Cloudflare TV

Yes We Can

Presented by Michelle Zatlyn, Jaclyn Spangler
Originally aired on 

A recurring series presented by Cloudflare co-founder and COO Michelle Zatlyn, featuring interviews with women entrepreneurs and tech leaders who clearly debunk the myth that there are no women in tech.

This week's guest: Jaclyn Spangler.

Women in Tech

Transcript (Beta)

All right. Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week's installment of Yes We Can. It's one of my favorite times of the week and I'm just so honored to have Jaclyn Spangler here today.

Welcome, Jaclyn. Hi, Michelle. Thanks for having me. Thanks so much for joining.

All right, everyone. A couple housekeeping items before we jump in with Jaclyn.

If you have any questions, you can always email them to yeswecan at or if you have anybody that you would love to see me interview on this show, please submit their names or recommendations and I'd love to have them.

All right, so with that out of the way, the housekeeping out of the way, let's turn it to Jaclyn.

How are you, Jaclyn? How's everything going? You're in Atlanta today, right?

I am in Atlanta. It's going well. I'm waiting on a lot of rain to come through because there's a hurricane down in the Gulf and so we're supposed to get rain all week, but enjoying the sunshine while we have it.

Good. That's good. That's great.

Well, I love that you're joining us from Atlanta because I don't necessarily think of Atlanta in tech, but there's actually quite a vibrant tech scene.

So I'm really excited to learn more about that today. So let's start. So you were working at a large fortune shipping and logistics company when one day you decided, hey, actually, I want to go join the tech scene and you made that happen.

Can you maybe share with the audience why you kind of had this revelation of maybe why you wanted to get into technology?

Yeah. Yeah. I'm not sure how sudden it was, but it was somewhat sudden.

I mean, I think I was tired. I was burnt out and I think a lot of people in tech can relate to that as well.

Burnout is a real thing. And I was just working really long days and it's a nonstop industry, right?

It's a stressful piece of the puzzle, right?

If you work at Home Depot and you've got all these things, the marketing department's excited, the product department's excited, but the shipping department is who actually gets it from A to B and anything that goes wrong there is cost and delay.

So it was a stressful environment. But in those moments of burnout, I think it's really useful to kind of consider how did you get to that place, right?

Like there was obviously something that made you want to be there and that was, that made you want to give all that energy and put all that energy into your job.

And so I was able to zoom out a little bit and think about like, what is it that I liked about this place and why am I excited about it?

Interesting company, right?

It was a 30 -year-old shipping company, but we all knew the origin story.

So kind of like at a startup, right? We knew how the founders had put it together.

We knew the why and they talked about that a lot. And a lot of people had just been there for the whole time, right?

They'd been there for 30 years or 20 years and they were so excited and passionate about their jobs.

And it was, I kind of wanted that for myself.

Like I always looked at them and thought, man, I wish I had been here 20 years ago, right?

They just had a different experience and I could see that.

And so that's what made me think I would love to be part of a startup.

And also I know it sounds maybe a little rash to make that big of a leap, but the way that that company was run, the Atlanta office was a branch and we were about 200 people.

And so it was kind of like our own little small startup and it was very entrepreneurial.

And I ran a department and I had my own P&L and I kind of knew I could see how the things fit together.

And so that little taste of entrepreneurism was interesting.

And so that's what made me want to join a startup.

And then technology was just, I wanted to be part of the future instead of the past.

We were still using Lotus Notes and all our operating systems were written in COBOL and it was a little backwards.

And so I wanted to catch up because I was still young and I felt like technology was going to outpace me.

I love that. That's good. I think there's probably some other people where as you were sharing that story, you're thinking about, oh man, I don't want it to outpace me either.

So I think that that makes sense. All right. So you live in Atlanta and you kind of start to think about, well, how do I find this ownership somewhere else, which I think is great.

And you start to look into tech startups to join.

Can you maybe share how you went about that? Because again, it was such a big shift.

So I don't think it was obvious at which company you were going to go to.

Can you maybe share more about how you even started? Where did you even get a list of companies to consider?

Yeah, no, good question. And it definitely wasn't obvious.

I think the obvious thing to me was I want to work at a technology startup.

