Hey there! I am Els (short form for Elspeth) and I am the Field Marketing and Events Manager for APAC. I am responsible for building brand awareness and supporting our lovely sales team in acquiring new logos across APAC.
I was inspired to write about my first year in Cloudflare, because John, our CTO, encouraged more women to write for our Cloudflare blog after reviewing our blogging statistics and found out that more men than women blog for Cloudflare. I jumped at the chance because I thought this is a great way to share many side stories as people might not know about how it feels to work in Cloudflare.
Before I continue, I must mention that I really wanted to join Cloudflare after reading our co-founder Michelle’s reply on Quora regarding “What is it like to work in Cloudflare?.” Michelle’s answer as follows:
“my answer is ‘adult-like.’ While we haven’t adopted this as our official company-wide mantra, I like the simplicity of that answer. People work hard, but go home at the end of the day. People care about their work and want to do a great job. When someone does a good job, their teammate tells them. When someone falls short, their colleague will let them know. I like that we communicate directly, no matter what seniority level you are.”
The main themes were centered around High Curiosity, Ability to get things done, and Empathy.
The answer took me by surprise. I have read so many replies by top leaders of leading companies in the world, and I have never seen such a down to earth reply!
I was eager to join the company and test it out.
Day 1 – Onboarding in our San Francisco Headquarters
Every new hire in Cloudflare will have to attend a two week orientation in San Francisco (well, they used to until COVID-19 hit and orientation has gone virtual), where they have a comprehensive program that exposes them to all the different functions of the company. My most memorable session was the one conducted by Matthew Prince, where he delivered a very engaging and theatrical crash course on the origins of Cloudflare and competitive landscape surrounding cloud computing. Even though the session took 1.5 hours, I enjoyed every second of it and I was very impressed with Matthew’s passion and conviction behind Cloudflare’s mission to build a better Internet.
There was also a very impressive session conducted by Joe Sullivan, our Chief Security Officer. Joe introduced us to the importance of cybersecurity through several real life examples and guided us through some key steps to protect ourselves. Joe left a very deep impression on me as he spoke in a very simple manner. This is important for someone like myself who didn’t come from a security background as I felt that it is important for me to understand why I am joining this company and why my contribution matters.
I also had the chance to meet the broader members of my marketing team. I had about twenty meetings arranged in the span of one week and I am thankful to everyone who took time out of their busy schedule to help me understand how the global team worked together. Needless to say everyone was really smart, nice, and down to earth. I left the San Francisco office feeling really good about my start in Cloudflare, but little did I know that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Back to Singapore, where the fun happens!
After I returned to Singapore, Krishna, my manager, quickly put me to work to focus on building a pipeline for the APAC region. In a short span of six months, I had to quickly bring myself up to speed to understand the systems and processes in place, in addition to executing events across the region to ensure that we have a continuous pipeline for our ever-growing sales team. I am going to be completely transparent here, it was overwhelming, stressful and I was expected to deliver results in a short period of time. However, it has also been the most exciting period of personal and professional growth for me, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to join an amazing team in one of the most exciting companies of the century.
As a new team member, I had to quickly understand the needs of the sales leaders from the ASEAN countries, ANZ, the Greater China Region, India, Japan, and Korea. There were so many things to learn and everyone was very supportive and helpful. More importantly, there were many challenges and mistakes made along the way I felt supported by the entire team throughout.
In my first six months, I had to immediately plan and execute an average of 28 events per quarter, ranging from flagship events like Gartner Security Risk Management conferences in Sydney and Mumbai, the largest gaming conference ChinaJoy in Shanghai, AWS series across the ASEAN countries and leading security conferences in Korea and Japan. When Cloudflare IPO-ed on September 13, 2019, I was tasked to organize an IPO party for over 150 people in our Singapore over a short span of 3 weeks. What an adventure!
Just when I thought 28 events per quarter is an achievement (for myself), my team and I were given once in a lifetime opportunity to lead a series of projects related to our Japan office opening.
“As the third largest economy, and one of the most Internet-connected countries in the world, Japan was a clear choice when considering expansion locations for our next APAC office,” said Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare. “Our new facility and team in Tokyo present a unique opportunity to be closer to our customers, and help even more businesses and users experience a better Internet across Japan and throughout the world.”
Japan is a new market for me and I had to start everything from scratch. I started off with launching our very first Japan brand campaign where the team worked closely with leading Japanese media companies to launch digital advertisements, advertorials, video campaigns to spread our awareness across Japan in just under 3 months. While it is a complete unknown path for us, the team was really good at experimenting with new ideas, analysis results, iterating and improving on our campaigns week by week.
