We just happen to have that job. All right. Okay. I would agree with that.

How is that similar or different to like, let's say project management?

It's very similar to project management. All of my previous have been project managers.

In my experience, generally a program manager would work with the series of project managers on bigger level projects.

So it would be like the person who manages the projects for the project managers as well.

Got it. Okay.

So breaking it down just on an individual level. So Susie, you're senior program manager of web properties and Jason creative operations manager.

So Susie, I'll just start with you because you're on the screen next to me, at least in my view.

And I think that's what everybody's seeing right now. So what do you do at Cloudflare?

So mostly I am the the interface of requests for web. We do have a really extensive content management system, which allows people to self-serve building content on the site.

So you don't have to request, you know, content updates from an engineer.

You can go to the content management system, but sometimes, you know, you want it to look a little different or a new feature.

So we do all of that.

The team, the engineers do that. And I am responsible for prioritization and managing the backlog, but also sort of, you know, I do triage tickets as they come in to make sure that they're applicable to us.

A lot of times, you know, we'll get a content update request that goes over to Martin Sanchez's content team.

So I am a JIRA forwarding expert so that our backlog is nice and clean. But so it's a lot of triaging and troubleshooting.

I do a lot of the content, people who do content on our website need a little help.

Like, oh, you know, which way do I do, and so I do that to help them keep the requests out of the engineers' hands.

I really want to try and keep the engineering requests going to the engineers while keeping the, while, you know, helping people get what they need done without sort of cluttering their to -do list.

I see. And you've been with Cloudflare now a couple of years, right?

A year and three months. A year and three months.

Now were you Cloudflare's first program manager? No, there was some, so there was someone who had both of our roles prior to us.

Oh, okay. I gotcha. Right.

And it's really, we're, it's, there are plenty of other program managers. We're the only program managers in marketing.

Oh, okay. I gotcha. And Jason, welcome.

Not only that we are Cloudflare, but to the organization, right? We're so happy to have you.

Yeah, thank you so much. It's my third week and I'm so excited to be here.

That's great. So what, what is, what exactly is your role? What, what will you be doing?

Yeah, well, as the creative operations manager, I work very much in that program management space as well.

I have a very similar job to Susie's, except I am working with the design team instead of the engineering team.

So I kind of lead the design team from a perspective of tools, process, and prioritization.

So I manage all of the incoming tickets. I triage them. I assign them to the right creative on our team, or I shoot them over to the content team or the engineering team.

Sometimes tickets come to me that aren't for me as well. I do a very similar process to what Susie does is triage every single ticket that comes in.

And then I'm just here to really kind of help the team prioritize their workload, load balance, some projects and block for them as much as possible so that they can do the best creative work they can do.

Right. Yeah. We all know that there are a lot of competing priorities, agendas, and, and, and sometimes they need a traffic cop or a filter to just make sure that we're focused on the, the, the, the stuff we should be focused on, let's say, right?

So in terms of your backgrounds then, so Jason, what did you, what did you do prior to, to joining us at Cloudflare?

Yeah, I started Cloudflare three weeks ago, but before that, I was working at Amazon, the, you know, the little known company, Amazon.

I'd been there for eight years on five different teams over my career there as a program manager or an operations manager for teams.

So it's kind of where I've spent the majority of my career in tech has been as a creative operations manager, but I did start as a visual designer.

So I worked up the ranks of the design hierarchy before I took this role.

So I have a really good understanding of what the creatives need and how I can assist them in getting a better output at the end of the day.

So did you make a pivot like towards program management from design? If so, what was the, what, what helped you like shift?

Sure. Yeah. I could talk about that.

So I did make a pivot. I was working as a art director for Amazon retail video games.

So that was everything that's onsite, that's video games. I was in charge of all of the ad units for that content.

And I was also helping our team scale from 17 to 75 for a Q4 push.

So we had to, we had to onboard a ton of creatives.

It was more than we'd ever done. And the typical onboarding period at Amazon at the time was three months.

