Women's Empowerment Month: Career Paths to Cloudflare
Part of ensuring equity in the workplace involves creating a vision for what success and professional development could look like.
Join Nayla Raad, Senior Manager of Customer Success at Cloudflare, as she chats about the professional (and sometimes personal) journeys of some of Cloudflare's rockstar women, their approaches to their own career development, and what it's like to work at Cloudflare.
Good morning, hello Cloudflare TV, good afternoon, good evening for folks joining us globally and happy Women's Empowerment Month.
My name is Nayla and I am a Senior Manager of Customer Success here at Cloudflare.
Part of ensuring that equity in the workplace really involves us creating a vision for what success and professional development could look like and I've been really excited to host the second of this two-part series today because it really gives us an opportunity to connect with women at Cloudflare, hear a little bit about how you ended up at Cloudflare, what was your career path, what was your career journey and chat a little bit about professional success in the hopes of inspiring other people to know the art of the possible really when it comes to your professional development and career.
So I'm just going to kick us off here this morning and I want to start really by putting our wonderful speakers on the spot.
I'm gonna just start with you Alina and I'll have others once Alina's gone just introduce yourself.
Would love to hear first just what's your name, what's your title and what does that role do at Cloudflare?
What does that mean to be what you are? So Alina if I could put you on the spot first.
Sure, hi everyone my name is Alina Ha. I work as a Customer Success Manager in London office and what means to be Customer Success Manager is meaning to make sure our customers derive all the value from being Cloudflare enterprise customer and we help with adoption you know like and making sure we keep them up to date with all the new innovations here at Cloudflare.
Valentin I'll have you go next.
Yeah so hello everyone I'm Valentin Descamps. I am also part of the Customer Success team in London and I will also just copy paste what Alina said and add that we are really working as a customer advocate here at Cloudflare.
We want to make sure that our customers are successful reaching their goals with Cloudflare and that we best support them throughout this digital journey.
Fantastic and I love that you are both Customer Success Managers and yet your career path and journey to that role has been very different.
So I'm excited to dig into that in just a second here but I want to make sure Vaishy I'd love to hear a little bit about you and what you do for Cloudflare.
Yeah hey everyone I'm Vaish and I work in the Solutions Engineering team here in US and the work involves helping customer from the technical standpoint during the sales cycle where we're trying to get them as a customer help them out iron out any technical difficulties and things like that.
Amazing I've got a powerhouse with me today all customer facing this is exciting I had the opportunity to connect with you all offline before we we jumped on air here over the last couple weeks and to hear about your career journeys and I was really inspired to hear about how each of you found yourself at Cloudflare but also the twists and turns your life has taken professionally and personally to get you here so I'd love to just hear a little bit and share with with folks tuning in about your career path to Cloudflare.
What was that journey like and Vaishy I'm going to put you on the spot first.
Yeah so I after finishing engineering the first job I did was basically you know on the coding side of things so I was in front of the computer writing lots of code every day and you know just I started there and at some point I got looped into a customer role and I started enjoying just speaking to the customers about different things and it felt that I had a more closer view to the product compared to while I was just working as a software developer or just writing code so for me personally I since I started loving customer side role I wanted to explore more technical deep dive options within the customer facing realm and here I am as a solutions engineer just working day in day out with different people.
I love that and I know when you and I connected I was kind of excited to hear because I think a lot of times when people think about engineering and development they think they think about being behind the computer all day and encoding and not necessarily that there's an opportunity to be dynamic and creative and solution oriented and customer facing in such a concrete and impactful way so thanks for sharing that.
Valentin tell us about how you ended up here at Planvleur.
Yeah so I think there are lots of experiences that were in my path to Planvleur so the first one I would say is really the passion for entrepreneurship that I discovered early on in my bachelor's.