That was as much as I knew. And Atlanta, it's not like you said earlier, it's not the first place you think of when you think of tech, but we do have a lot of technology here.

And there were lots of interesting young companies at the time. Cabbage was here.

Pardot had started here. I'm sure there's a ton of others that I'm missing, but lots of interesting companies that were out there.

And when I was looking, kind of the main place was this place called Atlanta Tech Village.

So tech incubator that the Pardot founder had founded.

And that was the first list I found.

But as I chatted with those people and kind of looked into what they were doing and their maturity, it was like, oh, I don't think I could responsibly leave my Fortune 500 job to join any of these folks.

And so I had to dig a little bit deeper.

And ultimately it was networking. So I know that I personally don't love to network.

And a lot of people listening might feel that way as well. But it was a friend of a friend.

My brother had a friend who had a brother-in-law who lived in Atlanta, set me up with lunch with him.

And that person was part of the technology scene in Atlanta.

And so he knew things that I wouldn't have found out otherwise. And so he was nice enough to have lunch with me.

We hit it off. He actually introduced me to somebody else who happened to be an alumni from my school.

That person and I had a conversation.

And he's the one who told me about Full Story. So I think without having kind of found my way into like actually talking to the people who were in the technology world here in Atlanta and plugged into that scene, I wouldn't have been able to find the right company for me.

And so I did want to say, because I know there are hopefully people listening and thinking about how they might do this for themselves.

And there's a lot of organizations and meetups that exist specifically for this purpose.

And as painful as it might be for you, I think taking advantage of those opportunities and trying to meet and find people in that way, that's really where you find those best opportunities.

I love that. When you said some of the companies weren't for you, were they just too small or too early or not in areas that you were interested in?

All of the above, I think. And then some of them, it was about, you know, you're putting your trust into a founder, right?

I mean, I think you probably remember being responsible for other people's livelihoods, and you still are.

In early stages, that's really scary.

And the people who are putting their livelihoods into your care, you know, they're considering and evaluating that on the other side too.

And so it was just a matter of, you know, I needed to find people I really trusted that I felt like they knew what they were doing and they were going to be successful.

So I really lucked out in that sense. I don't think you always find that.

I love that. That's great. Yeah, I know. Well, you know, one of the things that really struck me about the tech industry, and I don't take this for granted, is, you know, you mentioned about someone introduced you to somebody, you kind of had lunch with them and they introduced you to somebody else.

And you think like, it's not like you knew each other that well, it was somebody like a friend of a friend lunch, and they said, Well, actually, I'll introduce you to somebody.

And that led to something. And I think that openness to introduce people to pay it forward and to make those connections is unique to the technology industry.

Like, I don't think every industry has that. And so it's great to hear that networking can pay off.

Yeah, yeah. And I think too, I mean, without, maybe with no strings attached is another piece of that being specific tech technology.

I think in a lot of industries, especially like if you're in DC, if you're on the hill or something, it's like everybody you meet, what can you do for me?

And what can I do for you? And yeah, I think in tech, it's just about merging ideas.

It's like, Oh, yeah, that's super interesting. And I know somebody else was interested in that.

And you guys should just meet. And it's less about if I introduce you, what am I going to get out of it?

So I think that's been that's been really great.

I found that to be true over time as well. That's true. That's very refreshing.

That's great. Okay, so you after this soul searching, networking, meeting a lot of kissing a lot of frogs finding finding your you found full story, you joined full story.

So can you tell us more about what full story? Who is full story?

What what does the company do? Who are your customers? How big of a company is it?

Yeah, absolutely. So full story is a digital experience platform. When I started our tongue in cheek motto was sort of to make the web suck less.

And really, that's, that's still the case.

And we don't put that on our website. But it's all about, we we collectively are spending a lot more of our time online, you know, you're shopping online, you're socializing online, and especially now with pandemic even more so than five years ago when I joined the company.

And so our software really allows you to recreate a user session, see how they're interacting with your website or your application, your mobile application, where they stumble where you wrote a bug, and they can't get past it, right, some things that you need to fix.

And so we call that a user session. And then what we do is we aggregate all that session data, we let you search on it, we let you build analytics around it.

So it's really analytics for your user digital experience.

And so who are our customers? I mean, our customers are anybody who wants to improve digital experience, which today is basically everybody.