And they had a process where they would assign designers dummy tickets that never were going to go live until they could pass this automated algorithm and get their content out.

And they were self-learning how to do this.

So what I did as an art director, I took on this onboarding package for Amazon design and I came up with a user's manual to kind of like, this is your job.

This is what you do. This is all the links. This is everything you need to onboard.

I also set up a mentorship program to mentor those designers that are incoming with existing designers to help them learn the ropes.

And I was able to drive that onboarding time from three months down to two weeks.

In that first cycle, I saved $800,000 for our team.

And due to that, they were like, you're a really good art director, but I think this project management, like design manager role is like your calling.

And my creative director really, really kind of pushed me into this role really hard.

It's a hard sell to like, okay, I'm going give up being like the lead creative for Amazon video games to do this, to do management.

But I've never been happier.

It was absolutely the right move for me. I pushed a lot of teams forward in their creative output and I feel like it's my calling.

So I'm really happy I took that opportunity when it came up.

There you go. And Susie, how about you?

What did you do before you joined Confluent? Well, a lot of different things, but I started, I have an engineering degree, but then I went into development when I got out of school and similar to Jason, I was writing C++ a long time ago.

And I would always get into these really deep conversations with clients about what their use cases were and what their success criteria were.

And then we would get to the end where we were building all this stuff.

And I would be reminding them of what their goals were and stuff like that.

So my manager was like, yeah, you need to become a manager.

You're better at talking to people than you are at slinging code.

And so I was like, okay. So then over the years I've moved a little bit.

So had a couple of different jobs and I've been product manager or project manager.

I've worked in big companies internally. I've worked in consulting for big companies.

And then the last seven and a half years, I was at a small digital agency that was a hundred percent remote, but I lived here in Austin and we built sites for, we built really, really big sites.

The Economist, we completely rebuilt Entertainment Weekly, Stanford, Dean of Research.

I'm trying to think of the other ones.

Anyway. So I worked there as project manager to begin with, and then I ended up being VP of delivery.

So all of the delivery employees worked for me and I did all kinds of, all the training for every new employee, got videos from Susie and built internal tools to do tracking and estimating for future revenue and all that kind of stuff.

So I have a lot of, I got the award, wear many, many hats.

Are there, would you say common traits or skills for program managers that they're all very, clearly organization is one, but is there something else also, a tangible or intangible?

Do you have anything, Jason? I have things. Yeah, I have things too.

I think it really takes a strong sense of empathy. You need to be able to put yourself in your requester's shoes and in your team's shoes and find that medium that's going to make both teams happy without causing any conflict.

And then you need to be able to talk to people.

A lot of it, a lot of it is just being open to talking to people, talking to people constantly, coming back and talking to them again.

If things aren't clear, it's a lot of those soft people skills come into play in this role beyond all of the management that you need.

You need to know how to, you know, write, write a Excel doc and get all of your charts in order, but you also need to be able to talk to people.

Right. So I think all of that, as well as if you are a person that has your calendar open in a permanent tab and it's front and center and you're always looking at what's tomorrow, what's next week.

Okay. Let's go look and see what's next month. Then you have that sort of like staying ahead of it mindset.

And that's what I found is the best program managers is it's they're dealing with today, but they're thinking about tomorrow and next week and next month.

And if you, if you're always only dealing with today, then you're not, you're not like fixing the problem of emergencies and fires because you know, it's, it's that whole, like, yes, I will deal with this fire today, but next week I hope I can sort of pre put out the fires of next week by getting ahead of it.

And those I think are the best program managers are the ones who always have an eye towards, you know, sort of calming things down and making it more logical.

And, you know, things like that, not by excessive process, but just sort of like being, having your fingers on the data and the information.

So we're in a remote environment.

All right. And have been for almost a year. It's kind of crazy.

So what is it? Do you think it's there, there are obviously pros and cons from a remote environment, but I'm wondering in the context of what you guys do, is it harder to, to not be able to be on site with you or just, you know, go to someone and tap them on the shoulder and ask, or does it really, we're in a virtual world and, and now it, it really isn't so much a factor.