I had a minor in entrepreneurship and this is really where I started you know being exposed to problem solving, solving relevant problems for customers, being very innovation oriented and also thinking about developing business models and I was able to pursue this passion entrepreneurship in a master in entrepreneurship in the Netherlands in Rotterdam and I was also very fortunate to put my learnings into practice in an internship at Philips Research and I think Philips Research was really an incredible place to be in at that time because it's really where you know the whole source of innovation of Philips starts in this place from you know the most fundamental type of technology so this was an environment where I would you know I would cross lots of technical experts in the corridor just have a quick chat about their innovation that they were working on and it was very interesting as well because at that time Philips was moving from only selling hardware to actually creating a subscription model business model so it was very interesting to be part of this transformation part of this journey so this is where I sort of became you know very much exposed to the SaaS model which we also have at Kaltler but before I managed to join Kaltler I actually did a quick start in a startup because as you know probably every entrepreneurship student wants to be part of a startup at some point and yeah I was working at with Locals which is a platform that connects local hosts to tourists that want to have a very personalized experience about the country that they're visiting and as in every startup you end up doing lots of different types of work having lots of different responsibilities so I was on the one hand doing a lot of customer success work by helping to grow the host community at with Locals and on the other hand a lot of product type of work where I was very much collaborating with our IT guys in making sure that once a client once a customer reaches our website that they are taking to a very smooth journey and hopefully will result in a booking so that was also when I sort of realized well it's so important to have a very good digital presence it's so important to be you know performant to be able to be secure and yeah that's how I sort of was inspired by Kaltler's mission to to help build a better help build a better Internet and now helping my customers being successful that way so yeah I'm very biased but I tend to think that being in a customer success and generally a customer facing role it's incredible just how diverse the skill set that you have to bring to the table is and so oftentimes you know just in hearing all three of your backgrounds it's it's so different what you've been exposed to and how you've leveraged your skill set and yet I expect that every part of that journey has been incredibly meaningful in making sure that you are as effective as you are enrolled today and responsive and thoughtful and able to kind of understand the nuances of working with our customers that range from the financial services space to health care to NGO work to you know private sector business so it's it's really exciting to hear just how how many twists and turns you've taken to to be here Alina I know your journey looks a little bit different tell us about it yes I call it I always call it like career jungle because I did major in logistics but I had my own companies I had a graphic design studio and I worked as a commodity trader and then I was working for Kazakhstan national railway so it was completely different thing for me and basically worked a lot for different startups you know like some big corporations as well and never thought I would end up in cyber security but funny thing was that I think actually being entrepreneur myself you know like running business and then like working as a client and as a vendor as well like gave me a lot of insight what kind of customer service I would like to have and when I moved to London I started to think what do I want to do next in my you know career journey and it was kind of funny and at the same time magical to see my notes like four years ago that I was like I want to work in the best cyber security company you know like I want to be at a customer's you know facing role and yeah like and it plays out that I got a role in Cloudflare as a customer success manager and that's exactly what I wanted and I think as I said like knowing what people need to run their business what is important helps me a lot to understand my customers like you know understand their pain points you know like and kind of see what we can do better for them you know like what we can drive to get them successful.
Yeah I think that that is it's such a gift when we work with customers one of the beautiful things you all share in common is that any customer chatting with one of you I think it's added benefit of not just the wealth of knowledge of all the customers that you've worked with at Cloudflare but really throughout your career and understanding just the full scope of what it means to be engaging with a provider for specific services and needs.
I'm curious a couple of you and Alina you specifically just said that you never thought you'd be in cyber security and I think that's a fair statement I'm not sure that there are a lot of little girls out there that have their dreams set I wish there were more but I don't think that that's you know we usually we're thinking I wanted to be a horseback rider I didn't necessarily say you know I want to end up in cyber security I'm glad I'm here.
There are lots of surprises I think about being at Cloudflare what's been most surprising to each of you as you've joined the organization and Vaishal I'll turn to you first what has surprised you about being at Cloudflare?
For me before joining I had a view about Cloudflare and the products so I did I come from the networking and security background but after joining I actually saw the pace of innovation happening and that was a very surprising factor at the amount of things that we ship and how effectively our teams are able to ship out really good products in short span of time and coming from a background where I've seen how long these things could take and how the from developing it to testing to actually putting it in front of the customers it takes a long cycle and I'm very surprised by the pace of innovation that we have here.