So let me come on today.

Everyone today wants to improve their digital experience. Exactly. And companies.

Right, exactly. And we want to be on both sides of that, because we're users to you know, one of our features is called rage clicks.

And a lot of competitors have copied that term over time.

But rage clicks is you can kind of envision what that is.

It's when you're like pounding on something because it's not working.

That's a rage click. And so we surfaced that, right? Like, hey, rage clicks over here, you need to fix this.

It's a problem for your customers. And so lots of e commerce sites and retailers, finance, also like healthcare and finance people who are brick and mortar traditionally and are trying to move into the digital space and stay current.

So I think you asked how big we are. When I started, I was I was employee number 16.

Today, yeah, early days. It's another surprise.

Looking back, I really didn't realize how early we were. And so now we're, we're like 225 people, some ish, you know, and before COVID hit this year, we were really planning to double headcount, we would have been like 500 people by the end of the year, going to double revenue again, all the good stuff.

We've had to pull back just a little bit and temper expectations.

But like I said, I think we're fortunate in that what our business does is it helps people improve their digital experience.

And so we're probably pulling forward some customers at this point who would have taken a little bit longer to realize they needed a service like ours.

So yeah, we're kind of ready to push back on the throttle or put, I don't know, throttle metaphor here.

As we were gas your fire. There we go. Yeah, I like it.

I like it. Yeah, there we go. I've got lots of anecdotes that I can pocket.

And is everybody you know, the 200 folks for a full story? Are they all based in Atlanta?

Yeah, so before pandemic, we were about 25% remote. And we were always we were trying very hard to be a remote friendly company, right?

We weren't remote first, we had a headquarters in Atlanta, we said our heart is in Atlanta, like this is where we are, we would fly people in, you know, we wanted them to see the headquarters and be here once a quarter or something like that.

But now we are really shifting toward more fully remote, we're going to keep our HQ, but we're we haven't said that you have to come back, right?

We've actually said you don't have to come back.

And so we imagine about half the people, once they have the option will probably come into the office most days, and the other half will probably come in a couple days a week, if they feel like it, or it's useful to escape children or pets or what have you.

It is hard. And because I agree that the pandemic COVID has changed a lot of things.

But it's interesting that Atlanta was kind of the heart of the company.

And that's where your headquarters were. And we're able to build quite a big company with a lot of good traction.

So hats off to you and the team.

And so I just want to go back to what you said a little bit about how you were employee number 16.

I actually didn't realize you joined so early. So that that was kind of a my ears perked up.

And so I'm just trying to put myself in your situation.

Here you were working for a fortune 500 company that had been around for a long time with like an industry and customers and you know, shipping logistics, and like you said, shipping goods around the world, important becoming more important.

And then you decide to go join a 16 person startup in an area you didn't know anything about or very much about efficiency and nothing but like, you did that's not that's that's what what surprised you going to a really big company?

What were some of the surprises? Yeah, you know, it's funny. It's funny, like, this is a hard one for me to answer.

I've realized over time and kind of based on your shock and surprise, as well as as others over time, like, I don't think I think my natural tendency is adaptable about adaptability.

I moved a lot growing up, I've traveled a lot.

And I've realized more recently that I don't experience change in the same way that other people do.

And so maybe that's a good thing. Maybe that's a strength.

And sometimes it's not. But so it's hard to say, like, what was different.

But I think, you know, the thing that really stuck was, it was like working for a family instead of a business.

And I know a lot of, I know a lot of people great against that analogy.

And I don't actually mean to say that it should be a family.

I just say, that's how it is. Because you're a very small team and you're building something together.

And you're creating this thing out of nothing.

And you just you forge a very different kind of bond with your co workers.

Whereas you might not, you know, at a fortune 500 company where you're just a cog and, you know, wheel is just, it's different, right, that your experience of what you're doing there and how you're making an impact is just a lot different.

And so it is a bit like a family.

And I think, too, you know, every decision you make is, has the potential to be incredibly impactful, or extremely inconsequential.

And it's really hard to know which one you're facing down at any given moment.

And I think, and I think intuition is usually wrong. You know, at that stage, it's like, oh, gosh, this is going to be the biggest thing that happens to our product.