So when I started, I was the first marketing employee in the Austin office. So every single person on my team was in San Francisco or somewhere in New York.

So I was virtual anyway.

So I think that, you know, yes, it's harder, but it's better when everybody is virtual because everybody has the challenges.

And so it's when, you know, 75% of your team gets to and have lunch or, or coffee, you know, Oh, Hey, you know, how's that project going is such valuable interaction.

And so when some people had it, when some people didn't, I think it was, it was more challenging.

So right now I think we're all challenged, but we all kind of have the same challenge.

And so I prefer it. I prefer this because we're all, you know, one face, one screen is so much better than a conference room with a face on the wall.

And, and Jason, I you're, you're a remote employee, so you're not even tethered to an office at all.

Is that right? Yeah, that that's, that's correct. And you know, I think it is a little bit better to be remote.

Like when I was in the office, the shoulder tapping would be my major pitfall of like taking all of my time away would be everyone coming to my desk, tapping me on the shoulder for some secret, which I would just say, Hey, go put it in a ticket for me every single time.

And now that we're remote, it's a lot easier. Just everyone's putting in the tickets.

Again, I'm very new to Cloudflare, so I'm going to have to learn how it works here.

But in my past experience the remote just gave me a lot more time to do the work I need to do.

So how's, how's the remote onboarding been? I mean, obviously we we've been at the remote onboarding for, for months now, but I'm just curious about your own personal experience.

I think it was some of the best onboarding I've ever experienced in a corporate structure.

I really felt it was very well put together.

All of the team was forced to interact with each other in a positive way, which I really enjoyed.

And I learned so much about the company that I really didn't expect to learn in that first week.

I was really blown away by the onboarding and I think it was great.

Like as, as I mentioned before at my previous company, it was, there was not much onboarding.

It was usually half a day and your computer and a bunch of wikis to do it on your own.

And it might take you three months, but I feel like this one week intensive really helped me hit the ground running.

How did they facilitate engagement with your cohort and your other onboarders?

Like what did, what did that look like in a virtual environment? They gave us some chat rooms where we could ask questions of each other.

So people are like, oh, did everyone figure out where you sign up for payroll?

And how is, you know, how do you choose between your insurance choices?

So all those questions were happening in a chat channel.

That's something I've always handled on my own. I've never had any peers to bounce ideas off of.

And then we also had, you know, HR people in that chat, like giving us official answers too.

That was really great, but it also pushed us to be peers and ask each other important questions.

On top of that, there was a couple of icebreaker sessions where they just had getting to know you kind of games with our team.

And so the rest of class 170 and I, we all got to know something special about each other.

Right. Well, speaking of that's one of my favorite questions on this segment is getting to know your fun facts.

So as long as you're talking about it, Jason, what was, what was your fun fact?

My fun fact is that I haven't been doing this very long. I started this career in design in 2010.

Before that I was a social worker. I worked with people with disabilities in the Seattle area.

And I did a lot of tech empowerment with people with disabilities.

I worked for the boys and girls club with their special needs children.

And I worked with a, another company that helped adults with cerebral palsy.

And before that, before I was even a social into social work, I was a chef.

And so I went to culinary school and I was in baking school and I worked in several restaurants in Seattle.

So I've had multiple 10 year careers to get to this point that have been completely different.

Well, please allow me to put in a plug for you to join me on cooking with Cloudflare and teach me a dish.

Anytime. We'll have 60 minutes to knock something out.

All right. Sounds awesome. All right, Susie, how about you?

What was your fun fact? My fun fact was I have moved with the moving van 36 times.

That was a good reaction.

Fun fact now, right? And I have lived in, is it four of the five main offices cities?

Oh, really? Yeah. So my dad was in oil exploration. So I was born in Midland, Texas and moved three months later.

And, you know, lived in South America, lived in Singapore, lived in Houston a lot.

And then, but then my husband and I, when we got married, we went to New York.

And then we went to San Francisco.