I also had the opportunity to be part of our very first hybrid (physical and virtual) press conference that was held across Singapore and Tokyo, where we had 35 journalists participate (with 6 top-tier media in attendance and 29 journalists online). News of the office opening/event was covered in Japan’s most influential business newspaper, Nikkei, in an article titled, “US IT giant Cloudflare establishes Japanese corporation.“. I cannot wait to tell you more about what’s coming down the line!
Career Planning – Take charge of your career!
With so many things going on, it is easy to lose sight of the long term goal. Jake, our CMO is very focused on ensuring the team remains engaged and motivated throughout their time in Cloudflare. He launched a mandatory career conversations program where the team had to have at least one discussion with their respective managers on how they would envision their future to be within the company. This is a very useful exercise for me as I was able to have an open discussion with my manager on the various options that I could consider as Cloudflare is a company which supports cross departmental/borders transitions. It is beneficial to know that I am able to explore different opportunities going forward and lock down some next steps on how I will get there. Exciting times!
Inclusivity – Women for Women and Diversity
As a young woman, I am very fortunate to be part of the APAC team led by Aliza Knox. Aliza is extremely passionate about encouraging women to pursue opportunities in business and tech. As a woman, I have never felt more comfortable under her leadership as gender discrimination is real and most companies are predominantly led by men. With Aliza, all opinions and ideas are strongly welcomed and I never felt bound by my age, seniority, experience to reach for the skies. It is ok to be ambitious, to do more, to ask questions, or something as simple as getting 15 mins of her time to ask if I should pursue an online course at MIT (and I did!).
Did I also mention Cloudflare’s Employee Resource Group (ERG)? I am the APAC lead for Womenflare where our mission is to cultivate an inclusive, inspiring, and safe environment that supports, elevates, and ensures equal opportunities for success to all who identify as women at Cloudflare. As part of our global Womenflare initiative, I organised an International Women’s Day luncheon in March this year where we had members of our APAC leadership team share about their experiences on how they have managed their career and family commitments. Other ERG in Cloudflare includes Proudflare, where we support and provide resources for the LGBTQIA+ community, Afroflare, where we aim to build a better global Afro-community at Cloudflare and beyond, and many more!
I am writing this blogpost as we all embrace the challenges and opportunities present during COVID-19. When COVID-19 first hit APAC, I was very impressed with how the global team exhibited flexibility to adapt to everyday challenges, with great empathy that it might be challenging to work from home, to how it is ok to try new things and make mistakes as long as we can learn from it.
Our Business Continuity Team provided regular employee communication on local guidelines and Work From Home next steps. Our office support team immediately supplied computer equipment/office chairs that employees can bring home for their remote working needs. Our Site Leads came up with different initiatives to ensure the team remains connected through a series of virtual yoga sessions, Friday wine down, and lunch and games. The latest activity we ran was Activeflare, where a group of us from the Singapore and Australia offices exercised together on a Saturday and drew a map of our activities using tracking technology. That was fun!
The global team has also launched a series of fireside chats where we get to hear from leaders of leading companies, which is a really nice touch where we get to gain exposure to the mind of great leaders which we otherwise would not have the opportunity to. My favourite so far is from Doug, our Chief Legal Officer and Katrin Suder, one of our Board Members.
Matthew, Cloudflare co-founder and CEO, recently launched Cloudflare TV for the team to experiment and connect with the Cloudflare community, even while we’re locked down. And that community shares common interests in topics like web performance, Internet security, edge computing, and network reliability. Aliza and myself are hosting a series of Zoomelier in APAC soon to connect with winemakers and sommeliers across the region and share some interesting wine recommendations that one can drink with technology. So hope you’ll tune in, geek out, feel part of our community, and learn more about Cloudflare and the people who are building it. Check out the Cloudflare TV Guide: cloudflare.tv/schedule
Going forward, second year in Cloudflare, what’s next?
I am at the point where I feel like I have a good amount of experience to do a good job, but not good enough to be where I want to be. In Cloudflare, I strongly feel that “The more I learn, the less I realise I know” (Socrates). I aim to continuously learn and build up my capabilities to strategize and deliver results for the present and the future, and I must end this blogpost with my learnings from John, “overnight success takes at least 10 years, I read a lot to stay up to date on what’s happening internally and externally. The gym (exercise) is really important to me. It’s challenging and takes my mind off everything. Many people seem to view the gym as dead time to fill with TED videos, podcasts or other “useless” activities. I love the fact that it’s the one time I stop thinking.” I have applied this learning to both my personal and professional life and it made a huge difference. Thank you John.
If you’re willing to join an impressive team and work for a very dynamic company to help create a better Internet, we’re looking for many different profiles in our different offices all over the planet! Let’s have a look!