And we, you know, we spend months talking about it as a team. And it's just looking back, you know, there's just such a blip and such a small piece of what we what we are, what our product is.

And then there are other things where we probably didn't think twice about it.

And they were just sort of like quick decisions, and they become really integral to your product.

Or it was like a linchpin decision about how, you know, technology has to work or how something has to happen now.

And so I think those decisions, it's just hard. That's a big difference that a small startup is like, it's either really important, it's really unimportant, and you really don't know which it is.

And you might not know for a couple years. I love that.

I actually, I've never really heard someone describe it like that. But I'm nodding my head because I'm like, actually, you're right early on.

It's really true.

I would, you know, as you were saying that something that came back to me, it's like, and sometimes like one conversation can have such a big impact on which way something goes.

And it like you said, oh, I just think I'm having coffee with someone and all of a sudden, something really big comes out of that that you just were not expecting or, or you're really excited about something that ends up not being as big as you thought it was going to be.

But I love your description.

I think that makes a lot of sense. So when you, you know, so here you are in this new industry, small team, forging these bonds with these colleagues, you're just shipping and trying to build what you set out to build.

I mean, how did you learn about the technology?

Like, were you an expert in what on these online experiences?

Or like, how did you learn? Because that seems daunting. Yeah, yeah. I mean, I, I definitely wasn't an expert.

That's why I laughed. So I mean, I took, I took a risk joining full story.

Yes. But they also took a huge risk on me, right? I'm an unknown.

I'm not from the industry. I'm not technical. How am I going to help? But I think what I was able to do is show that or understand for myself, really not even show that I had relevant experience that I could directly map into this industry.

And so it was like, I came from I had been an account manager, I had run customer success, you know, it's the same, same term, different, same thing, different term.

But I had been in customer success. So I kind of knew how to make customers happy.

I knew how to look at their process and make that process better.

I'd also run a product. I was a product manager, I ran a department, product manager, very different.

But it was the same idea of like, you had to understand what customers needed what they didn't need, and how to kind of curate that package for them so that it worked for them.

And so I realized, those were concepts and frameworks that you can apply anywhere.

And so for me, learning is, that's what it's all about, right?

It's about understanding, like, what is the thing that I do know?

Here's something that I feel like I don't know anything about, right?

But what is the thing that I do know? And how can I build upon that? And then at some point, you have to say, and how is that thing actually skewing my perspective on the new thing I'm learning, right?

Maybe it's actually hurting my learning of this, and I should just throw it out.

And I think that ability to extrapolate knowledge, that's what I always look for in new hires and people that I'm hiring is, like, can you connect concepts out of band?

And so, you know, that's how I learned it.

Lots of online and just Googling, Google, the University of YouTube, right?

Like, there's a lot of stuff out there. There's no excuse not to learn it anymore.

And I think it's just a matter of taking advantage of it, and then figuring out where to plant it in your brain.

I think something else that I think about a lot with learning is, just because you've heard it once or read it once or took the course, it doesn't mean you've learned it, right?

And you shouldn't expect, after having read something once, to know it.

And sometimes you just need to plant it there, and a little bit later, you know, a year from now, you'll have the job, on the job context to actually use that piece of knowledge, and you can build upon it then.

And so, not being overwhelmed when everything that you see or hear feels new, and you're like, I don't know where to put any of this.

Just try to connect it back and then file it away for later.

You know, it's, I totally agree.

I think about my own experience building Cloudflare in the technology industry.

It's like, I Google a lot of things, too. Like, looking a lot of things up, because it's, and it's free.

Like, a lot of these things are, you just go look online, and you can kind of, and then you ask the people you work with, you have, over lunch, hey, what does this mean?

You go back, and you kind of kept a list of, I remember I had a list of vocabulary.

I was like, I don't know what they mean. And I kept the list.

And you, as you said, I looked them up. I didn't really understand what it meant.

And the next time I used it in the context, I was like, oh, actually, now you can start to connect the dots.

But I do think this idea of like, just go look it up is a really powerful, practical advice for people who want to learn more about it.

Just like, just look it up online. It's like, it's there. There's a lot of good, there's so much information.

It's really democratized right now. Yeah, you know, it's funny.

I actually, I think back to college, where I had this goofy intro to computer class that was a requirement.

And I mean, some of it was really basic.