And then we moved to Austin and then he wanted to go to law school. So we went to North Carolina and then we went to Denver and then we ended up in Austin.

And we've actually also lived in this house for 12 years.

So move 36 times and been in the same place for 12 years.

So. Okay. Right. Right. Yeah. I was admiring your backdrop.

I remember the first time I saw it, I actually thought that was a, and it was actually before you dropped the quilt, I thought it was like a virtual office background, like backgrounds that are like an office.

So, yes, this is my, this is my shed quarters.

It's a, it's a seven by nine foot shed in my backyard. And 10, 12 years ago, when we bought this house, it was just like where you put the lawnmower.

And I was like, I'm going to make it into a, a spot for me.

So renovated it added all the power and an air conditioner and new windows and drywall installation.

And I make quilts.

So this is a real quick quilt I made for my backdrop, but I make other math based quilts.

The harder, the better you see math based math based quilts.

Yes. So I have a Coke fractal quilt. I have a tessellation quilt.

I just really love sort of nerdy quilts. So yeah, so that, so that then when I started working from home, I added the desk space on this side of the shed and I can, and I can work on this side and then I have my, I did clean up my quilt, my fabric so that it's more comfortable when I became my background.

It looks like a comfortable setup, but is there something that you miss about the office experience?

I do as a new person, it was really great to meet people. And I, and I did like Wednesday lunches.

Oh, that was, yeah, that was, that was nice to, to experience different different restaurants around town.

So that was good. Yeah. I mean, I really was only there.

So I started in December. I mean, I really didn't go into the office until really the first of the year.

So I was only there January to March 15th.

And then, Oh, Oh, you know what? The other one is my husband works downtown and we carpools and that was actually really sweet.

So, or we met for a beer after work, you know, cause our children are old enough to just get themselves home.

So it was just like, you want to meet for a drink? I was like, wow, I I've been decades.

That's one of the things I miss about the office is like there there's usually beer in their fridge and sometimes you just go, you know, well, certainly on, on, you know, at beer meeting, we would have and for those not in the know for our audience beer meeting is it's not a meeting where you drink beer, but it kind of started that way, but now it's actually just a term that we use for an all hands meeting that we have every Thursday.

Right. And but often there was beer in the fridge and people would have a beer at the end of the day.

Right. Now, Jason, you're you're remote.

So I don't know how to, and you're also new, but were you working in a remote environment prior to Cloudflare or were you, you know, now that you're, you're kind of Seattle ish based and we know that's where Amazon is.

Did you go into an office?

Yeah, no, I, I was in the office at Amazon. So I would go down to the corporate office every day.

I was, it was a huge campus, lots of buildings. I moved around a lot to a different building every couple of weeks.

But there was one time I got to go into an office for eight months.

That was basically this giant sphere greenhouse.

And it was amazing. I love that. Yeah, it's, it's been on the news. It's called the spheres.

It it's a, it's a really cool spot. And I got to work out there for eight months.

Love that office, but I do miss that office. And much like Susie, my wife worked very close to me where my office was.

So we would commute. She had free parking, which was great with her job.

So we commute and I'd walk from her work to my work every day.

And I do really miss that. And we would do the same thing.

We grab dinner after work, we grab lunch together, and we don't get to do that anymore.

Now it's now grabbing lunch together with our kid doing, you know, school, you know, it's not the same, but it's, it's similar enough.

Right. I do think there, there's certainly advantages to the work from home environment.

I mean, for one, I find I get a little more sleep, you know, but, you know, on the, on the weekends, you know, I, I, I work a little more than I do now.

So I think actually the shed helps with that because I leave work.

Yeah. And when I, when I leave here, I walk in the back door and I'm like, I'm home.

Right. Like I leave the computer and the monitors and everything out here.

Now I take my phone with me. So if somebody really needs me, they can get me.

But I, I, I do feel pretty strongly that to make work from home work, there has to be some delineation, right?

Otherwise it just bleeds into your entire life.

