Faces in the Cloud – Courtney Bruggeman & Emma Liebmann, The Early Women of Cloudreach USA
Here at Cloudreach, we believe the growth of a great business is fuelled by great people. It is our talented individuals that make Cloudreach the success it is.
As we prepare for the upcoming European Women in Technology 2017 conference in Amsterdam 8-9 November, we take a step back and spotlight some of the special women in technology that have been influential in Cloudreach’s success on the other side of the Atlantic. This special edition of “Face in the Cloud” spotlights not one, but TWO great Cloudreach women. Courtney Bruggeman (Employee Engagement Lead, U.S.) and Emma Liebmann (Talent Acquisition Lead, Cloudreach North America) describe their experience working and keeping it cloudy at Cloudreach, what it’s like to be women in technology, and the key roles they’ve played in building our U.S. team.
Tell us about your current roles within the company. How are your roles similar and how are they different?
Courtney: Emma and I lead Talent Acquisition and Employee Engagement respectively. Both roles deal heavily with the people at Cloudreach. We like to say that Emma’s role focuses on talent attraction whereas mine focuses on talent activation. The Talent Acquisition team is responsible for identifying, interviewing, and hiring new talent into the business. Employee Engagement, on the other hand, is responsible for retaining that talent – ensuring they can activate their skills, operate at their best, and stay engaged and passionate about what they’re doing. Both our groups work closely with the other teams within People Ops (Cloudy Branding, Learning & Development, and Business Logistics) to ensure people experience Cloudreach in a positive way.
Where did you first learn about Cloudreach?
Courtney: LinkedIn. I saw a post for a recruitment role at an international company newly opening in the U.S. – little did I know it was the ONLY role at the time!
Emma: Also Linkedin. I was contacted by George who was out of the London office and one the earliest Cloudreach recruiters. He was a big reason why I followed through with the opportunity and ultimately accepted my offer. The whole interview experience was very refreshing – I had intellectually challenging yet down-to-earth conversations with each person that I met with and was hopeful that it was representative of the company as a whole – turns out, it was.
You both mention how Cloudreach was very new to the U.S., and relatively unknown at the time you applied. What motivated you to join?
Emma: Cloudreach had – and still has – all the benefits of working at a start-up but with the stability of a more tenured company. That was exactly the balance that I was looking for. I was also struck by the company’s brand – Cloudreach had a special spark to it that I hadn’t come across before. Cloudreach’s online presence was fresh and alluring, yet a bit mysterious. I didn’t know what exactly I’d be getting into, but I had a feeling it would be an exciting ride.
Courtney: I saw Cloudreach as an exciting opportunity to build on something great in a new region. Coming from a company of 3,000+ to being a company’s first employee in the States was a novel experience. I was also excited by the prospect of a company that had global reach and impact but retained the spirit of a start-up.
What have been some of the recruitment and employee engagement challenges you’ve experienced during your time at Cloudreach?
Courtney: Our very first challenge was getting someone else to join! It was just me and a few Cloudreachers from Europe for about four months before candidates began to catch on. On the engagement side, one particular challenge we will always have is balancing our “cloudy” culture with the nature of our work as a global cloud software-enabled services company. Our work can involve a lot of travel time spent with clients away from the office, and sometimes even remote work where you may have to fly solo for a few days. This can all be disengaging if you have a lot on your plate and aren’t feeling the cloudy love. Luckily, ensuring nobody feels left out in the cold is top of mind for all of our leaders, not just People Operations. From small gestures like sending remote employees care packages and giving shout-outs in our weekly company-wide newsletter, to larger initiatives like our annual kickoff and cloudy lunch budget, Cloudreach really works to ensure employees can reap the benefits of working here no matter where they are or what they’re working on.
What have been some particularly exciting moments and milestones that you’ve had the chance to be a part of during your time here?
Emma: The Blackstone investment was a very exciting moment for me. The leadership team had instilled in me, and the entire talent team, how important our hiring targets were towards achieving this goal. I thought that was pretty cool – it can be hard to feel important at a tech company when you aren’t in a tech role. No matter what your position is, Cloudreach makes you feel like your work means something.
Courtney: For me, every time we open a new U.S. office is a big thrill. I remember just sitting in a small two-person office (with no windows) across from the Empire State Building. Now we’re at almost 100 employees and 5 offices in only three years – I can’t believe it! The Blackstone investment was also a big moment – getting that vote of confidence and investment in Cloudreach’s future growth was really exciting.
How have your talent acquisition and engagement strategies changed or developed over the years?
