In this blog post, we’ll highlight a few stories from some of our 17 Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), including the most recent, Persianflare. But first, let me start with a personal story.
Do you remember being in elementary school and sitting in a classroom with about 30 other students when the teacher was calling on your classmates to read out loud from a book? The opportunity to read out loud was an exciting moment for many of my peers; one that made them feel proud of themselves. I, on the other hand, was frozen, in a state of panic, worried that I wouldn’t be able to sound out a word or completely embarrass myself by stuttering. I would practice reading the next paragraph in hopes that I wouldn’t mess up when I was called on. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was dyslexic, and I could barely read, especially out loud to a large group of people.
That is where I began to know the feeling of isolation. This feeling compounded year after year, when I wasn’t able to perform the way my peers did. My isolation prevailed from elementary school to middle school, through high school and even into college.
In college, I found a community that changed everything called Eye to Eye - a national non-profit organization that provides mentorship programs for students with learning disabilities. I attended one of their conferences with 200 other students. It was a profound moment when I realized that everyone in the room shared the experience of anxiety and fear around learning. Joining this community made me feel that I was not alone. Community for me is a group of people who have shared experience. Community allowed me to see my learning disability as an asset not a deficit. This is what I think the author, Nilofer Merchant, meant in the 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era, when she said "The social object that unites people isn't a company or a product; the social object that most unites people is a shared value or purpose."
When I came to work at Cloudflare, I decided to become an ERG leader for Flarability, which provides a space for discussing disability and accessibility at Cloudflare. The same deep sense of community that I felt at Eye to Eye was available to me when I joined Flarability.
Globally, 85% of the company participates in ERGs and this year alone they hosted over 54 initiatives and events. As the pandemic persisted over the last year, Cloudflare remained a hybrid workforce which posed many challenges for our company culture. ERGs had to rethink the way they foster connection. Today, we are highlighting Persianflare, Afroflare, Greencloud and Desiflare because they have taken different approaches to building community.
Persianflare is our newest ERG, and in a very short amount of time, ERG Leader Shadnaz Nia has already brought together an entire community of folks who have created lasting impact. Here's how…
Persianflare: Amplify the voice of Iranian people
Shadnaz Nia, Solutions Engineer, Toronto
“Persianflare is the newest ERG which strives to nurture a community for all Persians and allies, where we perpetuate freedom of speech, proudly celebrate rich Persian heritage, appending growth and Persian convention. We have assembled with a desire to amplify the voice of the Iranian people, and bring awareness to human rights violations there, during unprecedented and unbearable times in history.
Cloudflare’s mission is to build a better Internet and one of our initiatives this year was to support building a better Internet that provides a more private Internet for the people of Iran. At Cloudflare, we are fortunate to have executive leadership that takes action and works tirelessly to provide more uncensored and accessible Internet in countries such as Iran. We’ve done this by offering WARP solutions in native Farsi language for all Persian-speaking users, empowering them to access uncensored information and news, in turn, strengthening the voice of Persian people living in Iran.
This project was accidentally routed to my team by the Product Team when they needed a translator. At the time, myself and other Persian employees were feeling powerless as a result of Mahsa Amini being murdered in the custody of the Iranian morality police. This was the birth of Persianflare. Through this project, I started collaborating with other employees and discovered that many of my colleagues really cared about this cause and wanted to help. Throughout the course of this initiative, we found more Persian employees in other regions and let them know about our progress. Words cannot describe how I felt when the app was released. It was one of the purest moments in my life. By bringing together Persian employees, allies of Persianflare, and the Product Team, this community was able to create real change for the people of Iran. To me, that is the power of community.
We plan to circle together to celebrate the global Human Rights Day on December 10, 2022, to continue discussing and growing our community. As the newest ERG, we are just getting started.”
Afroflare: Sharing experiences
Sieh Johnson, Engineering Manager, Austin
Trudi Bawah-Atalia, Recruiting Coordinator, London
“Afroflare is a community for People of African Diaspora to build connections while learning from each others’ lives, perspectives and experiences. Our initiatives in 2022 centered on creating and cultivating community by supporting and echoing Black voices and achievements within and outside of Cloudflare. Earlier in the year, given that the pandemic was slowing down but still active, we provided curated content that would allow members and allies to create, contribute and learn about cultures of the African diaspora at their own pace.
For our celebration of US Black History Month, we aggregated lists of Black-owned businesses and non-profit communities in various cities to support. We also hosted internal chats called “The Plug,” which highlight the immense talent of our members at Cloudflare. Lastly, Afroflare worked with allies to present an Allyship workshop called “Celebrating Black Joy- An Upskilling Session for Allies.”