I love that I was chatting with Radhika on Monday kind of in a similar session here and she was mentioning that it was the sheer volume that we are exposed to and she works on the data side of things and what she was saying is the amount of data and how you can see what's happening real time around the world based on our data is so exciting and invigorating to be at the center of and I think similarly Vaish what I'm hearing from you is kind of just the speed with which we're taking that information and kind of accelerating and moving with it is really surprising and exciting.
Valentina, how about for you?
Yeah I think I will also drive the same car as my colleague here because it's incredible how everything is fast at Kauffler.
I mean to be honest when I started at Kauffler I came from a very different background.
I came from business background from a tourist industry and when I landed at Kauffler I was very overwhelmed let's say with all the different knowledge that I already had to absorb so you know you had to learn a lot of different well learn a lot of very technical concepts and the whole product spectrum but now that I'm here almost three years at Kauffler it just keeps going right like you I feel like you're you're never really in your comfortable zone you are always you know learning so the learning curve keeps continuing and to be honest this is what keeps me here this is what I love about Kauffler.
Also you know in a customer facing position it's a very comfortable place to be in because when we are talking to our customers we always have you know new products to share new platform improvements so it's like a lot of giving and a lot of you know I feel like also here at Kauffler the product the relationship that the customer facing teams have with product is very close so the collaboration is great we always bring in product managers in conversations with our with our customers so I think this customer facing you know innovation direction is also very important and makes our job also quite enjoyable because we're just able to share all these great things and have our customers with all these shiny eyes so I just love that.
Me too. Alina how about you what's been most surprising?
I think one of the most surprising for me was that when I joined I was like oh my god such a big company you know must be quite corporate right like but I was nicely surprised that we still have this so much flexibility in working right like and there's so much trust in us as a you know like team in Kauffler so much and at the same time like when we spoke together right like I said there's so much creativity so I was always kind of as I said like I was working graphic design and I always kind of liked this creative side of myself and I still can use it but while be technical while understanding you know like how I understand what is DDoS you know I understand like so I can help my clients and some technical questions and this is something incredible I think because you kind of I broke a lot of stereotypes for myself about myself because as you said like as a girl like you're never told that oh you can be actually technical you can understand this engineering terms and you can be quite fluent in them and I think talking to clients and understanding what they explain to me and I can actually elaborate myself and you know and understand how we can help them this was really like a big surprise for me and that's but I always cherish this trust we have for management you know like as long as you do your work as long as it works like no one will doubt your you know what how much professional you are like you know what kind of skills you have and it makes work so much more enjoyable.
That's really exciting to hear I think that the feeling of autonomy and empowerment and trust it's such a big thing and I also love that you chatted about creativity.
I think there's a huge misconception oftentimes in the tech space that it's innovation or it's development and a huge component of both of those is creativity whether it's working with a customer to solve a technical problem or it's understanding kind of the higher level business strategy or really assessing the industry and trying to determine what direction we want to go in next.
All of that requires to do well I think requires a certain level of creativity and willingness to make mistakes and fail and experiment and I think so definitely embracing I work with some of the most brilliant and some of the best failures in the business I think which we're very lucky to have.
I'm curious that we've talked a lot about things that have been sort of explicit and I'd love to switch gears here and chat a little bit in terms of your professional careers and what advice have you gotten?
I was originally going to ask you what set you up for success but I want to flip this a little bit on you.
I want to know advice people should completely ignore. Have you received a piece of advice where you just think advice but not for me?
Valentin, how about you?
Yeah this was a very difficult question for me to answer because I can't really remember specific advice that I was given that I did not like or did not receive well.
I would say in general I try to avoid advice that makes me perhaps doubt or feel negative or just feel like something's wrong so I would kind of turn the answer around and say you know trust your gut because you know many times people will say things to you and yeah I mean like if they don't bring you forward if they make you stay in the same place or if they don't inspire you or if you know they push you down I would say ignore it move forward go past it rise above because yeah I think you know we we need to be concentrating on what is good for us.
We need to be able to learn from others and get inspired so if any advice you know puts you down and brings you this negative feeling I would say you know don't listen to it just move forward.