Courtney: When we were just starting out, engagement happened naturally, but as we grew and added a remote team, we had to be more strategic about what we were doing to engage people. Adding tools like Culture Amp (which helps us break down engagement analytics in a digestible way) has allowed us to figure out what is most important to our employees at a local, team, and global level. We can now use these insights to inform our direct actions aimed to keep engagement high. When managers sits next to their team members, it’s easy to have natural, in-person conversations around what engages them. We’ve needed to adjust this approach as we expand and people are overseeing team members who are a few states – sometimes even an ocean – away.
What was it like working at a company with less than 10 employees (in the U.S.)?
Courtney: Exciting and a bit terrifying at times! There was a lot of demand, so we never doubted the business would be successful. The real challenge was keeping up with that high demand. It was very fast-paced and everyone wore many hats. I felt lucky to work with a team that was really all hands on deck.
Emma: Ever heard the expression “fake it til you make it?” That pretty much sums things up early on. Most of us were experiencing something for the first time at Cloudreach: first time in a leadership role, first time at a startup, first time having a job after school! We took a lot of deep breaths before making a lot of nerve-wracking decisions. We leaned on each other and ultimately we did make it.
How did you build out a new team while maintaining the cloudy culture across all offices?
Courtney: Cloudreach approached expansion in a very intelligent way. They sent some key team members from other offices to help with the growth of the U.S. and introduce us Americans to the “cloudy way.” Having strongly established values and including a step in the recruitment process that specifically assesses candidates on their embodiment of these values was also key. In the Cloudy Panel, the interview shifts completely away from the requirements of the role itself, and instead focuses on the individual’s exemplification of our core values. This ensures we continue to hire people that continue to impact our culture in a positive way.
It was also important for the business to recognize that with growth, the culture would naturally shift and that is OK. We like to say that our culture is our personality and our values are our soul. Our culture may grow and develop as we do, but our values will always define who we are.
What strategies have you employed to attract, retain, and engage talent?
Courtney: Ultimately I think it boils down to the fact that Cloudreach treats employees like people, not resources (which is why we’re called People Operations, after all!) There’s a distinct human element to how Cloudreach approaches talent. In the recruitment process, we’re equally as conscious of the candidates’ time as of our team members – we try to minimize steps and not drag out decisions. That continues once people join the team. We’re very conscious of work-life balance and work hard to ensure employees don’t burn out. The leadership team actively and eagerly seeks feedback from employees on a regular basis, and more so, actually act on that feedback. When a major announcement is made, leaders take time to set up Q&A where no questions are off limits and they actually take time to answer them.
Emma, one for you. How do you see recruitment changing as Cloudreach continues to grow?
Emma: As we continue to scale and strengthen our brand within the market, we will be able to take more risks as a talent acquisition team. When you are just starting off, sometimes you need to be pragmatic when it comes to hiring. As we continue to gain our confidence as a talent team and as a company, we will feel more inspired to take risks. Early on, it was about keeping up with the recruitment trends that other companies were setting. Now, more and more so, we will be the ones to set those trends.
Describe your experience as a women in technology, an industry that’s been considered largely male-dominated?
Emma: It can be complicated being a woman in the technology field or any male-dominated field. In the beginning, I struggled to use my voice and to stand up for myself. Now that I’ve found my voice, I struggle with how I am perceived for using it – it can feel like a double-edged sword. I’ve recently joined our Alliance for Partnerships and Inclusion Council to promote diversity and inclusion at Cloudreach and I am very excited about the strides we are making.
Courtney: 100% agree with Emma – when you’re in the minority somewhere, sometimes it can be tough for your voice to be heard, or for people to see things from your perspective. I think what’s worked well at Cloudreach is that our colleagues are open to how they can be a better ally, and work hard to understand the challenges that face people of different backgrounds and experiences. The API council is a great example – employees came forward wanting to help, and the council was created. Now it’s a global initiative! It’s exciting to see where we are going, and that diversity in tech (not just gender, either) gets a big emphasis from everyone we work with.
What are your hopes for the industry moving forward, and for Cloudreach in particular?
Courtney: I’m very excited to see where Cloudreach goes over the next few years. This year already has been a massive growth year for the U.S. and the company as a whole. In addition to adding new markets and services, we are on track to passing the mark of 100 U.S.-based employees in just over 3 years from opening our doors in NYC. As Emma referenced earlier, this growth means we can now be more of a thought leader and trendsetter when it comes to people practices. I look forward to seeing the positive impact Cloudreach has on the industry from both a technical and people perspective. Despite all this growth, we’ve managed to retain that “special sauce” that Emma and I were so excited about when we first joined. Working with people who truly respect and care about each other, and are really great at what they do, is something I hope Cloudreach can continue to provide in the years to come.