But there was other parts where it's like, okay, our big project was build a website using HTML.

And we built it in Notepad, you know, so it was like, just open a doc and start typing HTML, right.

And they didn't give us much. And I think the requirements were very basic.

But I remember just being interested in it and googling around and trying to find other things that I could add.

And that was like the time of cool MySpace pages, you know, it was like, yeah, what if like, I don't think I have one anymore.

But you know, it was like, carousel, you could learn more things.

And I was interested in that. So I do think like, it requires some, it requires curiosity, and it requires interest.

And, you know, just read more, right, pick up a book that you didn't think you wanted to read and try it and feel free to put it down if it's not interesting.

It's like, don't feel bad about giving up.

But yeah, there's lots of information out there. So take advantage. Good.

I love that. Okay, so we have about nine minutes left. And there's a couple things I want to go through.

And so but I want to talk about you've been at full story.

So again, journey from 16 people to over 200. That's incredible. A few years, you know, you've been there for five years, you've got a lot of different roles, including currently being a chief of staff.

And I actually think that's a role that a lot of people want, they want to be a chief of staff.

And so maybe you can explain a little bit about, you know, why have you stayed so long?

And what does a chief of staff do?

Or what do you do in that role today? Oh, yeah, that's a tough. That's a tough one to answer.

But why did I stay is I think an easy one. And, you know, going back to my origin story of where did I where did I find this company?

When I met the founders here, they were they were so thoughtful, you know, like that was my that's my summary word for them and how they ran the business.

And so that's what I felt coming into the company.

And then over the last five years, that has shown to be true.

It continues to be a place full of thoughtful people.

I like to say we didn't take the business one on one playbook off the shelf and go okay, like hire two VPs and five directors and eight managers, you know, it was it was all organically grown, but with strategy and thought behind it.

So that's why I stay is because it continues to be that kind of thoughtful place that that changes, you know, I probably wouldn't stay.

And so I've also I've been given a lot of great opportunities, right.

And so I've kind of over time just had to figure out what it is that's interesting to me.

And I, so as a chief of staff, let me get to that.

I'm a chief of staff to our CTO. That was an interesting opportunity that really came out of a conversation again, with our CTO, I had regular one on ones with him, we were talking about something else I was saying, hey, I'm kind of wrapping up this current role that I'm in, you know, I, our COO had left, I would have been working closely with him.

And it was like, I don't know if I don't know what's next for me.

And I'm not sure if it's here, you know, and and he was like, and I told him about this degree that I wanted to pursue in industrial organizational psychology.

And he was like, oh, yes. Oh, you Oh, yeah, do that and come work for me.

And so it was like a very organic opportunity. Obviously, we thought about it more than that.

And there was more that went into it besides besides that to get this role over time.

But I'm being a chief of staff is all about being able to both be really strategic and tactical, right?

So what zooming out that all that context I was talking about, like be able to zoom out and go, how do these things fit together?

Why is it a problem? And how can we fix it? And then, you know, diving in, if there's nobody else to fix it, okay, let me lead, we lead an initiative on that, I'll get the right people in the right room, we'll talk about the right things, you know, we'll focus on the right stuff.

And we'll get, we'll make progress on this.

So I think chief of staff, yeah, it's kind of a new new role. There's a lot of great resources out there.

Prime chief of staff is one that I rely on a lot.

And they're trying to build a community of chiefs of staff. Because it's similar to product manager was like 20 years ago, like, what is a PM and trying to put some some more structured thought behind it.

But it's a unique, you know, it's a unique position that I think requires a really the right type of person, right, who's, who's strategic and humble, willing to kind of do everything, but also able to, you know, talk to talk to the A players and get them in line and kind of lead, lead with influence rather than, you know, direct report lines.

Right, right.

Well, and it sounds like someone who's good at being in new situations, which someone sounds like someone I know, right in front of where it's where you're kind of working on new projects that you're kind of building things.

And so having to do that, which is great. And so what's the name of the community you like prime chief of staff?

That's it. Yeah. Okay. All right. And people can find that online.

Yeah, yeah. Yes. Okay, well, they can learn more about it.

They can look it up and get a little bit more information. Okay. All right. Perfect.

