Originally aired on January 23 @ 7:30 AM - 8:00 AM EDT
Join our Head of People Janet Van Huysse together with Nela Collins (Customer Success Director, EMEA) and Boris Lecoeur (Head of France) talking about building diverse teams and their experience growing sales departments from scratch.
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Women in Sales
Good afternoon, good morning if you're in the US and thank you for tuning in to this segment of our Women in Sales Day event titled Building Diverse Teams. My name is Lee, I'm part of our recruiting team based in London. I have a great panel who are going to share their thoughts and experiences with us in the next 30 minutes. So without further ado let's introduce each other. So Nela, do you want to go first? Yeah sure, my name is Nela Collins. I am the Director of Customer Success for EMEA, so looking after our customer success organization here in Europe. Fantastic and Janet. Need to go off mute, sorry I wasn't ready. I should have been. Hi, I'm Janet Van Huysse and I lead the people team at Cloudflare. I've been here for about five years. I'm excited for this segment. Thanks for having me Lee. Janet and last but not least Boris. Yeah hi everyone, I'm Boris Lecoeur. I'm head of France. I joined Cloudflare almost one year ago, almost an anniversary to open up the Cloudflare France office after 20 years in the IT world and building the French team at Cloudflare and now the team is close to up to 20 people and quite diverse but I'm sure we'll discuss that further. Fantastic, so a fun fact for those who are watching is that these three folks are interrelated in that when Boris was interviewing for his role at Cloudflare, part of his interview panel was Nela and Janet, so they both... Forgot to get through us together. They had to get through interviews with Nela and Janet among a host of other interviewers, so they know each other fairly well and just while we're still kind of doing introductions, another kind of interesting fact that I looked up is Nela, your team, I think you've got a team of 25 people in customer success in EMEA right now. I think your team is probably one of the most diverse of the 25. I think almost half of them are women, which is fantastic. Do you want to tell us a bit about how you've gone about building such a team? Yeah, I'll start from the beginning. I was sort of one of the founding members of the customer success team here in EMEA. I was the second one. There were two of us, and I kind of realized we had really crazy hiring goals at Cloudflare, and this was five and a half years ago when I started. When I started out, I wasn't doing anything intentional about diversity. I was just looking at CVs, looking at skills, passing them through, and after the first couple of hires, I realized this is going to be a problem if I don't do anything intentionally. Then I started switching gears and kind of reading and learning how to fix this problem. I've never hired people at this scale at all before, and one of the main things that I sort of pivoted on was experience. I talked about this a little bit in the previous session, but if you look at tech experience and use that as a really important factor in your hiring, it's just the lack of women in tech is a self-perpetuating problem. When you kind of open your mind a little bit and be like, actually, what are the skills of a really good CSM? Empathy and collaboration. You need technical curiosity, but you don't need to be an expert in networks or anything like that. You need to have the drive and ambition and the grit to be in a fast-paced sort of startup environment. When I started looking at candidates through that lens, it really opened the door to a lot of different people that I might have been overlooking before. We have some amazingly talented people on the team, and they didn't come from the backgrounds that I would have expected. That's just one of the things. I think that there's probably five or six, but I think that's been the most effective thing that I've done, and maybe not surprising, maybe surprising, but definitely rewarding. I just want to tag onto that, too. I feel like when I came to Cloudflare, it was one of the things that I appreciated about working here, is that there are so many stories about people with unconventional paths into tech. I've been in tech for 20-plus years, and I've been at more than one company where if you didn't have one of five universities on your CV or one of six highly-admired brands, we didn't feel like you were qualified to work there. Our talent pool was so narrow. I've always appreciated that there's many NELAs at Cloudflare who really open the aperture for what are the skills that are needed and do skills-based versus this kind of proxy for talent, which university experience, which aren't necessarily accurate. Yeah, I'll definitely echo that, Janet. Even though this is focused on sales at this day, an interesting thing is that we do hire software engineers who don't have a computer science degree or computer science background. We are very much a company that does consider people with unconventional backgrounds, if you like. Coming back to you, Janet. Obviously, you're our head of people for anyone who didn't quite catch your intro. You are also the VP of HR at Twitter, where you were also instrumental in forming their core values, one of which was seek diverse perspectives. I think the core values, there were like 10. Actually, for those who don't know, I actually worked with Janet at Twitter as well. There were 10 core values. I don't remember them all, but seek diverse perspectives is one that stuck with me because it echoes our current Cloudflare capabilities as well. Do you want to talk a little bit about our Cloudflare capabilities? Yeah. The one that I think that's most relevant here is embrace diversity to make Cloudflare better. That's because we believe that if we're going to realize our potential as a company, we need diverse teams. Diverse teams make better decisions. Diverse teams are more innovative. Diverse companies have better financial results. Diverse companies are proven to be a better place to work for everyone who works there. We have a long road ahead of