I love that. All right don't listen to negative advice move forward.
Alina what would you say? What advice do people ignore? I don't think like as I think it's similar to Valentin's like when people question your ability and I think one of the things I would say to always remember is get rid of your imposter syndrome and like I believe that if you like and this is something I remind myself every time because if we landed in this job like we're good enough like and you know the company trusted us to do this and as you said like it's okay to make mistakes because like I think we have so much support from management you know like we're just learning and it's fine and just concentrate on positivity concentrate what you're doing best and honestly like we're very lucky when people ask me like especially during the interview about like oh did you have any conflicts you know like and I don't recall any you know because I think we have so much respect for each other and that's why I don't I can't say like oh this advice like advice was bad I think it's just we always need to always remember that we're good enough we're enough and we you know like we're all doing our best here.
I love that yeah I think that there is definitely a tendency I was just chatting with someone yesterday about how much pressure we put on ourselves and I think sometimes we're our worst critics so remembering you're here because you're qualified and and being qualified doesn't mean that you're not going to make mistakes the expectation is that you make mistakes and ideally like you respond with urgency you bring in the right people we tackle mistakes together and we learn from them and we grow and we do better and when we can mitigate the risk associated with those mistakes we do that but making mistakes doesn't mean you're any less competent and that's part of the growing that's part of the learning that's part of the building and investing I love that how about you when it comes to advice you know I'm sure a lot of women face this they get unsolicited advice sometimes and sometimes it comes from a really good place where they're trying to protect you from something or save you from some kind of a harm so from my perspective I've chosen to ignore comments which say hey you cannot do this this is not the right role for you and and people who question uh saying hey uh you know this this role for example solutions engineering I've had comments come my way saying hey this includes like you know 80 percent of travel do you want to do it so as long as you're fine with what you're doing I I just feel like you know I've I've taken the uh uh I've taken the comments in in a in a good sense just ignored it and gone my way because I know best what I can handle and no one else apart from me would know would know what's best for me right so um I would say for especially women in tech on the customer side uh I've I keep receiving advice about travel uh about being too deep dive in tech and not having enough progress things like that yeah I think that's totally fairing you and I had a pretty lengthy conversation just around um representation and sometimes we are the only female voices in the room especially given not just that we're in tech but but specifically in this space um I'm curious and I am ad-libbing here because I didn't give you all this question so feel free to look at me during headlights and tell me you don't want to answer it but um I'm curious how you tackle that um you know sometimes when you when you are the differing I don't necessarily want to focus explicitly on on um being the only woman in the room but but when you are a differing voice how do you how do you stick to your guns how do you continue to advocate for your perspective when that's the case I heard a lot from from everyone that I chatted with around um that being a challenge of like how do I make sure my voice is heard and how do I stick to that perspective I'm curious if you have any tips or tricks that you can share I can I can go first so uh this this came in from one of my professional mentors I I draw my inspiration from a lot of personal and professional uh women and and other folks in general uh so the the one piece of advice which keeps coming back to me is hey don't hesitate to speak out what you're feeling because you might think it's a small thing you might think it's it's it's something that people would ignore but always make it a point to bring it up in in a in a group setting so that there could be multiple others who are thinking the same and uh it's just going to help you and there's no harm in bringing up the the points that you want to uh share with the world um I want to add like uh it's similar for me but I grew up in very patriarchal society and you know like speaking up was never a good thing like you always need to be quieter you know nicer you know always need to be behind the man and um a lot of the model I took from my mom who was always you know like in a managerial position she used to be a president of the very big company and um and I think always remembering that she could do this and you know like and you have someone behind you that gave you this example like and you have to lead that as well and I think it's also acknowledging your fears and like facing them because sometimes we as vice said like um we have this you know like things that are we need to like you need to speak up really you need to go through your pain or go through your fear or shyness and just say about like I had this um I couldn't speak up or ask questions even in Koffler and actually uh told my manager I was like look I you know this is a big struggle and I think it's very important to actually reach out for help because um we are all in a safe environment like we need to make sure we use those resources as well like we use the opportunities maybe it's not for myself but everyone else behind me they will benefit from it so like and we will be also another example for someone else.