You know, you sit on the couch with your computer, watching TV, checking your email and there's no end.

So. I've set up some pretty strong boundaries.

So I do the very similar, I don't have my own shed to go and work in, but I do the same thing where I shut everything down at a set time every day and walk away.

Yeah. One of the things I like about working from home is I, is my, my son who's 10 years old is he's schooling from home.

And while that can be a distraction, what is nice is sometimes we'll take a break together and just shoot some hoops.

You know, we, we have one of those nerf hoops that I put outside the door and we just like, you know, knocking around for a little bit.

And that's kind of nice.

I think we're going to miss the extra time that we get to spend with our kids and our family.

I think that's going to be hard. When we went, you know, it's, it's frustrating, but it's also a gift.

Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's one of those things where you don't know what, you know, how you're going to feel until it's, it's sometimes you need that hindsight.

Right. Well, before we go and we have about four minutes left, I'm curious also, like now Susie, you you're, you've been doing the grind here for a while.

And Jason, you're, you're, you're about to embark on this new adventure, but I'm curious about like, are there any particular projects that you're working on, engaged in, or really looking forward to, to, to doing?

I mean, for, for Jason, it's a whole new world and for Susie, you've been there, but I imagine there may be some, some novel things or interesting things.

So we have a big change to the web that is coming.

And it's been a long time coming. We've been basically rebuilding the entire front end infrastructure on a more modern architecture.

And we, meanwhile, are also using the work from the design team, redoing the look and feel.

Also, it's kind of like moving into a new house where everybody's like, Oh, Oh, let's, let's throw all this away.

And, you know, so we're doing some of that too, cleaning when we move.

And so we have been very iterative in the rollout, but I think very soon where it's going to be sort of a snowball and we'll see some real massive changes to the web.

It's very exciting. I think it's really nice and clean and modern and, but, but also technically a vast improvement using our own for infrastructure.

So we're using workers to rebuild the front so that it's, you know, using our own products.

So I'm really excited about it.

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Really excited about the flip side of Susie's project, like working with the design on the new brand guidelines has been a huge part of my onboarding and like looking at the new style guide versus the old style guide.

I'm excited about it. I'm excited to roll it out across the website. And, and I'm really just kind of jumping into that.

I'm sure there's going to be next month, there'll be something else, but right now I'm just really excited about that.

Did you work with like Danielle and London and that crew and the San Francisco design team?

London's not in the design team anymore. Oh, he isn't. He's in product design now.

Yes. Very exciting. So he, yeah, he moved first of the year.

So yeah. I'm going to have to pull his, give him a tap on the shoulder and see if he'll come on the show and talk about his new.

Yeah. Yeah. Have him on. He's, he's, he's been around a while and got some interesting stories.

Yeah. Yeah. But I'm working with mostly the San Francisco design team.

Gotcha. Right. I think everyone's close to San Francisco right now.

Mm hmm. Yeah. Well, I think that's, we have about a minute left.

Any, any parting thoughts? So what was your interesting facts?

Oh, my fun fact. Okay. So my fun fact is I'm an avid mountain biker and I've been riding for like 20 years or so, but I do most of my mountain biking at night.

And you know, we're, we're full on, we've got lights. I got a headlamp and a bar lamp and that they put out like, you know, about 1500 lumens on one and a thousand and another.

So we're throwing on a lot of light, but I do it at night in part because it doesn't impact family life.

You know, I could, I put the kid to bed, wife's watching Netflix and I can go out with the boys and ride my bike.

So, so I do that every, I do that Wednesday nights typically.

That's excellent.

Yeah. That's the same night as my D&D group. Oh, is that right? Yeah. Yeah.

It's nice. Cause like I've been doing it so long. I don't have to think about it anymore.

You know, you just, you just show up and it's just built into the, it's baked into the program, you know?

Well, with 10 seconds left, I want to say thank you very much to my guests, Susie Bates and Jason Hendrickson.

This is chat button turn for We Are Cloudflare.

Thank you. Thank you. Bye.

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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.
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