us. We talked a lot about we're just getting started. We believe that diversity is a real critical part of our success. It's not good PR or just trying to check some kind of a box. We really believe deeply that this is how we will win, that diverse teams win. Yeah, definitely. Boris, coming back to you, you're obviously our head of France. From your experience as a sales leader in the French market and in EMEA, what are some things that you have noticed that diverse teams do better than homogenous teams, for example? Yeah, I think that's a very, very interesting question. There are really two sides of it. I think one was highlighted by Jeanette. One is internal. It is to our company, because diverse teams are more efficient, more creative, and more complementary. I think balancing teams from different horizons brings you really different perspective, different approaches to solving problems, and different networks as well to reach. The second side is the sales process. We are discussing here about women in sales. Within sales organization, I think it brings additional accelerator, first of all, because our customers are diverse as well. When you are in sales, you have to deal with different verticals, media, bank, retail, e-commerce. Some of those are not that diverse, but some have a lot of diversity. Not only that, but within one customer, account executive, they have to deal with a lot of different departments. Some of them are IT, and it's true that within IT, diversity could be a challenge in some organization, but many others like procurements, business lines, the digital department, e-commerce, legals, so that's a lot of diversity. That's also why the role of being an account executive at Cloudflare, particularly, is very rich because there are a lot of activities and a variety in those activities, as well as the team and initiatives that you are owning is stunning. Having diverse team gives you a real leverage because it's a reflection of the variety of customer and departments, but it gives you also an additional leverage in sales when you are dealing with high-tech space and IT departments with a very low diversity. The diversity gives you a real advantage over your competitor, which are not diverse because that's leading by demonstrating your strong diversity culture, but that gives really another angle when addressing customer issue and customer problem. I see really that as two sides, and within sales, it's the clear accelerator, and I have seen such talented people coming from a lot of different horizons and not the high-tech, particularly being very, very successful in sales, leveraging their soft skills and learning on what can be easily learned, which is high-tech and cybersecurity. That can be really easily learned, as we see every day in the team. When we go visit customers, there's a salesperson, a customer success manager, and a solutions engineer, so it's usually three people. Sometimes we get to go in as a group of three women, and it is so surprising to customers when that group comes in. I just think it's so awesome. One of our customers has been asking me, how do you hire so many women? I just think it's a real sign of our maturity and leadership when we can do that. Customers who are struggling with their IT department diversity are coming asking for advice, going, you've got awesome people coming to see us. How do you do it? We're just like, well, let me tell you the ways. I'm so proud to hear that, Nella. I love that. I screen for this, their perspective on the value of diversity and how they build diverse teams. That's what Boris and I talked about in our interview, Lee, that you mentioned that we all interviewed. It's funny. I was interviewing another sales leader for a different region in the world yesterday. Of course, we're having a conversation around diversity and building diverse teams. Nella, he made that comment too, that early in his career, he realized as he was going into customers that all of his competitors, they were the one sales dude for the most part, and then his clone. He realized early on, wow, it would be such an advantage if I have bringing a diverse team versus me and my clones. He was just walking me through that epiphany he had luckily early in his career. That's really cool. I'm so glad you shared that. Yeah, absolutely. I think it's also a virtuous cycle because one of the main reasons I joined Clownflare is the culture and the people and meeting such diverse team with different backgrounds. I think it creates an emulation by itself, and this leads to bringing people from a lot of different horizons within our company and also pushes team and us to share a culture of risk-taking, being able to take risk and move from function to another function and go to look for profile, which are not necessarily high-tech, but are able to take the risk to move to the position. This culture is quite important and is one of the real important reasons why I joined Clownflare as well. Yeah. We're glad that you did join us, Boris. I remember you were put through a very extensive interview process. I think extensive is a fair description, but you're here and you're making a fantastic contribution, particularly on a diversity front. Just taking things up a notch, Nella, obviously, as our Customer Assistance Director, I actually used to hire for your team and now Anna does. What are some of the things that you've been doing in your hiring process that might encourage more diverse applicants and might make for a more equitable hiring process? We obviously don't want to be giving away all our secrets, but obviously, we do want to share with others how to build diverse teams. If there's another manager who's watching this, what are some things that you could share with them? There's a few different things. Our interview process is very prescriptive, I would say, on our team and very, very consistent. I think that that is one thing that was really important to me to ensure that we're evaluating the right skills and eliminating as many biases as possible. Another thing that I really encourage my managers to do is outbounding. I spent so much time outbounding in the beginning, outbounding candidates and reaching out to