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"My First Grace Hopper Celebration" By Lisa Retief

Below is an article originally written by Lisa Retief, the Director of Engineering at PowerToFly Partner Cloudflare, and published on October 17, 2018. Go to Cloudflare's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

I am 25+ years into my career in technology, and this was the very first time I attended a conference geared towards women.

A couple of weeks ago I went to Grace Hopper Celebration (#GHC18), and I can still feel the exuberant energy from the 22,000 women over the intensive 3 day conference. I attended with our Cloudflare team; our purpose was to connect with women in the greater tech community and recruit new talent to join our team and mission to help build a better Internet.

Cloudflare prioritizes GHC because we recognize that diversity in our company, and particularly in our technical departments, is crucial to our success. We believe that the best companies are diverse companies. This was Cloudflare's second time sponsoring GHC, and I was part of the planning committee. This year I headed to the event with 20 of my colleagues to meet all of the incredible attendees, hold on-site interviews, and even host our own Cloudflare panel and luncheon.

Getting to #GHC18

Early Tuesday morning, the day before the conference, as I joined the Southwest Airlines boarding line at Oakland Airport, my fellow passengers were not the usual contingent of suited men on their way to business meetings. Instead I was surrounded by hundreds of women (and some men) in conversation about what to expect in Houston. The anticipation was palpable, and energy was invigorating.

The flight itself was essentially a Grace Hopper networking event. I sat next to two others who were also attending on behalf of their companies. In my row there was a product manager at a well-known and successful startup, as well as an executive who was heading to Grace Hopper to learn and hire. That was the best professional conversation I ever had on an airplane.The topics ranged from how to scale data pipelines at rapidly growing software companies, to how to find and hire great women engineers. All three of us were using the spotty airplane wifi to communicate last-minute conference plans with our colleagues all heading to the event. One of my seatmates showed me a massive airplane selfie that one of his colleagues had sent him—the whole plane was filled with women from his company, and the pilot had even made a special announcement welcoming them.

Upon arriving in Houston there was more of the same energy—it was just warmer and a bit muggier now that we were in Texas.The area of Houston around the conference centre was overtaken by the 22,000 attendees, most of whom were women at various stages of their studies. Uber drivers were eager to ask us what the hell was going on. Why so many women?

Three Non-Stop Days at #GHC18

Cloudflare Expo Booth photo

As a member of the Cloudflare GHC contingent I had a few jobs—working the booth on the expo floor, interviewing candidates, and being one of four panelists at our Cloudflare: Women in Leadership Lunch.

Working the booth was a whole lot more fun than I could have imagined. I am an introvert and tend to avoid crowds and interactions with too many strangers. I surprised myself by taking on the role of "traffic control"— walking the expo floors and approaching women to ask if they are looking for a great place to work. Cloudflare is a great place to work so I could authentically express my feelings and also specifically speak to why it's an ideal place to start your career. Cloudflare is a company where you work to solve some of the internet's biggest problems at a scale where it has real impact.

I would then proceed to walk any interested people over to our booth so that myself and my colleagues could further engage them. I got so much from my conversations with these women. It gave me insight into why the celebration is so well attended. Women at various stages of their studies and careers had very specific reasons for being there.

The highlight of my week was the Women in Leadership Luncheon that Cloudflare hosted on the last day of the event. It gave us an opportunity to interact with some of the women we had met throughout the week in a more thoughtful and private way where we could open up about our careers and personal goals.

Cloudflare Women in Leadership Luncheon w/ Jessica Rosenberg, Jade Wang, Lisa Retief, and Suzanne Aldrich

We mingled with women in a relaxed setting, and had conversations about their situations and experiences. I found it very inspiring. As part of the event, I joined a panel with my three colleagues Jade Wang, head of developer relations, Jessica Rosenberg, head of brand design, and Suzanne Aldrich, solutions engineering lead to share some of our experiences and career journeys. All of us have different paths and have landed in different areas of the company, but all play integral roles in Cloudflare's success. I don't think you can underestimate the impact of seeing someone you can relate to in a position you may aspire to. This is an opportunity I wish I had when I was younger, and now am thrilled to share with the next generation of leaders in tech.

Another personal highlight of GHC was getting to really know my colleagues, many of whom I had never directly worked with. We were a team of women and men across different departments and locations who were excited to represent Cloudflare and ready to make some hires. We all had fun doing this and worked well together. While I didn't go out dancing and singing quite as often as some of them, I made friends who I now greet enthusiastically whenever we cross paths at work. Two things we look for in candidates are empathy and curiosity, so it was great to be able to bond with my colleagues and get to see that side and know each of them personally.

Team dinner @ #GHC18

As I left Houston, I reflected on the contrast between the national headlines and what I had experienced at the conference. The week had coincided with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford giving testimony that was resonant to many of us. It was hard to hear. In spite of this, I saw at the conference a groundswell of potential to transform today's companies into places that can help affect change.

When people ask me about what it's like being a woman in tech, I often joke that I have never had to wait in line for the restroom. And while I'm being funny, it's true. GHC was a very different experience, however. For me, attending GHC was like entering an alternate universe — something like a Margaret Atwood speculative fiction novel, except this was not a dystopian future. It was a future I want to see happen.