Yeah and I guess I will conclude by saying that I think it goes back to the advice that the advice question that you gave Naila uh I think trust your gut and I think it's also what we kind of concluded together that it's very important that you trust yourself you know your qualities you you have to you know believe in yourself and I think into if you're in a room where you are showing perhaps a different perspective then uh my recommendation would be you know to to walk them through your point your perspective um just you know create the reasoning around a certain context that uh you think uh you know covers all the points or perhaps the the concerns that you have about a certain topic so you know bring them on your journey with you and and just try to uh yeah elaborate sometimes I feel maybe when we are perhaps nervous in a certain context we try to speak very quickly we try to perhaps you know jump to certain conclusions without walking through the whole argument uh but this is what this is when you should you know breathe uh slow down and and just like you know give your story because you are you everybody here is a very you know uh positive contributor very smart very intelligent very creative so uh I think it's important that we go back to these qualities and just give our story as well.
I love that yeah and you know it's interesting because I this has come up a few times as I've been talking to different women across the business and a couple things that I I've heard consistently one has been the power of community and it's really one of the reasons why I love that we have Women's Lair for example at Cloudflare because I think there's something really powerful about being able to go back and say hey I'm gonna try this out or I'm gonna do something a little different um give me feedback and and help me make sure that I'm feeling confident with this approach um having those those folks that you feel can actually have your back and can give you that good honest critical feedback is is so powerful um and I think the other thing that I heard pretty consistently from everyone was do it once do it twice and the third time it'll be a lot less uh difficult than the first two is sometimes it's it's challenging to get started um but if you challenge yourself the first time I'm not going to say it's going to be the best experience of your life and probably the second time it won't be either maybe not even by the third time but every single time you do it it'll be it'll be easier to do because you'll have the confidence you'll know what to anticipate it's essentially the just makes perfect kind of contact um thank you all for that wisdom that's that's I think so so important for us to remind ourselves of we've only got a few minutes left here and this is my favorite question because I'm just biased and I think this is really fun to hear but um each of you when I asked you what you think would surprise people to know about you had um some really fun answers for me so I'd love for you to share with our larger Cloudflare community here in audience um what what do you think would surprise your Cloudflare colleagues to know or the broader community to know about you Valentin can you uh can you give us a surprise here yes um yeah so uh my my sort of fun fact I would say is probably that I'm very multinational so uh in in total I speak five languages and that's very much thanks to the people that have raised me and uh yeah and my husband so my mom is German so therefore I speak German my dad is French therefore I speak French uh I grew up in Brazil in Sao Paulo so therefore I speak Portuguese English I suppose everybody tries to learn English at some point in their life so there you go and finally uh I'm married to a Colombian uh man so uh Spanish is added to my list so yeah I guess that's my that's my fun fact I love it Alina how about you uh I used to be a like a nightlife photographer and then a photographer in Kazakhstan and I worked for Harper's Bazaar Kazakhstan so this is something like uh it's a funny experience in my life and it was really fun we've all had uh third and fourth lives outside of Cloudflare I was speaking about like third and fourth lives or outside of Cloudflare my my speaking voice is so different from my singing voice and uh most of the people are just surprised that it's it's that loud when I start singing and that's that that I feel like you know a lot of people come back to me and say hey I didn't think that you were singing it I'm like yeah that's that's just my singing voice just ignore it amazing because I think that all these talents and skills I discover kind of out just outside of the norm and they they very rarely come up in conversation but when each of you share these it's it's so cool to know and at some point you're gonna have to sing for us so um we only have a few seconds left here I'm not gonna put you on the spot today maybe in a future episode we have on the episode just exclusively devoted to talent at Cloudflare amazing well um thank you all so much it's a privilege to work with you it's a it's humbling to have the opportunity to connect with you um I hope that our sharing your journeys today has helped inspire other women other girls other people across the world and see what's possible and um I'm looking forward to hopefully future conversations have an amazing day thank you all for tuning in thank you thank you so much everyone see ya bye bye everyone