them. It means a lot to them when the hiring manager's manager reaches out to them because they really want them. It doesn't work every single time, but I have had success with it. If you're looking for a specific type of candidate, it's a great thing to do. Something that the people team initiated was the setting of diversity goals, which is something to keep you accountable for some of these things. You can say it's a pipeline problem and that not enough candidates are coming in, but you're like, I have to screen 10 women and 10 men for this role. You make sure that you do that. It's leveling the playing field a lot more because you are going to get 75% male CVs if you just wait for your cue. Evening the odds out and handling your pipeline. As a manager, you have to do it yourself a lot of times. I think sometimes people are like, I'm too busy for it, but it's such an important thing that making time for it, I've found to be really important. And just to clarify for those who were watching, by outbounding, you mean that you and your managers are actually going onto LinkedIn and searching for candidates themselves, right? Yeah, correct. Something that we've actually been told by LinkedIn, our LinkedIn account manager, is that hiring managers statistically get a higher response rate than recruiters. So that's why for us managers like Boris, Nella, you folks actually doing that outreach, you will get a far higher response rate than if I reached out to someone, which is why that is so important. Yeah. So Janet, coming back to you, so obviously you interact and interface with a lot of senior leadership here at Cloudflare and also in previous companies. What are some things that you would recommend to managers or folks who want to build a diverse team from scratch? Yeah, I mean, I think Nella's just gave really great ideas, right, is number one, you have to put the work in, right? It's not going to, if you just kind of sit back and let the CVs come your way or referrals, it's likely to breed a more homogenous team. And so knowing that you're going to need to put in more effort to, yeah, to do the outbound, to find great people that will increase the diversity of your team. It's just, it takes work. I think people try to look for like a silver bullet or something like easy way out. It's not, it's just like, you just do the work. Like anything else that is worth the reward, you put the work in. And so I think Nella, that was wise. And then, yeah, I like the idea of goal setting to hold yourself accountable. And so what I love about what Nella said, she didn't say her outcome was to have half the team be gender diverse. She said, she's going to level the playing field early on, right? So she's going to have half of the candidates that she screens as those initial phone calls with, make sure that that is gender neutral. And so I think that's really key too. So you still are running through your process, but you're taking the time in the early stages to make sure that the candidates that you're seeing are more balanced from a diversity perspective, whether it's gender or whatever else, else you may be looking at. So I, and it's no different for senior leaders. If anything, maybe there's a bit more of a challenge if you're looking for someone that had that job before. But like I said earlier, I feel like Cloudflare has always done such a good job of really pulling out like what are the skills needed for this role and basing much more on the skills than, and the behaviors, the capabilities than previous experience or university or what have you. So it's just, I think it's a series of really good decisions and you have to stay focused on it. And if you get lazy, it is not going to happen naturally. So. I read something the other day that said managers hire based on experience and skills and fire based on attitude. And it seems like there should be a lot more of the softer skills in the front side. Yeah. So now I'm so glad that you bring that because you know, Lisa Lee and I mentioned that we worked together at previous job. And so we had, and we were hiring crazy like Cloudflare was, and we got to a point where we were realizing that we had enough, a significant number of critical mass of people who yeah, were like, weren't working out. So we're like, okay, what can we learn from that and bring that into our hiring process? We can make better decisions. So there's better outcomes. And that's what the capabilities are for, right? We actually screen for those capabilities. So really they are the behaviors that underpin our culture. So you think about what, these are things that will make people successful at Cloudflare. Let's screen for them in our hiring process. And then we believe the outcome is better. And so I think making sure that within your process, you are purposely and intentionally screening for those cultural aspects and our, we call them the capabilities, the behaviors that get rewarded at Cloudflare. Because yeah, it turns out like you rarely end up letting someone go because you know, they don't have the technical skills or functional skills to the job. It's a lot about how the job gets done. Yeah, totally. And for anyone watching who's wondering. I feel like Boris has something to say. Yeah, no, I couldn't agree more. And I was going to share, I thought it was my silver bullet, but it seems that Mila has the same type of bullet I have. But I think what is important is the cultural fit is things that are hard to learn and change where the technical and functional competencies, they can be acquired over time. So even though the ramping is a little bit longer and sometimes it's very fast. But I think the cultural aspect of it is something that we put the real focus when we are looking for candidates. But I would like to add as well that it starts also before recruitment by sharing on our culture, the culture of our team, the culture of our company and sharing on social networks, you know, what's, how our team are doing, sharing the new hires who are joining the team, some team achievement, team social events. And I think as a hiring manager, it is important to share this culture. So people see how the team is looking and how the team is also doing within