I look forward to #GHC19.

Cloudflare

Introducing Proudflare, Cloudflare's LGBTQIA+ Group

Below is an article originally written by Andrew Fitch at PowerToFly Partner Cloudflare, and published on July 12, 2018. Go to Cloudflare's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

With Pride month now in our collective rearview mirror for 2018, I wanted to share what some of us have been up to at Cloudflare. We're so proud that, in the last 8 months, we've formed a LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group (ERG) called Proudflare. We've launched chapters and monthly activities in each of our primary locations: San Francisco, London, Singapore, and Austin. This month, we came out in force! We transformed our company's social profiles, wrapped our HQ building in rainbow window decals, highlighted several non-profits we support, and threw a heck of an inaugural Pride Celebration.

We're a very young group — just 8 months old — but we have big plans. Check out some of our activities and future plans, follow us on social media, and consider starting an ERG at your company too.

The History of Proudflare

On my first day at Cloudflare in October, 2017, I logged into Hipchat and searched LGBTQ. Fortunately for me, there was a "LGBT at Cloudflare" chat room already created, and I started establishing connections right away. I found that there had been a couple of informal group outings, but there was no regular activity, sharing of resources, nor an official group. Proudflare was born that day, and the ball kept rolling.

Our first official event was a Lunch & Discussion in December. We had a gathering of eleven Cloudflare employees around lunch to discuss articles about LGBTQIA+ issues in tech. We unanimously agreed to continue holding events like this and form an ERG.

Here are the first two articles we discussed:

Once we established a regular structure of events, we started introducing Proudflare to our other locations. In March, we held our first SF mixer with LGBTQIA+ ERGs from other tech companies. We decided we wanted to fully announce the group to the whole company during Pride month, so we sent out an email to the entire company introducing Proudflare and gave presentations at our All Hands meeting.

All of Cloudflare welcomed us and embraced us as their first ERG.

Our Pride month activity

Austin

Our Austin chapter held its second Lunch & Discussion event, where Cloudflare employees got together to discuss how to write more inclusive job descriptions. They also discussed ideas for a Pride celebration and announced the first Proudflare service day, where the group will take time off to volunteer at a LGBTQIA+ youth organization.

London

The London chapter held its third Lunch & Discussion event, where the group brainstormed better processes for welcoming new employees to the London office, supporting them with resources, and making Proudflare a more salient part of the office culture. They also began planning their first Pride Celebration, which will take place after London Pride this July.

Singapore

The Singapore chapter held its first event this month and was overwhelmed with support. A group of twenty-five Cloudflarians gathered to learn how they may make the Singapore office inclusive and supportive of LGBTQIA+ individuals. They discussed articles about LGBTQIA+ issues in Singapore and started planning their first external event in support of Pink Dot's PinkFest.

San Francisco

At our headquarters, where roughly half of our global employee base is located, we felt it important to really make an impact. We wrapped our SOMA offices with rainbow window decals, organized a contingent to march with Bluegrass Pride in the parade, and renamed Cloudflare to "Proudflare".

We also held a Lunch & Discussion event where we shared stories of what Pride means to each of us and hosted our inaugural Pride Celebration, where we welcomed one hundred sixty people into our space to learn about nonprofits we believe in and celebrate with us.

Here are the nonprofits we highlighted:

The Trevor Project: Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13–24.

We're honored to support the Trevor Project with Cloudflare's Project Galileo. Organizations working on behalf of the arts, human rights, civil society, or democracy, can apply for Project Galileo to get Cloudflare's highest level of protection for free.

Rainbow Railroad: In response to the confirmed reports of abductions, detentions, enforced disappearances, torture, and deaths targeting over 200 gay and bisexual men in Chechnya, Rainbow Railroad immediately went into action to assist those in danger. Rainbow Railroad has been working closely with the Russian LGBT Network, a non-governmental organization currently leading the campaign to rescue those facing danger in Chechnya.

Project Open House: Openhouse enables San Francisco Bay Area LGBT seniors to overcome the unique challenges they face as they age by providing housing, direct services, and community programs. As a result, they have reduced isolation and empowered LGBT seniors to improve their overall health, well-being, and economic security.

What's Next?

We're a new ERG and we've come a long way in a short amount of time, but we have a lot more planned. Here are some projects we're currently working on:

  • Hosting an event in support of Pink Dot in Singapore
  • Hosting Pride Celebration events in Austin
  • Inserting a presentation about inclusion and ERGs in our new hire orientation
  • Supporting ally skills trainings for employees
  • Working with recruiting on writing inclusive job descriptions
  • Advising human resources on which benefits packages are most LGBTQIA+ friendly
  • Establishing a framework for LGBTQIA+ diversity data collection and reporting with our people team
  • Publishing all Proudflare-related resources in a Wiki for all Cloudflare employees to access easily

Call to Action

I suggest starting an employee resource group at your company. Whether it be focused on LGBTQIA+, women, people of color, parents, or other underserved populations in tech, conversations about inclusion and community-building make for a better work atmosphere. Here are some beginning resources I used.

Let's make our industry a better, more inclusive place for all.

Follow & join us

Also, follow us on social media and join us at our next events.

<3

Proudflare

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