Just to see what it is. All right. Great. Okay. So you mentioned that you wanted to go back and do this psychology degree and in industrial and industrial organizational psychology.

So did you do that? And what does that mean? What does psychology mean?

Yeah, yeah. So I'll answer the simple question. I did do that.

I just started. It's a master's program for full-time working professionals.

So that's been fun. So I have class on Fridays and Saturdays. So industrial organization psychology, it's started as industrial psychology and industrial meant worker, basically the person, how does this person work?

How do they do things?

Like the earliest, the earliest experiments were in the early 1900s when they were looking at people on an assembly line, right?

Like, how can we get more out of this person?

And then over time, they realized the organizational came in because it was, you might have the best person with the best personality and the best skills and all the knowledge and skills and ability that they could possibly have.

But if you put that star player into a company that has poor leadership or no communication patterns or the environment that they're creating isn't a good environment, then the person, the industrial can't thrive.

So the industrial and organizational came together and that's the work.

And it's kind of termed the science of work, right?

So all the research, actually this time of everybody having to work remotely is a huge, huge IO psychology field, right?

People, there's tons of research that's happening in the IO field around remote work.

And they've been doing those research and studies in the past, but now all of that research is coming, turning into blog posts and all the stuff that you're reading every day, people will reference a study by blah, blah, blah.

Those are IO psychologists who are leading that work.

So it's all about kind of how do people thrive at work?

How do they perform their best and how do companies provide that environment for them to thrive?

Wow, that sounds amazing. And so how's it going so far?

Yeah, it's good. It's good. I mean, I realized, I was lucky to find that this is a thing that exists, right?

A lot of people haven't heard of it.

Most people haven't heard of it, but it is all the studies and stuff that gets referenced in the blog posts that we're constantly Googling around, trying to answer questions for ourselves and for our own companies.

And so it's going great. It's really energizing.

I think learning these concepts and learning sort of the actual science behind them is validating to some of the gut and the intuition.

Something that you hear a lot in IO is, oh, it's common sense.

It's like, yes, but we have to prove that it's common sense, right?

We have to prove that it's a real thing.

And so I like that kind of having that rigor and the science behind all the things that we think are a good idea, but they may or may not be.

Wow, that's great. Well, definitely you're motivating me to think to myself, what have I done recently?

I mean, new role, full-time job, extra master's degree, like really good for you for pushing yourself.

And I'm excited to hear all the amazing findings that you see through the science of work, because like you said, I think that that's more important now than ever.

And there's just so many shifts and changes, and I'm excited to kind of see how that plays out over the years.

So now I know who to go to for all the latest and the greatest.

Thank you in advance, Jacqueline. Okay, we have 90 seconds left, and I ask this to everyone who comes on the show.

I always say, you're a woman in technology.

Where has the industry lived up to your expectations and maybe where has it fallen short?

Yeah, I mean, I guess I have found technology and the tech sector to be energizing, kind of full of smart people, people who are creative and innovative.

And we talked earlier about, you know, networking and just connecting ideas.

And I think that that has definitely lived up to my expectations or even exceeded it.

I think when you think about women and diversity and all of those kinds of questions that we're wrestling with as a society, you know, I have found that technology, I'm actually happy to be in Atlanta.

I think we're a little bit removed from that Silicon Valley culture that, you know, it's disheartening when I hear about the big, some of the big timers that still just have that bro culture.

And so that's unfortunate. And that kind of lets me down a little bit.

But I think that, you know, with IO Psychology and people like you who are trying to bring people together and show that women are exciting and competent and intelligent people too, there's a desire, right?

There's a desire to be inclusive in our efforts.

And so that has been my expectations.

And I hope that we continue to push on those attempts. Yes. Yep. It's great.

I love that. Well, Jacqueline, thank you so much for joining today. This was wonderful.

I really, the highlight of my summer has been doing guest weekend because I get to meet great people like you.

And today was no exception. So good luck with your new role.

Good luck with your master's degree. And please continue to share all of the great science at work and make it better for all of us.

So thanks for being here today.

Thank you. Thanks for having me. Thanks, everyone.

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Yes We Can
Join Cloudflare Co-founder, President, and COO Michelle Zatlyn for a series of interviews with women technology leaders. We hope you will learn, laugh, and be inspired by these conversations.
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