the company and how the culture looks like. And we have also a unique chance within Cloudflare is we have both male and female as the founders of our company. And that starts really from the top of our company. And I think that's very unique as well within our space, right? That's such a good point, Boris. I think, you know, it really did start at the very beginning for Cloudflare, you know, seeing the value of diversity. And I remember too, when I was looking for, when I was in my interview process, I was learning more and more about the company. And to your point, Boris, that we kind of put these cues out there, whether it's in the blog, you know, impact week, I think what had amazing content for an insight into Cloudflare's culture. But I remember looking at Cloudflare summit, you know, we used to do this annual event where we would have just like great thinkers across the Internet and wasn't about Cloudflare. It wasn't a sales summit. It was the future of the Internet kind of summit. I remember watching those videos back in 2016, as I was interviewing at Cloudflare and just being struck by the gender and ethnic diversity in the presenters. And it said to me, wow, this company really values diversity. Like I could see it in just how they are operating and I'm really grateful for the things that we put out. And so that was a really strong signal to me, even during my job search five years ago. Yeah. Thanks so much for sharing that, Janet. So Boris, just coming back to you. So I feel like you, you are probably where you are now in terms of building your team is probably where Nela was maybe about 12 months ago or so. So you're still in the process of building your team, you're hiring at the moment. What are some of the things that you're currently doing, you know, when you are speaking to sales candidates or when you are thinking about building your team, what are some of the things that you are doing to ensure that, you know, your next say 10 hires or so are going to help you build a diverse team? Yeah. And I think, so I will try to add new things that were not mentioned before, but I think when talking to candidates, sharing confidence in risk taking, in their ability to also project themselves on the career path and pushing them to be comfortable with that. I think it's a critical point. I personally changed role a lot in my career. And also I did not start in the high tech space as such. I pivoted, I started in biology and biochemistry. But then I discovered the beginning of Internet and unique system and programming language. And I was really fascinated by that. So I pivoted. So I changed personally my role every two to three years. And I'm really encouraging teams to do so. You know, within my previous job, I also worked a lot on developing personally the team and personal developments and pushing them to take risks to change role. Even if it was not my interest as a manager and as for my team, I think it's really things that this, you need to have people comfortable with that. And so we can also achieve our development objectives. So, and I'm really encouraging people to get outside of their comfort zone. And that's, I have worked on career paths internally and externally and sharing that. So I think having, first of all, a culture of the team and sharing that with candidates of risk taken, but also gross mindset is very important. So we feel comfortable that even though they are coming from a different horizon, different perspective, they will bring a lot to the team and they'll be able to have, to be successful. Because what I'm looking for is, and what we are looking for at Telfer is builders, is people who, as Nela mentioned, are naturally curious, are able to think differently, to build things that haven't been built before. We are, you know, our mission is to build a better Internet. And that's also pushing customers to do things differently compared to what they've been doing over the last 20 to 30 years. And you need to think people, to find people who are not thinking by analogy of what has been worked in the past or what has been successful in the past. They need to find new ways of doing things. And therefore having people with, you know, fresh mindsets coming from different horizons, bringing new networks, new perspective is very important. So I spend quite some time on that when reaching out to candidates because I also do a lot of personal reach to candidates as well. And that's not working all the time, but I think it's also a way to be transparent with candidates on what they can expect once they join Cloudflare and what is, you know, our culture, the management style, the leadership style around that. And I think it's very important so that it's aligned with the candidate expectation before they join Cloudflare and fits when they have joined Cloudflare. Definitely. Thanks, Boris. So we've got just over a minute left and we've just had a question come in from a viewer. And they've said, I'm a member of the LGBT community. I have no tech experience, but would love to gain some. I really like Cloudflare's culture and I've been inspired by Matthew and Michelle's approach to help building a better Internet. I'm currently a law student. I'd like to know what value could I add to the Cloudflare team once I graduate? So Janet, you've got about 45 seconds. I was like, Lee, you should answer. What would you do with that CV? I mean, yeah, I, we have a legal team, so that feels like the first place I would start just if you're graduating in law school. But I wouldn't, yeah, I think there's a lot of transferable skills there. And like, you know, Nell and Boris have both talked about, we really value curiosity at Cloudflare. And so just being curious about technology, our industry, what we do at Cloudflare, I think that goes a long way no matter what role. Like, you know, on the sales team, there's room for someone you could see coming out of law school. So I would just say do a cover letter. I love cover letters. Explain why you love Cloudflare and why you're interested in this role on that team, but definitely apply. Great. Well, I hope you got that. You heard it straight from Janet. Thanks so much. Plus one for cover letters. Right?