As 2022 progressed, we shifted to a hybrid of in-person and virtual events in order to foster more interaction and strengthen bonds. Our celebration of UK Black History Month included a cross-culture party in our Lisbon office. We collaborated with Latinflare & Wineflare on an International Wine tasting event featuring South African wines, and an African + Caribbean food tasting event called “Taste from Home. We wrapped up the festivities with a Black Woman in Tech panel to discuss bias and how to navigate various obstacles faced by the BIPOC community in tech.
Virtually or in-person, this community has become a family – we laugh together, cry together, teach each other, and continue to grow together year after year. Each member’s experiences and culture are valued as we forge spaces for everyone to feel free to be authentic. Afroflare looks forward to continuing its goals of creating safe spaces, as well as educating, championing, and supporting our members and allies in 2023.”
Greencloud: A more sustainable Internet
Annika Garbers, Product Manager, Georgia
“Greencloud is a coalition of Cloudflare employees who are passionate about the environment. Our vision is to address the climate crisis through an intersectional lens and help Cloudflare become a clear leader in sustainable practices among tech companies. Greencloud was initially founded in 2019 but experienced most of its growth in membership, engagement, and activities after the pandemic started. The group became an outlet for current and new employees to connect on shared passions and channel our COVID-fueled anxieties for the world into productive climate-focused action.
Greencloud’s organizing since 2020 has primarily centered around “two weeks of action.” The first is Impact Week (happening now!), which includes projects driven by Greencloud members to help our customers build a more sustainable Internet using Cloudflare products. The second is Earth Week, scheduled around the global Earth Day celebration in April, which focuses on awareness and education. We’ve leveraged the tools available to Cloudflare employees and our community, like our blog and Cloudflare TV, to share information with a broader audience and on a wider range of topics than would be possible with in-person events. This year, publicly available Earth Week programming included sessions about Cloudflare’s sustainability focus for our hardware lifecycle, an interview with a sustainability-focused Project Galileo participant, a Policy team overview of our sustainability reporting practices, and a conversation about sustainable transportation with our People team. Covering a wide range of topics throughout our events and content created by our members not only helps everyone learn something new, it also reminds us of the importance of embracing and encouraging diverse perspectives in every community. The diversity of the Greencloud collective is a small demonstration of the reality that climate change is only successfully addressed through holistic action by people with many outlooks and skills working together.
As we embrace more flexible modes of work, the Greencloud crew is looking forward to maintaining our virtual events as well as introducing more in-person opportunities to engage with each other and our local communities. Building and maintaining deep connections with each other is key to the momentum and sustainability(!) of this work in the long term.”
Desiflare: South Asian delights
Arwa Ginwala, Solutions Engineering Manager, San Francisco
“Our goal for Desiflare is to build a sense of community among Cloudflare employees using the rich South Asian culture as a platform to bring people together. The Desiflare initiatives that had the most impact were in-person events after the two long years of pandemic. People were longing for a sense of community and belonging after months of Zoom fatigue. It was a fresh breath of air to see fellow Desis in person, across multiple Cloudflare offices. Folks hired during the pandemic got an opportunity to come visit the newly-renovated office in San Francisco. Desis enjoyed South Asian food at the Austin office for the first time since Desiflare’s inception. Diwali was celebrated in Singapore and Sydney offices, and the community in London played cricket, a sport very popular and well-loved in the South Asian community. Regardless of country of origin, gender, age or cultural beliefs, and in the presence of a competitive atmosphere, everyone shared and rejoiced with memories from their childhoods.
We realize that Desiflare members have different levels of comfort regarding meeting people in person or traveling for in-person events. But everyone wants to feel a sense of community and connection with people who share the same interests. Keeping this in mind, it was important to organize events where everyone felt included and had a chance to be part of the community based on their preferences. We met virtually for weekly chai time, monthly lunches, and are now organizing virtual jam sessions for many Desis to showcase their talent and enjoy South Asian music regardless of where they are located. The community has been most engaged on the Desiflare chat room. It has provided a platform for discussing common topics that help people feel supported. Desiflare gives a unique opportunity to employees to connect with their culture and roots regardless of their job title and team. It's a way to network cross-functionally, and allows you to bring your whole self to work, which is one of the best things about working at Cloudflare.”
The ERGs at Cloudflare have helped us realize the power of community and how critical it is for hybrid work. What I have learned alongside our ERG leaders is that if we as individuals want to feel connected, understood and seen, our ERG communities are essential. You can check out all the incredible ERGs on the Life at Cloudflare page, and I encourage you to consider starting an ERG at your company.